Notable book burnings have taken place throughout history. During the burning of the Royal Palace, a great fire ravaged the Library of Ashurbanipal where the scholar King Ashurbanipal had amassed a great number of texts and tablets from various countries.
Modern historians believe the library may have contained a considerable number of texts written on such mediums as leather scrolls, wax boards, and possibly papyri — all of them vulnerable to fire.
However, the considerable number of clay cuneiform tablets became partially baked. As recounted in Jeremiah 36 , Jeremiah's scroll was read before Jehoiakim, King of Judah, in the presence of important officials; King Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll in a fire, and then sought to have Jeremiah arrested. The Classical Greek philosopher Protagoras c.
The same story is also mentioned by Cicero. The philosopher Plato is said to have greatly disliked fellow-philosopher Democritus and wanted all of Democritus' books burned.
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Aristoxenus in his Historical Notes affirms that "Plato wished to burn all the writings of Democritus that he could collect". Plato's own writings were frequently copied, and unlike nearly all of his philosophical contemporaries , Plato's entire work is believed to have survived intact for over 2, years. The burning of Persepolis , the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire , about BC, was one of the stains on the record of Alexander the Great , contrasting with the efforts he otherwise made to act humanely towards the defeated Persians.
Various accounts attribute it to an accident, a drunken revelry by Alexander's soldiers, or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens by the Achaemenid army centuries before. There was evidently no deliberate targeting of books and written material, but — though not mentioned in Greek and Latin accounts — such destruction did result from the setting on fire of palaces made mostly of highly combustible cedar wood.
The Book of Arda Wiraz , a Zoroastrian work composed in the 3rd or 4th century CE, mentions the destruction of Royal Archives and of "all the Avesta Zoroastrian scriptures and Zend commentraries " which were "written with gold ink upon prepared cow-skins". The Bundahishn — an encyclopaediaic collection of Zoroastrian cosmogony and cosmology — also refers to "Aleskandar" Alexander having burned the Avesta following his defeat of "Dara" Darius III.
For this act of sacrilege, Alexander's name was regularly accompanied in Middle Persian Zoroastrian texts by the appellation Gujastak "the Damned", or "the Evil".
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As late as the 10th century CE, the native Iranian writer Biruni , in his The Chronology of Ancient Nations , mentioned regretfully the loss of historiographical sources due to that burning. The fall of Persepolis paradoxically contributed to the preservation of the Achaemenid administrative archives that might have been lost due to passage of time and natural and man-made causes.
During the Warring States Period , China was divided into various states — each of which had its own historians, writing over centuries their version of the history of their state and its relations with neighbors and rivals. Following Qin 's conquest of all the others, Emperor Qin Shi Huang — on the advice of his minister Li Si — ordered the burning of all philosophy books and history books from states other than Qin — beginning in BC.
This was followed by the live burial of a large number of intellectuals who did not comply with the state dogma.
Li Si is reported to have said: "I, your servant, propose that all historian's records other than those of Qin's be burned. With the exception of the academics whose duty includes possessing books, if anyone under heaven has copies of the Shi Jing , the Classic of History , or the writings of the hundred schools of philosophy , they shall deliver them [the books] to the governor or the commandant for burning.
Anyone who dares to discuss the Shi Jing or the Classic of History shall be publicly executed. Anyone who uses history to criticize the present shall have his family executed.
Nazi book burnings
Any official who sees the violations but fails to report them is equally guilty. Anyone who has failed to burn the books after thirty days of this announcement shall be subjected to tattooing and be sent to build the Great Wall. The books that have exemption are those on medicine, divination , agriculture and forestry.
Those who have interest in laws shall instead study from officials.
The imperial palace and state archives were burned, destroying many of the remaining written records that had been spared by the father. Several other large book burnings also occurred in Chinese history. In BC, in an effort to suppress the Bacchanalia practices that had been led in part by Minius Cerrinius , a Consul of Rome claimed that the fathers and grandfathers of the Romans had suppressed foreign rites and ceremonies, "seeking out and burning all books of pretended prophecies" .
In BC the Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV ordered Jewish 'Books of the Law' found in Jerusalem to be 'rent in pieces' and burned  — part of the series of persecutions which precipitated the revolt of the Maccabees. In 17 BC, Virgil died and in his will ordered that his masterpiece, the Aeneid , be burned, as it was a draft and not a final version.
