The ancient library of Pergamum, located in what is now Turkey, was built in the third century B.C. by members of the Attalid dynasty. The library, constructed by a small kingdom that lasted only 150 years, is now one of the most famous libraries in antiquity.
Following the destruction of Alexander the Great’s empire, Lysimachus, a general in Alexander the Great’s army, founded the Monarchy of Pergamum or Attalid kingdom during the Hellenistic period. This kingdom was situated in what is now Turkey, in the western portion of Asia Minor.
Around 130 BC, the Roman Republic acquired the Kingdom of Pergamum. Even though this kingdom only existed for roughly 150 years, they managed to construct one of the greatest libraries ever seen in antiquity and for centuries. The large library of Pergamum remained a significant hub of study.
A remarkable collection of around 200,000 scrolls were kept in the library of Pergamum. The scrolls were sheltered in a temple complex dedicated to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena. The temple complex consisted of four huge rooms: three for the library’s books and one for banquets and academic conferences. These rooms were lined with shelves. In the main reading area, a 10-foot-tall statue of the Greek goddess Athena stood.
A first-century historian Pliny the Elder claims that the Library of Pergamum retained such fame that it was in “keen competition” with the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. To compile the most complete collection of texts, both sites produced opposing schools of thought and criticism. Even the idea that Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty ceased exporting papyrus to Pergamum to limit its growth is a hoax. As a result, it’s possible that the city later developed into a significant center for the production of parchment paper.
The Library of Pergamum, although built by a small kingdom that only existed for about 150 years, rose to fame and became an important site for historians. The study of this library’s history along with its contents allows modern society to get a glimpse into the past.