You can call me al-… : Arabic sources on Menelaus of Alexandria

I ran out of time when doing yesterday’s post so I had to cut short my investigation of Arabic sources for Menelaus of Alexandria and just post what a secondary source said.

Today we only know the Sphaerica of Menelaus; but his Elements of Geometry were translated into Arabic by Thabit ibn Qurrah in the 9th century.

Apparently a certain al-Sijzī was familiar with the work in Thabit’s version, or so I learned from the article by Rashed and Papadopoulos.  I thought it might be interesting to find out more.

I’d never heard of al-Sijzī, although he is the author of some 20 astronomical works and 40 mathematical ones, most unpublished.[1]  But I discovered today that an English translation of one of his works is online in the Wayback When Machine in Archive.org, here.[2]  Sadly this is not the one that mentions Menelaus.

Following R&P’s reference leads us to an unpublished source and an article inaccessible to me.[3]  So sadly we can’t see what al-Sijzi actually says.  Still, not bad going for a language that I don’t read.

While looking for references, I found that Roshdi Rashed has been extremely busy creating reference literature in French and English on Islamic science.  This is very praiseworthy.  We really do need good reference literature on Arabic texts.

  1. [1]Glen van Brummelen, “Sijzī: Abū Saʿīd Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al‐Jalīl al‐Sijzī” in Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference. New York: Springer, 2007, p. 1059, Online here.
  2. [2]Hogendijk, Jan P. (1996). Al-Sijzi’s Treatise on Geometrical Problem Solving (PDF). Tehran: Fatemi Publishing Co. ISBN 964-318-114-6.
  3. [3]Roshdi Rashed, Les mathématiques infinitésimales du IXe au XIe siècle, vol. 4, 2002, p.612, n.15: “Qawî Ahmad ibn Muhammad ‘Abd al-Jalil al-Sijzi fi khawàss al-a’mida al-wâqi’a min al-nuqta ai-mu’tà ila al-muthallath al-mutasawi al-adla’ al-mu’ta bi-tariq al-tahdid,: mss Dublin, Chester Beatty 3652, fol. 66r – 67r; – Istanbul, Reshit 1191, fol. 124v-125v. Cf. J. P. Hogendijk, “Traces of the Lost Geometrical Elements of Menelaus in Two Texts of al-Sijzi”, Zeitschrift fur Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften, Band 13 (1999-2000), p. 129-164, p, 142 ff; et R Crozet, «Géométrie: La tradition euclidienne revisitée», dans Enciclopedia Italiana, forthcoming”.  The Rashed volume contains an excerpt from the al-Sijzi work.

3 thoughts on “You can call me al-… : Arabic sources on Menelaus of Alexandria

  1. Jan P. Hogendijk, Traces of the Lost “Geometrical Elements” of Menelaus in Two Texts of al-Sijzi, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften 13 (2000), pp. 129-164. You can download it from Professor HHogendijk personal webpage (no. 51 of his English article.

Leave a Reply