Conceptualized as a relationship between the patient, his illness, its resolution, the celestial bodies, and the doctor, and expressed through metaphors, such as divine judgment, or effects of the stars, crises and critical days were important elements of Galenic therapy. While the early Arabic physicians maintained Galenic imagery, Ibn Sīnā (d. 1037 CE) and his followers introduced new imagery that omitted supernatural influences, and emphasized physical agents. The crisis was now described as a separation instead of a verdict, and the critical days were caused by the lunar phases alone. The “body politic” metaphor was introduced to describe medical crises. By closely examining the writings of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288 CE) on the Canon of Ibn Sīnā and the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, these shifts in imagery are analysed in detail, and their implications for our understanding of a period that has been dismissed as “post-decline” and devoid of innovation.
Galen’s astrological doctrine of the critical days, as found in his De diebus decretoriis (Critical Days), Book III, was at the center of a long discussion in the Latin West about the relationship between astrology and medicine. The main problem was that Galen’s views could not be made to square with the prevailing cosmology, which derived both from Aristotle and Abū Maʿshar. The views of selected Latin thinkers concerning the critical days, from Pietro d’Abano, down through Girolamo Cardano, are considered in the context of a fourfold scheme that aims to classify the main approaches to the critical days. The criticisms of Pico della Mirandola are discussed, as well as two kinds of responses to him: the progressive views of Giovanni Mainardi and Girolamo Fracastoro, as well as the conservative views of Thomas Bodier and Girolamo Cardano.
The Aldine edition of Galen’s works, prepared by humanists anxious to replace the medieval Latin translations with a purely Greek text, certainly represents an advance in scholarship. However, widespread anti-Arabic prejudices of the time precluded most humanists, including the Aldine editors, from perceiving anything of value in the Latin Galenic textual tradition, which was characterized as representing a Galen that had passed through the corrupting influence of Arabic. This paper considers the cost to the medical tradition of ignoring Arabic in the Aldine edition of 1525, and thereafter. Several examples of passages from the Arabo-Latin Galen are compared with the Aldine, and their differences are considered and evaluated with regard to their impact on medical knowledge. The conclusion is drawn that, although there were some real corruptions in the Arabo-Latin tradition, in the main it contained useful variant readings, which might have been used to the profit of Greek philology, as well as to the advancement of Galenic scholarship.
The author shows, from Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq’s translations of Galen’s Crises and Critical Days, and borrowing a scheme from Sebastian Brock, that Ḥunayn’s translation style was “reader-oriented,” in which he added whatever he thought necessary to help his readers understand the text and its complex subject matter, rather than “text-oriented,” which adhered closely to the original. Using several examples classified in a working typology, the author shows how caution must be used when deriving Greek textual variants from Arabic. Moreover, the author considers how the Arabic translations creatively distorted certain scientifically significant concepts.