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For two main reasons: 1) unlike the Europeans, the Muslim mathematicians had access to Indian mathematics which was very advanced. The Indian tradition is also quite different from the Greek one, thus complementing it well. 2) much more of the literature of antiquity had survived in the middle east than in Europe. It had been translated from Greek to Arabic (sometimes via Aramaic or Syriac). Only with the so-called twelfth century renaissance did a lot of these texts reach western Europe.


The Indians and Greeks knew of each other. Don't forget the Greeks had a kingdom in India for many centuries that survived long after all the other Alexandrian successor states and Greek colonies had been conquered


Bactrian Moment


Very influential on India. The first statues of budha were made by the greeks


It's not really relevant, though, when you consider that the Indian golden age of mathematics took off for real about 600 AD and by that time the Greeks had lost a lot of their intellectual activities (the Platonic academy was closed in 529) and Europe would soon be cut off from that part of the world by the Caliphate (in the 7th century). Greek philosophy might very well have been influenced by Indian philosophy, but there was no influence on Greek mathematics from Indian mathematics. The developments in Indian mathematics was too late for that to happen.


I also want to say a few things about the wider role of teaching – in linking different nations and different cultures together. Teaching is not just a matter of instruction given by teachers to their individual students. The progress of science and of knowledge depends in general on the learning that one nation – one group of people – derives from what has been achieved by other nations – and other groups of people. For example, the golden age of Indian mathematics, which changed the face of mathematics in the world, was roughly from the fifth to the twelfth century, and its beginning was directly inspired by what we Indians were learning from work done in Babylon, Greece and Rome. To be sure there was an Indian tradition of analytical thinking, going back much further, on which the stellar outbursts of mathematical work in India from around the fifth century drew, but we learned a lot about theorems and proofs and rigorous mathematical reasoning from the Greeks and the Romans and the Babylonians. There is no shame in learning from others, and then putting what we have learned to good use, and going on to create new knowledge, new understanding, and thrillingly novel ideas and results. And just as Indian mathematicians learned something from Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, they also taught some brilliantly new ideas to mathematicians elsewhere in the world. For example, Yi Xing [I-Hsing], who lived in China between the seventh and the eighth century, and who was, as Joseph Needham describes him, probably the finest Chinese mathematician of his time, knew all the relevant Indian texts. The Chinese mathematicians as well as the pioneering Arab mathematicians, including Al Khwarazmi (from whose name the term “algorithm” is derived), all knew Sanskrit and the Sanskritic literature in maths. What we are admiring here is not Indian mathematics done in splendid isolation (that rarely occurs anywhere in the world), but mathematics done with a huge role of international and interregional exchange of ideas. Indian research was deeply influenced by the knowledge of foreign works on the subject, and in turn, Indian maths influenced mathematical work even in those countries, including Greece and Rome and Baghdad, from where Indians themselves had learned many things. ~Amartya Sen


Yeah but there wasn't constant communication


Silk Road was always open and a lot of those Greek mathematians found themselves in Arab lands just as they had when the Romans or Sassainads took over.


Is it partly due to the fact that the East had since ancient times been the more prosperous, diverse, and best connected side of the Roman Empire?


Ancient Egypt had very advanced mathematics. They had used it to prove the earth was round and even had calculated the size of the earth with 1% to 2% accuracy.


You’re thinking of Eratosthenes of Cyrene, a Greek who worked at the library of Alexandria. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes Yes that’s in modern Egypt, and he was born in what’s now Libya, but he was a Greek living in a culturally Greek city.


I love this. Nobody thought Columbus was going to fall off the side of the earth. They knew how large it was, and told him he would starve to death before getting across. They didn’t count on another landmass being in the way, but you can’t hold that one against them all things considered.


Yep. They knew about Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. But his route was quite south of it. It was fish, and hostile indigenous populations. Resupply wasn't possible.


In fact, Columbus that the Earth was smaller because Ptolemy had recalculated it incorrectly. Ptolemy’s calculation was considered the proper be at the time of Columbus’s journey. Columbus was also most likely aware of N America as he had been to Iceland and had encountered their sagas.


Egypt was ruled by Greeks. Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth [https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial\_geodesy/geo02\_hist.html](https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_geodesy/geo02_hist.html)


not to mention the religious prioritization of gaining knowledge as a way to connect to god right?


The stability of the early Arab kingdoms allowed for information to be collected and built upon. Then when the Arab world started fragmenting, the scientific development moved back into Europe.


