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In the Shadow of the Sword (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 4. April 2013


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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 592 Seiten
  • Verlag: Abacus (4. April 2013)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0349122350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349122359
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13 x 3,8 x 19,7 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 55.286 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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A stunning blockbuster -- Robert Fisk Independent A compelling detective story of the highest order, In the Shadow of the Sword is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. Every bit as thrilling a narrative history as Holland's previous works, [it] is also a profoundly important book -- Christopher Hart Sunday Times Written with flamboyant elegance and energetic intensity, Holland delivers a brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomaniacal empresses and visionary prophets ... Unputdownable -- Simon Sebag Montefiore The Times

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Tom Holland is the author of Rubicon, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2004; Persian Fire, which won the Anglo-Hellenic League's Runciman Award 2006; and the highly acclaimed Millennium. He has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio.

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3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von D H Neilson am 19. Februar 2013
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Despite being genuinely interesting, the work is longer than necessary and occasionally too drawn out. The idea that Islam was synthesised for political purposes is perfectly plausible, if not as new as may appear, but the contextualisation (the background to Byzantine, Persian and Jewish ideas at the time) is over-elaborated, and the consistent implication that the 600s are the birth of today's monotheisms is merely a device for ceating a book.
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96 von 110 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
detailed exposition of Late Antiquity with unconvincing conclusion 20. Mai 2012
Von David Reid Ross - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The book aims to explain Late Antiquity up to 600 AD, and to show how Islam developed from that up to 800 AD. Historians have much better records for Late Antiquity than they have for the first century of Islam - as this book notes and as many other historians have noted (and lamented). The bulk of the book amounts to an introductory overview; the origins of Islam takes up only the last third of it and this part reads more like an argumentary essay.

The prose is florid, yet interspersed with vulgarities. Holland is inordinately fond of the low, cant term "screwed" when discussing... tax extraction. This style felt to me like he was trying too hard to keep my interest. (He's much like Peter Heather here.)

Fortunately the book has marshaled an impressive array of facts behind its narrative. I was impressed that it had stayed so close to the cutting edge, especially in the Persia / Parthia sections.

Much of that recent material distills Parvaneh Pourshariati, "Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire"; that book came out in 2008. The reader must be warned here that Holland does not challenge Pourshariati where Pourshariati relies on mediaeval Iranian legend. For instance, Holland tells of Sukhrâ of the Parthian house Karin as avenger of the shah Peroz (pp. 83-5). Holland has this from Pourshariati `an Tabari (p. 455 nn. 47-49, 51). This is an in-house legend of the Karin and not history: Arthur Christensen, "Iran sous les Sassanides" (Copenhagen: 1944), p. 296. (Hat-tip to the review by Geoffery Greatrex, 1010.)

Where the book touches Islam, it is careful to contrast classical jargon against the way people (including Arabs) thought during the 600s. Two examples are "Quraysh" (from Syriac), who might not have coalesced into an Arabian tribe yet; and "Maqam" (from Hebrew), which back then meant "holy site". The book could have gone further - it applies the apocalyptic term Fitna to the First Civil War, but that term likely wasn't used for this war except amongst the Kufan Shi'a. Another scholar GHA Juynboll in the early 1980s showed that most Muslims agreed to apply Fitna only to the (far more destructive) Second Civil War.

Holland addresses the scholarly arguments over Islamic origins obliquely. I read in p. 306 that the scholarly consensus claims to have "disproved" that the Qur'an is a forgery... but the footnote 22 refers only to Wansbrough, Rippin and Hawting - all of whom argue that the Qur'an is, in fact, a forgery after all (wouldn't a better link point to the consensus, with the skeptics as a sub-footnote?). Later on, he'll note several contradictions between Arab rule and orthodox Islam, for instance Mu`awiya's consistent reference to the Crucifixion of Christ (which, as Holland points out, sura 4 denies). I suspect that Holland personally prefers the skeptic side; his book just won't admit it.

Holland is (much) more openly skeptical about the history of Mecca. He doesn't think Muhammad ever set foot there and he doesn't even think that the Zubayrite anticaliphate was based there. I felt whipsawed to see him (ostensibly) support the Qur'an and then to reject MECCA.

