The Impact of the Middle East on the European Renaissance

The coming of the European Renaissance meant the coming of a complete renewal of the European way of life, including a revival of the ancient worlds of the European continent and a reevaluation of the personal values of the people. The society of Europe was finally seen as a failing one lacking progress and fruition, but the Renaissance pulled it back into a stream of evolution. However, though Europe was ready to break free, it didn’t have the resources to do so on its own; in fact, it was Middle Eastern scholarship, government, and international relationships that greatly shaped how each aspect of the Renaissance developed.

The more obvious ways in which the Middle Eastern countries affected the European Renaissance would be such important events as the Holy Crusades, which would later seem ironic since it was an act of aggression against a world that would later save Europe from itself. The advance of the Ottoman Turks on Vienna was also greatly noted in history, an event which seems to balance the irony of the Holy Crusades. Also, the collapse of the Moors in Spain had effects which aren’t quickly noticed, such as the fact that it brought about a unified Spain and kindled a wave of exploration that lead to the charting of the ‘New World’ in 1490.

One of the less acknowledged influences that the Muslim scholars had on Europe at this time was in the fields of Science and in Mathematics. Prior to the Renaissance, the advances in Science and Mathematics were greatly restricted by the Church in Europe, but it was a booming intellectual recreation in the Middle East. When Europe was given the “go-ahead” by its parental Church to study such things it was the Muslims that European intellectuals turned to for enlightenment. Though it was the intellectuals in Europe that formulated the ideas and theories, it was the Muslims who gave them the education and brought them up to speed with much of the world.

The greatest trademark of the Renaissance was the revival of literature from the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Prior to the Renaissance, the philosophies presented by such literature was seen as either heresy or unimportant, but with the coming of individuality and the popularity of art came a demand for a history of a more independent and artistic culture. Not only were the Greeks and Romans just the type of culture that the Europeans were looking for, they were also their ancestors and, thus, the founders of much of their continent. However, thanks to the all powerful Church, the greatest works of literature from the ancient world were lost over time. But fear not, for the Muslim scholars have saved the day yet again. The constant surge of learning and the reverence for knowledge in the Middle Eastern countries allowed the ancient Greek and Roman texts to be preserved and then redistributed in Europe when the trade streams between the two regions starting flooding once again. The European people could have loved Plato to death, but it was the Muslims that returned him to their eager hands.

Europe had a very enthusiastic spirit during the Renaissance, they longed for art, history, freedom, progress, and knowledge, but none of their character would have counted for anything notable had not the countries of the Middle East been there to offer the fuel for their fire. Without constant and dramatic interaction with the western world the Renaissance may not even have started, and it certainly would have been greatly altered. Were it not for the Muslim tradition of progress and evolution the Europeans would have been left in the primitive dust of ancient Science and Mathematics. And, most importantly, the sense of individuality and of expressiveness was made possible by the Muslim’s careful preservation of the ancient Greek and Roman literary works which, through historical validity, also gave the Europeans a sense of identity not previously observed under the reign of the Church. Without a doubt, the Middle Eastern world was the most influential force upon the European Renaissance, without it modern civilization would be without the ethics and values that distinguish it from other worlds, especially the greatest virtue of them all: independence.


Europe: A History. By Norman Davies

A History of the Arab Peoples. By Albert Hourani

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