Alexandria QuartetLawrence Durrell
Alexandria Birthplace of Modern MindJustin Pollard, Howard Reid
Alexandria: City of the Western MindTheodore Vrettos
Discoveries: Alexandria, Jewel of EgyptJean-Yves Empereur
Siwa OasisAhmed Fakhry
C. P. Cavafy: Collected PoemsC.P. Cavafy
Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of EgyptZahi Hawass and Franck Goddio
Cleopatra A LifeStacy Schiff
Lady Philosopher: The Story of HypatiaBrian Trent
The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical IntroductionNicholas Goodrick-Clarke
G. R. S. Mead and the Gnostic QuestClare and Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest SecretScott Olsen
An Endless Trace: The Passionate Pursuit of WisdomChris Bamford
Alexandria: The Journal of Western Cosmological TraditionsDavid R. Fideler
Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi TraditionDavid R. Fideler and Sabrineh Fideler
The Weiser Concise Guide to AlchemyBrian Cotnoir
Hellenistic CivilizationFrancois Chamoux

Alexandria Quartet
Lawrence Durrell

This lush and sensuous tetralogy, which consists of Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958), and Clea (1960), is set in Alexandria, Egypt, during the 1940s. Three of the books are written in the first person, Mountolive in the third. The first three volumes describe, from different viewpoints, a series of events in Alexandria before World War II; the fourth carries the story forward into the war years. The events of the narrative are mostly seen through the eyes of one L.G. Darley, who observes the interactions of his lovers, friends, and acquaintances in Alexandria.

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern World
Justin Pollard and Howard Reid

Ancient Alexandria was first and foremost a Greek city. Its history, however, is framed by two religious events that were alien to Greek intellectual traditions: Ptolemy’s creation of the cult of Serapis, which helped him establish rule, and the Christian riots that massacred the pagan philosopher Hypatia in 415 CE. Between these two events is an unmatched record of intellectual achievement, elegantly chronicled by documentary makers Pollard and Reid. Among the many scientific advances they cover, from Euclid and Archimedes to Claudius Ptolemy, perhaps the most illustrative of the city’s cosmopolitanism is human anatomy, the Greeks’ limited understanding of which was tremendously aided by contact with Egyptian mummification. Those readers especially interested in the history of science will find this a most nourishing account.

Alexandria: City of the Western Mind
Theodore Vrettos

Classicist Theodore Vrettos’ Alexandria is a cultural, political, and intellectual biography of the Egyptian metropolis that he deems more influential than any other in world history. Vrettos, between short bookcase chapters on Alexandria’s founding and effective demise (and the obscene and vindictive destruction of the city’s enormous library), divides his history into chronologically overlapping chapters. “The Mind” is a series of brief profiles of the many scholars and scientists, renowned and obscure, who gathered in what amounted to a huge municipal salon cum laboratory, including Euclid, Aristarchus, Herophilus, Ptolemy, and Archimedes. “The Soul” catalogs the religious philosophers who lived in the city, which, born of Greek wisdom, became in Vrettos’ opinion the “intellectual birthplace of Christianity.” “The Power,” is a refreshingly concise retelling of the delicious and intricate saga of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, and scores of lesser political and martial personalities. For the avid reader, Alexandria is a jewel box hefty with sparkling stones.

Discoveries: Alexandria, Jewel of Egypt
Jean-Yves Empereur

The last ten years have seen some of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries ever made in Alexandria, the legendary Egyptian city founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. Presented here is a full account of these extraordinary finds and of the exciting expeditions that led to their discovery. Located on the northwestern end of the Nile River Delta, Alexandria was the greatest of Hellenistic cities and was a major center of Jewish and Christian culture. Athens’ equal and political rival to Rome, Alexandria awed ancient travelers with its wealth, size, and cultural prestige. But unlike Athens and Rome, practically no visible trace of this splendid city remains, and, despite over a hundred years of archaeological efforts, the results have generally been considered meager. Recent excavations, however, have yielded an unexpected wealth of information. Directed by the French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur and conducted with the most modern methods, these digs have greatly enriched our knowledge of the art and architecture of Alexandria and of the lives and living conditions of its inhabitants.

Siwa Oasis
Ahmed Fakhry

The oasis of Siwa was famed in antiquity for its Oracle of Amun, consulted by Alexander the Great. Today, Siwa is known for its fine dates and its unique way of life. In this already classic work, renowned archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry reviews Siwa’s past and present. Beginning with a survey of the deserts and oases of Egypt, the book moves on to look at contemporary life in Siwa, then traces its history from Paleolithic times to the present, and concludes with a documentation of the antiquities of the oasis.

