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Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Daniel of Morley, English seeker of Arab Wisdom in twelfth-

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Presentation on theme: "Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Daniel of Morley, English seeker of Arab Wisdom in twelfth-"— Presentation transcript:

1 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Daniel of Morley, English seeker of Arab Wisdom in twelfth- century Toledo John Tolan, Université de Nantes john.tolan@univ-nantes.fr

2 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Daniel of Morley, De Philosophia (written between 1175 and 1187): When, some time ago, I went away to study, I stopped a while in Paris. There I saw asses rather than men occupying the Chairs and pretending to be very important. They had desks in front of them heaving under the weight of two or three immovable tomes, painting Roman Law in golden letters. With leaden styluses in their bands they inserted asterisks and obeluses here and there with a grave and reverent air. But because they did not know anything, they were no better than marble statues: by their silence alone they wished to seem wise, and as soon as they tried to say anything, I found them completely unable to express a word. When I discovered things were like this, I did not want to get infected by a similar petrifaction and I was seriously worried that the liberal arts, which illuminate the Bible, were being skipped over, or read only in exam cribs. But when I heard that the doctrine of the Arabs, which is devoted almost entirely to the quadrivium, was all the fashion in Toledo in those days, I hurried there as quickly as I could, so that I could hear the wisest philosophers of the world... Eventually my friends begged me to come back from Spain; so, on their invitation, I arrived in England, bringing a precious multitude of books with me. Cited by Burnett, Charles. The Introduction of Arabic Learning into England. The Panizzi lectures, 1996. London: British Library, 1997, p. 60-61.

3 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Petrus Alfonsi comes to England (1116?) See John Tolan, Petrus Alfonsi and his Medieval Readers (Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1993).

4 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009

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6 Petrus Alfonsi and his students Alfonsi’s translation of al-Khwarizmi’s Zij al-Sindhind (1 October 1116) Walcher of Malvern, De Dracone (On the Lunar Nodes, spring 1120) Alfonsi’s Epistola ad Peripateticos (Letter to the Peripatetics of France) Adelard of Bath

7 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 The frontispiece of an Adelard of Bath’s Latin translation of Euclid's Elements, the oldest surviving Latin translation of the Elements. Illumination from a 14 th -century MS, British Library Burney MS 275, f293)

8 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Adelard of Bath, Conversations with His Nephew For I have learnt one thing from my Arab masters, with reason as guide, but you another : you follow a halter, being enthralled by the picture of authority. For what else can authority be called other than a halter? As brute animals are led wherever one pleases by a halter, but do not know where or why they are led, and only follow the rope by which they are held, so the authority of written words leads not a few of you into danger, since you are enthralled and bound by brutish credulity. Hence too, certain people, usurping the name of an authority for themselves, have used too great a license to write, to such an extent that they have not hesitated to trick brutish men with false words instead of true. For why should they not fill pages, why not write on the back too, when these days you generally have the kind of listeners who demand no argument based on judgment, but trust only in the name of an ancient authority? For they do not understand that reason has been given to each single individual in order to discern between true and false with reason as the prime judge. Adelard of Bath, Conversations with His Nephew, Ch. Burnett, trans., Cambridge: CUP, 1999.

9 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 English precursors of Daniel of Morley Robert of Chester (active Segovia c. 1150?) –Al-Khwārizmī, Book of Algebra –Book of the Composition of Alchemy Robert of Ketton (becomes canon of Pamplona in 1143, returns to England by 1147) –Various works in astronomy and astrology –The first full translation of the Qur’an (1143)

10 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Toledo: multicultural European captial of learning Interior of San Roman church, Toledo

11 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 From the biography of Gerard of Cremona, written by his associates Gerard was trained from childhood at centers of philosophical study and had come to a knowledge of all of this that was known to the Latins; but for love of the Almagest, which he could not find at all among the Latins, he went to Toledo; there, seeing the abundance of books in Arabic on every subject, and regretting the poverty of the Latins in these things, he learned the Arabic language, on order to be able to translate. In this way, combining both language and science (for as Hamet says in his letter De proportione et proportionalitate, a translator should have a knowledge of the subject he is dealing with as well as an excellent command of the languages from which and into which he is translating), he passed on the Arabic literature in the manner of the wise man who, wandering through a green field, links up a crown of flowers, made from not just any, but from the prettiest; to the end of his life, he continued to transmit to the Latin world (as if to his own beloved heir) whatever books he thought finest, in many subjects, as accurately and as plainly as he could. He went the way of all flesh in the seventy-third year of his life, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1187.

12 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Daniel of Morley, Gerard of Cremona, and their associates Illumination from a 13 th -century manuscript of Gerard’s translation of a medical treatise by al-Razi

13 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Daniel’s return to England and the origins of Oxford University How disappointed I was when I was told that even here [in England] the liberal arts were mute and Aristotle and Plato were forgotten in favour of Smith versus Jones. But then I heard that such studies were flourishing in Northampton, and, not wanting to be the only Greek among Romans, I set out for that town. But I was on my way there when I met my lord and spiritual father, John, bishop of Norwich, who showed me great honour and respect (in keeping with his character) and was pleased that I had come. As happens when friends meet after a long absence, I was repeatedly questioned by my lord the bishop about the wonderful things in Toledo and the teaching there. His last question, about the movements of the celestial bodies, led the talk round to astrology. He mentioned, for instance, that some things on this earth seem to be subservient to their superiors, as if under a bond of fealty. Because the shortness of time did not allow me to answer these questions sufficiently, I decided to present the following treatise for his scrutiny. Its first book is about the lower part of the universe, its second about the higher. Cited by Burnett, Charles. The Introduction of Arabic Learning into England. The Panizzi lectures, 1996. London: British Library, 1997, p. 60-61.

14 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Arab learning and the birth of Oxford University

15 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1223) Optic studies from De Natura Locorum. The diagram shows light being refracted by a spherical glass container full of water.

16 Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives - University of Exeter 17-19 April 2009 Arabic Spain, a key element in European intellectual history Church of Santiago del Arrabal, Toledo


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