Romance and Reason

Edited by Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Samuel Thrope, and Raquel Ukeles, with contributions by Leigh Chipman, Steven Harvey, Y. Tzvi Langermann, Rachel Milstein, and Julia Rubanovich. Princeton University Press, 2018.

Within a century of the Arab Muslim conquest of vast territories in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam became the inheritor of the intellectual legacy of classical antiquity. In an epochal cultural transformation between the eighth and tenth centuries CE, most of what survived in classical Greek literature and thought was translated from Greek into Arabic. This translation movement, sponsored by the ruling Abbasid dynasty, swiftly blossomed into the creative expansion and reimagining of classical ideas that were now integral parts of the Islamic tradition.

Romance and Reason, the lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition of the same name at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, explores the breadth and depth of Islamic engagement with ancient Greek thought. Drawing on manuscripts and artifacts from the collections of the National Library of Israel and prominent American institutions, the catalogue’s essays focus on the portrayal of Alexander the Great as ideal ruler, mystic, lover, and philosopher in Persian poetry and art, and how Islamic medicine, philosophy, and science contended with and developed the classical tradition.

Read more about the 2018 exhibition on ISAW’s website, and in reviews in the New York Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, and The Jerusalem Post.

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