Its a very interesting question. Since we are not entirely sure about the content of the scrolls, we really do not know for sure. However it is known that the scrolls contained knowledge; like mathamatics, astronomy, steam power, even possibly electricty. I saw some episode on the history channel about this and the analogy that was drawn, was had the library not burned down, then Columbus would have likely gone to the moon. That might be a stretch, but according to the show I saw, they claimed that the knowledge lost there set western civilization back by about 1500 years. And I can at least see that seeing as how steam power was not practical until some 1200 years after the fire.
However the factor that pops into my mind is the emergence of christianity. The early church was pretty good at destroying all litterature that was not cannonical. So had the church developed the same way, its possible the library and its knowledge would have been destroyed anyway.
Besides in those days I don't think many knew the adage "don't keep all your eggs in one basket". There could have just as easily been some other disaster like an earthquake (Alexandrian is location near a fault line) that would have been just as devistating.
Its still kinda interesting to wonder what life would be like had the library never been destroyed at all though.
EDIT: After reading the year of the dragon's response I think his first sentance pretty much summerized where I was going with my response:
"There is a school of thought that says whatever was there would have been suppressed by the Catholic Church anyway."
EDIT (again): I was on my way home last night when I thought of a few more things related to this question.
While the library of Alexandria was a hub of western knowledge, it was not the only library. There were many libraries, though they did not have as many texts or access to so many great minds. But many of the texts at the library of Alexandria were also at other libraries too. Some were just translations, others were legit copies. So the loss of the library didn't mean that the knowledge there didn't already exist else where.
Really its not the loss of the great library that set mankind back, it was the rise of Christianity that destroyed the copies of the text that were spread through out the western world.
The other reason that the great library acted as a hub of learning and the exchange of ideas. It was not only the loss of unique works, but a place where the greatest minds of the day could converge and share their knowledge.
· 1 decade ago