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This article challenges the claim that Muslims 'saved' the works of Greek [[Philosophy|philosophers]] from destruction.
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This article analyzes the claim that Muslims 'saved' the works of Greek [[Philosophy|philosophers]] from destruction.
    
==Introduction==
 
==Introduction==
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The '''Arab transmission of the classics''' is a common and [[Islam and Propaganda|persistent myth]] that [[Arabic]] commentators such as Ibn Sina and [[Ibn Rushd - Averroes|Ibn Rushd]] 'saved' the work of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers from destruction. According to the myth, these works would otherwise have perished in the long [[Europe|European]] dark age between fifth and the tenth centuries, had the [[Islam|Islamic]] philosophers not preserved them by translating them into Arabic, to be passed on to the Latin philosophers in the western world after the [[Reconquista|reconquest]] of [[Spain]] from the Muslims during the twelve and thirteenth centuries.<ref>The myth persists even on 'scholarly' websites.  See e.g. [http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/pabacker/history/islam.htm here]. "It was only through the transfer of Greek knowledge (including Aristotle's philosophy, Ptolemy's geography, Hippocrates' medicine) by Islam Spain that this information ''ever'' got to Western Europe." [Our emphasis]</ref> This is incorrect. It was actually the Byzantines in the East who saved the ancient learning of the Greeks in the original language, and the first Latin texts to be used were translation from the Greek, in the 12<sup>th</sup> century, rather than, in most cases, the Arabic, which were only used in default of these.
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The '''Arab transmission of the classics''' is a common and persistent myth that [[Arabic]] commentators such as Ibn Sina and [[Ibn Rushd]] 'saved' the work of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers from destruction. According to the myth, these works would otherwise have perished in the long European dark age between fifth and the tenth centuries, had the [[Islam|Islamic]] philosophers not preserved them by translating them into Arabic, to be passed on to the Latin philosophers in the western world after the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims during the twelve and thirteenth centuries.<ref>The myth persists even on 'scholarly' websites.  See e.g. [http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/pabacker/history/islam.htm here]. "It was only through the transfer of Greek knowledge (including Aristotle's philosophy, Ptolemy's geography, Hippocrates' medicine) by Islam Spain that this information ''ever'' got to Western Europe." [Our emphasis]</ref> This is incorrect. It was actually the Byzantines in the East who saved the ancient learning of the Greeks in the original language, and the first Latin texts to be used were translation from the Greek, in the 12<sup>th</sup> century, rather than, in most cases, the Arabic, which were only used where Latin texts could not be found or were unintelligible.
    
It is nevertheless true, and no myth, that the work of the Arabic commentators, particularly Ibn Rushd, had a profound influence on the scholastic philosophers of the Latin West in the thirteenth century. Aristotle's Greek is terse and difficult to understand. The work of the Arabic commentators helped in explaining and clarifying Aristotle's dense and apparently obscure thought. Thus Western intellectual tradition owes a great debt to the Arabic scholars in terms of ''understanding'' Aristotle's thought. In terms of the ''texts'', however, these would have survived had the Arabic commentators never existed.
 
It is nevertheless true, and no myth, that the work of the Arabic commentators, particularly Ibn Rushd, had a profound influence on the scholastic philosophers of the Latin West in the thirteenth century. Aristotle's Greek is terse and difficult to understand. The work of the Arabic commentators helped in explaining and clarifying Aristotle's dense and apparently obscure thought. Thus Western intellectual tradition owes a great debt to the Arabic scholars in terms of ''understanding'' Aristotle's thought. In terms of the ''texts'', however, these would have survived had the Arabic commentators never existed.
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==Background==
 
==Background==
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What we know as the ''Western Intellectual Tradition'' began in ancient [[Greece]] in the fifth century, with the work of mathematicians such as Euclid, philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, and scientists such as Eratosthenes (who calculated the circumference of the Earth around 240 BC). The main principle underlying this tradition is naturalistic, humanistic and rational, emphasizing the role of human reason in arriving at truth, rather than reliance on supernatural or revealed 'truth'.   
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What we know as the ''Western Intellectual Tradition'' began in ancient Greece in the fifth century, with the work of mathematicians such as Euclid, philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, and scientists such as Eratosthenes (who calculated the circumference of the Earth around 240 BC). The main principle underlying this tradition is naturalistic, humanistic and rational, emphasizing the role of human reason in arriving at truth, rather than reliance on supernatural or revealed 'truth'.   
    
