A complete Ibn Abi Usaibia “History of Medicine” now online in Arabic and English

Something that passed me by, and which I only became aware of today, is that in 2020 a modern scholarly text and translation appeared of Ibn Abi Usaibia’s History of Medicine, from Brill. The author – often known in online forums as IAU – wrote in the 13th century, so it’s basically a bunch of anecdotes about past and present famous physicians.  It’s very readable, and quite fun.  Indeed I uploaded a public domain translation long ago.  But it has never previously been published in English.  Indeed no complete English translation has existed.  But… no longer.

The book is E. Savage-Smith, S. Swain, G.J. van Gelder eds., A Literary History of Medicine, Leiden: Brill (2020), ISBN: 978-90-04-41031-2, in 5 volumes.  The price is massive.  I’ve not seen the book.  Indeed I only heard about it by accident.  Thankfully nobody asked me to review it.  But thankfully it is accessible online, embedded in a online viewer at the Brill site at: https://scholarlyeditions.brill.com/lhom/.  The viewer is indeed a bit baffling to use, but get’s easier as you work with it.  You can plunge straight into the English translation here, where the title is “Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿah, The Best Accounts of the Classes of Physicians.”  Footnotes are like Wikipedia, and pop-up when you click on them.

The Arabic text is also there, as is prefatory material and “essays” – the sort of stuff about manuscripts etc that we find in any modern edition – which is rather good stuff.  The book is divided online into four chunks:

Read the “table of contents” section first, to get an idea of what’s where.  Oddly this is not hyperlinked to the contents.  Nor was I able to find the sections 4-11 of the “Extra” anywhere online.  The “downloads” – including a PDF? – appear to be only available to people with a subscription.  But… a PDF should be made available.

All these sorts of awkwardnesses arise from the difficulties in the general transition in our time to open access, and are not the fault of Brill as such.

According to the website, the team behind this monster was:

The edition is the result of a joint University of Oxford/University of Warwick project, led by Emilie Savage-Smith, Simon Swain, and Geert Jan van Gelder. The team also included Franak Hilloowala, Alasdair Watson, Dan Burt, N. Peter Joosse, Bruce Inksetter, and Ignacio Sánchez.

Well done chaps.

The site states:

Generously funded by the Wellcome Trust, this is an open access title distributed under the terms of the CC-BY-NC 4.0 License, which permits any non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Which is how it should be.  Well done, everyone.

I no longer recall how I came to be interested in Ibn Abi Usaibia.  But back in 2011 I became aware of an unpublished translation of this work by Lothar Kopf.  It had been made in the late 60s for the US government, and the typescript was then filed and forgotten at the National Library of Medicine.   But the translation was public domain, and nobody was doing anything, so I made the time and put it online here, with the hope that it would spur interest.

Unfortunately the Kopf translation was incomplete, it turned out.  I have always hoped that somebody would be motivated to go and do the thing properly.  And now they have!

It would be daft to end without giving a story from Ibn Abi Usaibia, who is an interesting and amusing writer, ideal to dip into.  This one, chosen at random, came from here [10.1.7]  I have paragraphed it for readability online, and removed the footnotes.  The translator was Alasdair Watson.  The story belongs to the time of the Caliph al-Mutawakkil, who died in 861 AD.

During the time of the Caliph al-Mutawakkil, Muḥammad and Aḥmad, the sons of Mūsā ibn Shākir, used to plot against all those who had a reputation for advanced learning. They had already caused Sind ibn ʿAlī to be sent to Baghdad after having estranged him from al-Mutawakkil, and had plotted against al-Kindī so that al-Mutawakkil had had him flogged. They had also sent people to al-Kindī’s house to confiscate all his books and had placed them in a repository which was given the name ‘Kindiyyah’.

They had been able to do this because of al-Mutawakkil’s passion for automata. The Caliph approached them concerning the excavation of the canal known as the Jaʿfarī canal. The Banū Mūsā delegated the project to Aḥmad ibn Kathīr al-Farghānī who had built the new Nilometer in Egypt. Al-Farghānī’s knowledge, however, was greater than his good fortune since he could never complete a work and he made an error in the mouth of the canal causing it to be dug deeper than the rest of it so that a supply of water which filled the mouth would not fill the rest of the canal.

Muḥammad and Aḥmad, the two Banū Mūsā protected him, but al-Mutawakkil demanded that they be brought before him and had Sind ibn ʿAlī summoned from Baghdad. When Muḥammad and Aḥmad realized that Sind ibn ʿAlī had come they felt sure they were doomed and feared for their lives. Al-Mutawakkil summoned Sind and said to him, ‘Those two miscreants have left no foul words unsaid to me concerning you, and they have squandered a great deal of my money on this canal. Go there and examine it and inform me whether it has a defect, for I have promised myself that if what I have been told is true, I will crucify them on its banks.’

All of this was seen and heard by Muḥammad and Aḥmad. As Sind left with the two Banū Mūsā, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā said to him, ‘O Abū l-Ṭayyib, the power of the freeman dispels his grudges. We resort to you for the sake of our lives which are our most valuable possessions. We do not deny that we have done wrong, but confession effaces the commission, so save us as you see fit.’