C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems
C.P. Cavafy

C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933) lived in relative obscurity in Alexandria, and a collected edition of his poems was not published until after his death. Now, however, he is regarded as the most important figure in twentieth century Greek poetry, and his poems are considered among the most powerful in modern European literature. Here is an extensively revised edition of the acclaimed translations of Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, which capture Cavafy’s mixture of formal and idiomatic use of language and preserve the immediacy of his frank treatment of homosexual themes, his brilliant re-creation of history, and his astute political ironies. “[Keeley and Sherrard] have managed the miracle of capturing this elusive, inimitable, unforgettable voice. It is the most haunting voice I know in modern poetry.” – Walter Kaiser, The New Republic

Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt
Zahi Hawass and Franck Goddio

Beautiful, mysterious, and tragic, Cleopatra remains one of the most mesmerizing women of all time—and here is her story, based on the latest archaeological research. Secrets unfold in the official companion book to the recent exhibition co-sponsored by National Geographic, which opened in Philadelphia in May 2010 and is set to tour the United States for several years. Written by the inimitable Zahi Hawass, in collaboration with underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, this richly illustrated book chronicles the life of Cleopatra and the centuries-long quest to learn more about the queen and her tumultuous era, the last pharaonic period of Egyptian history. For the crowds nationwide who will visit the blockbuster exhibit—as well as the huge readership for popular illustrated histories such as this—this book holds rare glimpses and stunning revelations from the life of a star-crossed queen.

Cleopatra: A Life
Stacy Schiff

Schiff’s stellar biography of the Egyptian queen rewards the intellect and the senses. As Schiff dusts away history’s spider webs, romance’s distortions, and sexism’s corruptions to reveal the true (or at least the truest possible) portrait of Cleopatra, Robin Miles’s voice is deep, confiding, the perfect instrument to introduce a history that has been variously forgotten, misunderstood, or suppressed. Her enunciation is crisp, her pacing pure charm: she wrings every sentence for meaning, irony, and wit, taking us through pages of description or analysis with a stately pace.

Lady Philosopher: The Story of Hypatia
Brian Trent

Author Brian Trent resurrects the ancient world’s most famous metropolis, and explores the final days, not just of a brilliant mind, but of a lost era, in this vivid retelling of a now-forgotten historical tragedy. On a November night in Egypt, one of history’s most brilliant individuals was assassinated during the Christian riots of 415 CE. Hypatia, teacher and scientist at the fabled Great Library of Alexandria, and the last glimmer of hope before the Dark Ages, was an astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher at a time when women were shunned from learning, a daring visionary in a world about to change forever. The Roman Empire was crumbling, and the fragments of the classical world were regrouping in Egypt, as Hypatia found herself at the forefront of an insidious power-struggle between church and state.

The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s book is the definitive account of the Western Esoteric Traditions, tracing their complete history from their roots in Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and Gnosticism in the early Christian era, up to their reverberations in today’s scientific paradigms. He demonstrates that, far from being a strictly intellectual movement, the spread of esotericism owes a great deal to geopolitics and globalization. In Hellenistic culture, for example, the empire of Alexander the Great, which stretched across Egypt and Western Asia to provinces in India, facilitated a mixing of Eastern and Western cultures. As the Greeks absorbed ideas from Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia, they gave rise to the first esoteric movements. From the late sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, post-Reformation spirituality found expression in Theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry. Similarly, in the modern era, dissatisfaction with the hegemony of science in Western culture and a lack of faith in traditional Christianity, led thinkers like Madame Blavatsky to look East for spiritual inspiration. Goodrick-Clarke further examines modern esoteric thought in the light of new scientific and medical paradigms along with the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung.

G. R. S. Mead and the Gnostic Quest
Clare and Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

George Robert Stowe Mead (1863-1933) was a major translator, editor, and commentator on Gnostic and Hermetic literature, and thus a pivotal figure linking the late nineteenth century esoteric revival to twentieth century art, literature, and psychology. As a young convert to the new movement of Theosophy, he served as private secretary to its co-founder, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and after founding the European section of the Theosophical Society, edited its London journal, Lucifer, for many years. Mead’s initial interest in Theosophy and Hinduism soon blossomed into a lifelong and wide-ranging engagement with the texts of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism. His editions and commentaries on previously inaccessible sources became standard works before the First World War and an important source of inspiration to such figures as Jung, Ezra Pound, Yeats, and Robert Duncan. A new entry in the Western Masters Series of concise biographies noting key figures in the Western esoteric tradition, G.R.S. Mead and the Gnostic Quest introduces Mead’s life, works, and influences, combining a substantial biography with a collection of his most important writings.

