Nous aimions les livres, Pergame, Alexandrie,
Le savoir splendide des grandes bibliothèques,
Sumer et ses légendes, les hauts délires des Grecs
Et les poèmes du vent couvrant d’amour nos vies !
Athanase Vantchev de Thracy
ENGLISH (My translation) :
We loved with passion the books, Pergamon, Alexandria,
The magnificent knowledge of the big libraries,
Sumer and its legends, the high frenzies of the Greeks
And the poems of the wind covering with love our lives!
PERGAMON or PERGAMUM (modern day Bergama in Turkey) was a Greek city, in northwestern Anatolia, 16 miles from the Aegean Sea, located on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern day Bakir), that became an important kingdom during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 282–129 BC.
The Attalids, the descendants of Attalus, the father of Philetaerus who came to power in 282 B.C., were among the most loyal supporters of Rome among the Hellenistic successor states. Under Attalus I, they allied with Rome against Philip V of Macedon, during the first and second Macedonian Wars, and again under Eumenes II, against Perseus of Macedon, during the Third Macedonian War. For support against the Seleucids, the Attalids were rewarded with all the former Seleucid domains in Asia Minor.
Pergamon had the second best library in the ancient world, after Alexandria. When the Ptolemies stopped exporting papyrus, partly because of competitors and partly because of shortages, the Pergamenes invented a new substance to use in codices, called pergamum or parchment after the city. This was made of fine calf skin, a predecessor of vellum and paper.
When Attalus III died without an heir in 133 BC he bequeathed Pergamum to Rome, in order to prevent a civil war.
In the first century AD, the Christian Church at Pergamon was one of the Seven Churches to which the Book of Revelation was addressed.
ALEXANDRIA, founded in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great, was (304–30 B.C.) the capital of the Ptolemies. The city took over the trade of Tyre (sacked by Alexander the Great), outgrew Carthage by c.250 B.C., and became the largest city in the Mediterranean basin. It was the greatest center of Hellenistic civilization and Jewish culture. The Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek, was prepared there. Alexandria had two celebrated royal libraries, one in a temple of Zeus and the other in a museum. The collections were said to contain c.700,000 rolls. A great university grew around the museum and attracted many scholars, including Aristarchus of Samothrace, the collator of the Homeric texts; Euclid, the mathematician; and Herophilus, the anatomist, who founded a medical school there.
Julius Caesar temporarily occupied (47 B.C.) the city while pursuing Pompey, and Octavian (later Augustus) entered it (30 B.C.) after the suicide of Antony and Cleopatra. Alexandria formally became part of the Roman Empire in 30 B.C. It was the greatest of the Roman provincial capitals, with a population of about 300,000 free persons and numerous slaves. In the later centuries of Roman rule and under the Byzantine Empire, Alexandria rivaled Rome and Constantinople as a center of Christian learning. It was (and remains today) the seat of a patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The libraries, however, were gradually destroyed from the time of Caesar's invasion, and suffered especially in A.D. 391, when Theodosius I had pagan temples and other structures razed. When the Muslim Arabs took Alexandria in 642, its prosperity had withered, largely because of a decline in shipping, but the city still had about 300,000 inhabitants. The Arabs moved the capital of Egypt to Cairo in 969 and Alexandria's decline continued, accelerating in the 14th cent., when the canal to the Nile silted up.
SUMER: An ancient country of southern Mesopotamia in present-day southern Iraq. Archaeological evidence dates the beginnings of Sumer to the fifth millennium B.C. By 3000 a flourishing civilization existed, which gradually exerted power over the surrounding area and culminated in the Akkadian dynasty, founded c. 2340 by Sargon I. Sumer declined after 2000 and was later absorbed by Babylonia and Assyria. The Sumerians are believed to have invented the cuneiform system of writing.
The Nostalgia of Princes
We loved passionately the books of Pergamon and Alexandria,
those great libraries where the vast sweep of knowledge was laid out,
the legends of Sumeria, the Greeks' high-minded deregulations of the senses,
and the poems of the wind that covered our lives with love!
translated from the French of Athanase Vantchev de Thracy by Norton Hodges