The Map new arrival sale of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found online sale

The Map new arrival sale of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found online sale

The Map new arrival sale of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found online sale

Description

Product Description

After the fall of Rome, as civilizations collapsed and libraries burned, ancient knowledge that would eventually fuel the Renaissance was at risk of being lost. This thrilling history tracks three crucial books as they were passed hand to hand through seven cities during a perilous thousand-year journey of survival. After the great library at Alexandria was destroyed, Baghdad, Cordoba, Toledo, Salerno, and Palermo were rare outposts of knowledge in a dark world, where dedicated scholars collected, translated, and shared texts . Violet Moller’s The Map of Knowledge takes us into the sparkling intellectual life that flourished there, highlighting the crucial role played by Arab scholars in improving the cornerstone ideas of Western thought. She shows us how foundational works on math, astronomy, and medicine by Euclid, Ptolemy, and Galen eventually reached Venice, the major center of scientific printing, where their legacy was assured—having been rescued by the passionate curiosity of generations of readers.

Review

“Moller brings to life the ways in which knowledge reached us from antiquity to the present day in a book that is as delightful as it is readable.” Peter Frankopan, author of  The Silk Roads

“Superb. . . . Ambitious but concise, deeply researched but elegantly written, and very entertaining,  The Map of Knowledge is popular intellectual history at its best .” — The Telegraph (UK)

“An endlessly fascinating book, rich in detail, capacious and humane in vision.” —Stephen Greenblatt, author of Swerve: How the World Became Modern
 
“The reader is invited to marvel at how multicultural the ancient world was, and to consider how the foundational knowledge of the Western world . . . was painstakingly preserved, analyzed, and innovated upon for almost 1,000 years.” — The Washington Post

“Fascinating. . . . A picturesque tour of a series of fabulously wealthy civilizations. . . . Moller brings the wonders of the medieval Muslim empires vividly to life and you’re left yearning for more.” — The Times (London)
 
“Unusual and well-crafted. . . . An impressive, wide-ranging examination of what might be called premodern intellectual and cultural geography.” — Publishers Weekly
 
“An epic treasure hunt into the highways and byways of stored knowledge across faiths and continents.” —John Agard, poet and judge, Royal Society of Literature 2016 Jerwood Award 

About the Author

VIOLET MOLLER is a historian and writer based near Oxford, England. She received a PhD in intellectual history from Edinburgh University, where she wrote her dissertation on the library of a sixteenth century scholar. She has written three pop reference books for the publishing arm of the Bodleian Library. The Map of Knowledge is her first narrative history.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Preface

In early 1509, the young artist Raffaello Sanzio (1483–1520) began painting a series of frescoes on the walls of Pope Julius II’s private library, deep inside the Vatican. Next door, in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s great rival, Michelangelo, lay on his back on a huge scaf­fold, hundreds of feet in the air, painting onto the ceiling a monu­mental image of God giving life to Adam. The Renaissance was in full swing in Rome and, under the patronage of Pope Julius, the great city was being returned to the glory of its ancient imperial past. Raphael’s frescoes on the four walls of the Stanza della Segna­tura illustrated the four categories of books that were shelved below them: theology, philosophy, law and poetry. In the philosophy fresco, which we now call The School of Athens, Raphael painted three huge vaulted arches receding into the distance, with statues of the Roman gods Minerva and Apollo on either side and broad marble steps leading down to a geometrically tiled floor. The architecture is decidedly Roman—bold, imperious, monumental—but the culture and ideas represented by the fifty-eight figures carefully grouped across the painting are emphatically and almost without exception Greek; it is a celebration of the rediscovery of ancient ideas that were central to the intellectual milieu of sixteenth-century Rome. Plato and Aristotle stand in the very centre, under a huge arch, silhouetted against the blue sky, which Plato points up to, while Aristotle ges­tures to the earth below him, neatly representing their philosophical tendencies—the former’s preoccupation with the ideal and the heavenly, the latter’s determination to understand the physical world around him. The full scope of ancient philosophy as inherited by Italian humanism is triumphantly rendered in glowing colour.

