15 May 2009

Public Libraries in Ancient Rome

Although Julius Caesar had planned to build a public library in Rome, he was assassinated before he could put his plan into operation. It fell to one of his adherents, Asinius Pollio, to build a public library in the Atrium Libertatis financed from the spoils of his 39 BC war against an Illyrian tribe, the Parthini. His library contained both Greek and Latin works, possibly in separate wings. Augustus, Octavia, and Tiberius also founded public libraries.

Unfortunately, we don't know precisely how the libraries worked: whether people were allowed to borrow books or only read them in the library, who was allowed to use the libraries and many other details. We do know that an east facing room was recommended to take advantage of the light, so presumably opening hours were in the morning rather than the late afternoon or evening.

Two general articles on libraries in the ancient world, one in French and one in English. An article on the location of the public libraries in Rome.

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