The conventional wisdom, repeated recently in How the Middle Ages Really Were, claims (the quote is "composite"):

...the works of Greek and Roman thinkers like Aristotle, Galen, Ptolemy, Archimedes and many others had been lost in the West after the collapse of the Roman Empire... ...Medieval scholars learned those works because they were preserved by the Arabs...

Even when Rome fell (two centuries before the Arab conquest began), Constantinople remained and should have preserved at least the major works, and the land communications of Europe with the Arabs went through it anyway.

Were these works "lost" to the West, and only preserved by Arabs?

  • 2
    Your famous quote first appeared in book by a Christian 500 years after the fact. Since there is great skepticism about how believable it is, I'm not sure what its adding.
    – KAI
    Mar 31, 2017 at 17:16
  • 1
    This question would be much better on our History site than on Skeptics. It's a nuanced, multifaceted question about history, that would benefit from a history expert. Mar 31, 2017 at 17:28
  • @DJClayworth I agree. There is a good wikipedia article which directly answers the question, and I could summarize it. But somebody on the History site might have better insights than my summary of wikipedia.
    – KAI
    Mar 31, 2017 at 17:31
  • @DJClayworth: the reason I am asking it here and not on History is that I am, apparently, challenging an accepted narrative. Please feel free to move my question there.
    – sds
    Mar 31, 2017 at 19:31
  • 1
    There is no way we can answer this with facts, as it's not really factual. It hinges on how literally we want to take "lost". If there were 10 copies of a book left, were they "lost"? Does the author mean there were absolutely no copies left?
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 1, 2017 at 8:31


Browse other questions tagged .