No one knows exactly who all the other figures in the fresco are, and arguments over their identities have kept scholars occupied for centuries. Most people agree that the bald man in the front right, busy demonstrating geometrical theory with a compass, is Euclid, while the crowned man next to him, holding a globe, is certainly Ptolemy, who at this point was far more famous for his work on geography than astronomy.* All the figures identified lived in the ancient world, at least a thousand years before Raphael began paint­ing the fresco—except for one. On the left of the painting, a man wearing a turban is leaning over Pythagoras’ shoulder to see what he is writing. He is the Muslim philosopher Averroes (1126–1198)—the single identifiable representative of the thousand years between the last of the ancient Greek philosophers and Raphael’s own time, and the single representative of the vital, vibrant tradition of Arab scholarship that had flourished in this period. These scholars, who were of various faiths and origins, but were united by the fact that they wrote in Arabic, had kept the flame of Greek science burning, combining it with other traditions and transforming it with their own hard work and brilliance—ensuring its survival and transmis­sion down through the centuries to the Renaissance.

I studied Classics and history throughout my time at school and university, but at no point was I taught about the influence of the medieval Arab world, or indeed any other external civilization, on European culture. The narrative for the history of science seemed to say, “There were the Greeks, and then the Romans, and then there was the Renaissance,” glibly skipping over the millennium in between. I knew from my medieval-history courses that there wasn’t much scientific knowledge in Western Europe in this period, and I began to wonder what had happened to the books on mathemat­ics, astronomy and medicine from the ancient world. How did they survive? Who recopied and translated them? Where were the safe havens that ensured their preservation?

When I was twenty-one, a friend and I drove from England to Sicily in her old Volvo. We were researching Graeco-Roman tem­ples for our third-year dissertations. It was a great adventure. We got lost in Naples, hot in Rome, we were pulled over by the police and asked out on a date, we gaped at Pompeii and ate milky balls of buffalo mozzarella in Paestum, and finally, after weeks on the road and a short ferry trip across the Straits of Messina, we arrived in Sicily. The island immediately felt different from the rest of Italy: exotic, complicated, compelling. Its layers of history enveloped us; the marks left by succeeding civilizations, like strata in a rock face, were striking. In Syracuse Cathedral, we saw the columns of the original Greek Temple of Athena, built in the fifth century bc, still standing 2,500 years after they were erected. We learned how the cathedral had been converted into a mosque in 878, when the city came under Muslim control, and how it became a Christian church again two centuries later, when the Normans took power. It was clear that Sicily had been a meeting point for cultures over hun­dreds of years, a place where ideas, traditions and words had been exchanged and transformed, where worlds had collided. The focus of our trip was the relationship between Greek and Roman religion and architecture, but the contribution of later cultures—Byzantine, Islamic, Norman—was remarkable. I began to wonder about other places that had played a similar role in the history of ideas, and how those places had developed.

These questions resurfaced when I was researching my PhD on intellectual knowledge in early modern England, viewed through the library of Dr. John Dee (the man Elizabeth I called her philosopher). A strange and captivating character, Dee was my constant companion for several years. He took me on an unforgettable journey through the intellectual world of the late sixteenth century. During his extraordinary career, he amassed the first truly universal collec­tion of books in England, helped plan voyages of discovery to the New World, initiated the concept of a British Empire, reformed the calendar, searched for the philosopher’s stone, attempted to conjure angels and travelled all over Europe with his wife, servants, several children and hundreds of books in tow. He also wrote extensively on a wide range of subjects: history, mathematics, astrology, navigation, alchemy and magic. One of his most significant achievements was helping to produce the first English translation of Euclid’s Elements, in 1570. But where had this text been and who had looked after it in the 2,000 years between Euclid writing it in Alexandria and Dee publishing it in London? Studying the catalogue Dee made of his library in 1583, I noticed that a great many of his books, especially those that touched on scientific subjects, were written by Arab schol­ars. This tied in with the things I had seen in Sicily and gave me a taste of what had been going on in the Islamic world in the Middle Ages, expanding my view of history beyond the traditional Western scheme. I began to realize that the history of ideas is not constrained by boundaries of culture, religion or politics, and that, in order to fully appreciate it, a more far-reaching approach is necessary.