I wasn't convinced on the details of the argument; and I think that was because Holland hadn't fully convinced *himself* of it, or even fully formulated it when he submitted this manuscript. But that was just the last third. Up to then, the book was a real page-turner, exquisitely detailed and informative.

The book's wealth of detail holds value to all who are interested in Islamic origins. The book as a whole is also helpful as an introduction to Late Antiquity, especially Persian Late Antiquity (which we may now have to start calling, Partho-Persian). I have no problem in recommending this to others with occasional grains of salt.

[This book was a gift to me; but the donor did buy it via Amazon.]
[Also, a disclosure: At the time of posting this review, May 2012, I was writing a book of my own. My book partly depends upon this book and some might consider my book a rival (although I never intended to rival this book). I stand by my (4/5) rating and by the text of this review.]
30 von 32 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
an elegant read, but be careful of the details 4. Juli 2012
Von D. Layman - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
The reviews that precede me are thorough and point out both the strengths and weaknesses of *The Shadow of the Sword*. I am largely in agreement with their comments. I *do,* however, disagree with the claim that this is poorly written. To the contrary, the writing is elegant and flows rapidly: in the parts of the history that I was acquainted with, I could consume whole pages in seconds.

The problem arises precisely from Holland's fluent prose: as he reconstructs events, his eloquent descriptions can deceive the reader into taking his formulations literally, rather than being what they are--literary reconstructions. It reminded me of a newspaper: if it misrepresents the facts that I *know* about, how can I trust those assertions that I do *not* have personal knowledge about? I want to be clear: I am not accusing Mr. Holland of historical errors. The problem is that he writes so well that the reader can be tempted to take his descriptions at face value.

Here's an example, literally at random (Kindle Loc 3333): "In 527, five years before work began on Hagia Sophia, a small boy named Simeon had trotted through the bazaars and shanty-towns of Antioch, out through the olive groves that stretched southwards of the city, and up the slopes of a nearby mountain. Its rugged heights were no place for a child, nor for anyone with a care for comfort." There are 3 facts in those sentences: that Simeon became a stylite in 527, he was a child at the time, and that he came from Antioch. Everything else is in Holland's very vivid imagination.

Much in this work I already knew about: the Jewish and Christian history, and the contemporary skeptical reconstructions of Islamic origins and history. Unfortunately, when he poses the crucial questions about Islamic origins (ch. 6, "More Questions that Answers,"--"When?" [Loc 5030], "Where?" [Loc 5423] "Why?" [Loc 5779]), his answers are obscure. His answer to "Where?" was especially disappointing, since it is a question I myself have thought about a good bit. I was hoping he would give a clear, even if tentative, answer.

The Persian history was for me an eye-opener. In general, Holland excels at painting a picture of the fevered apocalypticism that coursed through Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian religiosity in the sixth and seventh centuries. That, along with the fact that he brings the contemporary literature on Islamic origins into popular historiography, is probably his greatest contribution.
56 von 66 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A long and winding road 4. Juni 2012
Von Max Blackston - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
If you didn't know the author, the title of this book and its cover illustration - a fallen helmet with vacant staring eye-sockets lying in the desert sand - give the impression of an epic historical novel. Distribution too; I bought a soft cover "airport edition" - a channel better known for promoting the latest books by best-selling authors. Although in its style and structure it reads like a novel - somewhat florid prose, and dramatic interruptions in the narrative to allow the reader to catch up on another part of the plot - anyone who buys the book under this expectation will soon realize that what they actually have is a hardcore history book.

