Romance and Reason
Islamic Transformations of the Classical Past
Edited by Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Samuel Thrope & Raquel Ukeles


Within a century of the Arab Muslim conquest of vast territories in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam became the inheritor of the intellectual legacy of classical antiquity. In an epochal cultural transformation between the eighth and tenth centuries CE, most of what survived in classical Greek literature and thought was translated from Greek into Arabic. This translation movement, sponsored by the ruling Abbasid dynasty, swiftly blossomed into the creative expansion and reimagining of classical ideas that were now integral parts of the Islamic tradition.

Romance and Reason, a lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition of the same name at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, explores the breadth and depth of Islamic engagement with ancient Greek thought. Drawing on manuscripts and artifacts from the collections of the National Library of Israel and prominent American institutions, the catalogue’s essays focus on the portrayal of Alexander the Great as ideal ruler, mystic, lover, and philosopher in Persian poetry and art, and how Islamic medicine, philosophy, and science contended with and developed the classical tradition.

Contributors include Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Leigh Chipman, Steven Harvey, Y. Tzvi Langermann, Rachel Milstein, Julia Rubanovich, Samuel Thrope, and Raquel Ukeles.

Exhibition Dates: February 14–May 13, 2018

Roberta Casagrande-Kim is research associate at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and assistant manager of exhibitions and publications at the Onassis Foundation USA. Samuel Thrope is selector of the Islam and Middle East Collection of the National Library of Israel. He is the translator of Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s The Israeli Republic. Raquel Ukeles is curator of the Islam and Middle East Collection of the National Library of Israel.