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ColoradoGuy
10-23-2008, 02:08 AM
We've heard a lot these past election months about what it means to be a Muslim, in particular how "other" they are. Then along comes this fascinating article (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21979) in the most recent New York Review of Books by William Dalrymple entitled "The Egyptian Connection." I have only passing familiarity with late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, but I had no idea there were so many close connections between the Eastern Mediterranean and the wild, "celtic fringe" areas of Britain, especially Iona, Bede's Northumbria, and the Ireland of the Book of Kells. Some of the illustrations in the Lindisfarne Gospels, for example, look like Islamic prayer rugs. Unfortunately, the online version of the article in the above link does not have the illustrations, but if you can find a print edition they are striking.

There are a wealth of Coptic influences discussed in the article (hence "The Egyptian Connection"), and it is clear that there was a great deal of contact between the wildest edge of Europe and the ancient seats of civilization even during what we used to call the Dark Ages.

But the most interesting parts to me were the theological ones. From the article:

". . . the Islamic conquest of the Near East does not seem to have brought an end to this contact. The Anglo-Saxon Saint Willibald left an account of his visit in the 720s to the monastery of Mar Saba in Palestine where Saint John Damascene was then writing his refutation of heresies entitled The Fount of Knowledge. This contains a detailed critique of Islam, the first ever written by a Christian, in which Damascene regarded Islam essentially as Christian heresy related to Arianism and Monothelitism." (my bold)

Attitudes were more fluid then, it appears, in the times before the Crusades.

MagicMan
10-23-2008, 02:30 AM
I found it interesting. The absence of any mention to druid influence in that time period is one of my questions as to the total accuracy. Even Caesar acknowledged the druids in that area.

Smiles...thanks for pointing that out, I had not noticed it.
Bob

Medievalist
10-23-2008, 02:32 AM
I found it interesting. The absence of any mention to druid influence in that time period is one of my questions as to the total accuracy. Even Caesar acknowledged the druids in that area.

Smiles...thanks for pointing that out, I had not noticed it.
Bbob

It's sorta hard to document druidic influence; they didn't leave much in the way of writing, and much of the written sources we do have are from less than neutral sources--Classical writers, and Christian monastics.

Medievalist
10-23-2008, 02:35 AM
Thanks for the article Chris.

There's an image from Lindisfarne here (http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/illmanus/cottmanucoll/t/011cotnerd00004u00139000.html); the British Library once had most of it available in their Treasures Turning the Pages project; it's seems to be gone now.

MagicMan
10-23-2008, 10:21 AM
It is so unfortunate to not have more information on the Druids. I posted the most current possible druid find in Diana's Magic thread if your interested.

Higgins
10-23-2008, 04:55 PM
We've heard a lot these past election months about what it means to be a Muslim, in particular how "other" they are. Then along comes this fascinating article (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21979) in the most recent New York Review of Books by William Dalrymple entitled "The Egyptian Connection." I have only passing familiarity with late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, but I had no idea there were so many close connections between the Eastern Mediterranean and the wild, "celtic fringe" areas of Britain, especially Iona, Bede's Northumbria, and the Ireland of the Book of Kells. Some of the illustrations in the Lindisfarne Gospels, for example, look like Islamic prayer rugs. Unfortunately, the online version of the article in the above link does not have the illustrations, but if you can find a print edition they are striking.

There are a wealth of Coptic influences discussed in the article (hence "The Egyptian Connection"), and it is clear that there was a great deal of contact between the wildest edge of Europe and the ancient seats of civilization even during what we used to call the Dark Ages.

But the most interesting parts to me were the theological ones. From the article:

". . . the Islamic conquest of the Near East does not seem to have brought an end to this contact. The Anglo-Saxon Saint Willibald left an account of his visit in the 720s to the monastery of Mar Saba in Palestine where Saint John Damascene was then writing his refutation of heresies entitled The Fount of Knowledge. This contains a detailed critique of Islam, the first ever written by a Christian, in which Damascene regarded Islam essentially as Christian heresy related to Arianism and Monothelitism." (my bold)

Attitudes were more fluid then, it appears, in the times before the Crusades.

I was going to blame the Fatimids for hardening the lines between Islam and Christendom, since in some accounts they are described a much less tolerant regime that was responsible for triggering the First Crusade...but things in Wikipedia suggest otherwise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatimid

So sometimes you try to pick another "other" and it seems not to be quite other enough.
As for fluidity, I was surpised to find that some sources (not very clearly in the Wiki I cite here) point out that Maimonides wrote mostly in Arabic and in any event moved freely in Islamic society:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maimonides

So a lot of the hardening of postures toward various potential "others" is a lot more recent than the days of Maimonides.

Medievalist
10-24-2008, 04:14 AM
I found the digital version of the Book of Lindisfarne; it's sorta clunky in that it's all Flash animation, and requires a bit of hand-eye-coordination to "turn" the digital pages.

But.

Here's the British Library digital facsimile "Turning the Pages" collection (http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/virtualbooks/viewall/index.html#); scroll down to Lindisfarne (and do take time to look at the other amazing books).

IrishElim
11-06-2008, 12:30 AM
Just passing through quickly, so didn't get a chance to look at your link, but if you're really interested in this topic check out a book called "The Atlantean Irish".