It is essentially an attempt to present a historical account of Mohammed and the early history of Islam, as opposed to the idealized version subsequently enshrined in the religion that was founded in the name of the prophet. In order to achieve this, the author traces the development of the three major religions of antiquity - Christianity, Judaism and the Zoroastrianism of the Sassanian Persian empire. This forms the essential context for explaining the rapid spread of Islam on the back of the Arab conquest of the ancient east early in the seventh century. He describes how some form of monotheism was by this time already pervasive in most of what we call the middle east. And this did not exclude the Arabs; thousands had moved north, where they could make a profitable living, policing the borders of both Byzantine and Sassanian empires as mercenaries, and where at the same time they were likely to have been influenced by the winds of monotheism. Crucially, he presents compelling arguments why Mecca - a thousand miles south in the middle of the Arabian Desert - could not have been the flourishing entrepot and major pre-Islamic religious center which Muslim tradition (although not the Qu'ran) would have it. Instead, he locates the place from which the prophet migrated to Medina and then returned to in triumph as somewhere on the Palestinian/Syrian border - perhaps even Mamre, where Abraham - the father of the Arabs as well as of the Jews, had pitched his tent beside a Terebinth tree. It was not until half a century after Mohammed's death, that the non-exclusive community of "believers" that he had founded was transformed into Islam, "submission" , by Abd al Malek the Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. Just as the Byzantine emperors had felt the need to stamp out different versions of Christianity and impose an orthodoxy on all their subjects, and just as the Rabbis of the Talmud labored to define minutely every aspect of Jewish life, so the leader of the first Arab empire needed to establish a defining central orthodoxy for his huge and diverse realm. That orthodoxy was Islam, a religion exclusively for the Arab conquerors, whose holy language was Arabic, and whose geographical origins were deep in Arabia.

The book eventually achieves its objective - but the road is long and winding. Some examples: The third chapter "New Rome" - although harking back to the origins of Rome - is essentially a narrative about Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. How is it possible to get 28 pages into such a narrative before the word "Christian" occurs? Apparently - as far as the story so far is concerned - Constantine's only significant achievement was moving the seat of empire to Byzantium. Then there are pages of panegyrics about Justinian's efforts to codify Roman law, but nothing about his ecclesiastical policies or his success in recapturing the lands of the western empire overrun by the barbarians in the previous century. The next section of this chapter swoops back in time to recap the growth of Christianity, Constantine's role in its establishment as the religion of the Roman state, and eventually Justinian too. Judaism gets a similar switchback treatment; starting with the Talmudic academies in 6th century Babylon, we flash back to Edessa where Jewish and Christian identities were being fought over in the 3rd century, and finally - in a chapter entitled "The Children of Abraham", which leads with six pages on Christian monastics and pilgrims - we get a potted history of the Jews from the time of Abraham up to the "present". i.e. 6th century Palestine.

The scholarship, in as much as I am qualified to judge it, is impeccable. The voluminous chapter notes are evidence of the thoroughness of Holland's research and the comprehensiveness of his sources. His reference to the marginal role of the rabbis until the 6th century, when they firmly established themselves as the leaders of the community and teachers of Jewish Law, is an example of how his narrative reflects recent state-of-the-art scholarship. His sources on Islam seem to include the most recent critical studies by Ibn Warraq and Fred Donner and others I am not familiar with.

The problem is Tom Holland's style; you never know quite where he is going. The narrative's swerves and switchbacks occur quite stealthily; in each chapter there is always a crucial turning point, which leads to his plot objective; you find yourself doing a backward search in an effort to find out how you got to where you are. The other book of his that I have read (Millenium/ The Forge of Christendom), starts at the end of the "story" with the dramatic meeting between the German emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory at Canossa. There it worked, because in a way the whole book is about the efforts of the Catholic Church to achieve its independence from emperors. In the present book I feel it works to the detriment of the narrative. The other distraction in the present book is the way he switches from a sweeping historical perspective to minute - and often prurient - details, like the halitosis of Abd al-Malek or the sexual antics of the empress Theodora before she got religion and married Justinian. Perhaps he really is trying to appeal to an audience that doesn't normally read "real" history, and would not swallow a straightforward chronological narrative - good luck with that.
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
part exegesis, part history, part textual criticism 7. September 2012
Von doc peterson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I haven't read the previous books by Tom Holland about the classical west The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West, Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West), of which apparently _In the Shadow of the Sword_ is the concluding volume. It is long winded ( some may say exquisitely detailed - I found it a bit overwritten), but ultimately Holland makes an interesting - if not tremendously controversial - point: as with the development and evolution of Christianity, so too did Islam evolve and change over time before finally asserting itself as a "religio" - a religion in its own right.

