The House of Wisdom

The House of Wisdom

How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization

Book - 2009
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The remarkable story of how medieval Arab scholars made dazzling advances in science and philosophy--and of the itinerant Europeans who brought this knowledge back to the West.

For centuries following the fall of Rome, western Europe was a benighted backwater, a world of subsistence farming, minimal literacy, and violent conflict. Meanwhile Arab culture was thriving, dazzling those Europeans fortunate enough to catch even a glimpse of the scientific advances coming from Baghdad, Antioch, or the cities of Persia, Central Asia, and Muslim Spain. T here, philosophers, mathematicians, and astronomers were steadily advancing the frontiers of knowledge and revitalizing the works of Plato and Aristotle. I n the royal library of Baghdad, known as the House of Wisdom, an army of scholars worked at the behest of the Abbasid caliphs. At a time when the best book collections in Europe held several dozen volumes, the House of Wisdom boasted as many as four hundred thousand.

Even while their countrymen waged bloody Crusades against Muslims, a handful of intrepid Christian scholars, thirsty for knowledge, traveled to Arab lands and returned with priceless jewels of science, medicine, and philosophy that laid the foundation for the Renaissance. I n this brilliant, evocative book, Lyons shows just how much "Western" culture owes to the glories of medieval Arab civilization, and reveals the untold story of how Europe drank from the well of Muslim learning.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2009
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9781596914599
1596914599
Characteristics: xvii, 248 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (chiefly col.), col. maps ; 25 cm

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cello9flute
Apr 28, 2020

This book is presents a badly distorted account of history because of the author's bias: everything the "Arabs" did was good; everything western Christians did was bad. I put Arabs in quotes because many of the movers and shakers of the Islamic world were not Arabs but Persians, Turks, Kurds, or may have had Arab fathers but mothers of another nationality. The Ummayyad caliphs in the heyday of al-Andalus in the 10th century were fair-skinned and fair-haired because their mothers were European sex slaves. You didn't know there were slaves in the Islamic world? That's another thing the author doesn't mention: slavery was common in the Muslim world and didn't end completely until the late 20th(yes 20th) century. The author relishes talking about the brutality of the Crusaders taking Jerusalem, but doesn't mention that in 997 the Ummayyad Caliph sacked the Santiago da Compostella the most popular shrine in medieval Europe, or that in 1009 the Fatamid caliph of Egypt destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and went on the destroy synagogues all over Syria, or that in 1075 the Muslim Turks sacked the city of Jerusalem. Finally Western Christians sought the manuscripts of Ancient Greek scholars in the Islamic world because they were familiar with Aristotle, Plato and other Greek scholars from the secondary sources based on them that had been preserved by the Christian church. Western Christians were glad to learn what Islamic scholars had to teach them; to their credit, they were open to new ideas. The author refers to specific times when the church expressed opposition to this or that new idea, but the church was a supporter of scholarship in monasteries, cathedral schools, and then in universities from late antiquity through the 17th century.

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