Beginning the week of November 2, you will read The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization. Each week you will read one section of the text and complete work on the Study Guide provided to you. The Study Guide has specific questions you will need to answer each week.1

House of Wisdom Study Guide

Prologue:

Geography is important for understanding this book. Find a map of the Mediterranean world. Be sure
that it includes cities that were significant in the Middle Ages – not just at present. Locate the city of
Antioch.

1. Why does Lyons depict the city as the “cusp between east and west?” (p. 3)
2. How is Adelard also representative of that “cusp?”
3. What is the political context that surrounds Antioch? What does it mean for the

economic and socio-cultural reality of the city?

Like any book, Lyons is presenting you with an argument. Identify his argument for the book on page
five.

1. What does Lyons mean when he says that the “West’s willful forgetting of the Arab
legacy began centuries ago…” (p. 5)?

2. Identify the four themes that still resonate about Islam today.
3. How does the Renaissance contribute to this process outlined in the two questions

above?

Chapter 1: The Warriors of God

As you read the opening of this chapter, who do you think that Lyons is describing: Christian Soldiers
or Muslim Soldiers?

1. What is meant by a “populist echo?” (p. 10)

2

Make sure that you understand the roles of and can identify the historical figures listed below:

1. Pope Urban II
2. Peter the Hermit
3. Saladin

Again, it is important to have a sense of the geography when you are reading this book. Find a map
that has important cities from the Middle Ages and identify the following cities: Civetot, Antioch,
Jerusalem, Constantinople, Mara, Edessa, Genoa, Venice.

1. What do these cities have in common? How do they differ from each other?
2. Write down three facts about the Crusades that you did not know previously, that

surprised you, that presented a different perspective about the Crusades.
3. While we tend to understand the Crusades as a war between Christianity and Islam,

what attitude had the Church adopted toward war under Gregory VII? Why is that an
important context for the Crusades?

4. Who were the first victims of the Crusaders and why is that important?

Pay attention to the discussion about Edessa. Consider what the Pope had called the crusaders
to do and compare that to the actions of Baldwin at Edessa. While he is not a figure that you

3

need to commit to memory, do pay attention to the “state building” that is taking place. (p. 17-
18)

1. After considering political aspirations, make note of the Arab response to the Crusaders.
What “offended their sensibilities?” (p. 20)

2. On page 23, Lyons talks about the “potent Christian propaganda machine… .” What does
that propaganda rationalize?

3. Despite the conflict of the Crusades, what begins to flourish between East and West?
What role do Venice and Genoa play in this?

Go back to the first question in this section of the study guide. Most likely, you read the first and
second paragraph of the book expecting that Lyons was talking abou




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