The Arabic Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms: Introduction

in Oriens
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This special issue focuses on the ‘Arabic Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms’. During a 5-year ERC-funded project, a team of researchers led by Peter E. Pormann has produced a 1.5m-word corpus of preliminary editions, and analysed it in multi-faceted ways. The team shared their digital editions with scholars from outside Manchester, and invited them to engage with the new material; these editions are now freely available to all under a Creative Commons license. In April 2015, they organised an international conference at which team members and other scholars discussed this rich commentary tradition from various vantage points. This special issue contains a selection of papers read at the conference. In this contribution, we introduce our project and its collaborators; list the texts in our corpus of preliminary editions and reflect on the scholarly analysis to which it has hitherto been subjected, ranging from Graeco-Arabic studies, textual criticism, medieval exegetical methods, medical theory and practice, and questions about the social history of medicine. We conclude with an outlook on the most pressing needs for future research, and close with acknowledgments for the manifold support that we have received.

The Arabic Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms: Introduction

in Oriens




For example Armelle Debru“Galien commentateur d’ Hippocrate: le canon hippocratique,” in Hippocrate et son héritage: colloque franco-hellénique d’ histoire de la médecine (Fondation Marcel MérieuxLyon9–12 octobre 1985) (Lyon: Association corporative des étudiants en médicine de Lyon1985) 51–6; Daniela Manetti and Amneris Roselli “Galeno commentatore di Ippocrate” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen WeltII vol. 37 2 eds. Wolfgang Haase and Hildegard Temporini (Berlin: De Gruyter 1994) 1529–1635 and 2071–2080; Heinrich von Staden “ ‘A woman does not become ambidextrous’: Galen and the Culture of the Scientific Commentary” in The Classical Commentary: Histories Practices Theory eds. Roy K. Gibson Christina S. Kraus (Leiden: Brill 2002) 109–40; Rebecca Flemming “Commentary” in The Cambridge Companion to Galen ed. Richard J. Hankinson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2008) 323–54.


Peter E. Pormann et al.“The Enigma of Arabic and Hebrew Palladius,” Intellectual History of the Islamicate World 5.3 (2017): 252–310 (in press) pace Hinrich Biesterfeldt “Palladius on the Hippocratic Aphorisms” in The Libraries of the Neoplatonists ed. Cristina D’Ancona (Leiden: Brill 2007) 385–97.


Wanda Wolska-Conus“Les commentaires de Stéphanos d’ Athènes au Prognostikon et aux Aphorismes d’ Hippocrate: de Galien à la pratique scolaire alexandrine,” Revue des Études Byzantines 50 (1992): 5–86; Wolska-Conus “Stéphanos d’ Athènes (d’ Aléxandrie) et Théophile le Prôtopathaire commentateurs des Aphorismes d’ Hippocrate sont-ils independents l’ un de l’ autre?” Revue des Études Byzantines 52 (1994): 5–68; Wolska-Conus “Sources des commentaires de Stéphanos d’ Athènes et de Théophile le Prôtospathaire aux Aphorismes d’ Hippocrate” Revue des Études Byzantines 54 (1996): 5–66; Wolska-Conus “Un “Pseudo-Galien” dans le commentaire de Stéphanos d’ Athènes aux Aphorismes d’ Hippocrate: ὁ νεώτερος ἐξηγητής” Revue des Études Byzantines 56 (1998): 5–68; Wolska-Conus “Palladios—‘Le Pseudo-Galien’ (ὁ νεώτερος ἐξηγητής)—dans le commentaire de Stéphanus d’ Athènes aux Aphorisms d’ Hippocrate” Revue des Études Byzantines 58 (2000): 5–68; Peter E. Pormann “Jean le grammarien et le De sectis dans la littérature médicale d’ Alexandrie” in Galenismo e medicina tardoantica: fonti greche latine e arabe eds. Ivan Garofalo and Amneris Roselli (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale 2003) 233–63; Pormann “The Alexandrian Summary (Jawāmiʿ) of Galen’s On the Sects for Beginners: Commentary or Abridgment?” in Philosophy Science and Exegesis in Greek Arabic and Latin Commentaries eds. Peter Adamson et al. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement 83 (London: Institute of Classical Studies School of Advanced Study University of London 2004): 2:11–33.


Max Meyerhof“Ibn an-Nafīs und seine Theorie des Lungenkreislaufs,” Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften under der Medizin 4 (1933): 37–88.


Nahyan FancyScience and Religion in Mamluk Egypt: Ibn al-Nafīs Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Rescurrection (London: Routledge2013).


