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National Geographic HistoryNational Geographic History

National Geographic History July/August 2018

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from the editor

When studying history, historians look to the facts. Knowing names, dates, and places helps explain past events, but there is often another factor whose influence remains intangible: luck.Fate’s role in major events cannot be denied, and perhaps no ruler understood that more than Queen Elizabeth I. Chance decreed that Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, would not give birth to a son, which soured her young daughter’s luck. Elizabeth’s mother was executed, her half brother declared her a bastard, and her half sister threw her in prison. Elizabeth survived this series of unfortunate events to become queen, and England entered a golden age, one that included the defeat of the Spanish Armada, a victory often credited to Elizabeth’s good luck rather than her good strategy.Despite her successes, it seems that Elizabeth…

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is this seal the mark of the prophet isaiah?

PROPHET AND LOSS: The clay “Isaiah” seal was found in an ancient fortified area of Jerusalem, bearing the name Isaiah, followed by three letters equating to n-v-y in Hebrew. Archaeologists are mulling two basic theories. The word n-v-y might just be a proper name or a reference to a place. But there is another, vastly more explosive theory: Blemishes on the tablet may have erased extra letters—marked in blue in the illustration above—which, when combined with n-v-y, form a complete inscription reading “Belonging to Isaiah the prophet.” KING HEZEKIAH A seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah of Judah, whom Isaiah advised, was found feet away from the “Isaiah” seal. The eighth-century B.C. king readied Judah against an Assyrian invasion. Although the words of the biblical Book of Isaiah…

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the elusive isaiah, prophet of kings

ISAIAH IN A 12TH-CENTURY FRENCH ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT HIS ORACLES shaped Jewish national history, and his assurance that “a virgin will conceive and bear a son” is claimed by Christians as the prophetic basis for their faith. But who was Isaiah? Scholars speculate that he was probably of noble birth; his forthright advice to King Hezekiah—portrayed as flawed but righteous—suggests steeliness in a time when the Jews found themselves caught between the might of Egypt to the west and Assyria to the east. Despite his wealthy origins, Isaiah faulted the ruling class for neglecting their duties to the poor, and his vision of justice and peace resonates now as much as it must have done centuries ago: “And he shall judge among the nations . . . and they…

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ideas and adversaries

1126Averroës is born in Córdoba into a respected family of qadis (religious jurists) and imams of the city’s Great Mosque.1169Appointed qadi of Seville, Averroës will become qadi of his native Córdoba two years later.1182He is appointed doctor to the Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf, who values Averroës’s philosophical learning and his medical expertise, while protecting him from powerful enemies1194-97Following a power shift, Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur strips Averroës of all his titles to appease theologians.1198After heeding the caliph’s summons to travel to Marrakech in North Africa, Averroës dies.…

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averroës, the philosopher who saved aristotle

COLOPHON FROM A COPY OF ONE OF AVERROËS’S COMMENTARIES ON ARISTOTLE Averroës devoted three decades of his life to writing and thinking about Aristotle. Aristotle is one of the best known ancient Greek philosophers, but there was a period, after the sixth century A.D., when his works had fallen out of favor and were almost lost to time. Through his writings, one 12th-century Muslim philosopher pulled Aristotle back from the brink and put him at the center of intellectual European thought.Theologian, scholar, and physician, Ibn Rushd—commonly recognized by the Latinized version of his name, Averroës devoted three decades of his life to writing and thinking about Aristotle. As he tried to understand and explain the philosopher’s original intent, Averroës was forced to defend his beliefs in spiritually and politically…

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regarding women

AVERROËS, A DETAIL FROM THE 1365 FRESCO “THE TRIUMPH OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS,” BY ANDREA DA FIRENZE, THE SPANISH CHAPEL, SANTA MARIA NOVELLA, FLORENCE IN STRIKING CONTRAST to prevailing attitudes at the time, Averroës’s view of women was very progressive. Following Plato, he argues that “since some women are formed with eminence and praiseworthy disposition, it is not impossible that there be philosophers and rulers among them.” If women played a more active role in society, it would benefit the whole state. “The competence of women is unknown, however, in these cities since they are only taken for procreation and hence are placed at the service of their husbands and confined to procreation, upbringing, and suckling. This nullifies their [other] activities. Since women in these cities are not…