‘I swear by God,’ Sind replied, ‘you well know my enmity and aversion for al-Kindī, but what is right is right. Do you think it was good what you did to him by taking away his books? I swear I will not speak in your favour until you return his books to him.’ Thereupon, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā had al-Kindī’s books returned to him and obtained his signature that this had been done. When a note from al-Kindī arrived confirming that he had received them to the last, Sind said, ‘I am obliged to you both for returning the man’s books to him. Accordingly I will inform you of something that has escaped your notice: the fault in the canal will remain hidden for four months due to the rising of the Tigris. Now the Astrologers (ḥussāb) agree that the Commander of the Faithful will not live that long. I will tell him immediately that there was no error in the canal on your part so as to save your lives, and if the Astrologers are correct, the three of us will have escaped. But if they are wrong, and he lives longer until the Tigris subsides and the water disperses, then all three of us are doomed.’

Muḥammad and Aḥmad were grateful and mightily relieved to hear these words. Sind ibn ʿAlī then went to see al-Mutawakkil and said to him, ‘They did not err.’ The Tigris indeed rose, the water flowed into the canal, and the matter was concealed. Al-Mutawakkil was killed two months later, and Muḥammad and Aḥmad were saved after having greatly feared what might befall them.

Most of these names will be unfamiliar to most people; but it hardly matters, and anyway Brill provide footnotes.  What a rich picture we get of life at the court of the Abbasids!  This sort of stuff should not be only for Arabic speakers.

This is frankly a treasure.  I’ve long wished that someone would grab hold of this fascinating book and do the necessary scholarly work.  Now, at last, they have.


More on experimenting with Arabic and Ibn Abi Usaibia

In this post I asked if anyone had access to the following texts:

B. L. Van der Waerden, “Die Schriften und Fragmente des Pythagoras,” RESupp. 10 (1965): 843-64; see also idem, Die Pythagoreer. Religiose Bruderschaft und Schule der Wissenschaft (Zurich: Artemis, 1979), 272-73.

A correspondent kindly sent me the latter item today.  A PDF is here.

What this is about is a passage in the medieval writer Ibn Abi Usaibia (translation here), not found in the Kopf edition, but referenced by Bart Ehrman in his recent book Forgery and counterforgery.  E. indicates that the version given by Van der Waerden is unreliable, but does not repeat it.  Naturally I wanted to see what it said.  The text begins on p.272.

The writings of the older Pythagoreans

Archytas [the Pythagorean] not merely wrote a lot himself, but he collected the writings of older Pythagoreans, and of Pythagoras himself, and combined them to form a corpus.  The most detailed report on this is found in a long fragment from a work by Porphyry, given by the Arabic physician Ibn Abi Usaibia in his dictionary of physicians (5).  Porphyry distinguishes between “authentic books”, written by Pythagoras himself and the “heirs of his wisdom”, and “false books” which “were placed in the mouth of the sage and written under his name.”  After he has noted the titles of twelve such forgeries, Porphyry tells us that there were 280 “books on which no doubt rests”, and that 80 were by Pythagoras himself, and 200 by the “mature men who belonged to the group of Pythagoras, to his party, and to the heirs of his knowledge.”  These books, so he says, in particular were collected by Archytas.  They were then “forgotten, until they regained their place in a host of ways, mainly by showing their instrinsic good intent and devotion.”

The quotations given in the preceding paragraph in translation from the Arabic I owe to Mr. Matthias Schramm of Tubingen.  The latter has explicitly endorsed the following interpretation of the testimony of Porphyry.

If I understand the report of Porphyry correctly, Archytas was the first to put together a collection of the books of Pythagoras and his students.  They were unknown in Greece at this time, but preserved in Italy.  Then they were lost, and then came “wise men” — probably the Neopythagoreans — who collected them once more.

That Porphyry understood that there were two different periods of collecting and assembling, the period of Archytas, and that of the “wise men”, is indicated by the fact that Ibn Abi Usaibia, according to a communication by Mr. Schramm, uses a different verb for the collecting activity of Archytas to that of the “wise men”.

The testimony of Porphyry agrees well with that which we know from other sources.  As we saw in chapter 1, Dicaearchus, who lived a century after Pythagoras, knew of no books by Pythagoras: the Pythagoreans, so he said, kept their teachings strictly secret.  The books of Pythagoras, as Porphyry rightly says, did not become known in Hellas.  That the books came to the fore again in Italy is suggested because the learned Roman Varro (60 BC) gives as representative the opinion that there had always been “Pythagoras of Samos and Occelus of Lucania and Archtyas the Tarentine”.  As Thesleff rightly remarks, Varro also knew a corpus of Pythagorean writings, containing the writings of Pythagoras, Occelus and Archytas.

I give the German as well, for the benefit of search engines.