These ideas remained at the back of my mind, gradually crys­tallizing into a plan for a book that would follow ancient scientific ideas on their journey through the Middle Ages. As it is an enormous subject, I decided to concentrate on a few specific texts and plot their progress as they passed through the major centres of learn­ing. With my focus on the history of science and, more precisely, “the exact sciences,” three subjects were clearly delineated: mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Within them, three geniuses stand out: in mathematics, Euclid; in astronomy, Ptolemy and, in medicine, Galen. Euclid and Ptolemy both wrote comprehensive surveys of their subjects— The Elements and The Almagest—but Galen was a more complex proposition. He wrote hundreds of texts, so I decided to concentrate on those that formed the medical curriculum in Alexan­dria, in addition to the general areas of anatomy and pharmacology. All three of these remarkable men defined the structure and con­tent of their individual subjects. They created the framework within which future scholars would work for hundreds of years. Many of the theories of Ptolemy and Galen have since been disproved and replaced, but their influence and legacy is incontrovertible. Galen’s theory of the humours still survives in traditional Tibetan medicine and also in modern complementary medicine. Ptolemy’s survey of the fixed stars endured, as did his “idea that the physical world is dependable and can be understood with mathematics.”

In contrast, Euclid’s Elements has stood the test of time, almost in its entirety. It was still being taught in classrooms in the twen­tieth century, and the geometrical theories it contains remain as true and relevant today as they were in the fourth century bc. The same applies to Euclid’s demonstrative method, which uses a con­cise technical vocabulary, suppositions and proofs (diagrams), and which has remained a template for scientific writing ever since. Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy pioneered the practice of science based on observation, experimentation, accuracy, intellectual rigour and clear communication—the cornerstones of what is now known as “scientific method.”

When I began to research in earnest, I was surprised how neatly the story unfolded in front of me. The year 500 was an obvious moment to begin— a time when the intellectual traditions of antiquity were evolving into those of the Middle Ages, when scholarship was entering a different era. Subsequent chapters each centre on a different city, first of all doubling back to Alexandria to see when and how the texts were written. From here, they were dispersed across the Eastern Mediterranean to Syria and Constantinople, where they remained until the ninth century, when scholars from the new city of Baghdad, capital of the vast Muslim Empire, began seeking them out to translate them into Arabic and use the ideas contained in them as the foundation for their own scientific discoveries. Bagh­dad was the first true centre of learning since antiquity, and over time it inspired cities across the Arab world to build libraries and fund science. The most important of these was Córdoba, in southern Spain, ruled over by the Umayyad dynasty, under whose patronage the works of Euclid, Ptolemy and Galen were studied and where their ideas were questioned and improved upon by generations of scholars. From Córdoba, they were taken to other cities in Spain and, when the Christians began to reconquer the peninsula, Toledo became an important centre of translation and the place where they entered the Latin, Christian world.

This was the major route the texts took, but there were other places in the Middle Ages where ancient Greek, Arabic and Western culture collided. Salerno, in Southern Italy, was a place where medi­cal texts (in Arabic, but derived from Galen) were taken from North Africa and translated into Latin, and, as a result, Salerno became the centre of European medical studies for centuries, playing a vital role in the dissemination of medicine. Then, in Palermo, Ptolemy and Euclid take centre stage from Galen, as scholars translated cop­ies of The Elements and The Almagest directly from Greek to Latin, bypassing the Arabic versions in the hope of achieving greater accu­racy. The three divergent strands came together in Venice, where manuscripts began to arrive in the last half of the fifteenth century, ready to be printed for the first time.

