The tens of thousands of books, the remnants of the greatest library in the world, were all lost, never to reappear. Perhaps they were burned. As the modern scholar, Luciano Canfora, observed: ‘the burning of books was part of the advent and imposition of Christianity’. A war against pagan temples was also a war against the books that had all too often been stored inside them for safekeeping – a concept that from now on could only be recalled with irony. If they were burned then this was a significant moment in what Canfora has called ‘the melancholy experiences of the war waged by Christianity against the old culture and its sanctuaries: which meant, against the libraries’. Over a thousand years later, Edward Gibbon raged at the waste: ‘The appearance of the empty shelves excited the regret and indignation of every spectator, whose mind was not wholly darkened with religious prejudice.
Catherine Nixey The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World