Transformation of Galen’s Textual Legacy from Classical to Post-Classical Islamic Medicine: Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World

I assess Galen’s (d. ca. 216) textual legacy on Arabic commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms. I show that early authors in this tradition employ exegetical strategies taken from Alexandrian exegetical models. Applying these strategies to the Hippocratic-Galenic text makes Galen’s commentary the primary means for these authors to understand the Aphorisms. By introducing a host of commentary strategies that depart from Alexandrian models, Ibn Abī Ṣādiq’s (d. after 1067) commentary is a watershed moment in the Aphorisms-commentary tradition. Nevertheless, Galen’s commentary remains crucial for Ibn Abī Ṣādiq. These commentary strategies lead him to introduce texts, concepts and classifications that move beyond Galen’s Aphorisms-commentary. Finally, in one of the last texts in this corpus dating to around 1350, Ibn Sīnā’s (d. 1037) Canon of Medicine and Ibn Abī Ṣādiq’s commentary have become major sources for understanding the Aphorisms. Galen’s commentary is used sparingly.

  • 3

    Ullmann, Islamic Medicine, p. 22.

  • 5

    Ullmann, Islamic Medicine, p. 22.

  • 6

    See Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 65–67.

  • 15

    Ullmann, Medizin, 158–160. For the famous exchange between Ibn Riḍwān and Ibn Buṭlān, see Pormann and Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, pp. 92–93. For Ibn Riḍwān’s medical thought, see Dols, Medieval Islamic Medicine.

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  • 24

    See Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 26–27. For the ordering in Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, see ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ, I.31–33. It is unlikely that Ibn Riḍwān took this ordering or its justification from Yaʿqūbī or Ibn al-Nadīm. No similar ordering of the Hippocratic books appears in the Fihrist (Ibn al-Nadīm, The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadīm, II.691–692); and in Yaʿqūbī’s History (I.106–107) the Aphorisms is made to precede Airs, Waters and Places. Nor is there any overt marker in Yaʿqūbī’s History that the order in which the books appear in the passage reflects any curricular or pedagogical tradition.

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  • 25

    Iskander, “Reconstruction,” pp. 241–244; Roueché, “Medical Students,” p. 169; Fowden, Before and after Muḥammad, p. 127.

  • 27

    See Pormann and Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, p. 84. The edition is Ibn Riḍwān, al-Kitāb al-nāfiʿ fī kayfīyat taʿlīm ṣināʿat al-ṭibb.

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  • 28

    Ullmann, Medizin, p. 21.

  • 29

    Pormann and Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, p. 13. The classic survey of the late antique commentary literature is Westerink, “Philosophy and Medicine in Late Antiquity,” pp. 83–91. For medical and philosophical elements in teaching practice, see Duffy, “Byzantine Medicine,” pp. 21–27.

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  • 32

    Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 176–177.

  • 34

    Rāzī, Doubts, p. 188.

  • 38

    Rāzī, Doubts, pp. 196–197.

  • 41

    Rāzī, Doubts, pp. 200–201.

  • 44

    On this text, see Ullmann, Medizin, p. 39.

  • 56

    See Ullmann, Wörterbuch, pp. 269 (“ἐρυσίπελας”) and 441 (“ξανθός”).

  • 57

    Rāzī, Doubts, pp. 200–201.

  • 64

    Ibid., p. 433.

  • 83

    De Lacy, “Galen’s Concept of Continuity,” p. 356.

  • 85

    Johnston, Galen: On Diseases and Symptoms, p. 220; for the Greek, see Galen, Opera Omnia, VII.116.

  • 86

    Johnston, Galen: On Diseases and Symptoms, p. 221; for the Greek, see Galen, Opera Omnia, VII.117.

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