Mustafa Âlis Epic Deeds of Artists (Islamic History and Civilization)
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The ensuing tale of blood and drama helped define the boundaries of Europe. In June , a man called Kara Mustafa made a journey to Vienna. Vienna was the capital of the Hapsburg Empire and he intended to take it. The ensuing siege has been held responsible for many things, from the invention of the croissant to the creation of Viennese coffee. But most importantly, it has come to be seen as a clash of civilisations, one that helped to define a series of boundaries, between Europe and Asia, Christian and Muslim, Hapsburg and Ottoman, that influence the view between Vienna and Istanbul to this day.
The Baroque Movement. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the culture of the Baroque. The answer is the Baroque — a term used to describe a vast array of painting, music, architecture and sculpture from the 17th and 18th centuries. Baroque derives from the word for a misshapen pearl and denotes an art of effusion, drama, grandeur and powerful emotion.
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Strongly religious it became the aesthetic of choice of absolute monarchs. But the more we examine the Baroque, the more subtle and mysterious it becomes. It is impossible to discuss 17th century Europe without it, yet it is increasingly hard to say what it is. It was coined as a term of abuse, denounced by thinkers of the rational Enlightenment and by Protestant cultures which read into Baroque the excess, decadence and corruption they saw in the Catholic Church.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of the five thousand and the general subject of miracles. Miracles have been part of human culture for thousands of years. From St Augustine in the 4th century through the medieval cult of saints to David Hume in the 18th, miracles have captured the imaginations of believers and sceptics alike. The way they have been celebrated, interpreted, dissected and refuted is a whole history of arguments between philosophy, science and religion. They have also been used by the corrupt and the powerful to gain their perverse ends.
Miracles have been derided and proved to be fraudulent and yet, for many, the miraculous maintain a grip on our imagination, our language and our belief to this day. Dante's Inferno. It is a lurid vision of the afterlife complete with severed heads, cruel and unusual punishments and devils in frozen lakes. But the inferno is much more than a trip into the macabre - it is a map of medieval spirituality, a treasure house of early renaissance learning, a portrait of 14th century Florence, and an acute study of human psychology. It is also one of the greatest poems ever written.
The Arab Conquests. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Arab conquests - an extraordinary period in the 7th and 8th centuries when the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula conquered the Middle East, Persia, North Africa and Southern Europe and spread the ideas of the Islamic religion. In the prophet Muhammad died and left behind the nascent religion of Islam among a few tribes in the Arabian Desert.
They were relatively small in number, they were divided among themselves and they were surrounded by vast and powerful empires. Yet within years Arab armies controlled territory from Northern Spain to Southern Iran and Islamic ideas had begun to profoundly refashion the societies they touched. It is one of the most extraordinary and significant events in world history that began the slow and profound transformation of Greek and Persian societies into Islamic ones.
But how did the Arab armies achieve such extensive victories, how did they govern the people they conquered and what was the relationship between the achievements of the Arabs and the religious beliefs they carried with them?
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The Metaphysical Poets. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Metaphysical poets, a diffuse group of 17th century writers including John Donne, Andrew Marvell and George Herbert. Concerned with sex and death, with science and empire, the metaphysical poets challenged the conventions of Elizabethan poetry with drama and with wit. And they showed that English, like Italian and French, was capable of true poetry. Unashamedly modern, they were saluted by another great modernist, T. Eliot, who admired their genius for imagery, the freshness of their language and the drama of their poetic character.
But what do we mean by metaphysical poetry, how did it reflect an age of drama and discovery and do poets as different as John Donne, Andrew Marvell and George Herbert really belong together in the canon of English literature? The Dissolution of the Monasteries. These were the monasteries, suddenly and for many shockingly, destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII. The conflict was played out with a mix of violence, heroism, political manoeuvring and genuine theological disputation.
But what was lost in terms of architecture, painting, treasure and in the religious habits of the monasteries themselves and of the common people who lived with them? The Greek Myths. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek myths from Achilles to Zeus. Are you a touch narcissistic?
