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Right now I'm reading "The Abacus and the Cross", about Pope Sylvester II and the innovations in math and science during the so-called Dark Ages.

Anyhow, it brings to mind a few questions:

1) Why were so many of the Greek manuscripts from antiquity lost?
    a) Why did Western Christians only have access to the works of Aristotle, Euclid, etc. through Arab translations and collaboration with Arab scholars in the West?
    b) Why didn't the Byzantine empire have them? Or if they did, why did they sit on them and not share them when they were still in communion with the West and intermarrying with the newly revived Holy Roman Empire?

2) When did Islam go off the rails and stop being so heavily invested in intellectual development in math and science?

3) Why was the Latin West interested in ancient Greek philosophy during the high middle ages, and not the Greek East?
The short story:

1) The ransacking of the Germanic peoples and the Huns. The ransacking of the Muslims. Other reasons:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmissio...e_Classics

2) I think the big drop off was with the Mongol invasions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam#Fall_....931924.29

3) The East was always caught up with conflicts with the Muslims, even past 1453 (Fall of Constantinople).
I know at least some classical and Patristic texts made their way from the Byzantine Empire to the West. For example, Louis the Pious received the works of Pseudo-Dionysius, which were eventually translated by Eriugena at the request of Charles the Bald, as a gift from the Byzantine emperor. I believe William of Moerbeke also received some texts from the Byzantines. Lastly, didn't Byzantine scholars bring many classical texts with them when they escaped to the West after the fall of Constantinople?

On the third point, is it obviously true that there was no desire to study classical philosophy in the East? He was living just after the High Middle Ages, but Plethon, who was apparently responsible for introducing some of the works of Plato and the Neoplatonists to the West, certainly seems to have taken an interest in classical philosophy, and I'm not sure that he was completely alone in that interest. So, I think it might be possible that we underestimate the scholarship that was being done in the East. Aside from saying that we owe everything to the Muslims, the standard narratives tend not to focus on what was going on outside of the West.
(11-17-2012, 09:12 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]On the third point, is it obviously true that there was no desire to study classical philosophy in the East? He was living just after the High Middle Ages, but Plethon, who was apparently responsible for introducing some of the works of Plato and the Neoplatonists to the West, certainly seems to have taken an interest in classical philosophy, and I'm not sure that he was completely alone in that interest. So, I think it might be possible that we underestimate the scholarship that was being done in the East. Aside from saying that we owe everything to the Muslims, the standard narratives tend not to focus on what was going on outside of the West.

I'm just not sure. I feel like the Church history and art history I learned in college has a big gaping hole where Byzantium is concerned. Fast forward to centuries later where the Catholic Church has canonized St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Orthodox criticize Catholics for being too overly analytical.  I'll look into Plethon; thanks for the tip.
(11-17-2012, 08:31 PM)Scriptorium Wrote: [ -> ]The short story:

1) The ransacking of the Germanic peoples and the Huns. The ransacking of the Muslims. Other reasons:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmissio...e_Classics

I see...papyrus crumbles faster, and most of the Eastern effort and interest was on preserving Christian texts.
There was some classical scholarship going on in Byzantium through the ages:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Byzantine_scholars

During our "Dark Ages", the East was experiencing the "Macedonian Renaissance":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_Renaissance

But I still don't quite understand why there was an exchange of knowledge with the Islamic world, and not with the Latin West during that time:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_science

Maybe for the same reasons that East and West were heading for the Great Schism; language, geography, politics, etc:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East%E2%80%93West_Schism

But the Byzantines did make a large contribution to the foundations of the West's Renaissance when their intellectuals migrated after the fall of Constantinople in 1453:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_s...enaissance