Die Schriften der älteren Pythagoreer

Archytas hat nicht nur selbst viel geschrieben, er hat auch die Schriften von älteren Pythagoreern und von Pythagoras selbst gesammelt und zu einem Corpus vereinigt. Die ausführlichste nachricht darüber finden wir in einem längeren Fragment aus einer Schrift von Porphyrios, das der arabische Arzt Ibn Abi Usaybi`a in seine Ärztebiographie aufgenommen hat.(5)  Porphyrios unterscheidet darin «authentische Bücher», die von Pythagoras selbst und den «Erben seines Wissens» verfaßt wurden, von «falschen Büchern», welche «dem Weisen in den Mund gelegt und unter seinem Namen geschrieben» wurden. Nachdem er die Titel von zwölf solchen Fälschungen vermerkt hat, teilt Porphyrios uns mit, daß es zweihundertachtzig «Bücher, an denen kein Zweifel besteht» gegeben hat, und zwar achtzig von Pythagoras selbst und zweihundert von den «reifen Männern, welche zur Gruppe des Pythagoras, zu seiner Partei und zu den Erben seines Wissens gehörten». Diese Bücher, so sagt er, wurden besonders von Archytas zusammengestellt. Sie seien dann «in Vergessenheit geraten, bis sich ihre Existenz bei einer Schar von Weisen, denen guter Vorsatz und Frömmigkeit eigen war, ergab». Diese Weisen hätten die Bücher «zusammengefaßt, zusammengestellt und komponiert, ohne daß sie zuvor in Hellas bekannt gewesen wären; vielmehr wurden sie in Italien aufbewahrt».

Die im vorigen Absatz in Anführungsstrichen angeführten Übersetzungen aus dem Arabischen verdanke ich Herrn Matthias Schramm, Tübingen. Dieser hat der nachfolgenden Interpretation des Zeugnisses von Porphyrios ausdrücklich zugestimmt.

Wenn ich die Mitteilung von Porphyrios richtig verstehe, so hat Archytas zuerst eine Sammlung von Büchern des Pythagoras und seiner Schüler zusammengestellt. In Griechenland waren sie zu dieser Zeit nicht bekannt, sondern sie wurden in Italien aufbewahrt. Dann sind sie verlorengegangen, und dann kamen «weise Männer» — wahrscheinlich Neupythagoreer —, die sie von neuem zusammengefaßt haben.

Daß Porphyrios zwei verschiedene Perioden des Sammelns und Zusammenstellens voneinander unterscheidet, die Periode des Archytas und die der «weisen Männer», dafür spricht auch, daß Ibn Abi Usaybi’a nach einer Mitteilung von M. Schramm für die Sammeltätigkeit von Archytas ein anderes Verbum benutzt als für die der «weisen Männer».

Das Zeugnis von Porphyrios stimmt gut überein mit dem, was wir aus anderen Quellen wissen. Wie wir im Kapitel i gesehen haben, hat Dikaiarchos, der ein halbes Jahrhundert nach Archytas lebte, keine Bücher von Pythagoras gekannt: die Pythagoreer, so sagt er, hielten dessen Lehren streng geheim. Die Bücher des Pythagoras sind also, wie Porphyrios ganz richtig sagt, in Hellas damals nicht bekannt geworden. Daß die Bücher in Italien wieder zum Vorschein kamen, stimmt auch, denn der gelehrte Römer Varro (um 60 v.Chr.) führt als Vertreter der Ansicht, daß es immer Menschen gegeben hat, «Pythagoras von Samos und Okkelos den Lukanier und Archytas den Tarentiner» an. Varro hat also, wie Thesleff richtig bemerkt, einen Corpus von pythagoreischen Schriften gekannt, in dem Schriften von Pythagoras, Okkelos und Archytas vorkamen.

(5) Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopaedie, Supplement X, Sp. 862: Schriften des Pythagoras IV, Nachtrag.

This is useful, but not really concerned with the issue of whether the students of Pythagoras felt able to write in his name.  In particular the author is clearly concerned with something else.  Finally the quotations are just snippets, not even sentences.

The RE article is not simple to find.  Pythagoras in general falls in Band XXIV of the RE, p.172 f.  But in Supp. 10 (1965), column 862-3, there is a section “IV. Nachtrag”.  This discusses Ibn Abi Usaibia.  A PDF of these two pages is here.  It likewise mentions Mr. Schramm.  In fact it becomes clear that Van der Waerden’s text is almost word for word the same!  The RE gives a few more details, but the quotations are the same too.

All this is unsatisfactory.  What we want, of course, is the text of Ibn Abi Usaibia, with which Ehrman is disagreeing.  E., it will be noted, renders “heirs of his wisdom” as “inheritors of his sciences”.

Update: I have only just realised that the “other article” above in “RESupp” is in fact the RealEncyclopadie Supplement article!  The perils of abbreviations…


Ibn Abi Usaibia – the GAL entry, and the manuscripts

I have finally managed to find some hard information on Ibn Abi Usaibia (translation here), the two editions of the text, and the manuscripts of both.  What follows may be hard going; but it is almost entirely hard data.

A google search turned up this site.  It gives, thankfully, the GAL reference for Ibn Abi Usaibia, which means that, at long last, I can find the entry.  Here is the reference on the website.

BROCKELMANN KARL (1868-1956), Geschichte der arabischen Literatur. Weimar, Berlin 1898 ; Leipzig, C. F. Amelang 1901 [vi-265 p., 23 cm]; Leyde, E. J. Brill 1943 [2e sup.] ; Leyde, E. J. Brill 1996 [augm. et préface de Just Witkam] (I) p. 325-326; (sup. I) p. 560.

I.e. p.325-6 of volume 1 of the 1st edition, plus p.560 of vol. 1 of the supplement.

