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Epidemics in Context

Scientia Graeco-Arabica
herausgegeben von
Marwan Rashed

Band 8

De Gruyter

Epidemics in Context
Greek Commentaries on Hippocrates
in the Arabic Tradition

edited by

Peter E. Pormann

De Gruyter

ISBN 978-3-11-025979-7
e-ISBN 978-3-11-025980-3
ISSN 1868-7172

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A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress.

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Printed in Germany
Table of Contents V

Table of Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1

Bink Hallum, N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann,

Simon Swain, Uwe Vagelpohl
A New Manuscript: Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi,
MS Ayasofya 3592 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Greek Epidemics

Philip J. van der Eijk

Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology in Galen’s Commentaries on
Epidemics, Books One and Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Brooke Holmes
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen: The Case of Galen’s
Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

Robert Alessi
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’,
Book Two as a source for the Hippocratic Text: First Remarks . . . . . . . . . . . 71

Syriac and Arabic Epidemics

Grigory Kessel
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93

Uwe Vagelpohl
Galen, Epidemics, Book One: Text, Transmission, Translation . . . . . . . . . . .  125

Oliver Overwien
The Art of the Translator, or: How did Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq and his
School Translate? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  151
VI Table of Contents

Gotthard Strohmaier
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian: Specific Transformations
in the Commentaries on Airs, Waters, Places and the Epidemics . . . . . . . . . .  171

The later Arabic medical tradition and the Epidemics

Bink Hallum
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’  185

Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition:
The Example of Melancholy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  211

N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann

ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Prognostic’:
A Preliminary Exploration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  251

Leigh Chipman
Recipes by Hippocrates, Galen and Ḥunayn in the Epidemics and in
Medieval Arabic Pharmacopoeias . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  285

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  303

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  323

List of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  333

Introduction 1

The Hippocratic Epidemics and Galen’s commentary explicating them are
milestones in the development of both theoretical and clinical medicine.1 The
former contain case notes, detailing the development of various diseases in
actual patients. They display an acute sense of perception and attention to
detail in their clinical observations, paying heed to individual circumstances
and environmental conditions. It is thus not surprising that Galen, the greatest
physician of antiquity, chose to comment upon them with great care. He did,
however, already notice that not all the seven books of the Epidemics went back
to the historic Hippocrates, and that they rather constitute a mixture of notes
varying greatly in style and content. Consequently, Galen decided to comment
only on those books which he viewed as containing at least some genuinely
Hippocratic material, namely Books One, Two, Three, and Six.
The importance of both the Hippocratic Epidemics and Galen’s Commentary
was fully realised at different times throughout history, especially, it would ap-
pear, in those circles particularly concerned with clinical medicine rather than
medical scholasticism. In ninth- and tenth-century Baghdad, in an environment
which saw the rise of sophisticated hospitals, Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq translated
Galen’s work into Arabic, and even supplemented it occasionally. Moreover,
Ḥunayn himself wrote a treatise in question-and-answer format called Ques-
tions on the Epidemics (Masāʾil al-ʾIbīḏīmiyā), in which he engages with these
case notes and makes them digestible for students. Many other medical luminar-
ies in later times such as ʾAbū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakariyā al-Rāzī (Rhazes,
d. c. 925) and Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288) held the Epidemics in high esteem. The former
used them and Galen’s Commentary as a model for his own clinical work.2 Not
surprisingly, then, some of al-Rāzī’s most innovative medical research is based
on information contained in Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ.3
Ibn al-Nafīs, who famously discovered the pulmonary transit in defiance of Ga-
lenic orthodoxy, also composed a commentary on the Epidemics.4 Later, as can
be seen from one extant manuscript, a Jewish physician read Galen’s Commen-

1 See Fichtner 2011a, nos. 6–7, 16–20; Fichtner 2011b, nos. 96–100 for bibliographical
information about editions, translations, and studies. In this introduction, I will keep
documentation to a minimum; many of the points made here will be discussed in much more
detail in the contributions to the present volume.
2 Álvarez-Millán 1999, 2000, 2010.
3 Pormann 2008b, 105–7.
4 Bachmann 1971, Abou Aly 2000, see below, pp. 207–9.
2 Introduction

tary carefully, writing short titles or summaries in the margins of his copy in
Judaeo-Arabic (that is, Arabic written in Hebrew letters).5
Although Arab authors from Ḥunayn onwards took a great interest in Ga-
len’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, they also had to surmount some
significant obstacles. Ḥunayn already complained that the Greek manuscripts at
his disposal were in quite a woeful state: he could not find any complete copies.
The situation was even more difficult in the Renaissance Europe. Fully aware
of this deplorable state of the Greek tradition, in the 1620s the Scottish scholar
David Colville copied out carefully those parts of Ḥunayn’s Arabic translation
not extant in Greek.6 Roughly a century and a half later, the celebrated Arabist
Michael Casiri quoted extensively from the Arabic translation, and noted the
crucial importance of this version7, as did the famous German philologist Johan-
nes Mewaldt, saying: ‘Therefore, given that the Greek manuscrips [of Galen’s
Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’] are so deplorable, we have to rejoice
in the fact that this [Arabic] translation has come down to us […] (Gaudere
igitur debemus in tanta codicum Graecorum penuria, quod illa versio ad aetatem
nostram pervenit, […])’.8 The doyen of Graeco-Arabic studies, the German physi-
cian Max Simon, undertook to edit and translate this Arabic version, but passed
away before he could complete this task. Another German philologist, Franz
Pfaff, continued Simon’s work. When Wenkebach edited Galen’s Commentary
on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ for the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, he called on
Pfaff to provide him with a German translation of the Arabic version, both to
improve the Greek text, where it is extant, and to supplement it, where it is
not.9 In order to do so, Pfaff drew on Simon’s previous efforts, and his origi-
nal aim was to publish the Arabic text alongside a revised German translation,
but the economic circumstances in Germany in the 1930s did not allow for the
then costly printing of the Arabic. Pfaff ended his preface by saying: ‘For the
sake of scholarly rigour, the Academy wants to print the Arabic text at a later
date, when the economic situation will again make it possible to allocate such
a great amount of resource (Der Wissenschaftlichkeit wegen will die Akademie
doch den arabischen Text auch drucken lassen, wenn die Wirtschaftslage den
Aufwand größerer Mittel wieder gestattet).’10
In 2006, more than seventy years later, this wish of the Academy had not yet
been realised. Moreover, scholars had become increasingly wary of Pfaff’s Ger-