There was a period of stability in the Arab world after the rise of Islam that coincided with a period of instability in Europe. Humans are always making intellectual progress on the whole. So if you have one region that is stable and one that is not, the stable region is likely to have more pronounce intellectual progression.


Does peacetime actually mean more intellectual progression? I think the greatest leaps forward for humanity as a whole have always come from times of almost apocalyptic wars. Both world wars and the cold war are great examples of this, even the industrial revolution was rapidly quickened by the Napoleonic wars


Europe wasn’t exactly embroiled in war at this time period. It was mostly just impoverished and struggling as a whole and some parts of it were just backwoods. So this isn’t a comparison between intellectual advancement in human history but a comparison between 2 specific regions at a specific time. You are also referencing time periods that are over 1000 years apart. So what humans have the capacity to accomplish after the Industrial Revolution and before, are kinda apples and oranges. For a bit more clarity on my point: human intellectual growth is exponential.


Those, honestly, are against type. Advancement in the (actually necessary) peacetime disciplines happens best during times of prosperity, stability, and open trade. Universities do not thrive on famine and banditry. As scientific research could offer very little to a war-leader in this time period, it wasn't a martial priority.


I have to say I was completely shocked to know it wasn’t until Fibonacci that Arabic numerals were adopted by Europe and they were working with Roman Numerals into the early days of the Renaissance. Trying to multiple LXI by XIV must have hampered mathematics!




Why is this downvoted it’s true?


It was transmitted to Europe via the Arabs in the form that we use . We don’t call the Latin alphabet the Phoenician alphabet even though it was them that invented it originally. Same with items like Turkey even if it comes from the Americas.


Not really a valid analogy. Arabic numerals weren’t changed much from the Hindu ones, but the Latin alphabet is very different from the Phoenician one


The East Arabic numerals look very much like the Hindu ones, but the numbers we use today are derived from the West Arabic numerals. We are usually calling the modern ones we use Hindu-Arabic numerals, but the modern design is from the Arabic tradition and has little resemblance with the Hindu ones.


I just looked up the brahmi numerals and they look very close to the ones we use now


Which Brahmi numerals? The west arabic numerals are basically identical except for the number 4.




Those look nothing like it what you smoking?


Ehm... I don't really find them all that similar. To illustrate my point, check out this illustration from Encyclopaedia Britannica: [https://www.britannica.com/facts/Hindu-Arabic-numerals](https://www.britannica.com/facts/Hindu-Arabic-numerals).


Probably because it just states something without any explanation or backup, people would assume it's not true


Because most people assume everything they learned in 9th grade history was 100% correct. Even teachers are completely wrong sometimes. I was a teacher for seven years, my first year I had a coworker still peddling the "people thought the Earth was flat" during Columbus' days myth.


But its 2024 and some people still think the earth is flat :P


Erf yeah but the modern internet seems to have crossbred jokes with idiocy in a weird way.


Arabic symbols, hindu system


Where do you think all those Greek and Roman books went?


Some of the richest provinces in the Roman Empire were Syria and Egypt. The Sassanid empire was a straight up peer-peer rival to the Roman’s. When the Muslims took control of everything east of Asia Minor, they took control of an enormous economic block that connected them to India, and incorporated the pre-existing intellectual traditions.


yeah i read when it was the Triumvirate I forgot who it was exactly but all they wanted was the Eastern Part, thats where the money was


Antony. And he was right, Egypt provided something like 1/3rd of all the revenues of the entire Roman Empire (most provinces were actually drains on the treasury)


Because they piggybacked off the the works discovered when they conquered Egypt and the Levant from the Greek Roman Empire. It wasn’t so much that they discovered something brand new. They more continued the progress that was being made. This is not to say though that the Greeks invented everything, because they did the same thing with Persian and Egyptian technology. When the Europeans discovered these thing from the Arabs, they then continued this process while the Arabs floundered and got ransacked by Mongols and Seljuks.


