When merchandise was landed at Yemen it wasbrought up by land through the Hijaz to Dedan (al-'Ula), the road atone time perhaps passing through Yathrib (Medina). But in the sixth toseventh century A.D. it avoided Yathrib and on it was formed thestation of Mecca, possibly after the decline of Petra, which followedTrajan's incorporation of Nabataea in the Roman Empire. The ProphetMuhammad was invited to Yathrib to act as leader of the Arabs settledthere and enable them either to plunder the caravans passing up fromMecca, or perhaps divert the caravan route to Yathrib. In his days theroute certainly did not pass through Yathrib. This route through theHijaz was the famous "incense route by which the incense of SouthArabia was carried. The incense, chiefly myrrh, frankincense, cassia,and spikenard, really was the produce of Arabia, and had been purchasedfrom the Arabs by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Jews, and others. Nodoubt this was a lucrative trade, but it hardly suffices to account forthe exaggerated estimate of the wealth of Arabia given by Greek andLatin writers. In speaking of that wealth those writers apparentlyreckoned all the merchandise procured from Yemen, though in fact agreat deal of this was the produce of India, some of it fromSomaliland, the South Arabian ports being merely depots of transitwhere this produce changed hands. As the western world, at least untilwell into the first century A.D., received the bulk of it from Arabia,it was commonly reckoned as Arabian. Akin to this was the fact thatIndia and Arabia were long confused, so that we cannot be sure inlegends of apostolic missions whether the apostles concerned weresupposed to have gone to India or to Arabia. It was a very oldconfusion, based on the idea that tropical africa extended beyond thesouthern seas and connected with India. Thus Aeschylus groups India with Ethiopia, and probably Homer ,1,23) referring to "eastern Ethiopians" means Indians and soimplies the same. Older ideas pictured a continent spreading acrossfrom Africa to India, with Arabia as a kind of half-way house on thenorthern shore of the lake-like water to the south of Bab el-Mandel,and it was not until the second century B.C. that exploration showedthis idea to be erroneous, and several centuries more had to passbefore popular opinion admitted its error.
In passing through the medium of a foreignlanguage any form of intellectual culture is liable to suffermodification, though this may be merely superficial, and suchundoubtedly was true of Greek scholarship as it passed through Syriactranslations. But this change was most pronounced in the Nestorianatmosphere, for that became more definitely oriental after Barsauma'sdeliberate policy of Persianizing the Nestorian Church. His effortsresulted in making a great cleavage between Greek Christianity as itexisted within the Roman Empire, and Nestorian Christianity at home inPersia. The Nestorian schism had already made a division in doctrine:the synods Of 484 and the following years made a great difference indiscipline until they were repealed in 544: in worship a divergencearose from the fact that the Nestorians after 457 were out of touchwith the liturgical life of the Eastern Church at large, and this wasaccentuated by the compilation of special liturgies by Barsauma andothers: politically there was a cleavage because the Greek Churchremained under the imperial government at Byzantium, whilst theNestorians were subjects of the Persian King: and culturally aseparation arose from the fact that students, theological or other,ceased to visit for study those lands where Greek was still a livinglanguage. This cleavage, begun by Barsauma, became wider under hisimmediate successors.
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Was there any independent Hellenistic revivalamongst the Jews? It does not appear that such was the case. There wasa succession ofjewish teachers and schools from the last days ofJerusalem onwards, but these were concerned with the law of Moses andtraditions illustrating and explaining the law. Under the Sassanidsthere were distinguished rabbinical schools at Nehardea on the Neharbetween the Tigris and Euphrates, at Machusa on the Tigris nearCtesiphon, at Sora on the Euphrates about 20 parasangs from Nehardea,and at Pumbaaitha. These had a somewhat chequered history, but underKhusraw II they prospered and are said to have incitided scientificresearch as well as purely rabbinical studies in their work. How farthis actually was the case is not clear. Samuel of Nehardea (d. 250) issaid to have been learned in astronomy, but at that early date whenscientific material was accessible only in Greek it probably did notamount to much. Most likely it meant the computation of dates,festivals, and times of fasting, parallel with the computation ofEaster which passed as astronomy amongst Christians. The fullerdevelopment of scientific studies seem to have come much later and tohave been due to contact with the Syriac world which had adopted Greekscience in an Aramaic version, and to have reached maturity about thetime of the foundation of Baghdad, or a little later under Harunar-Rashid. It appears that Sa'da Gaon at Pithom (al-Fayyum) in Egypt(892-942) who made translations from Hebrew into Arabic was mainlyresponsible for making Arabic replace Hebrew or Aramaic as the literarylanguage of Judaism, and as long as this use of Arabic continued theJews were in close contact with contempory Arab scientific andphilosophical thought. When the use of Hebrew was revivied translationswere made from Arabic into Hebrew, and many Arabic scientific works arenow known to us only in these Hebrew versions. A survey of thismaterial shows that Jewish interest was most prominent in medicalstudies. The Jews played a leading part in transmitting scientificmaterial from Arabic to Latin, chiefly through Cordova, Toledo, andBarcelona. Earlier Latin versions connect with Monte Cassino, Tyre, and(Syrian) Tripoli, later with the Dominican friars in Syria, and thesewere not indebted to Jewish workers, though they seem to have selectedJewish works such as these of Ishaq ibn Amran as best suited forteaching medical science to the Christian west.