85 Saving Aristotle 1169 IBN-RUSHD, Muslim philosopher and scientist, was a translator not only of books but also of civilizations. Cordoba was his laboratory, the works of Aristotle the materials he used for his experiments. The result: a 12th century European renaissance.
Since the 6th century, the Catholic Church had neglected, ignored or locked up classical scholarship behind the bars of Holy Writ. Centers of Islamic learning, however, preserved the works of philosophers of antiquity, giving pride of place to Aristotle. In 1169, Ibn-Rushd, a polymath also known as Averroes, began translating and commenting on Aristotle's works. His surroundings were perfect for the task. For several centuries, Spain had been controlled by Muslims, whose literary and artistic culture far surpassed that of medieval Europe. Cordoba's library contained over 400,000 volumes--more, it is said, than all the other libraries of Europe combined.
For 26 years, Ibn-Rushd put his mind to bringing Aristotle back to life, translating from Greek to Arabic to Latin, then into the bloodstream of European intellectual life. Philosophy was transformed, East to West, from arid dogmatism to a robust new synthesis of reason and faith.