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Closed for Summer, Open for Summer School

I'm knocking off early for summer sabbatical. I worked much harder than I had intended this year. The "conquest of Persia" proved to be more challenging than expected, but also much more rewarding. I hope it will lead to a better understanding of our common ancestry and if possible better relations between enlightened Muslims, Christians and Jews during this time of modern ignorance and conflict.

Projects for the future would include composing a Part IV of the on-line book that incorporates all the forum posts on Persia, the Ptolemies/Hasmoneans, and Julio-Claudians.

I'm also now very interested, thanks to Joe Atwill, in the links between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim worlds during the Renaissance. If a Medici could be a prince of Aragon, Morocco and Venice all at the same time (according to Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"), then it stands to reason there were always families that led double lives in the Christian and Islamic worlds.

In order to properly study this subject we would need to start with the Muslim conquest.

Colin Wells writes (p 121) in 'Sailing from Byzantium':

"But Byzantium and Persia also influenced Islam before it became a civilization, starting with the rise of the new faith during the disparate yet oddly intertwined lives of Islam's founder, the prophet Muhammad, and his near exact contemporary, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius."

The names Heraclius/Horus and Muhammad/Ham (compare also Hammurabi) are very similar. Heraclius modeled himself after the Horus-figure Alexander the Great in his determination to conquer Persia. Heraclius was likewise successful. Heraclius was also frustrated with the on-going doctrinal disputes of Christianity, for example, whether Christ was fully divine, fully human, or some combination of the two. His attempts to unify the Greek and Roman churches ended in futility, however the Arab peoples rallied around the new faith of Mohammad and its five basic "pillars". Five was also the number of Alexander the Great's closest companions ("The Pella Five"), which derived in turn from the astro-mythology of Horus/Heracles.

The original link between Christian and Muslim spheres is then solvable by inspection.

Heraclius did not have a vigorous male heir and the succession eventually become complicated and contested. Both Heraclius and Mohammad had at least one prominent daughter and a powerful uncle. In the years that followed the death of the great king his court became divided as to whether the overall kingdom should be ruled from a Christian or Islamic throne. This was a question that also weighed upon the mind of Heraclius himself and as reflected in the curious message sent from Mohammad to Heraclius inviting him to "submit to Allah". This was an idea Heraclius was said to have taken to heart. Quoting from 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley (p 9):

"In the year 629, Heraclius, 'Autocrat of the Romans' and twenty-eighth emperor of Byzantium, was making a pilgrimage on foot to Jerusalem. It was the crowning moment of his life. He had shattered the Persians in a series of remarkable victories and wrested back Crhistendom's most sacred relic, the True Cross, which he was triumphantly restoring to the Chruch of trhe Holy Sepulchre. According to Islamic tradition, when he had reached the city he received a letter. It said simply: 'In the name of Allah the most Beneficent, the most Merciful: this letter is from Muhammad, the slave of Allah, and His Apostle, to Heraclius, the ruler of Byzantines. Peace be upon the followers of guidance. I invite you to surrender to Allah. Embrace Islam and Allah will bestow on you a double reward. But if you reject this invitation you will be misguiding your people.' Heraclius had no idea who the writer of this letter might have been, but he is reported to have made inquiries and to have treated its contents with some respect."

The Persian king (defeated by Heraclius) rejected the same letter outright, which interprets the meaning. Heraclius of course knew the source of the letter, and was seriously debating whether to maintain a double kingdom or only one (under the new banner of Islam). Ultimately, both kingdoms carried on in parallel, but the cross-pollination between them is not immediately apparent. Working out the details of the interplay would of course become a monumental study in itself, and one that I'm not even remotely qualified to undertake (although it hasn't stopped me before!). However, it should now be obvious to the most casual observer that a single royal family provided (at least initially) the leadership for both Byzantine and Islamic ruling houses in the 6th Century AD.

Suggested Summer Reading (everyone failed the Persia course this year except Ron, who gets a C-, so if you want to graduate take a self-guided course from the following resources.):

Sailing Byzantium by Colin Wells
Justinian's Flea by William Rosen
Gods Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Lewis
Byzantium by Judith Herrin
A Short History of Byzantium by John Norwich
The Fourth Crusade by Jonathan Phillips
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley
A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani
The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years by Bernard Lewis
The Last Great Muslim Empires by Hans Kissling
Fighting for the Faith: The Many Fronts of Crusade & Jihad by David Nicolle
Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto by Niccolo Capponi
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages by Richard Rubenstein
Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors by James Reston, Jr.
Spain: the Root and the Flower by John Crow
Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World by Justin Marozzi
The Pefect Prince: Truth and Deception in Renaissance Europe by Ann Wroe
The Habsburgs by Andrew Wheatcroft
Lucrezia Borgia by Sarah Bradford
Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda
Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline Murphy
The Pope's Daughter by Caroline Murphy
The House of Medici: It's Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert
Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de' Medici by Miles Unger

For Shakespeare Fans:

Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt
The Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum
Shakespeare by Another Name by Mark Anderson
The Truth Will Out by Brenda James & Willam Rubinstein
Shakespeares Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages by John Norwich (same author as A Short History of Byzantium)

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