The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret
Scott Olsen

A concise and useful handbook, the Golden Section – also known as the Golden Ratio and Golden Mean – is a line segment divided into two parts, such that the ratio of the short portion to the longer portion is equal to the ratio of the longer portion to the whole. It is one of the most elegant and beautiful ratios of the mathematical universe because of its combination of elegance and simplicity, hence the divine nature of its name. Drawing on art, architecture, philosophy, nature, mathematics, geometry, and music, and beautifully illustrated with all manner of images, The Golden Section tells the story of this remarkable construct and its wide ranging impact on civilization and the natural world.

An Endless Trace: the Passionate Pursuit of Wisdom
Chris Bamford

In this collection of essays, Bamford, director of Lindisfarne Books, explores Sophia, or divine feminine wisdom, as expressed throughout the Hermetic or esoteric tradition in Christianity, and in the profound insights of many great Western thinkers and poets, and potentially in each of us as we learn to act like Wisdom herself, opening to receive what God gives. Bamford embraces a difficult subject with personal passion, rendering it with a poetry and incision that sincere readers will find deeply inspiring. Bamford describes the way feminine wisdom acts as the companion and helper to God, a kind of omnipresent cloud or mist that mirrors God’s creation. Creation, we learn, took place as a great sigh of compassion, as Sophia helped God become known by becoming incarnate in all that exists. “Sophia’s other name, revealed since the Mystery of Golgotha, is primordial cosmic human nature itself,” writes Bamford. Bamford proceeds to give a thrilling glimpse of what it might mean to awaken to our original, pure nature, to become wise and to know the world and ourselves through the Incarnation. Ranging through Western tradition, from the ancient Hermetic tradition to the medieval troubadours to the Romantics, Bamford offers a jewel box full of gems about what it can mean to be compassionate and open-hearted, to be Sophia.

Alexandria: The Journal of Western Cosmological Traditions
David R. Fideler

In ancient Egypt, the city of Alexandria was the meeting place where countless religious philosophical and cosmological teachings flowed together to create powerful new syntheses. This new journal provides a meeting place for everyone who is vitally interested in ancient and modern cosmological speculation. The first issue features articles on Iamblichus, Henry Corbin, and Gnosticism, as well as the cosmological implications of the crop circle phenomenon.

Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition
David Fideler and Sabrineh Fideler

Working from the original Persian sources, translators and scholars David and Sabrineh Fideler offer faithful, elegant translations that represent the full scope of Sufi poetry. These concise, tightly focused meditations span only a few lines but reveal worlds of meaning. The poems explore many aspects of human life and the spiritual path, but they center on the liberating power of love.

The Weiser Concise Guide to Alchemy

Brian Cotnoir

In The Weiser Concise Guide to Alchemy, Brian Cotnoir offers a detailed, step-by-step introduction of alchemy that explores its mysteries while illustrating its use as a modern spiritual system of attainment. He provides an overview of the history of alchemy, from the first meldings of Egyptian technology, through the Middle Ages – the golden age of alchemy – right up to contemporary techniques. He demystifies the relationship between alchemy and chemistry, and he provides evidence to detractors that alchemy is much more than a medieval form of psychotherapy. The guide includes practical laboratory experiments that safely, and intelligently, lead readers to an understanding of this ancient art and spiritual practice.

Hellenistic Civilization
Francois Chamoux

Spanning the period from Alexander the Great’s accession to the throne in 336 B.C. to the defeat by Octavius of Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C., this vivid narrative explores the innovative civilization of the Hellenistic world. It provides an authoritative overview of the often violent political history of the period, analyzes the institutions, political and cultural, of Hellenistic kingdoms, leagues, and cities, and examines the interaction between Greek settlers and native peoples. The author presents Hellenistic civilization as pluralistic, diverse, and vibrant. In particular, he looks at the ways in which Greek ideas and cultural forms were received in different contexts and how the Greek language, along with Greek political thought, lifestyles, religion, art, and architecture, spread and were adapted throughout the Mediterranean basin. He shows how, when the Hellenistic world became subject to Rome, its culture left a lasting imprint on the way of life and thought of its conquerors. A unique feature of the book is its emphasis on epigraphic texts.

Online Resources:

The Library of Alexandria
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library at Alexandria on this BBC program.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j0q53