“There are strange traditions current in various parts of the East – on Mount Athos and in the Desert of Nitria, for instance – among certain monks, and with learned Rabbis in Palestine, who pass their lives in commenting upon the Talmud. They say that not all the rolls and manuscripts reported in history to have been burned by Caesar, by the Christian mob, in 389, and by the Arab General Amru, perished as it is commonly believed; and the story they tell is the following:
At the time of the contest for the throne, in 51 B.C., between Cleopatra and her brother Dionysius Ptolemy, in the Bruckion, which contained over seven hundred thousand rolls, all bound in wood and fireproof parchment, was undergoing repairs, and a great portion of the original manuscripts, considered among the most precious, and which were not duplicated, were stored away in the house of one of the librarians. As the fire which consumed the rest was but the result of accident, no precautions had been taken at the time. But they add, that several hours had passed between the burning of the fleet, set on fire by Caesar’s order, and the moment when the first buildings situated near the harbor caught fire in their turn; and that all librarians, aided by several hundred slaves attached to the museum, succeeded in saving the most precious of the rolls. So perfect and solid was the fabric of the parchment, that while in some rolls the inner pages and the wood-binding were reduced to ashes, of others the parchment binding remained unscorched. These particulars were all written out in Greek, Latin, and the Chaldeo-Syriac dialect, by a learned youth named Theodas, one of the scribes employed in the museum.
One of these manuscripts is alleged to be preserved till now in a Greek convent; and the person who narrated the tradition to us had seen it himself. He said that many more will see it and learn where to look for important documents, when a certain prophecy will be fulfilled; adding, that most of these works could be found in Tartary and India. The monk showed us a copy of the original, which, of course, we could read but poorly, as we claim but little erudition in the matter of dead languages. But we were so particularly struck by the vivid and picturesque translation of the holy father, that we perfectly remember some curious paragraphs, which run, as far as we can recall them, as follows:
“When the Queen of the Sun, (Cleopatra), was brought back to the half-ruined city, after the fire had devoured the Glory of the World; and when she saw the mountains of books – or rolls – covering the half-consumed steps of the estrada; and when she perceived that the inside was gone and the indestructible covers alone remained; she wept in rage and fury, and cursed the meanness of her fathers who had grudged the cost of the real Pergamos for the inside as well as the outside of the precious rolls.”
Further, our author, Theodas, indulges in a joke at the expense of the queen for believing that nearly all the library was burned; when, in fact, hundreds and thousands of the choicest books were safely stored in his own house and those of other scribes, librarians, students, and philosophers.”
H. P. Blavatsky