Nearly every scholar of classical antiquity seems to have an opinion about the destruction of the Great Library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria in Egypt. It has become something of a symbol of the triumph of ignorance and superstition over knowledge. There is much merit to this view; but the picture is a complex one, and it deserves serious consideration. The ruin of the library–and of others like it in the ancient and medieval worlds–was not a discrete, single event. It was the gradual outcome of a process that took place over generations. And when I say “process,” I am referring to neglect, apathy, and negligence.