Here are the corresponding pages (p.397-8) from vol. 1 of the 2nd edition (which has the page numbers of the 1st ed. in the margin):


And from the supplement:

 brockelmann2_suppl1b_560In the interests of googleability, here’s a transcription, with a few extra line breaks to make the detailed info more comprehensible.

10. Muwaffaqaddin a. ’l-`Abbās A. b. al-Q. b. a. Usaibi`a as-Sa`di al-Hazragi, geb. nach 590/1194 in Damaskus, wo sein Vater Augenarzt war, studierte Medizin in seiner Vaterstadt und am Nāsirischen Krankenhaus zu Kairo; besondere Anregung verdankte  er dem bekannten Arzt und Botaniker b. al-Baitār (S. 492). 631/1233 wurde er von Salāhaddin an einem neugegründeten Krankenhause zu Kairo angestellt, ging aber schon 632 an den Bimāristān an-Nuri zu Damaskus und 634 als Leibarzt des Emirs ‘Izzaddin Aidamur b. `Al. nach Safad. Dort starb er im Gum. I, 668/Jan. 1270.

Wüst. Gesch. 350, Leclerc II, 187/93. `Uyun al-anbā’ fi tabaqāt al-atibba’ (noch Patna II, 317,2469), in zwei Recensionen, einer v. J. 640/1242 und einer jüngeren mit manchen Zusätzen.

Hsg. v. A. Müller, Königsberg (Kairo) 1884.

Vgl. dens. ZDMG 34, 471, Travaux du VIe congr. intern, d. or. à Leide II, 218 ff., SBBA, phil.-hist. Cl. 1884, S. 857 ff.

and from the supplement:

10. Muwaffaqaddin a. ‘l-`Abbās A. b. al-Q. b. a. Usaibi`a (1) b. Halifa as-Sa`di al-Hazragi, geb. nach 590/1194 in Damaskus, wo er 632/1234 am Bimaristān an-Nuri angestellt wurde; 634 ging er als Leibarzt des Emirs `Izzaddin Aidamir b. `Al. nach Sarhad und starb dort im Gum, I, 668/Jan. 1270.

Nallino, `Ilm al-falah 64ff. K. `Uyun al-anba’ fi tabaqat al-atibba’, Hdss. noch Münch. 800/1, Wien 1164, Leid, 1062/4, Paris 2113/7, 5939, Nicholson JRAS 1899, 912, Fātih 4438, Top Kapu 2859/60, Sehid `A. P. 1923, Yeni 891/2, Köpr. 1104, Dämäd Ibr. 935, Kairo2 V, 275, Mosul 25,42, XIV, 26,78, Rampur, I, 642,176, Bank. XII, 786, Abkürzung Paris 2118.

S. noch Hamed Waly, Drei Kapp, aus der Ärztegeschichte des b. a. Us., med. Diss., Berlin 1911.

(1) So die Hds. Brit. Mus.

This is the origin of the “two recensions” story; there is one made in 1242 AD, and a “younger one, with some additions”.  The details may be found in Müller, Arabische Quellen zur Geschichte der indischen Medizin, in the ZDMG 34, starting on p.469 f., which may be found online here.  This also gives a list of manuscripts of the two recensions.

The JRAS (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society) article is online, and consists of a list of Arabic manuscripts owned by orientalist Reynold A. Nicholson.  The Ibn Abi Usaibia ms. was copied in Constantinople in 1136 A.H. (=1758 A.D.), and has the inscription, “E. Libris Theodori Preston Coll. S. S. Trin. Cant. Socii Damasci 1848”, and a note stating that Mr Preston purchased it in Damascus for 900 piastres.  I wonder where his manuscripts are now.

The supplement gives a further list of manuscripts — supplemental to that in the ZDMG article –, as does the webpage with which we started:

  • Ms. Cod. Arab. 800, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Ms. Cod. Arab. 801, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Ms. 715, Universitätsbibliothek, Leipzig
  • Ms. 4781, Dublin, Chester Beatty Library
  • Ms. Ar. 2113, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2114, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2115, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2117, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. Ar. 2118, Paris, Bibliothèque de France
  • Ms. 2859/1, Istanbul, Topkapi Saray
  • Ms. 2859/2, Istanbul, Topkapi Saray, daté 1334

So we’re getting some real, useful information at last here.  Curious that the GAL mentioned a British Museum manuscript in the footnote as the source of the author’s full name, but does not give the shelfmark for it!  It is, no doubt, British Library Add. 7340, an exemplar of the longer recension, mentioned in the ZDMG article.

The Muller edition of Ibn Abi Usaibia is only in my hands in a rather rubbish-looking reprint, which I suspect is incomplete.  I wish the original was online!


