Sunday, December 11, 2011

Greeks and Arabs

It has oft been said, that those who contributed to “Arabic” science and letters  in their heyday,  were themselves  in many cases  not ethnically Arab.  And this indeed is so -- though it rather redounds to the credit of the Arabic language and Islamic civilization, than to the discredit of the Bedouin, that Arabic for so long served as a scholarly lingua franca, as later French would do, and as English does today.

But now, reading David E. Smith’s History of Mathematics (1923), I came across a parallel  I had not known:

It was only when the Greeks began to come into closer conact with other peoples  that they showed any interest in arithmetic.  Indeed, contrary to the idea that is commonly expressed, Greece always depended largely upon external influences for her mathematics, and few who advanced this science in her schools  were born within her continental area.  (P. 55.)

Nowadays, when one meets a passage like that, one has to wonder whether political correctness or Postmodernism has had a hand;  but the publication date rules that out in this case.

For our book-length semantic investigation,
of Arabic and the European languages,
click here

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