5 These marginal notes appear in Madrid, Escorial, MS 804 árabe (henceforth MS E1).
6 His manuscript survives in Milan, Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, MS B 135 sup. (henceforth
MS M); see Löfgren/Traini 1975–95, vol. i., pp. 66–67, no. 105. On Colville, see Pormann 2009b.
7 Casiri 1760–70, vol. i., p. 249–57, nos. 800–1.
8 Quoted in Wenkeback/Pfaff 1934, xxii.
9 Wenkeback/Pfaff 1934.
10 Wenkeback/Pfaff 1934, xxxiii.
Introduction 3

man translation.11 Simon Swain and I discussed this situation in the autumn of
2006, and we decided that it was an opportune moment to rectify it by organis-
ing a project to edit the Arabic translation of this highly influential text, and
to make it available through a more reliable and accessible English translation.
The Wellcome Trust kindly agreed to fund this project, and thus the ‘Warwick
Epidemics’ were born. Uwe Vagelpohl and Bink Hallum joined the project as
post-doctoral research assistants, and carried out the bulk of the work: they
prepared a preliminary edition and translation of Galen’s commentary on Books
One and Two. As work progressed, it became clear that the team would benefit
from the input of colleagues working in adjacent areas. Therefore, we decided
to make our draft edition and translation available to interested scholars and
to invite them to engage with our material. We planned a conference at the
Warburg Institute in London to meet and discuss the preliminary results of this
Hallum and Vagelpohl worked on a very tight schedule and managed to pro-
duce the draft editions and translations by early August 2010. More than a dozen
colleagues accepted our invitation to come to London in the second week on No-
vember 2010. In addition to the contributors to this volume, Rebecca Flemming,
Ivan Garofalo12, and Caroline Petit gave papers on ‘Women and Commentary in
Epidemics 2’, ‘Some Problems in the Arabic Translation of Galen’s Commentary
on Epidemics 1–3’, and ‘Proof and Demonstration in Galen’s Commentaries on
the Hippocratic Epidemics’, respectively. Furthermore, Peter Adamson, Charles
Burnett, James Montgomery, and Emilie Savage-Smith kindly agreed to chair
sessions. The ensuing discussions and exchanges helped us tremendously; and
they also showed us clearly that our project elicited a great amount of interest
from various scholarly disciplines.
Two of the speakers and contributors to this volume worked at the Cor-
pus Medicorum Graecorum, a long-running project of the Berlin-Brandenburg
Academy that had recently celebrated its centenary.13 Not only did these two
colleagues from the CMG attend our conference, but the CMG also agreed in
principle to publish the forthcoming editions and translations.14 The Warwick
Epidemics team therefore wishes to thank the CMG, and especially Christian
Brockmann, its project director, and Andreas Wittwer, its head of research.

11 See Strohmaier 1981, 189; and, more recently, Garofalo 2009, 2010a, 2010b.
12 Ivan Garofalo in particular deserves our gratitude, as he painstakingly worked through
the draft editions and translations, offering many corrections and suggestions. He had
already been in the process of publishing the results of his work on Galen’s Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ in his own journal Galenos and elsewhere; see Garofalo 2009, 2010a,
2010b, 2011.
13 See Brockmann / Brunschön / Overwien 2009.
14 Vagelpohl 2012, Hallum / Vagelpohl 2012.
4 Introduction

