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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.

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.

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