Monday, November 22, 2010

“Three Views of Samuel and Joseph ibn Naghrela”

“Three Views of Samuel and Joseph ibn Naghrela”
edited by Olivia Remie Constable
from Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources

Account of Abd Allah ibn Buluggin
from The Tibyan

Poem by Abu Ishaq of Elvira
from Qasida

Account of Abraham ibn Daud
from The Book of Tradition

On December 30, 1066 (9 Tevet 4827), a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada, which was at that time in Muslim-ruled al-Andalus, assassinated Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred many of the Jewish population of the city.

Joseph ibn Naghrela, or Joseph ha-Nagid (September 15, 1035 - December 30, 1066), was a vizier to the Berber king Badis al-Muzaffar of Granada, during the Moorish rule of Andalusia, and the leader of the Jewish community there.

Joseph was born in Granada, the eldest son of Rabbi Sh'muel ha-Nagid (Samuel ibn Naghrela).

Some information about his childhood and upbringing is preserved in the collection of his father's Hebrew poetry, which Joseph writes that he began copying at the age of eight and a half. For example, he tells how once (aged nine and a half, in the spring of 1045) he accompanied his father to battlefield, only to suffer from severe homesickness, about which he wrote a short poem.

His primary teacher was his father. On the basis of a letter to Rabbi Nissim Gaon attributed to him, in which Joseph refers to himself as R' Nissim's disciple, some claim that he also studied under R' Nissim at Kairwan. Joseph later married R' Nissim's daughter.

“The Battle of Alfuente”

“The Battle of Alfuente”
by Samuel ibn Naghrela

Samuel ibn Naghrela, also known as Samuel HaNagid, (born 993 - died after 1056), was a Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, poet, warrior, and statesman, who lived in Iberia at the time of the Moorish rule.

Born in Mérida, his main poetic works include "Ben Tehillim" (Son of Psalms), "Ben Qoheleth" (Son of Ecclesiastes), and "Ben Mishlei" (Son of Proverbs), each of which imitates the "father work". His choice of poetic themes reflected his myriad occupations and personal world-view, including poems describing the battlefield using the analogy of a game of chess, poems speaking of the great beauty of nature, of which there are numerous, etc. His power in word choice of poetic portrayal of nature rivals that of the other great Jewish poets, namely ibn Saruk. He founded the Yeshiva that produced such brilliant scholars as R' Yitzhaq ibn Ghiath and R' Maimon ben Yosef (father of Maimonides).

He fled Córdoba when the Berbers took the city in 1013. For a while he ran a spice shop in Málaga, but eventually he moved to Granada, where he was first tax collector, then a secretary, and finally an assistant vizier to the Berber king Habbus al-Muzaffar.

When Habbus died in 1038, Samuel HaNagid made sure that his son Badis succeeded him. In return, Badis made Hanagid his vizier and top general, two posts which he held for the next seventeen years.

HaNagid's son Joseph ibn Naghrela inherited those jobs. Some Muslims accused Joseph of using his office to benefit Jewish friends, assassinated him, and launched a massacre of Granada's Jews the next day (December 31, 1066).

Friday, November 19, 2010



Widely regarded as the first true masterpiece of English literature, Beowulf describes the thrilling adventures of a great Scandinavian warrior of the sixth century. Its lyric intensity and imaginative vitality are unparalleled, and the poem has greatly influenced many important modern novelists and poets, most notably J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.

Part history and part mythology, Beowulf opens in the court of the Danish king where a horrible demon named Grendel devours men in their sleep every night. The hero Beowulf arrives and kills the monster, but joy turns to horror when Grendel’s mother attacks the hall to avenge the death of her son. Ultimately triumphant, Beowulf becomes king himself and rules peacefully for fifty years until, one dark day, a foe more powerful than any he has yet faced is aroused—an ancient dragon guarding a horde of treasure. Once again, Beowulf must summon all his strength and courage to face the beast, but this time victory exacts a terrible price.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Satyricon

The Satyricon
by Gaius Petronius Arbiter

Unconventional and unique, the Satyricon stands almost alone in literature. It touches on everything, especially small-town life and ordinary people. Its characters are mostly of Greek or Near Eastern origin and are probably based on real people; Trimalchio's house has a lot in common with Nero's court. Some of the characters' names have given rise to much interesting etymological speculation: the name of Encolpius, our narrator, means "in the fold," or more explicitly here, "in the crotch"; his friend is named Ascyltos, or "unwearied," and they fight over the affections of the boy Giton ("neighbor").