Peter E. Pormann“Medical Methodology and Hospital Practice: The Case of Fourth-/Tenth-Century Baghdad,” in The Age of al-Fārābī: Arabic Philosophy in the Fourth/Tenth Centuryed. Peter Adamson (London: Warburg Institute2008) 95–118.


Manfred UllmannWörterbuch zu den griechisch-arabischen Übersetzungen des 9. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz2002) 52.


Franz Rosenthal“ ‘Life Is Short, the Art Is Long’: Arabic Commentaries on the First Hippocratic Aphorism,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 40 (1966): 226–45.


Ariel Bar-Sela and Hebbel E. Hoff“Maimonides’ Interpretation of the First Aphorism of Hippocrates,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 37 (1963): 347–54.


Ursula Weisser“Das Corpus Hippocraticum in der arabischen Medizin,” in Die hippokratischen Epidemien: Theorie–Praxis–Tradition. Verhandlungen des Ve Colloque International Hippocratique (Berlin 10.–15.9.1984) eds. Gerhard Baader and Rolf Winau (Stuttgart: F. Steiner1989) 377–408.


Gotthard Strohmaier“Galen in den Schulen der Juden und Christen,” Judaica (Beiträge zum Verstehen des Judentums) 62 (2006): 140–56. Oliver Overwien “Einige Beobachtungen zur Überlieferung der Hippokratesschriften in der arabischen und griechischen Tradition” Sudhoffs Archiv 89 (2005): 196–210; Overwien “Die parallelen Texte in den hippokratischen Schriften De humoribus und Aphorismen” in Antike Medizin im Schnittpunkt von Geistes- und Naturwissenschaften eds. Christian Brockmann Wolfram Brunschön and Oliver Overwien (Berlin: De Gruyter 2009) 121–39.


Siam Bhayro et al.“The Syriac Galen Palimpsest: Progress, Prospects and Problems,” Journal of Semetic Studies 58 (2013): 131–48. Naima Afif et al. “Continuing Research on the Syriac Galen Palimpsest: Collaborative Implementation within the Framework of Two European Projects” Semitica et Classica 9 (2016): 261–8.


Rosalind Batten and Emily Selove“Making Men and Women: Arabic Commentaries on the Gynaecological Hippocratic Aphorisms in Context,” Annales islamologiques 48 (2014): 239–62.


Albert Z. Iskander ed.“Al-Muršid aw al-fuṣūl,” Maǧallāt maʿhad al-maḫṭūṭāt al-ʿArabīya 7 (1961): 3–21417.


See Manfred UllmannDie Medizin im Islam (Leiden: Brill1970) 145–6 for a summary of the structure of al-Maǧūsī’s book.


See Chapter Five of Ahmed RagabThe Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine Religion Charity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2015); however this book is to be used with some caution especially where it ventures beyond the Manṣūrī hospital. See Nahyan Fancy’s essay review of this book which has just come out in Nazariyat: Journal for the History of Islamic Philosophy and Sciences 3.1 (2016): 137–146; and the review by Winston Black in The Medieval Review which appeared on 17 January 2017 [; accessed 7 February 2017].




Paul MaasTextual Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press1952) 1.


David L. D’AvrayMedieval Marriage Sermons: Mass Communication in a Culture without Print (Oxford: Oxford University Press2001) 36–40.


Martin L. WestTextual Criticism and Editorial Technique (Berlin: De Gruyter1973) 38–9.


UllmannMedizin28; Yaʿqūbī Ibn Wādhih qui dicitur al-JaʿqūbīHistoriae ed. Martjin T. Houtsma (Leiden: Brill 1883) 1:107–19.


See Emilie Savage-SmithA New Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library University of Oxford Volume 1: Medicine (Oxford: Oxford University Press2011) 6–8 [Entry 2]. See which is by Oxford libraries.


Max Meyerhof and Joseph SchachtThe Medico-Philosophical Controversy between Ibn Buṭlān of Baghdad and Ibn Riḍwān of Cairo (Cairo: Egyptian University1937).


David Reisman“Medieval Arabic medical autobiography,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 129 (2009): 559–569; Franz Rosenthal “Die arabische Autobiographie” Studia Arabica (1937): 1–40.


Albert Z. Iskander“An Attempted Reconstruction of the Late Alexandrian Medical Curriculum,” Medical History 20 (1976): 235–258.


RagabMedieval Islamic Hosptital154–5.


