In 529, the Byzantine emperor Justinian ordered the closing of the philosophical school in Constantinople, forcing many scholars to find intellectual refuge in eastern cities such as the Syrian city of Edessa. There, they were able to continue their work on Plato and Aris- totle. Eastern Christianity had tended to regard Aristotle as inferior to Plato. Leading Christian theologians of the eastern church – such as Gregory of Nyssa, or the later Pseudo- Dionysius – were able to use Plato constructively in their theology. Aristotle, however, seemed of little interest. In the west, Aristotle had simply been forgotten, apart from his works on logic.
The Islamic conquest of the Middle East led to a new interest in the works of Aristotle. These were translated, initially into Syrian, and then into Arabic. Many of the works of Aristotle that were preserved in Arabic translation were unknown to the west. In the elev- enth century, Islamic writers such as Ibn Sina – better known by his Latinized name “Avicenna” – developed a philosophically rigorous approach to Islamic theology, which was further developed by Ibn Rushd – known to the Middle Ages as Averroes – a Spanish philosopher of the late twelfth century.
The key development in the western rediscovery of Aristotle was the major school of translation established by the bishops of Toledo in Spain in the mid-twelfth century. Increasing contact with Islamic scholarship in Spain led to the translation of many works from Arabic into Latin, with scholars such as Gerard of Cremona (c. 1114–87) playing a leading role in making Aristotle’s texts more widely available. Works such as the Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Metaphysics, and Physics became accessible to theologians, who quickly realized their potential as “handmaids of theology.”