Skip to comments.Where Thought Flowered (The West Owes a Great Debt to the Intellectual Scholarship of Arabs)
Posted on 04/13/2009 8:59:52 AM PDT by nickcarraway
The House of Wisdom
By Jonathan Lyons
Bloomsbury / 272 pages / $26
Dust will never gather on Jonathan Lyons' lively new book of medieval history - the opening page of his The House of Wisdom cites a cleric scandalized by the Crusader ladies of Antioch and their penchant for the plunging neckline and the bejeweled merkin. If this is the Middle Ages, thinks the reader, bring it on! But this pleasure gradually gives way to another beguilement, to be found in Lyons' subtitle: "How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization." That phrase suggests a brave viewpoint for a historian nowadays, one at odds with the us-vs.-them mentality copied from the Cold War and pasted on to any consideration of things Islamic.
Whether it's the ecstatic Lt. Gen. William Boykin claiming his Christian God is "bigger" than the Muslim God, or the late Harvard professor Samuel Huntington peddling, like some harebrained imam, an inevitable "clash of civilizations," the twain of East and West has seldom seemed less likely to meet than in the past few years.
For Lyons, a former Reuters reporter who roved the Middle East for two decades, the task is much greater than reminding the general reader of the splendors of Umayyad Cordoba. He is out to reverse a long-standing prejudice regarding the stupendous flowering of scholarship in medieval Islam.
Even when that flowering is recognized - but does anyone really remember learning about it in school? - it is usually brushed off as an unfortunate hiccup in the transmission of classical Greek thought to the Renaissance. In this view, the translators and scholars of Baghdad,Cairo andToledo were mere copyists or, at best, librarians, unwittingly preserving the genius of antiquity's philosophy and science in their dimly lit mosques - until the West recovered its brilliance.
(Excerpt) Read more at baltimoresun.com ...
Man! Don’t say stuff like that w/o some details. I’m perfectly willing to believe it, and I know that the classics were preserved in the “East” and all. But I also know Ptolemy and Euclid and to some extent Aristotle came to us through the Muslims. And that ain’t hay.
Lots of that also came from Constantinople; I’m pretty sure
since Byzantine culture was Greek very early on that lots of classical works were passed on to us from them. Not to mention Roman law codified under Justinian I that passed into European law right down till modern times.
LOL...as someone who lives up here...I would say that is an entirely accurate analogy.
There are scholars who dispute that. Read Henri Prienne
“Mohammad and Charlemagne” an oldie but goodie.
The central government in Rome may have collapsed, but some of the “barbarian” successor states like the Ostrogoths in Italy and Visigoths in Iberia wished more to carry on in the Roman tradition than to destroy the culture and society. The spread of the Islamic menace through the Mediterranean, along with the kind of endmenic slave-rading and plundering naval actions so typical of Muslim bahavior towards all non-Muslims created a cultural break between western Europe and Byzanitum which was still a bastion of Greco-Roman culture.
“An interesting aspect to the fall of Rome was that it happened during a Global Cooling period, when dropping temperatures produced lower harvests (and thus less revenue to support the Legions), plus causing mass migrations of barbarian people looking for better farmland.”
It may have been a contributing factor in some cases, but the main reason for the initial Volkerwanderung was the conveyor belt of nomad warriors from Central Asia bringing the Huns westward.
The Roman Empire sort of self-destructed due to many factors like the lack of a clear order of secession, which drove a whirlwind of civil wars for imperial control. In the 200’s Roman civil wars pretty much devastated the military leadership of the legions as well as their manpower, driving them to recruit more and more barbarians en mass to fight against their own people under their own leaders rather than to gradually assimilate and Romanize them as they had done earlier. We SHOULD be taking notice of that. Currently, the influx of illegal aliens is so overwhelming our society that our ability to acculturate these people and assimilate them successfully has been seriously compromised, threatening the fabric of our society.
Well Euclid came to ‘the West’ because some monks snuck into Muslim Spain and copied it. Aristotle and Ptolemy MOSTLY came to us through Muslims. it’s not that Byzantium didn’t have this stuff. It just wasn’t reaching the West from there, or not a lot anyway.
Muslim “science” is mainly if not totally a ocpy or a plagiarism and extension of Greek science.
I agree. Rome was more a Mediterranean civilization rather than a European one, whose prosperity depended on free sea trade along the Med coastline. Islamic pirates cutting the sea lanes between Byzantium and the rest of the European Mediterranean devastated the Med economy. Plus Europe no longer had access to North African grain, and the overgrazing by Arab herders turned North Africa from the breadbasket of the Roman empire into the desert wasteland it is today.
“Plus Europe no longer had access to North African grain, and the overgrazing by Arab herders turned North Africa from the breadbasket of the Roman empire into the desert wasteland it is today. “
Good point!! I forgot about that.
The Romans had turned North Africa into a wealthy province with irrigation and farms. The Muslims in true arab style converted it back into a wasteland by neglect and damage.
Was the Islam of Old Spain Truly Tolerant?
(The Religion of Peace and its idea of inclusiveness)
The New York Times | September 27, 2003 | Edward Rothstein
Posted on 09/27/2003 1:05:33 PM PDT by quidnunc
The Real History of the Crusades
crisismagazine | April 1, 2002 | Thomas F. Madden
Posted on 11/22/2003 4:23:29 PM PST by dennisw
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