The first short article which opens this volume discusses a newly discovered
manuscript containing parts of Ḥunayn’s Arabic translation of Galen’s Com-
mentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two. To my mind, it illustrates the
synergies that result from the presence of a team working on different aspects
of Graeco-Arabic medical history. N. Peter Joosse, who is currently working on a
project to edit, translate, and study the Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Prognostic’
by the Arab physician ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī (d. 1231), found this new manu-
script during a research trip to Istanbul, where he was hunting for Prognostic
manuscripts. This short article argues that the manuscript which he found is of
crucial importance for the textual history, as it represents an independent wit-
ness to the Arabic version. The manuscript will therefore be fully considered in
Hallum’s and Vagelpohl’s forthcoming editions.
The remaining articles published here are all largely expanded and revised
versions of the papers originally presented at the Warburg Institute. They cluster
around three thematic areas: the Epidemics and Galen’s commentary on them in
the Greek tradition; their transmission into Syriac and Arabic; and their impact
in the context of the medieval Arabic medical tradition. The first two articles by
Philip J. van der Eijk and Brooke Holmes both explore the relationship between
the Hippocratic Epidemics and Galen’s commentary on them. Both show in their
way that Galen often read his own doctrine into the Hippocratic text. In other
words, his intention was not to elucidate the meaning that a fifth-century BC
physician could have given to the text. Rather, Galen’s commentary pursued
different aims and objectives; the two most prominent are undoubtedly the fol-
lowing. First, by reading his own doctrines into the Hippocratic text, Galen lent
them a veneer of respectability and authority that they would otherwise lack.
For if the great Hippocrates already adhered to these doctrines, then they were
much more likely to be correct; after all, they had stood the test of time. Second,
Galen operated in a highly competitive medical marketplace where physicians
of different persuasions vied for the attention of patrons and patients alike. And
Galen is positively combative in his Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’,
ridiculing and refuting the explanations of earlier and contemporaneous ex-
Both van der Eijk and Holmes analyse aspects of these two characteristics.
The former shows in particular that Galen used his own theoretical framework
to confute the commentaries of the Roman doctor Quintus (fl. AD 120–45) as
well as Empiricist physicians. For Galen, the method of qualified experience was
extremely important: it was not sufficient merely to resort to experience (em-
peiría), but it had to be coupled with reason (lógos). Although the Hippocratic
text, especially in the first book, contains more theoretical reflections, it cer-
tainly lacks the highly sophisticated medical doctrines that Galen attributed to
it, especially in the area of epistemology. Van der Eijk also highlights Galen’s
theoretical bias in relation to the case histories contained in the Epidemics. The
Introduction 5

medical historiography of the last two centuries largely regarded them as ‘land-
marks of empirical science’, as van der Eijk puts it: they represent careful clini-
cal observations that do not shy away from recording failure, and are not overly
concerned with theoretical models. Yet, Galen endeavoured to find the underly-
ing theory in these case notes. In other words, for him they illustrate the medi-
cal doctrines to which Hippocrates adhered. The task of the commentator is to
reconstruct or to elicit this theoretical framework from them. Van der Eijk also
calls our attention to the fact that the Epidemics and Galen’s commentary on
them inspired generations of physicians. The genre of the case history first ap-
peared in the Epidemics (at least in the extant Greek medical literature). And al-
though Galen concentrated on the medical theory that the Epidemics contained,
it was largely through his commentary that the genre of the case histories be-
came so popular in the later Arabic tradition.
Holmes focuses on a different aspect in the relationship between Hippoc-
rates and Galen: anatomy. Since the great anatomical breakthroughs in third-
and second-century BC Alexandria, anatomy occupied a prominent position in
medicine. In fact, it would appear that a major debate about the usefulness and
morality of dissection and vivisection took place in Hellenistic times: the Em-
piricists rejected the use of anatomy, whereas the Rationalists defended it.15 Yet,
in the Hippocratic Corpus, anatomy plays only a very minor role, an exception
being Epidemics, Book Two. For Galen, who trained in Alexandria and held anat-
omy in high esteem, Epidemics, Book Two, therefore, offered a unique opportu-
nity to rehabilitate Hippocrates as a keen anatomist (at least in the theoretical
sense). Holmes demonstrates this with the example of co-affection (sympátheia
in Greek; mušāraka in Arabic).
Galen used the concept of co-affection to explain various illnesses. If one part
of the body suffers damage or is affected by an illness, this is called primary af-
fection. For instance, if you eat something bad and suffer from indigestion, your
stomach is primarily affected. But if you suffer from indigestion, and this leads
to melancholy, a disease situated in the brain, then this is a case of co-affection.
The brain and the stomach are linked through the oesophagus, and therefore, a
disease in one part of the body (the stomach) can lead to an affection in another
part of the body (the brain). This theory of co-affection did not exist in the
Hippocratic Corpus, nor was the Greek word for it, sympátheia, used there. Ga-
len, however, was able to introduce co-affection into his commentary through
a clever ploy.
The author of Epidemics talks occasionally about ‘koinōníē’, meaning ‘asso-
ciation’ or ‘partnership’ between different parts of the body. Moreover, the idea
that an affection in one part also transcends to another is not totally alien to the

15 Celsus gives an eloquent account of this controversy in the proem to his On Medicine; see
also Frede 1988 with references.
6 Introduction

