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The Ancient Worlds with Bettany Hughes: #7/7 – When the Moors Ruled in Europe

13/08/2019

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The Ancient Worlds with Bettany Hughes

Historian Bettany Hughes gives her personal take on the diverse cultures of the ancient world in this 2010 documentary series on Channel 4. The series begins with an examination of Alexandria, the city founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC to become the world’s first global centre of culture. The programme explores Alexandria’s role as a powerhouse of science and learning, and focuses on the female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher Hypatia, the subject of the feature film Agora, starring Rachel Weisz.

The series also offers a chance to catch Hughes’s previous ancient history titles, including the 2004 documentary The Minoans, and the 2005 film Helen of Troy, in which Hughes explores the true story of the woman whose face “launched a thousand ships”. Other programmes in the series are Engineering Ancient Egypt, the three-part documentary The Spartans (which inspired the Hollywood movie 300), Athens: The Truth about Democracy, and When the Moors Ruled in Europe, Hughes’s survey of Islamic rule in Spain and Portugal.

When the Moors Ruled in Europe

Bettany Hughes traces the story of the mysterious and misunderstood Moors, the Islamic society that ruled in Spain for 700 years, but whose legacy was virtually erased from Western history. In 711 AD, a tribe of newly converted Muslims from North Africa crossed the straits of Gibraltar and invaded Spain. Known as The Moors, they went on to build a rich and powerful society. Its capital, Cordoba, was the largest and most civilised city in Europe, with hospitals, libraries and a public infrastructure light year ahead of anything in England at the time. Amongst the many things that were introduced to Europe by Muslims at this time were: a huge body of classical Greek texts that had been lost to the rest of Europe for centuries (kick-starting the Renaissance); mathematics and the numbers we use today; advanced astronomy and medical practices; fine dining; the concept of romantic love; paper; deodorant; and even erection creams. This wasn’t the rigid, fundamentalist Islam of some people’s imaginations, but a progressive, sensuous and intellectually curious culture. But when the society collapsed, Spain was fanatically re-Christianised; almost every trace of seven centuries of Islamic rule was ruthlessly removed. It is only now, six centuries later, that The Moors’ influences on European life and culture are finally beginning to be fully understood.

 

 

 

 

 

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