Glen Bowersock Bibliography Page

Little is known about Arabia in the sixth century CE. Yet from this distant time and place emerged a faith and an empire that stretched from the Iberian peninsula to India. Today, Muslims account for nearly a quarter of the global population. G. W. Bowersock seeks to illuminate this most obscure and yet most dynamic period in the history of Islam—from the mid-sixth to mid-seventh century—exploring why arid Arabia proved to be such fertile ground for Muhammad’s prophetic message, and why that message spread so quickly to the wider world.

In Muhammad’s time Arabia stood at the crossroads of great empires, a place where Christianity, Judaism, and local polytheistic traditions vied for adherents. Mecca, Muhammad’s birthplace, belonged to the part of Arabia recently conquered by the Ethiopian Christian king Abraha. But Ethiopia lost western Arabia to Persia following Abraha’s death, while the death of the Byzantine emperor in 602 further destabilized the region. Within this chaotic environment, where lands and populations were traded frequently among competing powers and belief systems, Muhammad began winning converts to his revelations. In a troubled age, his followers coalesced into a powerful force, conquering Palestine, Syria, and Egypt and laying the groundwork of the Umayyad Caliphate.

The crucible of Islam remains an elusive vessel. Although we may never grasp it firmly, Bowersock offers the most detailed description of its contours and the most compelling explanation of how one of the world’s great religions took shape.





Glen Bowersock has been Professor of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey since 1980. He has written or edited over a dozen books and published over 200 articles on Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern history and culture as well as the classical tradition in modern literature.




He was formerly Professor of Classics and History at Harvard University, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1957. Dr. Bowersock received his M.A. and D.Phil. Degrees in Ancient History from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. During a distinguished career at Harvard University from 1962 to 1980, he served as Professor of Classics and History; Chairman of the Classics Department; and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.


Professor Bowersock was awarded the James Breasted Prize of the American Historical Association for his HELLENISM IN LATE ANTIQUITY. Other books include GREEK SOPHISTS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE, JULIAN THE APOSTATE, ROMAN ARABIA, FICTION AS HISTORY, and MARTYRDOM AND ROME. With Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Study, and Peter Brown, Professor of Ancient History at Princeton University, Professor Bowersock is co-editor of LATE ANTIQUITY: A GUIDE TO THE POSTCLASSICAL WORLD, published in 1999 by Harvard University Press, to wide critical acclaim. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institut de France, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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