There were, of course, other cities I could have included, but sticking to those in which copies of the key texts were studied and translated seemed the best way to avoid getting lost in this huge story. Choosing them threw up some interesting questions about what constitutes a centre of learning. Constantinople was a major repository of ancient texts, but not somewhere that science was stud­ied with any degree of originality or rigour. Nor was it a place where translation (and therefore transmission) happened on any kind of scale and, for these reasons, it only features in a supporting role—the place to which scholars and caliphs came when searching for copies of Euclid, Ptolemy and Galen. The city on the Golden Horn might have taken over from Alexandria in terms of power and status, but it was a pale shadow when it came to scientific learning— a centre of preservation rather than innovation. Toledo, Salerno and Palermo were the places where Arabic culture came into closest contact with Christian Europe, but there was also a degree of exchange in Syria during the Crusades. I have not discussed this in much detail, how­ever, because there is no evidence that The Elements, The Almagest or Galen’s major works were among the books translated there.

While the underlying narrative for this story was easy to follow, finding a way through the dense, tangled undergrowth of manu­script history was not. Because they were so significant, several editions of each text were produced—teasing out their relationship to one another and finding a clear path through was often challenging. Until the introduction of the printing press, every single text was copied out by hand, so each one was different, with its own pecu­liarities and mistakes. The study of complex textual traditions is a discipline all of its own within history, and not one to which I can claim expertise. In order to stay true to the narrative, I have had to be selective and produce simplified versions of the rich manuscript histories of these great books.

For me, the history of ideas has always been the most fascinating aspect of our past. Discovering how people approached the funda­mental questions about our planet and the universe, how they passed their theories on to future generations and expanded the frontiers of intellectual knowledge, is compelling. Much of this type of his­tory is obscured in erudite books on the shelves of research libraries, but this should not be the case. By taking a broad view and writing about the characters and stories, rather than focusing on the scientific content and historical minutiae found in academic books, it is pos­sible to bring the history of ideas to life. For example, understanding Ptolemy’s model of the universe is above and beyond anyone with­out detailed knowledge of astronomy, but appreciating its impor­tance and following its progress is both meaningful and fascinating. Doing so takes us on a sweeping journey through the Middle Ages, zooming in on certain places at certain moments to discover exactly how and why scientific ideas were transmitted and transformed. In this way, the boundaries of the traditional Western historical narra­tive are expanded by shining a light on the profound contribution of both the Islamic world and medieval Christian scholars, filling in the millennium between “the Romans” and “the Renaissance.” This made it possible to include theories from other cultures which were gradually incorporated into the canon of mathematical, astronomical and medical thought. Ideas like the Hindu-Arabic numerals and positional notation system that came from India, via the Muslim Empire, and are used all over the world today.

When you step back and look at history from a wider angle, the intricate web of connections between different cultures comes into focus, giving us a broader, more nuanced and ultimately more vivid view of our intellectual heritage.

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Aran Joseph CanesTop Contributor: Philosophy
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A New Narrative of Modernity
Reviewed in the United States on May 16, 2019
While light in tone and intended for non-academics, The Map of Knowledge does carry a message intended to answer some of the more important questions of today. Ostensibly the manuscript history of three works by Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy, Dr. Moller devotes most... See more
While light in tone and intended for non-academics, The Map of Knowledge does carry a message intended to answer some of the more important questions of today.

Ostensibly the manuscript history of three works by Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy, Dr. Moller devotes most of the text to invoking the spirit of the cities responsible for handing down and adding to this tradition. These cities include not only the well known ancient Alexandria and Renaissance Venice but also medieval Baghdad and Córdoba. Throughout the text, she finds the same characteristics predominating in regions of intellectual progress: cosmopolitanism, openness to immigration, free exchange of ideas across different religions and cultures...all hallmarks of the modern world.