Hippocratic Corpus. Using such passages as springboards, Galen introduces his

own theory of co-affection into the Hippocratic text through his commentary.
Moreover, in the Arabic translation, the distinction between ‘co-affection (sym-
pátheia)’ and ‘association (koinōníē)’ is conveniently blurred as both are some-
times rendered by the same word mušāraka. This would then constitute a case
of contextual translation, discussed by Overwien in his contribution: Galen’s
interpretation of the text leads the translator to render a term in a certain way.
Be that as it may, Holmes clearly shows that Galen interprets Hippocrates in
light of his own medical doctrine, thereby lending it greater authority.
The third article in this section deals with a different problem: how can the
Hippocratic text of the Epidemics, Book Two, be reconstructed and analysed with
the help of Galen’s commentary, which is extant only in Arabic. Robert Alessi
had been working on an edition of the Hippocratic Epidemics, Book Two, for the
prestigious Budé collection (CUF) for many years; it was the topic of his Paris
Ph.D. thesis.16 When working on the edition, he previously relied on Pfaff’s Ger-
man translation of the Arabic version, which had not yet been edited. Then, in
May 2007 during the American Association for the History of Medicine meeting
in Montreal, he and I met for lunch on a beautiful spring day.17 I had started
working on the Arabic version and been persuaded that Pfaff’s rendering, al-
though a great achievement for its time, suffered from many problems and was
often misleading about the text of the Hippocratic lemmas as well as Galen’s in-
terpretations of them. Therefore, I urged Alessi to take up the study of Arabic in
order to gain direct access to the source, namely Ḥunayn’s Arabic version. For, I
ventured to promise somewhat optimistically that he would soon have access to
our edition of it. The reader will perhaps understand my joy when I heard from
Alessi three years later that he had heeded my advice and had just completed a
licence (roughly B.A.) in Arabic at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisa-
tions Orientales in Paris. His article results directly from the availability of a
new source and his newly gained competence in this area.
Alessi argues that Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two,
is of paramount importance for three reasons. First, it contains the Hippocratic
lemmas; in other words the Hippocratic text on which Galen is to comment is
quoted in full. The text of these lemmas, however, represents an independent
strand of the textual transmission that is much older than that contained in the
Byzantine manuscripts of Hippocrates. Therefore, the Arabic version testifies to
this earlier strand, although only indirectly, that is, through the Arabic transla-
tion, and not in the original Greek. Second, Galen adduces and discusses many
early variant readings that testify again to an earlier stage of the textual trans-
mission. These first two points concern the state of the Hippocratic text that

16 Alessi 1999.
17 Alessi presented a paper on a related subject at this conference; see Alessi 2007.
Introduction 7

the modern editor needs to reconstruct as faithfully as possible. The third point
regards the interpretation. Often, the Hippocratic text is quite obscure and of-
fers significant difficulties. Here, Galen’s commentary can help, as it frequently
provides additional evidence about how the Hippocratic text was understood in
antiquity. Therefore, both for the constitution of the Hippocratic text, and for its
interpretation and translation, Galen’s commentary in its Arabic guise provides
crucial evidence.
Therefore, the Arabic translation of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Ep-
idemics’, Books One and Two, that Bink Hallum and Uwe Vagelpohl edited and
translated, offers important evidence for the reconstruction of Hippocrates’ and
Galen’s texts and ideas. This begs the question of how this Arabic translation
was produced. As so many medical texts, Galen’s commentary was rendered
first into Syriac and then into Arabic. Unfortunately, until now, nobody had
studied these Syriac versions in detail, largely because they have not come down
to us. In the late 1970s, two prominent Syriac scholars drew attention to a manu-
script of the Syriac Epidemics, a text that allegedly contained part of Galen’s
commentary on Book Six.18 Yet, until today, the Syriac Epidemics have barely
been studied, nor have they been edited. In his contribution, Grigory Kessel is
the first to rectify this neglect: he was able to investigate this text by looking
at an electronic copy of Vööbus’ microfilm of the manuscript; and he comes to
some startling conclusions.
The Syriac Epidemics are not a Syriac translation of Galen’s commentary, al-
though they testify to it. Rather, as Kessel argues, they are the Syriac version of
a commentary on the Hippocratic Epidemics by the late antique iatrosophist (or
professor of medicine) called Gesius. Gesius taught medicine in fifth-century
Alexandria, but to date, his work has largely been lost to us, whether in the
original Greek or in translation. Therefore, Kessel is the first to unearth a large
text by this mysterious, yet highly influential figure, and that in itself is a major
discovery. By comparing the Syriac Epidemics to the commentaries by Galen and
John of Alexandria, another late-antique iatrosophist, Kessel shows that Gesius
often drew on Galen’s commentary, but that his work also shows clear evidence
for the influence of lecture hall teaching. This comparison reveals that certain
concepts and ideas in John’s commentary already appeared in that by Gesius.
We can thus gain access to the amphitheatres of Alexandria in the fifth century,
a time for which we have very little evidence in the area of medicine. Moreover,
Kessel argues that Sergius of Rēšʿaynā (d. 536) was the translator of this text.
In other words, we have here a document of the earlier phase of Graeco-Syriac
translation activity relating to medical texts. Finally, as the Hippocratic Apho-
risms are frequently quoted in Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’,
it is possible to compare the translation by Sergius of Rēšʿaynā with that by