A little information on Ibn Abi Usaibia, from Ibn Khallikan

A thought struck me, to look into Ibn Khallikan’s biographical dictionary, of which an English translation exists.  The index to this is not nearly so confusing as for the GAL, and I eventually found a reference to vol. 4, p.158, where in the footnote we read:

Abu ‘l-Abbas Ahmad Ibn al-Kasim Ibn Khalifa Ibn Abi Osaibia, surnamed Muwatrak ad-Din and a member of the Arabic tribe of Khazraj, was born in Damascus, where his father was an oculist and his uncle, Rashid ad Din Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali, director of the hospital for the treatment of the maladies of tbe eyes. He studied philosophy under Rida ad-Din al-Jili, and profited greatly by the lessons of Abu Muhammad Abd Allah Ibn Ahmad Ibn al-Baitar, with whom he made a number of botanical excursions. Ibn al-Baitar is the author of the Dictionary of Simples, a deservedly celebrated compilation of which Dr. Sontheimer published a German translation, at Stuttgard, in the year 1840.  Ibn Abi Osaibia kept up for some time an epistolary correspondence with the celebrated physician and philosopher, Abu al-Latif. In the year 684 (A. D. 1236-7), he got an appointment in the hospital founded at Cairo by the sultan Salah ad-Din (Saladin). Some years after, he accompanied the emir Izz ad-Din Aidmor to Sarkhod, in Syria, and he died there, aged upwards of seventy years.

His history of the physicians, entitled Oyun al-Anba fi Tabakat al-Atibba (Sources of information concerning the physicians of divers classes), contains a number of curious and highly interesting articles. The list of its chapters has been given by Mr. Wustenfeld in his Geschichte der Arabischen Aertze, No. 237, and from that work are taken the indications given here. In the catalogue of the Bodleian library , tome II. p. 131. et seq. will be also found this list of chapters.

But on what does this depend?  Wustenfeld’s work is available online, of course.  Section 237 is on p.132.  This gives only the information above, and lists three works:

  1. Fontes relationum de classibus Medicorum.  A Latin translation by Reiske is at Copenhagen, we are told, no doubt in manuscript.
  2. Liber experimentorum et observationum utilium, about which we are told nothing further.
  3. Liber de monumentis gentium, a fragment not completed.

That the titles are in Latin tells us that Wustenfeld just copied this from earlier modern writers.

But then follows a list of chapters.  Some are marked with an asterisk (*), indicating that the chapter is not found in Reiske.  Others are marked with a dagger (+), indicating that “Nicoll” does not contain them.  Some titles are written in italics – Wustenfeld doesn’t say why.

The differences between the contents given by Reiske, and that by Nicoll, in later sections of the book are fairly considerable.  Clearly there are different versions of this text in circulation.

If we look for Ibn Abi Usaibia’s name in the Kopf translation (here), we quickly find that it appears as a source for various statements.  This itself suggests that the author of the work is someone else, someone later.


From my diary

I’m trying to discover whether there is knowledge anywhere that Ibn Abi Usaibia (d. 1207) did, or did not, produce two editions of his great work, The History of Physicians.  The reason that I want to know is the existence of a supposed quotation from Porphyry, extant in a version of the text different from that translated by Kopf, presumably from the Muller edition.

The obvious place to look is Brockelmann’s Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur.  I believe that I have expressed my opinions of this mess of a book at some length in the past.  Briefly, B. produced his book in 2 volumes in 1898.  Then, during the 20’s, he produced 3 volumes of supplements for it.  Finally in the 30’s he produced a second edition of the original 2 volumes, complete with references back to the 3 volumes of supplements, which themselves refer to the pages of the 1st edition.  So you need all 7 volumes to find anything.

It’s a mess, in short.  I once decided to translate the stuff on early biographies of Mohammed.  It really is not possible to assemble all the material on one topic into one narrative – or, at least, it wasn’t for me.

And for reasons we can hardly imagine, the editors allowed him to abbreviate virtually every name and every other word, in the certain knowledge that few would understand the abbreviation.  To use the GAL as it is known is to know suffering.

Now the supplements and the first volume of the 2nd edition are online at the Digital Library of India site (and good luck to working out how to download them; but I managed it, once, so you can also).  The other two are at Google books, in a low-resolution form.  I was able to get Lulu.com to print me a copy of the 2nd edition volume, plus the first supplement (split into two halves, because of size limits at Lulu), and these, fittingly in a green cover, stand on my shelves.  And … they don’t contain what I want.  They contain sections on medicine; but no entry on Ibn Abi Usaibia (or “b. a. Us.” as Brockelmann unhelpfully calls him).

I’ve just looked through my PDF of vol. 1 of 1st ed; nothing.  I wonder if there is an index at the end of vol. 2…?  And there is!  And … it is in some mysterious non-alphabetical order!  And abbreviated heavily too!  Which means … I can’t find the name in here either.

Boy, it all eats time!

He must have an entry … somewhere … mustn’t he?


Experimenting with Arabic, and Ibn Abi Usaibia

On p.109-10, in Forgery and counterforgery, Bart Ehrman quotes a passage from medieval author Ibn Abi Usaibia (here), supposedly about Pythagoras (as translated by Carl Ernst, from a private translation):

But as for the books of Pythagoras the sage, which Archytas the Tarentine philosopher collected by himself, they are eighty books. But those that he made special effort, with all his strength, to compile, compose (ta’līf), and collect, from all the old men who were of the type of Pythagoras the philosopher, his school, and the inheritors of his sciences, man after man, these were two hundred books in number. And he who was unique in the essence of his intellect [i.e., Archytas] set aside from them the false books ascribed to the tongue of the sage and his name, which shameless people fabricated.


The criminal individuals who fabricated these lying books that we have mentioned, according to traditions that have reached us, are Aristotle the Younger, Nikos (Nuqūs) known as the essentially erroneous, one of the Cretans called Konios, Megalos, and Fūkhajawāqā (?), along with others even more reprehensible than they. And that was who proposed to them (others?) the fabrication of these lying books with the tongue of the philosopher Pythagoras and his name, so that [these writings] would be accepted among the moderns because of him, so they would honor, prefer, and share them.