Throughout the narrative a second theme emerges with increasing vigor. The scientific and humanistic revolution which transpired in early modern Europe was partially due to the medieval societies of the Muslim and Hindu worlds. The Renaissance emphasis on a rebirth of culture not only slighted the genuine contributions of medieval Europe but also looked past the cultural importance of non-European peoples.

A true history of modernity then would not draw a blank between the fall of Rome and Renaissance Italy but discuss the vibrant societies of Abbasid Mesopotamia and Andalusian Spain. Given that these were emblematic of the multiculturalism so beloved by modernity it seems that the author is suggesting a rewrite of the history of Western civilization that would reach similar conclusions but arrive by a more circuitous route.

I’m not a professional historian and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the author’s narrative. It is clearly meant to be not merely an erudite history but also a salvo in the culture wars. But the fact that an academic can translate this material into a popular work makes the book not less but more important. It will be interesting to see if a secondary literature develops around the claims of this book and if it has its desired effect on how the history of Western civilization is taught.
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Charles N. Pope
1.0 out of 5 stars
"History of the Islamic World in Three Classics"
Reviewed in the United States on June 6, 2019
This is a gimmicky approach to writing history along the lines of Neil MacGregor’s “History of the World in 100 Objects,” but much more simplistic. The author concedes that the research performed for the book was performed to fill a large hole in her own knowledge map... See more
This is a gimmicky approach to writing history along the lines of Neil MacGregor’s “History of the World in 100 Objects,” but much more simplistic. The author concedes that the research performed for the book was performed to fill a large hole in her own knowledge map rather than being her academic or professional competency. This book struck me as comparable to enterprising ex-pats that moved to an exotic, historic locale and set themselves up as guides for (other) tourists! If this is how you like your history served, then “The Map of Knowledge” is a book for you. For the rest of us, the title is quite presumptuous. It is about the preservation of science (such as it was at the time), but the author isn’t very scientific in her approach to the subject.

In this vein, David Abulafia (in Literary Review) writes: “Moller is a lively guide, although like most guides she tends to exaggerate and often chooses the most exciting story rather than the most plausible one.” For example, she uncritically repeats as fact the 17th Century dramatic tale of al-Rahman’s flight from ruthless Abbasid assassins to re-establish the Umayyad court in remote Andalusia of southern Spain. Abulafia continues, “her insistence that paper only began to be produced in Europe in the 14th century is contradicted by the vast amounts of paper documents in Italian archives from the century before. And finally, “judging from her notes and bibliography, she has often relied on quite superficial modern histories, which is surprising, as she has worked for the Bodleian Library, which possesses just about everything she would need to make this a deeper and more valuable book.”

The author also acknowledges the Warburg Institute, which funded at least part of her research. The founder of the Warburg Institute ran in sufficiently high circles to know how the royal world functioned (and by backward extrapolation, the Byzantine Empire), but that perspective is not evident in this book or another recent book produced under the auspices of that institute that I have read and reviewed. (See my Amazon review of, “How the Classics Made Shakespeare,” by Jonathan Bate.) “The Knowledge Map” comes across more like a college term paper. It provides only a superficial survey of scholars and their royal patrons over a 1,000 year span of Islamic civilization (when the Byzantine Empire still dominated Europe). The author admits that some of the Islamic scholars she features are merely names with no significant biography. Portions of this book even read like a religious tract, such as the discussion of al-Mansur (pp 56-64) and al-Rakhman (pp 91-97). The style of those sections is more fitting for a parochial school primer.