However, his friends disobeyed him and released the epic poem after editing it themselves. In 25 AD Senator Aulus Cremutius Cordus was forced to commit suicide and his History was burned by the aediles , under the order of the senate. The book's praise of Brutus and Cassius , who had assassinated Julius Caesar , was considered an offence under the lex majestatis. A copy of the book was saved by Cordus' daughter Marcia, and it was published again under Caligula.
However, only a few fragments survived to the present. Suetonius tells us that, at the death of Marcus Lepidus about 13 BC , Augustus assumed the office of Chief Priest, and burned over two thousand copies of Greek and Latin prophetic verse then current, the work of anonymous or unrespected authors preserving the Sibylline Books.
Flavius Josephus  relates that about the year 50 a Roman soldier seized a Torah scroll and, with abusive and mocking language, burned it in public. This incident almost brought on a general Jewish revolt against Roman rule, such as broke out two decades later. However, the Roman Procurator Cumanus appeased the Jewish populace by beheading the culprit.
About the year 55 according to the New Testament book of Acts , early converts to Christianity in Ephesus who had previously practiced sorcery burned their scrolls: "A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.
When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. Under the Emperor Hadrian , the teaching of the Jewish Scriptures was forbidden, as, in the wake of the Bar Kochva Rebellion, the Roman authorities regarded such teaching as seditious and tending towards revolt.
Haninah ben Teradion , one of the Jewish Ten Martyrs executed for having defied that ban, is reported to have been burned at the stake together with the forbidden Torah scroll which he had been teaching.
According to Jewish tradition, when the flame started to burn himself and the scroll he still managed to say to his pupils: "I see the scrolls burning but the letters fly up in the air" — a saying considered to symbolize the superiority of ideas to brute force. While in the original applying to sacred writings only, 20th Century Israeli writers also quoted this saying in the context of secular ideals.
Among five catastrophes said to have overtaken the Jews on the Seventeenth of Tammuz , the Mishnah  includes "the burning of the Torah by Apostomus ". Since no further details are given and there are no other references to Apostomus in Jewish or non-Jewish sources, the exact time and circumstances of this traumatic event are debated, historians assigning to it different dates in Jewish history under Seleucid or Roman rule, and it might be identical with one of the events noted above see Apostomus page.
The book Established beliefs of Epicurus was burned in a Paphlagonian marketplace by order of the charlatan Alexander of Abonoteichus , supposed prophet of Glycon , the son of Asclepius ca .
The Diocletianic Persecution started on March 31, , with the Roman Emperor Diocletian , in a rescript from Alexandria, ordering that the leading Manichaeans be burnt alive along with their scriptures.
As related in later Christian Hagiography , at that time the governor of Valencia offered the deacon who would become known as Saint Vincent of Saragossa to have his life spared in exchange for his consigning Scripture to the fire. Vincent refused and let himself be executed instead. In religious paintings he is often depicted holding the book whose preservation he preferred to his own life see illustration in Saint Vincent of Saragossa page.
These came to be known as Traditores literally, "those who give away" from which the modern word "traitor" is derived. The books of Arius and his followers, after the first Council of Nicaea C. Elaine Pagels is the first to claim that in , Athanasius ordered monks in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in his role as bishop of Alexandria to destroy all "unacceptable writings" in Egypt , the list of writings to be saved constituting the New Testament.
The Sibylline Books were a collection of oracular sayings. According to myth,  the Cumaean sibyl offered Lucius Tarquinius Superbus the books for a high price, and when he refused, burned three.
When he refused to buy the remaining six at the same price, she again burned three, finally forcing him to buy the last three at the original price. The quindecimviri sacris faciundis watched over the surviving books in the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus , but could not prevent their being burned when the temple burned down in 83 BC.
They were replaced by a similar collection of oracular sayings from around the Mediterranean in 76 BC, along with the sayings of the Tiburtine sibyl , and then checked by priests for perceived accuracy as compared to the burned originals.
Some though not all of his writings were condemned as heretical and burned. For many centuries they were considered irreversibly lost, but surviving copies were discovered in the 19th century.
