For centuries following the fall of Rome, western Europe was abenighted backwater, a world of subsistence farming, minimal literacy,and violent conflict. Meanwhile Arab culture was thriving, dazzlingthose Europeans fortunate enough to catch even a glimpse of thescientific advances coming from Baghdad, Antioch, or the cities ofPersia, Central Asia, and Muslim Spain. T here, philosophers,mathematicians, and astronomers were steadily advancing the frontiers of
knowledge and revitalizing the works of Plato and Aristotle. I n theroyal library of Baghdad, known as the House of Wisdom, an army ofscholars worked at the behest of the Abbasid caliphs. At a time when the
best book collections in Europe held several dozen volumes, the Houseof Wisdom boasted as many as four hundred thousand.Even
while their countrymen waged bloody Crusades against Muslims, a handful
of intrepid Christian scholars, thirsty for knowledge, traveled to Arab
lands and returned with priceless jewels of science, medicine, andphilosophy that laid the foundation for the Renaissance. I n thisbrilliant, evocative book, Lyons shows just how much Western cultureowes to the glories of medieval Arab civilization, and reveals theuntold story of how Europe drank from the well of Muslim learning.