The author takes as her litmus test the preservation of three classical sources, Euclid (for geometry), Claudius Ptolemy (for astronomy) and Claudius Galen (for medicine). However, not much of these works passes for scientific knowledge these days. And far more knowledge of geometry, geography and astronomy was required to build just one monument in pre-classical times, that being the Great Pyramid, and in an age when the physician of the gods, Thoth, was even said to raise the dead. Even in Medieval times, the rulers and high religious heads could draw upon any number of sources for the higher knowledge (beyond Euclid’s geometry) required for their great building works, including gothic cathedrals, great mosques, palaces and many other magnificent structures. The “map of knowledge” associated with those initiatives remains mysterious. For this reason, I personally find the current debate over the preservation and reappearance of the diverse sources of the Ottoman Piri Reis Map of 1510 (produced after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, and incorporating the detailed coastline of Antarctica) to be far more interesting and potentially revealing about a proposed “knowledge map” than Galan, Claudius Ptolemy and Euclid.

The author of “The Map of Knowledge” mentions, again quite uncritically, the strange 14 year delay in dealing with the Islamic Revolution by the sitting Byzantine emperor. She further passes uncritically over (p 69) a subsequent request to Byzantine emperor Constantine V for classical texts by his ostensible nemesis, the Islamic Caliph al-Mansur. Why would the Byzantine emperor grant such a thing? And why was Byzantium embroiled in an Islamic type reform (called the Iconoclasm Movement) at the very moment that Islam was being normalized as a major kingdom and dynasty? If we can’t answer that question, how can we hope to have enough insight to create a “map of knowledge” of the medieval world? We are still in the dark ages of writing that history.

The royal family “owned the cattle on a thousand hills,” and could build a New Jerusalem on any spot they saw fit. Baghdad (as its original name Madinat al-Salaam, “City of Peace,” itself suggests) was just one such location, perched as it were on a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates. As the author notes (but yet again misses the deeper significance), it was as much a place for those who conducted commerce by sea as by land. It was planned and built to be a world capital presided over by the international royal elites and not the descendants of humble Bedouin folk. Royal power was again showcased when a second magnificent Islamic Jerusalem was built for a renewed caliphate in southern Spain. And despite the labor and expense of its rapid construction, Madinat al-Zahra was largely dismantled in the following generation by a magnate known as al-Mansur. However, the author doesn’t seem to recognize the poetic ending of it being destroyed by someone with the same name as the builder of the first Islamic Jerusalem in Baghdad! Important clues are being overlooked here.

The author, Violet Moller, begins her book by uncritically accepting a statement attributed to the physician Galen that the imperial rulers had no genuine interest in the refinement of knowledge. Galen was either unaware or objected to the practice of royal role playing in the classical tradition, and even by the Roman emperors that he himself served, namely Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Severus. The very lives of these contemporary rulers were dedicated to keeping classical knowledge alive by assuming the natures and emulating the actions of the various members of the ancient pantheon upon which the classics were based. Certain of these “divine archetypes” pursued knowledge, wisdom and innovation (such Ptah/Iapetus and Ra/Prometheus), whereas others were more content with the enjoying the good life (such as Osiris/Dionysos) or even bent on domination and destruction (like Set/Apollo).

The classics were not merely studied by the royal family in all generations, but something they acted out in detail upon the world stage with each successive dynasty. One can certainly question the need for this, but not the enduring royal commitment to it. Violet Moller notes (p 4) that Domitian, a Roman emperor with one of the worst intellectual reputations, spared no expense in ensuring that libraries were resupplied as needed with essential works. She fails to mention the technological wonders of Nero’s floating causeway across the Bay of Naples and Caligula’s Nemi ships. There was certainly an element of vanity to these projects, but the innovative spirit also can’t be denied.
The losing and recovery of lost knowledge is a very old stock theme in the ancient world. Examples include the finding of a worm-eaten treatise of the Egyptian Memphite trilogy commemorated on the Shabaka Stone; the boasting by Assurbanipal of locating and even reading (interpreting/translating) texts for his renowned library that were said to originate from before the Great Flood; and the biblical chronicle of a revival based on the “chance discovery” of an old book of the Law by the priest Hilkiah.