18 Vööbus 1978, Degen 1981, 151.

8 Introduction

Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq (d. 873): for we find quotations from the Aphorisms in the
Syriac Epidemics, and Ḥunayn’s translation of the Aphorisms has come down to
us and has been edited. Therefore, the Syriac Epidemics also yield crucial mate-
rial for the study of how Syriac translation technique developed.
Aspects of translation technique also occupy the authors of the remaining
three contributions in this section. Uwe Vagelpohl explores the possibilities of
using quantitative data in order to identify individual translators, or groups of
translators. He opens his article, however, with an important reflection on the
state of the Greek text of Galen’s commentary (where it is extant) and its rela-
tionship to the Arabic translation produced by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq. Any study
of Graeco-Arabic translation technique requires a source and a target text. In
the case of Book One, however, the source text is the result of centuries, if not
millennia, of editorial efforts to restore the faulty Greek manuscripts. After all,
Ḥunayn already complained about the problematic state of the textual transmis-
sion, and I have sketched some of the efforts to use the Arabic version to restore
Galen’s commentary at the beginning of this introduction. Yet, in the case of
Book One (and this is equally true for Books Three and Six), the Greek text is a
construct that relies on a good deal of retroversion and conjecture on the basis
of the Arabic translation. In other word, when we compare the Greek source
text as edited by Wenkebach with the Arabic target text edited by Vagelpohl, we
may well be comparing a source text based on the target text rather than vice
Despite this caveat, Vagelpohl argues, the first book of Galen’s commentary
actually affords an excellent opportunity to study Ḥunayn’s translation tech-
nique, as we can be virtually certain that he translated it. Previous translation
studies have largely ignored quantitative data. But Vagelpohl shows that sta-
tistical patterns may well provide the metrics which would allow us to identify
individual translators on the basis of their translation style with much greater
accuracy. He provides two examples of how one could gather such data: by look-
ing, first, at how Greek particles are rendered; and, second, at how Greek com-
pounds, especially those formed with alpha privative, are translated. For Galen’s
commentary and the Arabic translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Vagelpohl is able
to produce accurate statistical data of how often certain translational pairs ap-
pear in each text. Certain patterns appear to be statistically relevant, but he also
notes significant variation within the style of individual translators. Moreover,
Vagelpohl tentatively compares the usage in these texts with three groups of
texts: translations of medical and non-medical texts produced in the Ḥunayn’s
workshop, and translations of non-medical texts produced in the circle of al-
Kindī, the Arabic philosopher who died after 870.
One of the major obstacles to this kind of analysis is the absence of a database
or bank containing a bilingual Greek-Arabic Corpus. If such a database were
available, Graeco-Arabists could select a number of texts that can be securely
Introduction 9

attributed to a given translator (such as Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’

‘Epidemics’, translated by Ḥunayn). Then, they could formulate a set of crite-
ria which would establish a translation thumbprint, with how Greek particles
are rendered being one of them. On the basis of these thumbprints, other texts
whose translator is unknown could then be identified as belonging to certain
schools, or perhaps even individuals. Vagelpohl also highlights, however, pos-
sible methodological problems: the presence of a Syriac intermediary that is
almost always lost to us; and the possibility that the translator changed the text
by way of omission, addition, and glossing.
Oliver Overwien focusses on what he calls ‘contextual translation’: in vari-
ous ways, the wider context of a Greek text determines how it is rendered into
Arabic. He investigates more specifically how the Arabic medical terminology
of the day was used to render certain Greek words; how Galen’s works provide
a context for Hippocratic texts; and how textual parallels, that is, phrases that
occur more than once in the Hippocratic Corpus, are taken into consideration
by the translators. For instance, the translator would render the Greek for ‘inner
vein at the elbow’ in Galen as ‘the basilic vein’, a technical term that only gained
currency in Greek after Galen, but also entered Arabic as a loan word. Moreo-
ver, when Ḥunayn and his team translated Hippocrates, they often resorted to
what one might call explicitation: they provided additional information from
other works by Galen in order to render certain terms.
The phenomenon of parallel texts as context is particularly interesting and
complex. Sometimes the same phrasing occurs in two Hippocratic works such
as Humours and Aphorisms. Overwien shows that even when different trans-
lators rendered these works into Arabic, the translation of these passages is
sometimes identical. This can only be explained in terms of one translator draw-
ing on the earlier work of his colleague. But the translators did not always use
the available Arabic translation of the parallel text; rather, they appear to have
done so when Galen’s commentary on the work in question (for instance, the
Aphorisms) pointed out that there was a parallel. This conclusion further dem-
onstrates that the Galenic commentaries were of crucial importance when it
came to translating Hippocratic texts into Arabic.
Gotthard Strohmaier considers another aspect of Greek-Arabic translation
technique: the influence of monotheism on the translators. For most of the
translators in Ḥunayn’s workshop professed Christianity, and the patrons who
commissioned the Arabic translations often adhered to Islam. Both Christians
and Muslims, however, rejected the idea of a polytheistic pantheon, a concept
that frequently occurs even in the medical texts. How, then, did Ḥunayn and
his colleagues deal with this problem? As one would expect, the translators
followed a number of strategies. Sometimes they retained the names of certain
gods such as Asclepius, perhaps because they could expect their readers to be
familiar with them; or when they merely related to buildings or place names
10 Introduction

(e.g., ‘the temple of Hera’). But quite often, ‘the gods’ become ‘God (Allāh)’.
Furthermore, either the translators or later scribes frequently added doxologies
such as ‘the Almighty’, ‘great and exalted’ and so on. In these cases, it is some-
times difficult for the modern editor to decide who made these additions, and
how they should appear in a critical text.
Strohmaier ends his article with an ingenious, if controversial, suggestion. It
concerns a passage from Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ in which Ga-
len reports that the famous orator and satirist Lucian (2nd cent. AD) produced
fakes of divinely inspired incomprehensible texts. Lucian then gave them to
‘some grammarians (qawm min al-naḥwīyīn)’, if we follow the reading of one
manuscript. I personally understood this to mean that Lucian composed unin-
telligible oracular poetry, perhaps in the style of the Sibylline oracles, and then
watched how the grammarians would pour over his fakes, trying to understand
their elusive meaning.19 Strohmaier, however, proposes to read the Galenic text
differently as ‘qawm min al-naḥwayn (people of the two ways)’, and explains
this as a reference to Christians and Jews. In other words, Lucian ridiculed
Christians and Jews rather than grammarians.
The Syriac, and especially the Arabic translation of Galen’s Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ had a profound impact on the subsequent medical tra-
dition. This impact can partly be gauged from the many quotations from this
commentary that we find in Arabic medical works from the ninth century on-
wards. Bink Hallum investigates these quotations in his contribution. One story
about a patient believing that he swallowed a snake, and Galen then curing
him of his delusion through a trick appears already in two early Arabic medical
works, composed in the mid-ninth century. Moreover, the man who produced
the Arabic version that we now have, Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq, did not content him-
self with just rendering this text into Arabic, but he also produced at least four
abridgments of the Hippocratic text and Galen’s commentary. In doing so, he
seemed to be particularly motivated by didactic concerns: he wanted to make
the material more easily acceptable for students. These abridgments range from
collections of the most important passages to aphorisms and a sort of catechism
in question-and-answer format.
Ḥunayn’s Arabic version travelled quickly to the outer reaches of the Islamic
world. For the physician ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿImrān, originally hailing from Baghdad, but
later installed in Kairouan, included quotations from it in his Treatise on Mel-
ancholy in the early tenth century, as did agricultural author al-Ṭinġarī in elev-
enth-century Muslim Spain. The two medical authors who quoted most from
Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ are Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyāʾ
19 On the Sibylline oracles, see now Lightfoot 2007 with further literature; she discusses
Lycian’s parodies of the Sibylline oracles and their metric characteristics on pp. 159–61.
One example of such parody is contained in Lucian’s Death of Peregrinus, §§ 29–30; see also
Pilhofer et al. 2005.
Introduction 11