The former passage is referenced as “Ed. ‘Amir al-Najjar (4 vols., Cairo: al-Hay’a al-Misriyya al-Amma lil-Kitab, 2001), vol. 1, pp. 244-45.”; the latter passage is not referenced.

The Kopf translation of Ibn Abi Usaibia is online here, made from the Muller edition, and contains no such passage.  This is rather curious.

E. quotes the passage in order to disagree with a rendering by another scholar.  He does not give the other version, only the reference (a bad habit indeed):

B. L. Van der Waerden, “Die Schriften und Fragmente des Pythagoras,” RESupp. 10 (1965): 843-64; see also idem, Die Pythagoreer. Religiose Bruderschaft und Schule der Wissenschaft (Zurich: Artemis, 1979), 272-73.

Unfortunately this is not accessible to me.  If anyone has the item, I should be glad to see it.

I wondered if I had the Arabic text on disk anywhere.  I found a couple, which were kindly sent to me some time back by a correspondent.  But … I don’t know Arabic.  So how can I work with the text?

One of the texts was a PDF, from http://www.al-mostafa.com/.  So I could copy and paste chunks from it into Google Translate!

Now Google Translate is not that good for Arabic; but with the aid of Kopf, I find that I can navigate a bit around the text.  There’s a table of contents at the back which gives me the rough area to look, and proper names will probably be a good guide.

On p.39 of the PDF, I find the following:

22 بندقليس
قال القاضي صاعد إن بندقليس كان في زمن داود النبي عليه السلام على ما ذكره العلماء بتواريخ الأمم،
وكان أخذ الحكمة من لقمان الحكيم بالشام، ثمن انصرف إلى بلاد اليونانيين فتكلم في خلق العالم بأشياء


22 Bandkulais
The judge said the upside that Bandkulais was in the time of David, the Prophet , peace be upon him on what was said by scientists at the dates of Nations. He was taking the wisdom of the Luqman Hakim Levant , the price went to the land of the Greeks in the creation of the world spoke things …

Or as Kopf gives it:

Pendacles. Judge Sa`id said: “Pendacles lived at the time of the Prophet David,  peace be on him, as was mentioned by the historians of the nations. He learned  wisdom from Luqmān the Sage in Damascus. Then he went to Greece, where he  discoursed on the creation of the universe in terms which suggested a denial of  the Resurrection….

We’re in the right area of the book!  The Google translate version is gibberish; but we have the Arabic text in the right area.

It is useful to be able to do this much.  On the next page, p.40, we find the following:

22 فيثاغورس
ويقال فوثاغوراس وفوثاغوريا، وقال القاضي صاعد في كتاب طبقات الأمم أن فيثاغورس كان بعد
بندقليس بزمان، وأخذ الحكمة عن أصحاب سليمان بن داود عليهما السلام بمصر حين دخلوا إليها من


22 Pythagoras
Said Fothagoras be and Fothagoraa , the judge said upward in book Nations layers that Pythagoras was after Bandkulais بزمان , taking wisdom from the owners of Solomon the son of David , peace be upon them in Egypt when they entered it from Levant , and had taken them for engineering the Egyptians, and then returned to Greece and enter them aware …

In Kopf:


Also called [in Arabic] Puthagoras and Pothagoria. Judge Sa`id said in “The Classes of Nations : “‘Pythagoras came some time after Pendacles. He  learned wisdom from the followers of Solomon the son of David, peace be upon  them, when they came to Egypt from Damascus. Prior to that he learned geometry  from the Egyptians. Then he returned to Greece, where he introduced the sciences  of geometry, natural science, and theology. On his own initiative he founded the  science of musicology and composition, in accordance with numerical  measurements, claiming that he attained this by prophetic inspiration. ….

OK.  So … let’s continue looking through the Pythagoras section.  What do we find?

On p.45, at the end of the list of sayings by Pythagoras translated by Kopf, we find a bunch more material, down to the heading “Socrates” on p.46  (Ibn_Abi_Usaybi’ah_extract in PDF):