The first 300 pages of the book have very little to do with Islam, as Holland discusses the tumultous world that was the Near East in the 4th - 6th centuries: the Roman empire in the west was crumbling, there were divisions within the Christian church, the Sassanid empire was facing a succession crisis, and disease - apparently Y. pestis (bubonic plague) - ravaged the cities. To contemporaries, it must have been apocalyptic. In this highly charged social, political and religious climate emerged Islam. That these factors influenced its metoric success is hardly news (for an excellent and readable history on this period, I recommend The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In). Holland first argues that Islam (and the Muslim world) are strongly influenced by these classical precursors - that the Islamic empires of the Near East are very much part of the classical world and are, to a large extent, successor states. For example, in commenting on a 679 pilgrimage by the Frankish bishop Arculf, Holland writes, "the difference between (Frank and Arab) was one of quality, not kind. Saracens and Franks both lived like squatters amid the splendours of a vanquished greatness." (369) This, too is not a new interpretation. (An outstanding discussion of the connections between classical Rome and Greece to the Islamic world is Lost Histories: Exploring the World's Most Famous Mysteries.) What is new - and, I imagine, volitile and (somewhat) revolutionary, is Holland's textual criticism of the Qu'ran.

"Textual criticism" is a way scholars attempt to discern the authorship, date and place of composition of ancient texts. Of course, to do this to the Qu'ran would be (to devout Muslims), anathema, the Qu'ran understood to be divinely revelaed in its entirety to the Prophet Mohammed. Yet there are a number of tantalizing and unresolved questions that Holland considers. For example, given the wide variety of Christian sects in the Near East at the time of Mohammed, who (or rather which group) was he referring to when Mohammed referred to "Christians"? (There are several very good books on the history of the early Church during this time; a few I recommend are Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew and The Birth of Christianity : Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus) Why did Muslims reorient the qibleh (originally facing east towards Jerusalem, later facing south towards Mecca) when there is no Qu'ranic evidence to support or explain this? Holland goes further, seriously questioning the isnads (the "pedigree") of the hadith (the "sayings" attributed to Mohammed), essentially arguing that the more elaborate the isnad, the more likely it is to have been an utter fabrication.

That faiths have long labored to deny and destroy any evidence that there were any other interpretations of their belief than that accepted as "orthodox" is a subdiscipline of history and literary criticism. As Holland writes, "Long before the coming of Islam, schoalrs labouring over other works of scripture had inadvertently demonstrated an unsettling truth: the greater the sense of awe with which a text was regarded, the more complete might be the amnesia as to the original circumstances of its composition." (307) The final 140 pages of _In the Shadow of the Sword_, Holland attempts to show just how complete Islamic amnesia is towards the creation of the Qu'ran, with some startling inferences about where the original "city of the Prophet" was. (Holland claims it was not Mecca for a variety of reasons.)

The sanitization of the Qu'ran, and the uniformity of Islam, Holland attempts to show, was only complete with the ascention of the 'Abbysids as the ulema ascended to religious supremacy, recognized "by everyone, even the Caliph ... (of) the ulema's understanding that attributed almost every single thing of value ... to the Prophet and the Prophet alone." (431) Of course, in so doing, the 'Abbysids imitated both the Sassanids and Romans before them who believed their position as rulers of the world was the result of favor by the gods.

The claims and inferences Holland makes are fascinating and compelling. While I agree in broad terms with much of what he asserts here (especially regarding the evolution of Islam as a faith), the specific supporting details he provides are thin and based on conjecture. Holland attributes this to the lack of a tradition of literary inquiry (ala the Talmud), and he may be correct; still, there wasn't enough of a "smoking gun" - or even of a perponderance of evidence for me to be convinced wholly of his argument. The argument is worth considering; it is disappointing, then, to have it so deeply buried in historical detail that ultimately is of only ancilary value.
13 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A long and winding road 16. Mai 2012
Von Max Blackston - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
If you didn't know the author, the title of this book and its cover illustration - a fallen helmet with vacant staring eye-sockets lying in the desert sand - give the impression of an epic historical novel. Distribution too; I bought a soft cover "airport edition" - a channel better known for promoting the latest books by best-selling authors. Although in its style and structure it reads like a novel - somewhat florid prose, and dramatic interruptions in the narrative to allow the reader to catch up on another part of the plot - anyone who buys the book under this expectation will soon realize that what they actually have is a hardcore history book.