al-Rāzī (d. ca. 925) and Mūsā ibn ʿUbayd Allāh, better known as Ibn Maymūn or
Maimonides (d. 1204), the celebrated Jewish thinker, theologian, and physician.
The former strongly advocated the use of case notes in clinical practice and
research, and in this context, he specifically cited the example of the Epidemics.
The latter has many quotations in his own Book of Aphorisms (Kitāb al-Fuṣūl),
probably because certain passages in the Epidemics lent themselves particularly
well to being excerpted as adages and axioms (see the example of Ḥunayn, just
mentioned). Other physicians from the Eastern and Western parts of the Islamic
world such as al-Maǧūsī (d. after 987) and Ibn al-Ǧazzār, quoted from, and com-
mented on, the Epidemics. The last author in this long line is Ibn al-Nafīs (d.
1288), who penned a fully-fledged lemmatic commentary on this text, drawing
on the earlier example of Galen.
In the next two articles, my colleague N. Peter Joosse and I investigate two
other Hippocratic texts and how Arab physicians engaged with them, namely
the Aphorisms and the Prognostic. Whereas Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’
‘Epidemics’ is the longest commentary that Galen wrote, his Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Aphorims’ is by far the most influential one in the medieval Islamic
world. This is obviously linked to the popularity of the Hippocratic Aphorisms,
a text which even school-children would at least partly learn by heart. Like the
Epidemics, the Aphorisms were rendered into Arabic by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq in
the wake of his translation of Galen’s commentary. But another, earlier trans-
lation also existed that was extracted from the lemmas in the commentary by
Palladius, a physician from sixth-century Alexandria. This older translation still
partly survives in a unique manuscript and quotations in later authors. Moreo-
ver, for the Aphorisms, we have the Syriac version produced by Ḥunayn ibn
ʾIsḥāq. Therefore, we are in the unique position to be able to compare the Greek
original with the Syriac version by Ḥunayn, the earlier Syriac version by Ser-
gius of Rēšʿaynā, perserved in the Syriac Epidemics (see above), the older Arabic
translation, possibly by al-Biṭrīq (fl. late 8th cent.), and that by Ḥunayn.
Building on an earlier article by Franz Rosenthal, we survey more than a
dozen Arabic commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms, written from the
eleventh to the sixteenth centuries. In each case, we list the extant manuscripts,
describe the author’s approach, and investigate the commentary on one particu-
lar aphorism, namely vi. 23: ‘If fear and despondency last for a long time, then
this is something melancholic.’ This pilot study, so to speak, allows us not only
to trace the diachronic interdependence of the various commentators, but also
to study how this manifesto of melancholy elicited explanation. Both Galen’s
commentary and that by the ‘second Hippocrates’, Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq (d. after 1068),
proved tremendously influential for the subsequent tradition. Some authors
mostly drew on Galen or Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq, but others deliberately distanced them-
selves from the latter. Although the commentaries vary greatly in length—the
longest by Ibn al-Quff (d. 1286) is roughly ten times as long as the shortest by
12 Introduction

