Throughout the Middle Ages, Christians wrote about Islam and the
life of Muhammad. These stories, ranging from the humorous to the
vitriolic, both informed and warned audiences about what was
regarded as a schismatic form of Christianity. Medieval Latin Lives
of Muhammad covers nearly five centuries of Christian writings on
the prophet, including accounts from the farthest-flung reaches of
medieval Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Byzantine Empire.
Over time, authors portrayed Muhammad in many guises, among them:
Theophanes's influential ninth-century chronicle describing the
prophet as the heretical leader of a Jewish conspiracy; Embrico of
Mainz's eleventh-century depiction of Muhammad as a former slave
who is manipulated by a magician into performing unholy deeds; and
Walter of Compiegne's twelfth-century presentation of the founder
of Islam as a likable but tricky serf ambitiously seeking upward
social mobility. The prose, verse, and epistolary texts in Medieval
Latin Lives of Muhammad help trace the persistence of old cliches
as well as the evolution of new attitudes toward Islam and its
prophet in Western culture. This volume brings together a highly
varied and fascinating set of Latin narratives and polemics never
before translated into English.
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