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The Resurrection of Greek Scientific Knowledge by Arabic Scholarship

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I believe that the ancient Greek knowledge that enlightened so many people so long ago was directly transmitted to our modern sense through the mechanism and discipline of Islam. To what extent did Arabic scholarship influence Western science? That influence is enormous. Advances made by Arabic writers, translators, physicians, and astronomers in the sciences, in medicine, astrology, optics, engineering, algebra, and mathematics, in chemistry, alchemy, linguistics, and even advanced forms of surgery are absolutely profound. I will attempt here to track the transmission of Greek scientific knowledge into our modern society and partially explain how it has come to our modern world because of the diligence and discipline of these dedicated people.

In his book, The Beginnings of Western Science , David C. Lindberg details how, in the third century B.C., the armies of Alexander the Great made their way east and introduced the people they encountered to all things Greek. This cultural diffusion was, according to Lindberg, the beginning of the process of the mass transmission of Greek-inspired knowledge, which would greatly influence the world. In the short years of Alexander's campaigns, he founded many cities called Alexandria, and it was through some of these great cities, that the scientific knowledge of the Greeks would find its way through Eastern Christian and Persian Churches and cities and eventually, through several metropolitan centers of translation, from Greek to Syrian, Indian and Arabic and into Latin which would help to stimulate the European Enlightenment and contributed to the cultural explosion of Renaissance.

As a boy, Alexander was schooled by Aristotle himself and, many of the Greek ideals held by Alexander, like the idea that Platonic and Aristotelian logic and philosophy and Greek cultural refinement would bring the conquered peoples into a new age of enlightened living, or that Greek influence and cultural enlightenment would influence social, cultural, economic and intellectual progress, if the conquered peoples were allowed to govern their own affairs and tribute to Alexander. These Macedonian conquests effectively began the Hellenization of the Near East and Persia, beginning a diffusive process that would flourish and grow over the next millennium and have a lasting and permanent effect on world history. Another powerful portal directing this cultural diffusion was the transmission of medical knowledge, in the form of manuscripts, letters, and books. These texts from India and Persia and, of course, the Greeks, were seen as sacred, inspired and indispensible. Lindberg writes, "There is no question that Nestorians were foremost among the early translators; as late as the ninth century, long after Persia had fallen to Islamic armies, the practice of medicine in Baghdad seems to have been dominated by Christians (probably Nestorian) physicians."(165)

In the Byzantine Empire, in the mid 5th Century A.D. Nestorius, who was a bishop of Constantinople, claimed Jesus Christ's Divine Nature and his Human Nature as separate and distinct which produced a schism within their church, leading another bishop called Cyrus to accused Nestorius of being a heretic and so Nestorius and his followers left their homes and travelled south to the city of Nisiblis, located in Persia, (today in Southern Turkey) a place already happening as a center of learning and language, where medicine and philosophy were studied and was an important center for the translation of Greek philosophical and theological texts, that all these different peoples had been collecting.

There was a Persian king called Khusraw I, who was knowledgeable in Greek philosophy and learning, and in the early 5th Century AD, he welcomed and encouraged scholars, of all religions and races to relocate to Persia, under his protection, to study and to translate texts of Platonic, Aristotelian, Hindu and Christian writings. They also began translating books on philosophy, science, astronomy, and all this for the enlightenment of himself and for the people in his empire.

There is a legend of a great city called Gondeshapur, or Gundeshapur which, legend says, is home to the world's oldest known teaching hospital, today located in Southwestern Iran, across the water east of Qatar and it was said to be an important location of study, translation, medicine, and learning and, it was in great cosmopolitan centers like this, where the translation of texts from Greek into Near Eastern languages took place on a grand scale and it is said to have been the most influential portal through which Greek science passed on to the Arabs. It offered training in medicine, philosophy, theology, and science. It has been a center for training scientists for centuries. Iranian, Greek, Indian, and Roman scientists conducted studies and scientific research there. The faculty was not only versed in the Zoroastrian and Persian traditions, but also in Greek and Indian learning as well.

According to The Cambridge History of Iran, "it was the most important medical center of the ancient world during the 6th and 7th centuries. Gundeshapur, in this time, became a major link between Islamic and Greek medicine, because of its previous practices of combining the Greek, Indian, and Iranian medical traditions. Gundeshapur was a site where the traditions of Hippocrates and Galen had been preserved; therefore the transition from ancient text to modern was more coherent. This combination foreshadowed the synthesis that was to be achieved in later Islamic medicine."

It is important that the Nestorian influence be re-acknowledged here, because it was this group, who had a direct influence on the Christianization of Persia, and ultimately, as the linguistic shift led from Greek into Persian and Syrian and eventually into Arabic, this powerful, cooperating, scholarly influence led to the transmission of so much of this ancient knowledge. According to Lindberg, "we must see this as a widespread movement of cultural diffusion, whereby the aristocracies of western and central Asia assimilated broadly and deeply, and by a variety of mechanisms, the fruits of Greek culture. The next step was the diffusion of those fruits to Islam."(169)

Mohammad was born in 570, in Mecca, which is in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad was orphaned at a young age and was raised by an uncle, who was a merchant. In his 40th year, he claimed that the angel Gabriel revealed to him many wondrous and prophetic revelations pertaining to the truth of God, or Allah. Mohammad himself was illiterate, so his revelations were transcribed by his followers; these revelations were compiled, after a period of time, into what we know today as the Holy Qur'an or Koran.

Since Mohammad had no male heir when he died, in 632, the leadership



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