The Ornament of the World

by María Rosa Menocal
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Last Updated on April 9, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

This chapter is divided into three sections. In the first, Menocal describes Sicily in the early-to-mid 1200s. A scholar, magician, and translator named Michael Scot left Scotland at a young age to study in Toledo and ingratiated himself with Emperor Frederic II of Sicily in 1220. Frederick himself was an Arabized Norman ruler, open to the various cultures that existed in his kingdom. Scot provided many translations of Arabic natural science books to Frederic II because he wanted Sicily to become a producer of culture and taste.

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The second section focuses on Cordoba. In 1236, translation of Arabic texts was a rising interest. As Christianity spread across Andalusia, interest in what was in the Islamic libraries grew, and thus “the intellectual influence of Arabic-based learning and culture . . . waxed in almost direct proportion to the political waning of what remained of al-Andalus.” Menocal explains how Andalusia became the center of translation that it was:

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Latest answer posted May 9, 2020, 4:08 pm (UTC)

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The Almoravids had colonized the Andalusians, and later the Almohads did the same. This led to the expulsion of Jews out of Andalusia. Many Jews went to recently captured but still largely Arabized Christian cities, like Toledo; Muslims who felt repressed by the new, fundamentalist Almohad regime followed. These refugees were able to engage in translation, and within less than a century, many Arabic texts were available to Latin reading Christians. The purist Almohads were shortly thereafter routed out of Andalusia by Christian armies, and Ferdinand took Cordoba.

In the final subchapter, Granada, Menocal describes how Ferdinand partnered with the Muslim leader of Granada, Ibn Ahmar, to help take over Cordoba. Granada was one of the final Islamic cities in Spain, belonging to Muslims for another 250 years. In this time, the Alhambra was built. In the meantime, Ferdinand made Seville his home and was later buried in a monument inscribed in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and Castilian.

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