Mūsā ibn Maymūn—, they all offer at least one interesting new thought or idea
(with the exception of that by Ibn al-Nafīs, who merely states that this aphorism
is ‘clear’). This extremely rich exegetical tradition undoubtedly deserves further
study. Therefore, it is with great joy that I can announce here that the European
Research Council has granted me €1.5m to explore this topic in depth over a
five-year period, starting in early 2012.
In the late antique medical curriculum, the Hippocratic Prognostic were sec-
ond in importance only to the Aphorisms. This prominent place is also partly
reflected in the Arabic medical tradition. For in addition to the Arabic version
of Galen’s Commentary, an Arabic version of that by Palladius was also avail-
able. Moreover, famous physicians such as Ibn al-Muṭrān (d. 1191), his pupil
al-Daḫwār (d. 1230), ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī, and Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288) all com-
mented on the Prognostic. They often did so because they were convinced that
predicting the course of disease is an essential skill for future physicians. In
other words, the didactic usefulness of the Hippocratic Prognostic continued to
be fully realised in the medieval Islamic world. Although we offer a brief survey
of other commentaries on the Prognostic (two of which have already been ed-
ited), our main focus is that by ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī.
ʿAbd al-Laṭīf was a highly original and innovative thinker who took an in-
terest in philosophy and linguistics, in addition to medicine. He also took a
great interest in teaching the next generation of physicians and philosophers,
and it is out of this interest that both his commentaries on the Aphorisms and
the Prognostic were born. He took inspiration from the late antique medical
tradition, although his love and zeal for the ancients, especially Hippocrates
and Galen, clearly surpassed that of his predecessors. In his Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Prognostic’, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf draws on his multi-disciplinary exper-
tise. He makes some rather innovative remarks about medicine as being the
‘knowledge of probabilities (al-maʿrifa al-ʾakṯarīya)’, and discusses some finer
points of medical epistemology. But he also displays great philological prowess.
First, he analyses words and phrases in terms of Arabic grammar. But, much
more surprisingly, he also compares the two translations of the Prognostic, the
older, perhaps authored by al-Biṭrīq, and the younger from Ḥunayn’s workshop.
Through this comparison, he is able to come to a better understanding and ap-
preciation of the Hippocratic text.
In this way, Joosse and I explored commentaries on two seminal Hippocratic
works that were written by various Arabic-speaking physicians. These com-
mentaries provide a context to the exegetical activity related to the Epidemics
that took place in Arabic. In the last contribution to this volume, Leigh Chipman
first looks at the influence of the Epidemics in the area of Arabic pharmacology.
In the second book of the Epidemics, there are a number of drug recipes. As the
Epidemics enjoyed such a great popularity, one might expect that Arab pharma-
cologists incorporated these recipes into their pharmacopoeias. But the results
Introduction 13

of Chipman’s investigation are largely negative: the Epidemics are hardly ever
mentioned in later Arabic formularies. Only the tenth-century hospital physi-
cian al-Kaskarī quoted pharmaceutical advice from the Epidemics on occasion in
his Medical Compendium.
In the second part of her article, Chipman turns her attention to the more
general question of how often Hippocrates, Galen and Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq (who
translated them into Arabic) are mentioned by name in these formularies. Here
again, one is surprised to find that Hippocrates is nearly totally absent from the
pharmacopoeias. Galen’s name is mostly linked to a number of compound drugs
such as pills, electuaries, and so-called ‘holy remedies’ (called hierá in Greek
and ʾiyāraǧ in Arabic). Chipman traces the different versions of these drugs at-
tributed to Galen, and comes to some interesting conclusions. On the one hand,
there are the formularies by practising pharmacists such as Sābūr ibn Sahl (d.
869) and Ibn al-Tilmīḏ (d. 1165). The recipes attributed to Galen that they con-
tain are often hard to trace in the extant œuvre of the latter; and as they are
transmitted from generation to generation, these recipes change. Like cooks, the
pharmacists probably found it difficult to resist the temptation of adding new
ingredients, or altering the quantities of old ones. On the other hand, there is
the fifth book of the Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna, d. 1037), which
is devoted to compound drugs. By tracing the transmission of ‘holy remedies’,
Chipman shows that Ibn Sīnā relied much more on a literal rather than a practi-
cal tradition. Many of his recipes for these holy remedies go back to the Small
Compendium by Ibn Sarābiyūn (fl. 870s), a Syriac medical handbook translated
into Arabic; and Ibn Sarābiyūn in his turn drew on Paul of Aegina (fl. mid-7th
cent.), who excerpted Galen and other authors. Therefore, Chipman confirms
Cristina Álvarez-Millán’s recent analysis that Ibn Sīnā’s medical knowledge is
largely the result of book-learning and not clinical practice.20
The articles collected here all testify to the importance of Arabic version of
Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’. It offers rich pickings not only
for scholars interested in Hippocrates and Galen, but also in the late antique
medical tradition. It formed the basis for the development of the genre of case
notes in Arabic. Moreover, from Ḥunayn’s day onwards, physicians used it to
teach medical students. And it is an interesting object of investigation in the
context of the exegetical culture that emerged in the medieval Islamic world.
And yet, the present collection can only mark a beginning: Hallum’s and Vagel-
pohl’s editions and translations, once published, will undoubtedly provide the
material basis for many more scholarly investigations. This volume can only
hint at the interesting and exciting discoveries that are yet to come.

20 See Álvarez-Millán 2010.

14 Introduction

As said above, the contributors were invited to engage with Hallum’s and Vagel-
pohl’s draft editions and translations, made available in early August 2010. For
the final versions of the articles, Hallum and Vagelpohl provided revised texts
and translations which are cited throughout this volume.21 I would therefore
like to add my expression of gratitude to that of the individual authors who
were able to draw on their work. Then I would like to thanks the authors of
the articles collected here for their willingness to contribute to this volume and
their readiness to consider my suggestions which, at times, led to substantial re-
visions of the submissions. My doctoral student Aileen Das assisted me greatly
in editing the contributions, as did Vagelpohl, Hallum, and Joosse.
The Epidemics project would not have seen the light without the generous
support of the Wellcome Trust which is currently funding four Graeco-Arabic
projects at Warwick, and also provided the finances for the Epidemics in Con-
text conference in November last year. I therefore wish to record my profound
gratitude to the Trustees. Likewise, the Warburg Institute has been a most con-
genial host for the conference; Charles Burnett, François Quiviger, and Elizabeth
Witchell helped bring this event about. I am deeply indebted to them. I would
like to acknowledge the fact that the various libraries at the University of Ham-
burg, my home town, provided an excellent environment in which to edit the
present proceedings. Finally, I would like to thank Marwan Rashed, the editor
of the series Scientia Graeco-Arabica, and Sabine Vogt, my commissioning edi-
tor at De Gruyter, for agreeing so readily and enthusiastically to my proposal to
publish the proceedings with them.
On a more personal level, I would also like to express my gratefulness to my
wife Zakia. As I am about to deliver this book to the press, she is about to de-
liver our first child. I know that she would have preferred for me not to spend
so much time in the library, as I edited the book over the last two months. I ap-
preciate her patience, and the support that she has given me.

