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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Although the Almoravides and Almohades were great builders


Moslem intellectual achievements.]

[Sidenote: Averr?es and Maim?nides.]

In intellectual culture, Moslem Spain was even greater than it had been in the days of its political power,--at least in the higher manifestations of that culture. The _taifa_ kings encouraged freedom of thought and expression, even when unorthodox; yet, in literature and science the greatest heights were reached, by both Jewish and Moslem writers, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, during the rule of the intolerant Almoravides and Almohades. That, too, was the period of their greatest influence on the Christians. The principal service of Moslem Spain to western Europe was, as has been said, the transmission of Greek thought, although not in its purity, but with the modifications and variants of its later days, especially those of the Alexandrian school. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries many European scholars of note visited Spain, and took back with them the Greco-oriental thought which was to be the chief basis of the philosophy and science of Christendom, until the true Greek texts were discovered at the time of the Renaissance. The Moslems were further advanced in medicine than the other western European peoples, and were the first in Europe since the days of the Greeks to cultivate the study of botany. In pure mathematics and its applications, such as in astronomy and the pseudo-science of astrology, they were equally to

the fore. Their greatest influence was to make itself felt, however, in the realm of philosophy, especially in the works of Averr?es and Maim?nides, scholars who are to be compared with Saint Isidore, both as respects the greatness of their achievements, and as concerns the breadth, almost universality, of their attainments. Averr?es of Cordova (1126-1198), as commentator and propagator of the ideas of Aristotle and Plato, was perhaps the principal resort of western European scholarship for an early knowledge of Greek thought. He was also a distinguished doctor and mathematician. Maim?nides (or Mois?s ben Maim?n), also of Cordova (1139-1205), was the founder of the rationalistic explanation of Jewish doctrine and a bitter opponent of the neoplatonism[27] of the Alexandrian school, but he was much influenced by Aristotle, whose ideas he contributed to disseminate in western Europe. He was also a celebrated physician. In addition to individual treatises on the various sciences, many encyclopedias were written inclusive of all. As might be expected, the rhetorical taste of Moslem Spain found abundant expression, in both poetry and prose, and in subject-matter of a heroic, fabulous, satirical, or amatory character. History, which at this time was more akin to literature than to science, was also much cultivated. Aben-Hayy?n of Cordova wrote a history in sixty volumes, of the epoch in which he lived; and there were others almost equally prolific who dealt with different phases of the history of Moslem Spain. In the sciences, Jewish scholars followed the current of their Moslem masters, but in philosophy and literature they developed originality, inspired by their religious sentiments. Their poetry had a somewhat more elevated tone than that of the Moslems.

[Sidenote: Architectural mediocrity.]

Although the Almoravides and Almohades were great builders, this period was less important in Moslem architecture than either the preceding or the following eras. The principal characteristic seems to have been a withdrawal from Visigothic and classical forms, but the execution was less correct and in poorer taste than formerly.

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