Book burning was surprisingly a related stock theme associated with the founding of a new age (such as the one ordered by Sargon the Great to mark the transition from Sumerian to Akkadian culture). However, royal persons would not eliminate anything that they considered truly irreplaceable. The so-called classics were a wide assortment of stories that preserved a relatively small amount of “sacred knowledge,” but expressed that knowledge in a multitude of different cultural contexts and scenarios. There was some danger that minor details of the Hermetic Corpus could go missing, but little risk that the essence of ancient tradition (rebranded as “classical knowledge”) would be irretrievably lost. It was too broadly encoded and dispersed for that to happen. It was an ancient form of “fault tolerance.” The potential for losing the Hermetic forest in a super-abundance of mythological trees would have been a greater concern.

Every major revival of classical thinking depended upon an imperial covering, including and especially the ones that took place in the Age of Dar al-Islam. By the time Venice became a major player, the city was already firmly under the thumb of royal power, as the author herself admits. The royal family was opposed to private collections of knowledge at certain places and times, but not against the idea of knowledge itself. Regardless, it isn’t too surprising (as the author notes) to find instances of scholars attempting to secret away their precious writings rather than having them seized, even for the purposes of placement in a public library. The royal family really couldn’t be trusted to act in their best interest, and centralized control over texts may have also slowed technological progress in the long run. Royal consent enjoyed by scholars on one day could be snatched violently away on the next. Certainly, the Technological Age we see today is at least partially due to the royal family’s loss of control. This would be a more interesting topic of research into the classics than the one pursued by this book.

Until we have a much better handle on medieval power structures, books such as this one are almost pointless. Perhaps, there are people living today with close ties to modern day royalty that still understand how royal culture maintained a knowledge base … but they ain’t talking! In Academia, the study of history is so stove-piped that there may never be a genuine attempt to uncover the true links between Byzantine and Roman Europe and the contemporary Islamic Caliphates, much less the ebb and flow of scholarship and knowledge across their ever changing borders.
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John D. CofieldTop Contributor: Fantasy Books
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Lively And Fascinating
Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2019
This well written and lively history focuses on the roughly 1000 year period from about 500 to 1500 AD, during which ideas from the classical eras of Greece and Rome were dispersed, found sanctuary and expansion in the glittering Islamic civilizations in the Middle East and... See more
This well written and lively history focuses on the roughly 1000 year period from about 500 to 1500 AD, during which ideas from the classical eras of Greece and Rome were dispersed, found sanctuary and expansion in the glittering Islamic civilizations in the Middle East and Spain, and then eventually returned to their original homes and beyond in Renaissance Europe. This is Violet Moller''s first published work, and it promises a career of solid scholarship presented in a clear and approachable style.

I found Moller''s geographical approach to her subject very appealing. She begins with the classical world, appropriately choosing Alexandria and its library as her cornerstone and then traces classical learning''s dispersal in the aftermath of the collapse of Rome. Next she focuses on Muslim preservation and expansion of that classical learning with some beautiful chapters describing Baghdad and Cordoba at their heights. As the Muslim empires declined and Christian Europe began to expand, Moller chooses Toledo, Salerno, Palermo, and Venice as her prime examples, then finishes with a short conclusion focusing on the Renaissance.

