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Thread: The Egyptian Connection

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  1. #1
    I've seen worse. SuperModerator ColoradoGuy's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    The City Different

    The Egyptian Connection

    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 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.
    Last edited by ColoradoGuy; 10-23-2008 at 03:21 AM.
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