Etrusca Disciplina , the Etruscan books of cult and divination, were collected and burned in the 5th century. The books of Nestorius , declared to be heresy , were burned under an edict of Theodosius II Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople published a treatise, on the General Resurrection , maintaining that the resurrected body "will be more subtle than air, and no longer palpable".
Nazi Book Burning
As the dispute could not be settled, the Byzantine emperor , Tiberius II Constantine , undertook to arbitrate. He decided in favor of palpability and ordered Eutychius' book to be burned. Eutychius died soon afterwards, on 5 April During the " Isshi Incident " of , a transformative event in early Japanese Imperial history, the influential Soga no Iruka was assassinated and enemies of the Soga Clan seized power.
Shortly afterwards, Iruka's father Soga no Emishi killed himself by setting fire to his residence. The library of the Serapeum in Alexandria was trashed, burned and looted in , at the decree of Theophilus of Alexandria , who was ordered to do so by Theodosius I. Around the same time, Hypatia was murdered. One of the largest destructions of books occurred at the Library of Alexandria , traditionally held to be in ; however, the precise years are unknown, as is whether the fires were intentional or accidental.
Following the " Triumph of Orthodoxy " in , when the Byzantine Iconoclasts were decisively defeated and the worship of Icons formally restored, the Byzantine secular and religious authorities destroyed almost all Iconoclast writings — making it difficult for modern researchers to determine what exactly were the Iconoclasts' reasons to oppose the use of Icons in Christian worship. Uthman ibn 'Affan , the third Caliph of Islam after Muhammad , who is credited with overseeing the collection of the verses of the Qur'an , ordered the destruction of any other remaining text containing verses of the Quran after the Quran has been fully collected, circa This was done to ensure that the collected and authenticated Quranic copy that Uthman collected became the primary source for others to follow, thereby ensuring that Uthman's version of the Quran remained authentic.
Although the Qur'an had mainly been propagated through oral transmission, it also had already been recorded in at least three codices , most importantly the codex of Abdullah ibn Mas'ud in Kufa , and the codex of Ubayy ibn Ka'b in Syria. Sometime between and , a committee appointed by Uthman is believed to have produced a singular version in seven copies, and Uthman is said to have "sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered any other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.
After the conquest of Toledo, Spain by the king of Castile, whether Iberian Christians should follow the foreign Roman rite or the traditional Mozarabic rite became a subject of dispute. After other ordeals , the dispute was submitted to the trial by fire : One book for each rite was thrown into a fire. The Toledan book was little damaged after the Roman one was consumed.
Henry Jenner comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia : "No one who has seen a Mozarabic manuscript with its extraordinarily solid vellum , will adopt any hypothesis of Divine Interposition here. The provincial synod held at Soissons in France in condemned the teachings of the famous theologian Peter Abelard as heresy ; he was forced to burn his own book before being shut up inside the convent of St.
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Medard at Soissons. The rebellious monk Arnold of Brescia — Abelard's pupil and colleague — refused to abjure his views after they were condemned at the Synod of Sens in , and went on to lead the Commune of Rome in direct opposition to the Pope, until he was executed in The Church ordered the burning of all his writings; this was done so thoroughly than none of them survives and it is unknown even what they were — except for what can be inferred from polemics against him.
Its collection was said to comprise hundreds of thousands of volumes, so extensive that it burned for months when set aflame by Muslim invaders in The Royal Library of the Samanid Dynasty was burned at the turn of the 11th century during the Turkic invasion from the east.
Avicenna was said to have tried to save the precious manuscripts from the fire as the flames engulfed the collection. Following the conversion of the Maldives to Islam in or by some accounts in , the Buddhist religion — hitherto state religion for more than a thousand years — was suppressed.
At that time, also the wealth of Buddhist manuscripts written on screwpine leaves by Maldivian monks in their Buddhist monasteries was either burnt or otherwise so thoroughly eliminated that it has disappeared without leaving any trace. According to William Johnston, as part of the Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent there was a persecution of the Buddhist religion, considered idolaterous from the Muslim point of view. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Buddhist texts were burnt by the Muslim armies in the Gangetic plains region, which also destroyed hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and shrines and killed monks and nuns.
The famous library of the Alamut Castle , the main stronghold of the order of the Nizari Ismailis , was burned after the invading Mongols captured it. Primary sources on the thoughts of the Ismailis of this period are therefore lacking today.