See Chapter One of Jaap MansfeldProlegomena: Questions to be Settled before the Study of an Author or a Text (Leiden: Brill1994) 10–57; Biesterfeldt “Palladius on the Hippocratic Aphorisms.”


Robert Wisnovsky“Avicennism and Exegetical Practice in the Early Commentaries on the Ishārāt,” Oriens 41.3–4 (2013): 349–378; Ayman Shihadeh “Al-Rāzī’s (d. 1210) Commentary on Avicenna’s Pointers.”


Yūsuf Zaydān et al.Šarḥ fuṣūl Abuqrāṭ (Beirut: Dār al-ʿulūm al-ʿArabīya1988).


Martin Klamroth“Ueber die Auszüge aus griechischen Schriftstellern bei al-Jaʿqûbî,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 40 (1886): 189–233.


Ivan Garofalo“I commenti alle epidemie e la loro traduzione araba,” Galenos 3 (2009): 119–71.




Sebastian Brock“The Syriac Background to Ḥunayn’s Translation Techniques,” Aram 3 (1991): 139–62; Rainer Degen “Zur syrischen Übersetzung der Aphorismen des Hippokrates” Oriens Christianus 62 (1978): 36–52; Magdelaine “Aphorismes d’ Hippocrate” 1:323.


Peter E. Pormann“Al-Tarǧamāt al-Yūnānīya al-Suryānīya al-ʿArabīya li-l-nuṣūṣ al-ṭibbīya fī awāʾil al-ʿaṣr al-ʿAbbāsī,” in Našʾat al-Ṭibb al-ʿArabī fī l-qurūn al-wusṭā (La construction de la médecine arabe médiévale) eds. Peter E. Pormann and Pauline Koetschet (Beirut Damascus Cairo: Press de l’institut français du Proche-Orient) 43–59.


Ursula Weisser“Die Zitate aus Galens de Methodo Medendi im Ḥāwī des Rāzī,” in The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism: Studies on the Transmission of Greek Philosophy and Sciences Dedicated to H.J. Drossaart Lulofs on his Ninetieth Birthdayeds. Remke Kruk and Gerhard Endress (Leiden: Brill1997) 278–318; Peter E. Pormann The Oriental Tradition of Paul of Aegina’s Pragmateia (Leiden: Brill 2004).


See Frank Griffel“On Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s Life and the Patronage He Received,” Journal of Islamic Studies 18 (2007): 313–44. Eşref Altaş “Fahraddin er-Râzî’nin Eserlerinin Kronolojisi” Islâm Düşüncesinin Dönüṣüm Çağinda eds. Ömer Türker and Osman Demir (Istanbul: ISAM 2011) 103 dates this work to 573–574/1177–1178.


Albert Z. IskanderA Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historial Medical Library (London: The Wellcome Historical Medical Library1967) 33–64.


Gerhard Endress“Reading Avicenna in the Madrasa: Intellectual Genealogies and Chains of Transmission of Philosophy and the Sciences in the Islamic East,” in Arabic Theology Arabic Philosophy From the Many to the One: Essays in Celebration of Richard M. Franked. James E. Montgomery (Leuven: Peeters Publishers2006) 371–422.


Philip van der Eijk“Galen’s Use of the Concept of ‘Qualified Experience’ in his Dietetic and Pharmacological Works,” in Medicine and Philosophy in Classical Antiquity: Doctors and Philosophers on Nature Soul Health and Diseaseed. Philip van der Eijk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2005) 279–98.


Pormann“Medical Methodology and Hospital Practice”; Pormann, “Avicenna on Medical Practice, Epistemology, and the Physiology of the Inner Senses,” in Interpreting Avicenna: Critical Essaysed. Peter Adamson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2013) 91–108. See also Mona Nasser Aida Tibi and Emilie Savage-Smith “Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine: 11th Century Rules for Assessing the Effects of Drugs” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 102 (2009): 78–80.


See also Peter E. Pormann“Philosophical Topics in Medieval Arabic Medical Discourse: Problems and Prospects,” in Medicine and Philosophy in the Islamic Worldeds. Peter Adamson and Peter E. Pormann (London Turin: The Warburg Institute Nino Aragno Editore forthcoming).


Cristina Álvarez-Millán“Practice versus Theory: Tenth-century Case Histories from the Islamic Middle East,” Social History of Medicine 13 (2000): 293–306.


Peter E. Pormann“The Physician and the Other: Images of the Charlatan in Medieval Islam,” Bulletin of Medical History 79 (2005): 189–227.


PormannOriental Tradition287.


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