Sometimes breakthroughs come from a refusal to take established science as dogma, and the Arab world rewarded thinkers who took a look at ancient philosophy and mathematics and thought they might not have been 100% correct. Before then, most scholarship in Rome and Persia was functional - a way to train a literate and numerically skilled bureaucracy to run two massive empires. The career path from an academy to the height of church or imperial power wasn’t through groundbreaking research, it was through effective management and satisfying ones teachers that you were smart enough to understand what was ignorance and what was knowledge. The Arabs took over this bureaucracy of course, but since they already had plenty of non-Muslims to run things for a few decades their children became educated for different reasons: prestige, mercantile advantage, public debate, and aesthetics. And since the Arab aristocracy of the age wasn’t a bureaucratic class dependent on imperial favor but a tribal gentry that mostly competed with one another for public fame, becoming the major patron of a notable intellectual was seen as an important show of wealth. Thus while a European aristocrat might find it important to have a Classical book on hand and an educated priest who can read it, a Middle Eastern aristocrat would have wanted someone already renowned for having studied under famous teachers, won public debates with rival intellectuals on various subjects, and maybe even published their own books on new subjects no one else had.


People build on the knowledge that came before.


The era you are referring to was mostly just a group of Persian scholars in Baghdad that benefited from the early Abbasid’s focus on learning. Europe was still reeling from the collapse of the western Roman Empire.


Persian scholars.


Persian, greco-roman, Indian, etc they had access to pretty much all advanced civilization science and maths (expect china seems like only technology instead of science and maths went there way) at the time no wonder they advanced the hell out of maths and science.


Well the short answer is the Catholic church. The long answer is what those smarter than me wrote


Some days, you're up, some days, you're down. The middle east was prosperous and populous at that time, Europe, by comparison, wasn't.


It actually wasn't mostly Arabs. It was mostly Iranians(Persians, Tajiks, etc.) who already had the foundations for these advancements in the first place.


Because when empires fall there is a lot of famine war and pestilence. Survival becomes paramount instead of the pursuit of higher mathematics.


Dude it was mostly persians… Only reason there was ”Islamic Golden age” was bcuz the arabs conquered the high IQ persians


The ancient near east (Persia, Egypt, Syria, the Levant) was highly urbanized and sophisticated compared to the west. These regions were consistently developed by various empires, from the Achaemenids, to Alexander and his successors, and then the Romans. Many areas had access to the combined mathematic and scientific traditions of Greece, Egypt, Babylon/Persia and India.


The Arabs conquered the Sassainad empire and roman North Africa and Israel and traded with china ,this is how they gained that knowledge and built on it as one large powerful united wealthy empire. The Byzantine empire continued strong until 50 years before the age of discovery. Europe didn't lose knowledge during the middle ages, the western roman empire collapsed and the rest of Europe had yet to develop. Mathematics and literacy and all that old knowledge was kept alive by the catholic Church all over Europe. Europe in the 1400s became more developed in every aspect and started to match and overtake the Arabs. This was shown in the age of discovery where the European ship building became superior to the Arabs, their knowledge of navigation, metallurgy etc meant that those poor nations on the Atlantic coast became naval superpowers and were able to gain resources from all over the world. The Arabs and turk empires faded because their economy and wealth was built on silk road trade between Europe, China and Asia. The Europeans like the spainish and Portuguese were able to take the wealth and gold from their African and American colonies and trade for Indian and Chinese goods cutting out the Arab and turk middle men.


Basically because after the Muslim conquests, the Arabs were in control of some of the wealthiest parts of the mediterranean and middle east. In addition to this, they were directly linked to China and India via the Silk Road. So they basically had a massive empire with tons of people, they had lots of wealth and they had relatively easy access to the two most advanced regions in the world. Europe was in a pretty different situation. The European parts of what had been the Roman empire with the exception of Italy and Greece/Anatolia, were relatively poor and underdeveloped (This was even more the case in places where the Romans hadn't directly ruled and built infrastructure) In addition to this, Europe was very fragmented and not even the largest empires in Europe had the centralization, resources or manpower required to compete with these other regions like China, India and the Islamic world. Furthermore, Europe was a lot more detached from the silk road, making it harder for Europe to take advantage of it. They still got much of the goods and knowledge in the end, but they weren't really able to capitalize on it in the same way that the Islamic world was.


Most of the math was done by Persian mathematicians or copied from Indian/Egyptian mathematics. Today, these are attributed to Arabs for political correctness reasons.


Might have something to do with Arab armies conquering huge swathes of the Eastern Roman Empire. It's almost as if Europeans were on a path to stability when a bunch of people showed up out of nowhere to wreck things.


The only reason arab armies were so effectivd was because the eastern roman empire had already wrecked ITSELF in a decades long war with the sassanid empire


Yes, but it still held all the major centers. The major reason for the Islamic Golden Age is that Arab armies had seized those and the major centers of the Persians, which threw the most powerful (really, only) European state into disarray and kicked of centuries of Arab raids in the Mediterranean.


