Thursday, April 10, 2008


In 1258, the Mongols descended on Baghdad and emptied the libraries into the Tigris, ending the city's scholarly preeminence enjoyed for nearly 500 years. "Hence the legend developed," as one scholar wrote, "that the river ran black from the ink of the countless texts lost in this manner, while the streets ran red with the blood of the city's slaughtered inhabitants."


The sacking of the library that began April 11, 2003, was a bad one. The current Director of Iraq's National Library and Archive, Dr. Saad Eskander, estimates that over three days, as many as "60 percent of the Ottoman and Royal Hashemite era documents were lost as well as the bulk of the Ba'ath era documents.... [and] approximately 25 percent of the book collections were looted or burned."


Bryan said...

A technical point - the Mongol horde had Asiatic Mongols and Turkic groups, like the Tatars, while the Vandals were an eastern Germanic tribe like the Ostrogoths.

It would be somewhat difficult to tell directly after one or the other looted and burned a city, but they were different groups. [:twisted:]

hipparchia said...

hehe. i did wonder if anybody was going to call me on that. i even went so far as to consider vandal hordes for the post title.

Steve Bates said...

Whatever the looters of 1258 were, those of 2003 were said by some, at the time, to be "looting to order" for the interests of dishonest collectors worldwide.

In those days, I was holding a sign of some sort at Mecom Fountain (Main Street, Houston) once a week or more, in protest of the whole war, and I recall finding it very difficult to express that particular outrage in five or six words on a handmade sign.

hipparchia said...

the looting to order wouldn't surprise me. of all the stuff i've read about our doings in iraq and afghanistan, the destruction of those ancient treasures is the one thing that actually made me cry.

Michael said...

a war for oil isn't about pillage?

hipparchia said...

a war for oil isn't about pillage?

good point.