The Satyricon was probably written around 61 A.D.and first printed in 1664. It is a very long work, of which we only have fragments. Petronius probably read it in installments to his friends, and possibly to the court of Nero. The Cena is one of the longer fragments; its survival in its entirety suggests that people have been enjoying it as a separable story for a long time. A banquet is the traditional setting for the kind of light conversation that is featured in the Cena.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Traditions & Encounters

Traditions & Encounters (3rd Edition): A Global Perspective on the Past
by Jerry Bentley

Over a million students at thousands of schools have learned about world history with the best selling book for the course, "Traditions and Encounters". The text is unique in approach: it covers the world as a whole, examining the formations and development of the world's major societies ("traditions"), and exploring cross-cultural interactions and exchanges that have been some of the most effective agents of change in history ("encounters"). In addition, the authors tell a coherent story of the past that is not weighed down by too much detail, enabling instructors to incorporate additional readings. The third edition is accompanied by the "Primary Source Investigator" CD, offering an easy and affordable way for instructors to get students working with primary sources.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself
by Osho

In Freedom, Osho outlines three stages of freedom. The first is "freedom from," which is a freedom that comes from breaking out of what he calls the "psychological slavery" imposed by outside forces such as parents, society, or religion. The next stage is "freedom for," a positive freedom that comes from embracing and creating something—-a fulfilling relationship, for example, or an artistic or humanitarian vision. And lastly there is "just freedom," the highest and ultimate freedom. This last freedom is more than being for or against something; it is the freedom of simply being oneself and responding truthfully to each moment.

The Insights for a New Way of Living series aims to shine light on beliefs and attitudes that prevent individuals from being their true selves. The text is an artful mix of compassion and humor, and readers are encouraged to confront what they would most like to avoid, which in turn provides the key to true insight and power.

Freedom helps readers to identify the obstacles to their freedom, both circumstantial and self-imposed, to choose their battles wisely, and to find the courage to be true to themselves.

The works of Osho challenge readers to examine and break free of the conditions, belief systems, and prejudices that limit their capacity to experience life in all its richness. One of the best-known and most provocative spiritual teachers of the twentieth century, Osho has been described by the Sunday Times of London as one of the "1000 Makers of the 20th Century" and by American novelist Tom Robbins as "the most dangerous man since Jesus Christ."

Monday, November 8, 2010

"All and Nothing"

"All and Nothing: Reflections on Experience and Transcendence in the Eurasian Axial Age, c. 800-200 BCE"
by Peter Von Sivers

After critically examining the concept of the Axial Age in the writings of Jaspers, Voegelin, and Eisenstadt, the paper examines the specific concepts with which the Axial Age thinkers described their "breakthroughs" to transcendence. On one hand, the thinkers denied that Unity, encountered in the Beyond of transcendence, is intelligible and can be expressed conceptually. On the other hand, they developed detailed analyses of Being (Greece), of the Self (India and China), and of the Personified One (Yahweh in Israel, Ahuramazda in Iran), in which they made transcendence intelligible. They did not resolve the inconsistenies resulting from this two-pronged approach, while in contemporary thought the dichotomies contained in the concept of Unity are considered to be irresolvable.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Business Law

Barron's Business Law
by Robert W. Emerson, J.D.

Here are understandable explanations of subjects related to business law and the legal environment. Separate chapters discuss the origin and nature of law, contracts in their many forms, negotiable instruments, banking procedures, types of business organization, legal definitions of crimes and torts, the concept of property, environmental law, labor-management relations law, intellectual property and computer law, and more. Business Review books are designed for classroom use, but are also valuable as self-teaching volumes for businesspersons engaged in various fields. When used in college business courses, these titles make fine supplements to main textbooks. Instructors in adult education and brush-up programs often choose these books as their main classroom text. Each title includes review questions with answers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"The Maya Collapses"

"The Maya Collapses"
from Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
by Jared Diamond

Who has looked on the ancient Maya or classical Mediterranean cities and not wondered why they were abandoned? Or whether they hold a message for us? In this fascinating book, Jared Diamond seeks to understand the fates of past societies that collapsed for ecological reasons, combining the most important policy debate of our generation with the romance and mystery of lost worlds. Citizens of first world societies look around and tend not to see signs of imminent ecological collapse: the supermarkets are full of food; water gushes from our faucets; we live amidst trees and green grass. Actually, though, many past civilizations — with far smaller populations and less potent destructive technologies than those of today — have inadvertently committed ecological suicide: the Polynesian societies on Easter Island and other Pacific islands or the Anasazi civiliation, for example.

Ecocide asks why some societies make disastrous decisions, and how can we in the modern world learn better problem solving? Ecocide is an ecological history of human societies that considers why societies in some regions have been more vulnerable than those in other regions, and also compares the trajectories of pastcivilizations with likely trajectories of our own. Why did Greenland fail where Iceland succeeded? What links Rwanda and Australia? What can contemporary Montana learn from the ancient Mayans and modern Chinese?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Art of War

The Art of War
by Sun Tzu

"Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without peril."
--Sun Tzu

For more than two thousand years the words of Sun Tzu, the founder of military science in ancient China, have exerted a powerful influence on the history and development of Eastern and Western philosophical thought, military strategy, and warfare. As a result, The Art of War has long been studied, analyzed, and adapted by scholars, battlefield commanders, and corporate CEOs.

The Art of War is also a profoundly nuanced and intimately revealing work of literature. Although often misunderstood as a selection of koans or idiomatic expressions, The Art of War, like the writings of Confucius and the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, in reality forms one of the founding pillars of Chinese philosophical thought and is one of the finest examples of the "Golden Age" of Chinese classical prose.

The Art of War was written during a time of great social and political upheaval in China. Although it is concerned with warfare, it repeatedly emphasizes the use of restraint, careful analysis, and, most importantly, introspection and cultivation of one's inner self.

The Art of War continues to offer lessons for those in all walks of life. It is one of those rare texts which will continue to influence the course of human civilization for centuries to come.