Greek science and philosophy was inherited by the ancient Romans, but their culture was lost after the collapse of the Roman empire in the West during the fifth and sixth centuries. Ancient learning was not 'recovered' in the West until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The recovery was a result of the transmission both of Greek ''ideas'' which had been preserved and developed in the Byzantine and Arab world in the early middle ages, and also of the ''texts'' themselves, which had been almost completely lost in the West. These texts had to be translated into Latin, the language of educated people in that period, because few scholars understood Greek.
 
Greek science and philosophy was inherited by the ancient Romans, but their culture was lost after the collapse of the Roman empire in the West during the fifth and sixth centuries. Ancient learning was not 'recovered' in the West until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The recovery was a result of the transmission both of Greek ''ideas'' which had been preserved and developed in the Byzantine and Arab world in the early middle ages, and also of the ''texts'' themselves, which had been almost completely lost in the West. These texts had to be translated into Latin, the language of educated people in that period, because few scholars understood Greek.
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==Syriac Translations==
 
==Syriac Translations==
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Knowledge of Aristotle came by two routes to the West. One was by Latin translations directly from the Greek made in the twelfth century (see below).  The other was by Latin translations from the Arabic, which were themselves translations from ''Syriac'' into Arabic of philosophical and scientific works that had been preserved by Eastern Christians in Mesopatamia, [[Syria]] and [[Egypt]].  The translators were mostly Nestorian and Jacobite Christians, working in the two hundred years following the early Abbasid period (c. 800). The most important translator of this group was the Syriac-speaking Christian Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (809-873), known to the Latins as ''Joannitius''.  The texts were first translated into Syriac from the Greek, then into Arabic. Despite this process, the translations were generally accurate, aiming for a literal reading rather than elegance.<ref>Hyman & Walsh p. 204</ref>   
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Knowledge of Aristotle came by two routes to the West. One was by Latin translations directly from the Greek made in the twelfth century (see below).  The other was by Latin translations from the Arabic, which were themselves translations from ''Syriac'' into Arabic of philosophical and scientific works that had been preserved by Eastern Christians in Mesopatamia, Syria and Egypt.  The translators were mostly Nestorian and Jacobite Christians, working in the two hundred years following the early Abbasid period (c. 800). The most important translator of this group was the Syriac-speaking Christian Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (809-873), known to the Latins as ''Joannitius''.  The texts were first translated into Syriac from the Greek, then into Arabic. Despite this process, the translations were generally accurate, aiming for a literal reading rather than elegance.<ref>Hyman & Walsh p. 204</ref>   
    
Thus the Latin translations from the Arabic came via an indirect route: Greek to Syriac, Syriac to Arabic, Arabic to Latin.
 
Thus the Latin translations from the Arabic came via an indirect route: Greek to Syriac, Syriac to Arabic, Arabic to Latin.
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==Michael Scot==
 
==Michael Scot==
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Michael Scot was a thirteenth century translator from the Arabic.  He translated two major works from Arabic to Latin in Toledo, [[Spain]], then moved to Palermo, Sicily, where he was associated with the court of Frederick II Hohenstaufen.  There he dedicated the translation of Avicenna’s book on animals to Frederick, and mentions that two books of his own were commissioned by Frederick.  Michael was apparently the first to make a complete Latin translation from the Arabic, called the Metaphysica Nova, some time between 1220 and 1235.  Michael also translated De Anima, the Physics, De animalibus, Averroes great commentaries on the Physics, De caelo, De anima, the middle commentaries on De Generatione et Corruptione, Meteorologica, also Averroes epitomes (summaries) of De sensu, De memoria, De somno, De longitudine.
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Michael Scot was a thirteenth century translator from the Arabic.  He translated two major works from Arabic to Latin in Toledo, Spain, then moved to Palermo, Sicily, where he was associated with the court of Frederick II Hohenstaufen.  There he dedicated the translation of Avicenna’s book on animals to Frederick, and mentions that two books of his own were commissioned by Frederick.  Michael was apparently the first to make a complete Latin translation from the Arabic, called the Metaphysica Nova, some time between 1220 and 1235.  Michael also translated De Anima, the Physics, De animalibus, Averroes great commentaries on the Physics, De caelo, De anima, the middle commentaries on De Generatione et Corruptione, Meteorologica, also Averroes epitomes (summaries) of De sensu, De memoria, De somno, De longitudine.
    