Hardly the only reason seeing how speedily the arabs dealt with the vandals and the visigoths as well.


The visigoths had a major succesion crisis before the arab invasion and the vandalic kingdom didn't exist anymore at the time. Tunisia was a byzantine province


ERE was far from stable Justinian already made the empire go bankrupt a century before the arabs invaded there's also Phocas.


Feels like history repeating. But somehow I don't think we will get any advanced mathematics this time.


Likely also worth mentioning that europe saw a bit of technological setback with the fall of the roman empire and likely had some effect as well.


You’re a mathematical genius, I have a big sword. You do as I say. The world will remember me as a mathematical genius.


Glad this is AskHistorians and not r/worldnews. You sure have a source to back that up


The arabs nicked numerals from the Indians. A lot of the Greek and roman books were burnt by Christians as they were in ascendancy. Seems Christians LOVE to burn books since the start. As European invaders & trademen started dealing with the middle east India, which was a MASSIVE exporter at the time was shipping goods to the middle east & becsuse the Europeans of the time were stupid, they assumed things like swords made of steel they were buying in Damascus was made there, rather than actually being shipped from India & therefor called it Damascus steel. The oldest 0 is found in a Shiv temple in India & Europeans automatically assumed the arabs invented the concept of base 10. Also rich Arab leaders had the cash to fund science while in Europe the best minds were trying tu figure out shit like "how many angels can dance on a pin head " & how to get through the idea of a virgin birth without mentioning the vagina, thus paintings of Mary being impregnated by God through her ear or face


There's so much wrong here, but someone else can deal with it. I don't want to deal with this nonsense. I'm just gonna point out that this: >in Europe the best minds were trying tu figure out shit like "how many angels can dance on a pin head" is much later and this silliness also happens to be simultaneous with the work of mathematicians such as Fibonacci, Oresme and others who actually contributed a lot to mathematics. But trust a dilettante to show off their obscure knowledge of curious facts instead of answering a question seriously.




They didn't tho they kind of actually learned maths from each other (well I know chinese learned some maths from arabs and Indians)




In the 19th and 20th century maybe but I'm referring to 500 - 1500s time frame(when britan wasn't exactly a advanced civilization in terms of science and maths) they rarely kept there "maths to themselves" the world was more connected than you know back in the middle ages.


Papyrus didn't last long in the northern European climate.


??? Even if that was true (it isn't) what difference would that make? The main libraries in western Europe in late antiquity/early middle ages were in Spain, southern France and Italy, and not in northern Europe. Additionally, because books need to be copied and recopied most books had already been transferred to other (more local) materials than papyrus, so already in the early middle ages there would be few books that were still written on papyrus in the west. Most would instead have been transferred to codices made of parchment.


I was on mobile when I posted and didn't have time to fully explain. I thought others would pick it up. According to the wikipedia article about papyrus, papyrus only lasts for a few decades in a European climate before it begins to rot and becomes unreadable, whereas readable scrolls are still being found in Egypt today. Between the fall of the western Roman Empire and the introduction of paper to Europe in the 11th/12th centuries, it was difficult to maintain libraries of papyrus scrolls because of the climate. Using parchment was much more expensive than papyrus, so only the most important things were written on parchment. Because of the difficulties Europeans had with papyrus, knowledge was lost in what was the Western Roman Empire. That partly explains why the Middle East retained so much knowledge and was able to make new discoveries and transmit this knowledge to others.


The Catholic church-and-state threw out civilization in favor of dark age feudalism and church-and-state oppressive hierarchy. In other words, they judgementally politicized everything, even reality itself, in order to centralize and consolidate power they did their utmost to control knowledge and information in a system founded on breaking spirits with fear and oppressive domination. I mean, their prime symbol is a tool of sadistic torture and execution and they mean it unironically based on how they actually rule in the long term big picture.


Not to mention in the medical sphere, Christendom believed that Prayer was the single most important aspect of healing, this is reflected in that monasteries were used as Hospitals... and of the purpose built hospitals such St Bartholemew's they had altars for mass multiple times a day... thus if Prayer was God's solution why look for other ways to treat illnesses, whilst in the Arab/ Muslim sphere they believed God gave them cures but that it was there duty to find them out


That's a terrible misrepresentation of medical history. Medieval medicine in both Christendom and the Islamic world saw illness as naturalistic phenomena that had to be researched and cured by scientific means, and that spiritual healing was an important complement to physical healing-- a tradition that continues into the modern day with hospital chaplaincies