Sea of Faith

Sea of Faith

Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World

Book - 2006
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The long, shared history of Christianity and Islam began, shortly after Islam emerged in the early seventh century A.D., with a question: Who would inherit the Greco-Roman world of the Mediterranean? Sprung from the same source--Abraham and the Revelation given to the Jews--the two faiths played out over the course of the next millennium what historian Stephen O'Shea calls "a sibling rivalry writ very large." Their cataclysmic clashes on the battlefield were balanced by long periods of co-existence and mutual enrichment, and by the end of the sixteenth century the religious boundaries of the modern world were drawn.

In Sea of Faith , O'Shea chronicles both the meeting of minds and the collisions of armies that marked the interaction of Cross and Crescent in the Middle Ages--the better to understand their apparently intractable conflict today. For all the great and everlasting moments of cultural interchange and tolerance--in Cordoba, Palermo, Constantinople--the ultimate "geography of belief " was decided on the battlefield. O'Shea vividly recounts seven pivotal battles between the forces of Christianity and Islam that shaped the Mediterranean world--from the loss of the Christian Middle East to the Muslims at Yarmuk (Turkey) in 636 to the stemming of the seemingly unstoppable Ottoman tide at Malta in 1565. In between, the battles raged round the Mediterranean, from Poitiers in France and Hattin in the Holy Land during the height of the Crusades, to the famed contest for Constantinople in 1453 that signaled the end of Byzantium. As much as the armies were motivated by belief, their exploits were inspired by leaders such as Charles Martel, Saladin, and Mehmet II, whose stirring feats were sometimes accompanied by unexpected changes of heart.

Publisher: New York : Walker : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2006.
ISBN: 9780802714985
0802714986
Branch Call Number: 909.09822
Characteristics: xii, 411 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.

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AQUILEA777
Jul 21, 2016

An unwieldy procession of details.
O'Shea's theme is engaging: the clash in war, and cooperation in trade and culture, of Christian and Muslim forces in the Medieval Mediterranean.
He suggests that religious motivation in this long interaction is exaggerated: most leaders were simply out for themselves, with many ad hoc alliances and even marriages across the religious divide. The invasions of Mongols and Tamerlane produced especially strange alignments.
But his tale ends with the famous defense of Malta by the Knights of St John against the Ottoman horde in 1565, 450 years ago, where religion was paramount on the Christian side at least. He briefly mentions the battle of Lepanto but omits the siege of Cyprus, the siege of Crete, the second siege of Vienna, the Austrian reconquest, the Russian advance, the revolt of the Balkans, the fall and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Western imperialism across North Africa and the Near East, the ravagement of Palestinians and imposition of Israel and its wars. Nor does he cover the US-led demolition of Muslim states since 9/11.
Clearly the sometime Medieval modus vivendi that O'Shea stresses did not lead to subsequent peace and stability.
In our day, Christians and Jews have shown scant respect for Muslim peoples and nations, which are fine if allied to us, but lack inherent humanity and can always be disposed of.
Muslim immigrants meanwhile reject Western mores, and a few go mad with violence against the intolerable spectacle of female freedom.
The old religious incompatibility still exists and probably did throughout.
O'Shea's copyright is 2006. Would he take the same view today? He praises the liberality of Turkey. Would he do so under the current Islamist Erdogan dictatorship, aid to Islamic State, and ongoing purge?

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