Another translator who may have been associated with the Hohenstaufens was William of Luna, working in the area of Naples. He was probably associated with Manfred Hohenstaufen.<ref>See Fulvio delle Donne in an article in the latest issue of the Recherches de Theologie et philosophie médiévales</ref> William translated Averroes' middle commentaries on the Categories (??), on De Interpretione, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, and others.
 
Another translator who may have been associated with the Hohenstaufens was William of Luna, working in the area of Naples. He was probably associated with Manfred Hohenstaufen.<ref>See Fulvio delle Donne in an article in the latest issue of the Recherches de Theologie et philosophie médiévales</ref> William translated Averroes' middle commentaries on the Categories (??), on De Interpretione, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, and others.
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==William of Moerbeke==
 
==William of Moerbeke==
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William of Moerbeke (c. 1215 – 1286) was one of the most prolific and influential translators of Greek philosophical texts in the Middle Ages. Very little is known of William's life.<ref>See Grabmann 1946 and the short account by Minio-Paluello 1974</ref> He was born probably in 1215 in the village of Moerbeke, now in [[Belgium]], and probably entered the Dominican convent at Louvain as a young man.  Most of the his surviving work was done during 1259-72.
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William of Moerbeke (c. 1215 – 1286) was one of the most prolific and influential translators of Greek philosophical texts in the Middle Ages. Very little is known of William's life.<ref>See Grabmann 1946 and the short account by Minio-Paluello 1974</ref> He was born probably in 1215 in the village of Moerbeke, now in Belgium, and probably entered the Dominican convent at Louvain as a young man.  Most of the his surviving work was done during 1259-72.
    
William is probably the most famous of the translators from the Greek. Another myth, however, is that he was the ''first'' to translate Aristotle directly from the Greek. This is not true in most cases. For example, his translation of the the Posterior Analytics is also a revision of an earlier translation by James of Venice (see above). However, he made important translations of the remaining works only available in Arabic translations in common use in the middle of the thirteenth century, namely ''De Caelo'' (1260), ''Metereologica'' I-III (c. 1260), ''De Animalibus'' (1260) and parts of the ''Metaphysics'' (before 1272).   
 
William is probably the most famous of the translators from the Greek. Another myth, however, is that he was the ''first'' to translate Aristotle directly from the Greek. This is not true in most cases. For example, his translation of the the Posterior Analytics is also a revision of an earlier translation by James of Venice (see above). However, he made important translations of the remaining works only available in Arabic translations in common use in the middle of the thirteenth century, namely ''De Caelo'' (1260), ''Metereologica'' I-III (c. 1260), ''De Animalibus'' (1260) and parts of the ''Metaphysics'' (before 1272).   
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William also translated the works of the Greek commentators: Simplicius on the Categories and De caelo, Ammonius on De Interpretatione, Alexander on the Meteorologica and De sensu, Philoponus on the De anima (Book III) and Themistius on the De anima.  He also translated a non-Aristotelian work, the Elementatio theologica of Proclus (of which an Arabic-Latin translation once ascribed to Aristotle and referred to as Liber de causis).<ref>This section is indebted to the work of the late Edmund Fryde (1923-1999) - [http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/1999/dec/02/guardianobituaries2 Obituary]</ref>
 
William also translated the works of the Greek commentators: Simplicius on the Categories and De caelo, Ammonius on De Interpretatione, Alexander on the Meteorologica and De sensu, Philoponus on the De anima (Book III) and Themistius on the De anima.  He also translated a non-Aristotelian work, the Elementatio theologica of Proclus (of which an Arabic-Latin translation once ascribed to Aristotle and referred to as Liber de causis).<ref>This section is indebted to the work of the late Edmund Fryde (1923-1999) - [http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/1999/dec/02/guardianobituaries2 Obituary]</ref>
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{{Core Propaganda}}
   
==See Also==
 
==See Also==
    
{{Hub4|Philosophy|Philosophy}}
 
{{Hub4|Philosophy|Philosophy}}
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{{Hub4|Golden Age|the "Golden Age"}}
 
{{Hub4|Golden Age|the "Golden Age"}}
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==Notes==
 
==Notes==
 
{{reflist}}
 
{{reflist}}
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[[Category:Islamic Propaganda]]
   
[[Category:Islam and Science]]
 
[[Category:Islam and Science]]
[[Category:Greece]]
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[[Category:Islamic Golden Age]]
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[[Category:Philosophy]]
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