والوقت الذي يحسن فيه السكوت، وقال الحر هو الذي لا يضيع حرفاً من حروف النفس لشهوة من
شهوات الطبيعة، وقال بقدر ما تطلب تعلم، وبقدر ما تعلم تطلب، وقال ليس من شرائط الحكيم أن لا
يضجر، ولكن يضجر بوزن، وقال ليس الحكيم من حمل عليه بقدر ما يطيق فصبر واحتمل، ولكن الحكيم
من حمل عليه أكثر مما تحتمل الطبيعة فصبر، وقال الدنيا دول، مرة لك وأخرى عليك،و فإن توليت
فأحسن وإن تولوك فَلِن، وكان يقول إن أكثر الآفات إنما تعرض للحيوانات لعدمها الكلام، وتعرض
للإنسان من قبل الكلام، وكان يقول من استطاع أن يمنع نفسه من أربعة أشياء فهو خليق أن لا يترل به
المكروه كما يترل بغيره العجلة واللجاجة والعجب والتواني، فثمرة العجلة الندامة، وثمرة اللجاجة الحيرة،
وثمرة العجب البغضاء، وثمرة التواني الذلة، ونظر إلى رجل عليه ثياب فاخرة يتكلم فيلحن في كلامه فقال
له إما أن تتكلم بكلام يشبه لباسك أو تلبس لباساً يشبه كلامك، وقال لتلاميذه لا تطلبوا من الأشياء ما
يكون بحسب محبتكم، ولكن أحبوا من الأشياء ما هي محبوبة في أنفسها، وقال اصبر على النوائب أذا
أتتك من غير أن تتذمر، بل اطلب مداواا بقدر ما تطيق، وقال استعملوا الفكر قبل العمل، وقال كثرة
العدو تقلل الهدوء، وكان فيثاغورس إذا جلس على كرسيه أوصى ذه السبع الوصايا قوموا موازينكم
واعترفوا أوزاا؛ عدلوا الخط تصحبكم السلامة؛ لا تشعلوا النار حيث ترون السكين تقطع؛ عدلوا
شهواتكم تديموا الصحة؛ استعملوا العدل تحط بكم المحبة؛ عاملوا الزمان كالولاة الذين يستعملون عليكم
ويعزلون عنكم؛ لا تترفوا أبدانكم وأنفسكم فتفقدوها في أوقات الشدائد إذ أوردت عليكم، وُذكر المال
عنده ومدح فقال وما حاجتي إلى ما يعطيه الحظ، ويحفظه اللؤم، ويهلكه السخاء، وقال وقد نظر إلى
شيخ يحب النظر في العلم ويستحي أن يرى متعلماً يا هذا أتستحي أن تكون في آخر عمرك أفضل منك

في أوله؟ وقال أنكى شيء لعدوك أن لا تريه أنك تتخذه عدواً، وحضر امرأته الوفاة في أرض غربة،

فجعل أصحابه يتحزنون على موا في أرض غربة فقال يا معشر الإخوان ليس بين الموت في الغربة

والوطن فرق، وذلك أن الطريق إلى الآخرة واحد من جميع النواحي، وقيل له ما أحلى الأشياء؟ فقال

الذي يشتهي الإنسان، وقال الرجل المحبوب عند اللّه تعالى الذي لا يذعن لأفكاره القبيحة، ونقلت من

كتاب فرفوريوس في أخبار الفلاسفة وقصصهم وآرائهم قال وأما كتب فيثاغورس الحكيم، التي انفرد

بجمعها أرخوطس الفيلسوف الطارنطيني فتكون ثمانين كتاباً، فأما التي اجتهد بكلية جهده في التقاطها

وتأليفها وجمعها من جميع الكهول الذين كانوا من جنس فيثاغورث الفيلسوف وحزبه وورثة علومه رجل



فتكون مئتي كتاب عدداً فمن انفرد بصفوة عقله وعزل منها الكتب الكذيبة المقولة على لسان الحكيم

واسمه التي اختلقها أناس فجرة، وهي كتاب المناجاة، وكتاب وصف المهن السيئة، وكتاب علم المخاريق

وكتاب أحكام تصوير مجالس الخمور، وكتاب يئة الطبول والصنوج والمعازف، وكتاب الميامر

الكهنوتية، وكتاب بذر الزروع، وكتاب الآلات، وكتاب القصائد؛ وكتاب تكوين العالم، وكتاب

الأيادي، وكتاب المروءة، وكتب أخرى كثيرة تشاكل هذه الكتب مما اختلق حديثاً؛ فيسعد سعادة الأبد،

وقال وأما الرجال الأئمة الذين اختلقوا هذه الكتب الكاذبة التي ذكرناها فإم على ما أدت إلينا الروايات

أرسطيبوس المحدث، ونقوس الذي كان يكنى عين الناقص، ورجل من أهل اقريطية يقال له قونيوس،

وماغيالوس، وفوخجواقا مع آخرين أطغى منهم، وكان الذي دعاهم إلى اختلاق هذه الكتب الكاذبة

على لسان فيثاغورث الفيلسوف واسمه، كي يقبلوا عند الأحداث بسببه فيكرموا أو يؤثروا ويواسوا، فأما

كتب الحكيم التي لا ريب فيها فهي مائتان وثمانون كتاباً، وقد كانت منسية، حتى جاء للكيان بقوم

حكماء ذوي نية وورع فحصلوها وجمعوها وألفوها، ولم تكن قبل ذلك مشهورة ببلدة لكنها كانت

مخزونة في إيطاليا، وقال فلوطرخس أن فيثاغورس أول من سمى الفلسفة ذا الاسم، ومما يوجد

لفيثاغورس من الكتب كتاب الإرثماطيقي؛ كتاب الألواح، كتاب في النوم واليقظة؛ كتاب في كيفية

النفس والجسد، رسالة إلى متمرد صقلية، الرسالة الذهبية وسميت ذا الاسم لأن جالينوس كان يكتبها

بالذهب إعظاماً لها وإجلالاً وكان يواظب على دراستها وقراءا في كل يوم؛ رسالة إلى سقايس في

استخراج المعاني، رسالة في السياسة العقلية وقد تعاب هذه الرسالة بتفسير أمليخس؛ رسالة إلى



