When I began my graduate studies in Renaissance studies, I was taught that the Italian Renaissance had its' start in Italy without any consideration of the progress and spread of Islam from the 7th century through the 15th century. However, in another course that focused on Renaissance, the instructor made the argument that the foundations of the Renaissance were set in the spread of Islam and Islam's rediscover of Classical Greek philosophy and art. Supposedly, as Islam spread clockwise around the Mediterranean and eventually stopped in northern Spain by Charles Martel it brought some of the classical Greek philosophy with them (namely Aristotle). So as the alternate interpretation goes, the Renaissance had its' foundations set in the spread of Islam. Rabbis living in the Byzantine Empire and Greek scholars fled to the Western Roman Empire. As a result, the Western Empire had an influx of scholars rekindling the interest in the classics that the Renaissance became famous for! In fact, Renaissance means "Rebirth"!
So, what do you think? Which interpretation is correct and why?
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