It is essentially an attempt to present a historical account of Mohammed and the early history of Islam, as opposed to the idealized version subsequently enshrined in the religion that was founded in the name of the prophet. In order to achieve this, the author traces the development of the three major religions of antiquity - Christianity, Judaism and the Zoroastrianism of the Sassanian Persian empire. This forms the essential context for explaining the rapid spread of Islam on the back of the Arab conquest of the ancient east early in the seventh century. He describes how some form of monotheism was by this time already pervasive in most of what we call the middle east. And this did not exclude the Arabs; thousands had moved north, where they could make a profitable living, policing the borders of both Byzantine and Sassanian empires as mercenaries, and where at the same time they were likely to have been influenced by the winds of monotheism. Crucially, he presents compelling arguments why Mecca - a thousand miles south in the middle of the Arabian Desert - could not have been the flourishing entrepot and major pre-Islamic religious center which Muslim tradition (although not the Qu'ran) would have it. Instead, he locates the place from which the prophet migrated to Medina and then returned to in triumph as somewhere on the Palestinian/Syrian border - perhaps even Mamre, where Abraham - the father of the Arabs as well as of the Jews, had pitched his tent beside a Terebinth tree. It was not until half a century after Mohammed's death, that the non-exclusive community of "believers" that he had founded was transformed into Islam, "submission" , by Abd al Malek the Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. Just as the Byzantine emperors had felt the need to stamp out different versions of Christianity and impose an orthodoxy on all their subjects, and just as the Rabbis of the Talmud labored to define minutely every aspect of Jewish life, so the leader of the first Arab empire needed to establish a defining central orthodoxy for his huge and diverse realm. That orthodoxy was Islam, a religion exclusively for the Arab conquerors, whose holy language was Arabic, and whose geographical origins were deep in Arabia.

The book eventually achieves its objective - but the road is long and winding. Some examples: The third chapter "New Rome" - although harking back to the origins of Rome - is essentially a narrative about Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. How is it possible to get 28 pages into such a narrative before the word "Christian" occurs? Apparently - as far as the story so far is concerned - Constantine's only significant achievement was moving the seat of empire to Byzantium. Then there are pages of panegyrics about Justinian's efforts to codify Roman law, but nothing about his ecclesiastical policies or his success in recapturing the lands of the western empire overrun by the barbarians in the previous century. The next section of this chapter swoops back in time to recap the growth of Christianity, Constantine's role in its establishment as the religion of the Roman state, and eventually Justinian too. Judaism gets a similar switchback treatment; starting with the Talmudic academies in 6th century Babylon, we flash back to Edessa where Jewish and Christian identities were being fought over in the 3rd century, and finally - in a chapter entitled "The Children of Abraham", which leads with six pages on Christian monastics and pilgrims - we get a potted history of the Jews from the time of Abraham up to the "present". i.e. 6th century Palestine.

The scholarship, in as much as I am qualified to judge it, is impeccable. The voluminous chapter notes are evidence of the thoroughness of Holland's research and the comprehensiveness of his sources. His reference to the marginal role of the rabbis until the 6th century, when they firmly established themselves as the leaders of the community and teachers of Jewish Law, is an example of how his narrative reflects recent state-of-the-art scholarship. His sources on Islam seem to include the most recent critical studies by Ibn Warraq and Fred Donner and others I am not familiar with.

The problem is Tom Holland's style; you never know quite where he is going. The narrative's swerves and switchbacks occur quite stealthily; in each chapter there is always a crucial turning point, which leads to his plot objective; you find yourself doing a backward search in an effort to find out how you got to where you are. The other book of his that I have read (Millenium/ The Forge of Christendom), starts at the end of the "story" with the dramatic meeting between the German emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory at Canossa. There it worked, because in a way the whole book is about the efforts of the Catholic Church to achieve its independence from emperors. In the present book I feel it works to the detriment of the narrative. The other distraction in the present book is the way he switches from a sweeping historical perspective to minute - and often prurient - details, like the halitosis of Abd al-Malek or the sexual antics of the empress Theodora before she got religion and married Justinian. Perhaps he really is trying to appeal to an audience that doesn't normally read "real" history, and would not swallow a straightforward chronological narrative - good luck with that.
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