Do you have the body of an Adonis? Are you willing to undertake Herculean tasks or Promethean ventures? Perhaps you have an Oedipus complex? The myths have a cast of thousands including mighty Zeus, Jason and the Argonauts, wily Odysseus, beautiful Aphrodite and Cerberus, the three-headed dog. They are funny, shocking, quirky and epic and have retained their power and their wisdom from the ancient world to the modern. The Fisher King.
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Melvyn Bragg and guests will be delving into the world of medieval legend in pursuit of the powerful and enigmatic Fisher King. In the world of medieval romance there are many weird and wonderful creatures — there are golden dragons and green knights, sinister enchantresses and tragic kings, strange magicians and spears that bleed and talk.
And yet, in all this panoply of wonder, few figures are more mysterious than the Fisher King. Blighted by a wound that will not heal and entrusted as the keeper of the Holy; the Fisher King is also a version of Christ, a symbol of sexual anxiety and a metaphor for the decay of societies and civilisations.
The Fisher King is a complex and poetic figure and has meant many things to many people. The Nicene Creed. But what has become a universal statement was written for a very particular purpose - to defeat a 4th century theological heresy called Arianism and to establish that Jesus Christ was, indeed, God. The story of the Creed is in many ways the story of early Christianity — of delicate theology and robust politics.
It changed the Church and it changed the Roman Empire, but that it has lasted for nearly years would seem extraordinary to those who created it. The Pilgrim Fathers.
Every year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans go home to their families and sit down to a meal. They celebrated it in company with the American Indians who had helped them to survive. These settlers are called the Pilgrim Fathers. They were not the first and certainly not the largest of the early settlements but their Plymouth colony has retained a hold on the American imagination which the larger, older, violent and money-driven settlement of Jamestown has not.
Ockham's Razor. In the small village of Ockham, near Woking in Surrey, stands a church. Made of grey stone, it has a pitched roof and an unassuming church tower but parts of it date back to the 13th century. This means they would have been standing when the village witnessed the birth of one of the greatest philosophers in Medieval Europe.
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His name was William and he became known as William of Ockham. During a turbulent career he managed to offend the Chancellor of Oxford University, disagree with his own ecclesiastical order and get excommunicated by the Pope. He also declared that the authority of rulers derives from the people they govern and was one of the first people so to do.
But why is William of Ockham significant in the history of philosophy, how did his turbulent life fit within the political dramas of his time and to what extent do we see his ideas in the work of later thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and even Martin Luther? For the radical thinkers of the Enlightenment, he was the first man to have lived and died as a true atheist. For others, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he provides perhaps the most profound conception of God to be found in Western philosophy. He was bold enough to defy the thinking of his time, yet too modest to accept the fame of public office and he died, along with Socrates and Seneca, one of the three great deaths in philosophy.
Baruch Spinoza can claim influence on both the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century and great minds of the 19th, notably Hegel, and his ideas were so radical that they could only be fully published after his death. St Hilda.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 7th century saint, Hilda, or Hild as she would have been known then, wielded great religious and political influence in a volatile era. The monasteries she led in the north of England were known for their literacy and learning and produced great future leaders, including 5 bishops.
The remains of a later abbey still stand in Whitby on the site of the powerful monastery she headed there. We gain most of our knowledge of Hilda's life from The Venerable Bede who wrote that she was 66 years in the world, living 33 years in the secular life and 33 dedicated to God. She was baptised alongside the king of Northumbria and with her royal connections, she was a formidable character.
Hild and her Abbey at Whitby hosted the Synod which decided when Easter would be celebrated, following a dispute between different traditions. Her achievements are all the more impressive when we consider that Christianity was still in its infancy in Northumbria.
So what contribution did she make to establishing Christianity in the north of England? How unusual was it for a woman to be such an important figure in the Church at the time? How did her double monastery of both men and women operate on a day-to-day basis?