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The transmission and- almost more importantly – the survival of classical ideas through the early centuries of the Christan Era is the subject of Violet Moller’s talk and of her fascinating recent book, The Map of Knowledge: A History in Seven Cities.  The cities she looks at are Alexandria, Baghdad, Cordoba, Toledo, Salerno, Palermo and Venice , through which she tracks the routes by which the works of three of the most important Greek writers – Galen, Euclid and Ptolemy –  came to the Christian West in Arabic translation. The European debt to these three in the fields of medicine, geometry, mathematics, astronomy and geography is huge, especially in the Renaissance. Moller deftly handles this complex web of stories about brilliant individuals, vibrant intellectual activity and historical accidents. Their survival is all the more remarkable when one thinks of the fashion for book-burning in Catholic Spain after the expulsion of the Arabs – some 2,000,000 (!) Arabic books were burnt in Toledo alone.

To order a copy of The Map of Knowledge  please click here.

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