Moller writes clearly, using historical examples like Galen, Emir Rahman, al-Mansur, Gerard, Petrarch, and many others to make her account lively and approachable. The Map of Knowledge makes a fine introduction for those seeking to learn more about the complex, interwoven, and tolerant world in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians traded and interacted, and in which the learning of the ancient world was preserved and expanded.
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Christopher M. Schroeder
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A beautiful, important read
Reviewed in the United States on June 4, 2019
This is a beautiful book that takes even the lay reader perfectly in hand. In fact, most westerners ARE lay readers as we know so little about this period and the astounding creativity that it inspired. Most Americans thing near 1000 years was nearly a blank slate of... See more
This is a beautiful book that takes even the lay reader perfectly in hand. In fact, most westerners ARE lay readers as we know so little about this period and the astounding creativity that it inspired. Most Americans thing near 1000 years was nearly a blank slate of nothing. We could not be more wrong. I just returned from Islamic Spain, and wished I had read this before hand. It will be my companion to Italy, Spain, and beyond.
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JoAnn Van Tassel
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Fascinating Journey Through Time
Reviewed in the United States on July 1, 2019
The author takes you on a journey through a number of countries mostly in Europe and the Middle East following the trail of the work of 3 ancient Greeks - Euclid, Ptolemy and Galen. You visit a number of cities where scientists and translators copied the ancient texts,... See more
The author takes you on a journey through a number of countries mostly in Europe and the Middle East following the trail of the work of 3 ancient Greeks - Euclid, Ptolemy and Galen. You visit a number of cities where scientists and translators copied the ancient texts, made notes in the margins, and translated the works from Greek to Arabic back to Greek, to Latin and then to the vernacular during the 1440s adn1500s primarily in Germany and Italy. You go from museums to monasteries to book sellers to private homes following originals and copies of these ancient texts. You learn a lot along the way. Don''t expect an easy read. Take time to pause and think about where these books have traveled and the changes they went through to bring them to use today. Most of us probably got introduced to Euclid in geometry courses in Middle School. But it''s fascinating to also follow the works of Ptolemy and Galen and the impact they have had on our understanding of the stars/universe and of the body/flow of blood. What a legacy each of them have provided.
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ReturnFreeRisk
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Narrow and superficial
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2020
The author has a very limited view of how scienc/mathematics and knowledge, in general, was shared and diffused throughout the world. She ignores interaction with Asia - home to the two biggest economies of the time and focuses on a small portion of the world. For her to... See more
The author has a very limited view of how scienc/mathematics and knowledge, in general, was shared and diffused throughout the world. She ignores interaction with Asia - home to the two biggest economies of the time and focuses on a small portion of the world. For her to claim that the knowledge of the Greeks would have been lost without the Persian scholars is wishful thinking as collaboration with Indian scholars predates this by a millenia. Her political views and or her superficial understanding shows throughout the book.
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Buyer Anita
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating view of where knowledge went to survive after the fall of Rome!
Reviewed in the United States on August 8, 2019
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I''d often what happened during the dark ages and was delighted to learn about the transition of key pieces of knowledge to Muslim centers of knowledge and back to Western centers and the great minds who made it happen. About as close to a... See more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I''d often what happened during the dark ages and was delighted to learn about the transition of key pieces of knowledge to Muslim centers of knowledge and back to Western centers and the great minds who made it happen. About as close to a "real page turner" as I have ever read on history. Fascinating reading by great writer. Hope she will keep the press room busy with other explorations of the Oxford library!
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Michael
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The evolution of knowledge
Reviewed in the United States on August 3, 2019
I have read a number of books about this era (500 AD to 1500) and listened to lectures about the era. The author''s description is in line with the other authors and lecturers. I especially liked 2 things: The division of the book (and evolution of thought) by city. And the... See more
I have read a number of books about this era (500 AD to 1500) and listened to lectures about the era. The author''s description is in line with the other authors and lecturers. I especially liked 2 things: The division of the book (and evolution of thought) by city. And the focus on astronomy, mathematics and medicine throughout the book. The book highlights that there are many cultures that have contributed to the evolution of knowledge.
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Foggygirl
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great read
Reviewed in Canada on May 27, 2019
A fascinating and informative read about the long and winding road that science travelled over the centuries from 500 AD to 1500 AD.
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Robin
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thought Provoking
Reviewed in Canada on February 7, 2020
A very good read.
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