The Caliph’s Splendor

The Caliph’s Splendor: Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Bagdad
Benson Bobrick (2012)

A nice quick read. Blurbs aboot the book implied more of contact and relationship between Frankish Charlemange and caliph Huran al-Rashid of Bagdad. Did not get much of that, but got fascinating views of rise of Bagdad, which I should have expected, had just as much treachery, murder, political and religious scheming as any Byzantine story.

One thing humored me, Bobrick writes, “Yet in the recurrent fate of kingdoms, luxury and learning can lead to a process of decline.” Maybe the key word is “can”. He tells the story of harsh military and political conquest, followed by flourishing of arts, trade, learning. Did the luxury of Baghdad make them soft, so years later it was easy for the Mongols to sack the city, leaving a “mountain of skulls”?  That’s another book I suppose. And maybe “why do empire’s end?” is an unanswerable question.



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