Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World

Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World

by Stephen O'Shea
     
 

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The long shared history of Christianity and Islam began, shortly after Islam emeregd in the early seventh century A.D., with a question: Who would inherit the Geco-Roman world of the Mediterranean? Spung from the same source - Abraham and the Revelation given to the Jews - the two faiths played out over the course of the next millenium what historian Stephen… See more details below

Overview

The long shared history of Christianity and Islam began, shortly after Islam emeregd in the early seventh century A.D., with a question: Who would inherit the Geco-Roman world of the Mediterranean? Spung from the same source - Abraham and the Revelation given to the Jews - the two faiths played out over the course of the next millenium what historian Stephen O'Shea calls "sibling rivalry write very large." Their cataclysmic clashes on the battlefield were balanced by long periods of coexistence 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 the 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, Canstantinople - the ultimate "geography of belief" was decided on the battlefield. O'Shea vividly recounts seven pivotal battle 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 (Syria) in 636 to the stemming of the seemingly unstoppable Ottoman tide at Malta in 1565.

In between, the battles raged around the Mediterranean, from distant 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 of 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.

As with his widely praised previous books, The Perfect Heresy and Back to the Front, Stephen O'Shea narrates history on the ground, having visited each of the battle sites and many others around the Mediterranean. Blending a scholar's authority with his sonsummate skills as a Narrator, he shines light on the distant past, offering timely and thought-provoking perspective on today's headlines.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this elegant, fast-paced, and judicious cultural and religious history, journalist O'Shea, author of The Perfect Heresy, provides a remarkable glimpse into the origins of the conflicts between Christians and Muslims as well as their once peaceful coexistence. He focuses on seven military battles-Yarmuk A.D. 636), Poitiers (732), Manzikert (1071), Hattin (1187), Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), Constantinople (1453) and Malta (1565)-between Christians and Muslims as the high-water marks of their attempts to shape the Mediterranean ("sea of faith") world of the Middle Ages. O'Shea vividly captures and recreates not only the enmity between the two religions but also the sectarian rivalries and political intrigues within each religion. Yet the relationship between Christianity and Islam was marked not only by bloody Crusades and wars of conquest. As O'Shea so eloquently points out, Christians and Muslims also experienced long periods of rapprochement, signaled by the long peace at C rdoba in the early Middle Ages and in the intellectual and social flourishing at Toledo and Palermo in the 11th century. O'Shea's marvelous accomplishment offers an unparalleled glimpse of the struggles of each religion to establish dominance in the medieval world as well as at the strategies for living together that the religions enacted as they shared the same territory. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gripping account of Christianity and Islam's first tortured millennium of combat and coexistence. O'Shea (The Perfect Heresy, 2000, etc.) centers his narrative around the Mediterranean, which acts as a neutral witness to the historic events unfolding on its diverse shores. His sweeping tale covers nearly a thousand years and takes the reader back and forth from the Holy Land to Iberia, starting in an age of swordsmen and archers and ending with the use of cannons and firearms. Folded among the battles were periods of peaceful coexistence during which trade and culture flourished. The author attempts to focus readers on the importance of this convivencia, the practice of Muslims and Christians living together in harmony. However, as meaningful as convivencia was to history, his account cannot ignore the brutal warfare that more dramatically shaped the Mediterranean basin. O'Shea looks closely at seven major battles, each a turning point in its own right: Yarmuk (636), Poitiers (732), Manzikert (1071), Hattin (1187), Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), Constantinople (1453) and Malta (1565). He stresses each side's culpability and points out that Christian-on-Christian and Muslim-on-Muslim violence were often meted out in addition to interfaith warfare. Specific personalities-brutal warriors, incompetent princes, zealous religious leaders-take center stage in individual chapters. Augmenting the historical account are firsthand descriptions of the battlefields, towns and buildings today, often starkly contrasting the slaughter of medieval battle with the bucolic tranquility of these sites in modern times. However, though O'Shea is obviously conscious of the impact of Christian-Muslim conflict onmodern politics, he does not dwell on these connections; readers searching for such analysis will have to look elsewhere. Vivid vocabulary, tasteful touches of humor and a traveler's-eye-view of the Mediterranean enrich the history. An engaging glimpse into the events that shaped the Mediterranean basin as we know it today.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802715173
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
05/28/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 8.42(h) x 1.13(d)

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