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

by Stephen O'Shea

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382667,322 (3.89)15
The shared history of Christianity and Islam began, shortly after Islam emerged in the seventh century A.D., with a question: Who would inherit the world of the Mediterranean? Sprung from the same Abrahamic source, the two faiths played out what historian O'Shea calls "sibling rivalry writ very large." Their 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. O'Shea chronicles the meetings of minds and the collisions of armies that marked 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 recounts seven pivotal battles between the forces of Christianity and Islam that shaped the Mediterranean world.--From publisher description.… (more)
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This is a very well written military history of the medieval Mediterranean. O’Shea gives a detailed description of ten key battles spanning nine centuries and an insightful cultural history of the cultural consequences that were the results. As he points out in his introduction, “…the encounter between Christian and Islamic societies was not exclusively of a religious nature. Sparks flew for many reasons, the greatest of which was the belief in war as the ultimate arbiter of politics and policy.” The result of these mixed motives, which still haunt us today, might be massacres, or commercial or religious convivencia, where the members of different faiths lived in peaceful coexistence and cooperation. There was, however, a tax on unbelief. It cost more to worship the God of Abraham if you didn’t worship Him the way your rulers did.

O'Shea’s research, witnessed by his impressive notes and bibliography, is impressive. As his vocabulary, as witnessed by how many times I had to look up the adjectives he uses in the Oxford English Dictionary. ( )
  MaowangVater | Apr 28, 2018 |
Excellent depiction of the battle between Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages. The author shows how Isam lost Spain and how the Byzantines lost Constantinople. The fierce battle over Malta at the end of the period was a fitting climax. ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
A sprightly account of the war between Islam and the Christians from the Byzantine defeat at Yarmuk in the 7th century to the Christian victories at Malta and Lepanto in the 16th century. ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
This book should not be the first book read on the subject, but a reader well grounded in religeon and history of the period will find this book well written and well documented history of Christianity and Islam from the first contact through the battle for Malta. I believe Mr. O'Shea erred by confining the narrative to the Mediterranean basin and neglected the Balkans and wars with the Habsburgs of Austria. I believe the author understates dhimmitude as well as the general aggressive nature of Islam. Follow the life of Maimonides's from Spain, across North Africa to Cairo to get a sense the lives of infidels under ever changing Islamic rulers. ( )
  4bonasa | Apr 25, 2010 |
A clever idea but ultimately flawed. The concept is to portray the interplay and mutual benefits that Islam and Christianity brought to each other through the mechanism of the Mediterranean Sea.

He focus on select events and battles, but even these are not well detailed.

In my opinion, however, the division of the middle sea by the introduction of Islam was divisive, disruptive of trade, and horribly costly in terms of lives. O'Shea glosses over these more fundamental trends in order to attempt to develop a feel-good history of Christian - Islam symbiosis. ( )
  ldmarquet | Jun 1, 2008 |
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The shared history of Christianity and Islam began, shortly after Islam emerged in the seventh century A.D., with a question: Who would inherit the world of the Mediterranean? Sprung from the same Abrahamic source, the two faiths played out what historian O'Shea calls "sibling rivalry writ very large." Their 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. O'Shea chronicles the meetings of minds and the collisions of armies that marked 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 recounts seven pivotal battles between the forces of Christianity and Islam that shaped the Mediterranean world.--From publisher description.

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