The last bit of which reads, in Google translate:

and quoted from Book Verworius in philosophers, news stories and opinions As said wrote Pythagoras Hakim , by himself Collect Erjutts the philosopher Tarntini the Vtkon eighty books , either by painstakingly captured his College in Authored and collected from all adults who were of the genus philosopher Pythagoras and his party and heirs of Sciences man فرجل . Shall be two hundred book number it himself Besfoh mind and isolate them books Alkvebh the argument on the lips of Hakim And named اختلقها the people Fajra , a communing book , and the book describe professions bad , and science Almkhariv book Book provisions filming liquor councils , and a book to creating drums , gongs and musical instruments , and a book الميامر Priests, and sowing crops book , a book musical , The Book of poems ; composition book world , and the book Hands, and virility book , and many other books تشاكل these books than feign newly ; فيسعد happiness forever, He said the men imams who concocted this false books that we have mentioned Fa end to what led us novels Erstibus updated , and Nqos who was nicknamed missing eye , a man of the people Agheraitih said to him Qonius , And Mageealos , Kjoaca with others أطغى of them, who had invited them to fabricate these false books On the tongue philosopher Pythagoras and his name , to accept when events because of Vickramoa or influence Aoaswa , Either Hakim wrote that no doubt they are two hundred and eighty books , has been forgotten, until it came to the entity of a people Elders with the intention , devout Vhsaloha of and collected and ألفوها , before that was not famous in the town , but it was Stored in Italy , and said Vleutrkhos that Pythagoras first named philosophy to the present name, which no Pythagoras of books book Alarthamatiqi ; book panels , the book in sleep and wakefulness ; book on how to Soul and body , rebellious message to Sicily , the message gold and was named to the present name because it was written by Galen Gold إعظاما and homage was regularly on the study and its readers every day ; message to Sagaas in Extract meanings , mental message in politics has been maligned this message interpretation Omlakhos ; message to Fimdosios

“Verworius” seems to be Porphyry.  We clearly do have something about false and true books in here.

This all needs the attention of someone who knows Arabic; but isn’t it fascinating what you can get, even with none?

I wonder if anyone would care to translate the “extra bit”?


Ibn Abi Usaibia: an analysis of authority

Douglas Galbi has been working on the text of Ibn Abi Usaibia, and has come out with some interesting metrics on how the author sees the authority of various people mentioned in it.

Galen of Pergamon dominates among Greek figures in History of Physicians.  References to Galen measure 0.55 on an authority index in which references to Allāh / God measure one.  The three next most frequently referenced Greek figures are Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Plato.  They have authority indices of 0.26, 0.22, and 0.10, respectively.  Galen himself emphasized the authority of Hippocrates.  Hence the relatively frequent references to Hippocrates are partly an effect of Galen’s authority.   Aristotle, who wrote extensively on anatomy, taxonomy, and philosophy, is a much bigger figure than Galen in modern Western classical studies.  But references to Aristotle in History of Physicians are less than half as frequent as references to Galen.


Galen on Jews and Christians

The Roman medical writer Galen (d. 199 AD) refers to Jewish or Christian ideas in six places in his works.

Some of the works of Galen involved no longer exist in Greek, and the Arabic translation has to be used.  In some cases the Arabic translation also has perished — although we know from Hunayn Ibn Ishaq that he translated it — and all we have is quotations in later writers.

Unfortunately Walzer, who published a monograph on the subject in 1949[1] did so in a very confused manner.  It was nearly impossible to work out from his text what precisely he was giving us, and from where.  Nor was it possible to see what the context of the quotations was.

It was as part of this process that I encountered Ibn Abi Usaibia, and was led to put an English translation online.

I have now transcribed these six passages, organised the material in a logical manner, looked up material that Walzer did not include, and compiled a web page of it all.

The result is here.  I hope it will be useful.

  1. [1]R. Walzer, Galen on Jews and Christians, Oxford, 1949.

Ibn Abi Usaibia, “History of Physicians” now online

I have finally completed the transcription of the 1954 English translation by Lothar Kopf of Ibn Abi Usaibia, History of Physicians.  It may be found here.

I have divided the file into three sections, chapters 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15 respectively.  I have also written an introduction.

All this material is public domain — use it as you will.


Ibn Abi Usaibia update

A day of misery.  I hate footnotes.  Particularly those which are positioned in some other place than the foot of each page of text.  If the notes were just a little less useful, and the work that I am scanning was accessible in any other way, then I probably wouldn’t bother.

UPDATE: 259 footnotes so far.  My bones hurt.

UPDATE:  Went out to get chocolate — the only answer.  But I get to note 274, and discover again the missing page in the footnotes.  This is not good news.  I’ve been numbering all the notes consecutively; with an unknown number of notes on the missing page, I can’t number (and so can’t link up) the remaining notes.  Oh sugar!  Nor do I really want to put this to one side, and pick it up in 6 weeks time.  I hope to be very busy at that time.  I shall have to consider.

UPDATE: OK, the answer is to split the book into three sections.  All the footnotes which involve the missing bit are in section 1 (chapters 1-5); the others have only incidental notes.  I’ve done this now, and indeed uploaded them.  What I need to do now is write a preface to the thing.  Since I know nothing about Ibn Abi Usaibia, this means reading Brockelmann.  I might defer this to tomorrow, tho.