Peter E. Pormann Hamburg, July 2011

21 See the list of abbreviations at the beginning of the bibliography on p. 303, below.
A New Manuscript 15

A New Manuscript:
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi,
MS Ayasofya 3592
Bink Hallum, N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann,
Simon Swain, Uwe Vagelpohl

When Wenkebach and Pfaff worked on their CMG edition of Galen’s Commen-
tary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Books One and Two, they had copies of two
Arabic manuscripts at their disposal: Madrid, Escorial, MS árabe 805 (hence-
forth E1), and Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS 2846 fonds arabe
(henceforth P1).1 Whilst preparing an application to the Wellcome Trust for
the Warwick Epidemics project during the academic year of 2006–7, Peter E.
Pormann discovered another manuscript: Milan, Ambrosiana, MS B 135 sup.
(henceforth M).2 P1 is a nineteenth-century copy of M, a humanist manuscript
written by the Scottish monk and scholar David Colville (c. 1581–1629).3 Re-
cently, Ivan Garofalo confirmed Pormann’s analysis that M is a witness to at
least one additional manuscript that is now lost; in other words, it does not
merely represent the readings of E1 and Colville’s conjectures, but also addi-
tional readings of an Escorial codex that perished in the 1671 fire that destroyed
or damaged a substantial part of the monastery’s manuscript holdings.4
As P1 is merely a partial copy of M, we based our preliminary edition on
E1 for Book One (where M is absent); and E1 and M for Book Two. During a
research trip to Turkey, Peter Joosse discovered a new manuscript, containing
roughly the second half of the Arabic version of Book Two. This manuscript, Is-
tanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3592 (henceforth A1), is the ob-
ject of this short note. This note aims at drawing attention to its existence, and
argues that A1 is of paramount importance for the text of Galen’s commentary.
The catalogue entry for A1 provides the following information5:

1 Wenkebach / Pfaff 1934, xxxii; for a more extensive discussion of how Wenkebach and
Pfaff worked, see Vagelpohl, pp. 125–30 below.
2 Pormann 2008a.
3 See Pormann 2009b.
4 Garofalo 2010a, revising his earlier opinion expressed in Garofalo 2009.
5 İhsanoğlu et al. 1984, 2.
16 Bink Hallum, N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann, Simon Swain, Uwe Vagelpohl

Ɏʥ̵Βā ɬ̑ ɬʉ˶̤ ɡ˙͵ ζ(ǚ͎āǍͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā ŁLJʓ͛) LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Αā ŁLJʓ˜ͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ -
ζɨ̵ (ϔϙζϔ × ϔϓζϘ) ϕϕζϜ × ϔϗζϛ ťLJʉ˙˳̑ć țʶ͵ Ⱥʦ̑ ζɼ͘Ģć ϔϙϗ ǽ͎ ζϖϘϜϕ ɨ͘Ģ ζLJʉ͎Ǎ̿ LJ̈ΐā
.ɼ̵ĔLJʶͫāć ɼˈ̑āǨͫāć ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā

Galen’s Commentary on the Epidemics (Book on Epidemic Disease) (Tafsīr

Ǧālīnūs li-Kitāb ʾIbīḏīmiyā [Kitāb al-maraḍ al-wāfid]), translated by
Ḥunayn b. ʾIsḥāq.

Ayasofya 3592, 164 folios, nasḫ script, 22.9cm × 14.8cm (16.1cm × 10.5cm),
Parts Three, Four and Six.

To this somewhat limited description, we can add that there are nineteen lines
of text per page, written in black ink; the generously spaced nasḫ employed in
this manuscript is very legible but sparsely pointed. The scribe employs muhmal
signs: he often writes a small ḥāʾ under this letter, and sometimes also a small
ʿayn under this letter, in order to indicate the absence of critical dots. Lemmas
and commentary are clearly distinguished by ‘Hippocrates said (qāla Buqrāṭ)’
and ‘Galen said (qāla Ǧālīnūs)’, written on separate lines and centred. In addi-
tion, the Hippocratic lemmas are numbered with marginal ʾabǧad numerals. Ex-
cept for the occasional catch word at the bottom, there are very few marginalia.

The text of A1 begins and ends as follows:

Incipit (fol. 1b, lines 1–7):

ŴāǨ˙̑ ŁLJʓ͛ ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ˬͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ɬͲ ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ɬ͇Αā ŁĢ ɨʉ̤Ǩͫā ɬ˳̤Ǩͫā ɷˬͫā ɨʶ̑
ȫʓ͵ĢLJ̑ ɼ˶̈ǚ˳̑ ɼ̓ĔLJʥͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā ƛLJ̤ ɼˏ̿ ǚˈ̑ ΈLJ̑Ǎʓ˜Ͳ ụ̈̌ć LJͲ LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā.
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. The third part of
Galen’s commentary on the second book of Hippocrates’ book called
‘Epidemics’; what is written after the description of the weather conditions
prevailing in the city of Perinthus.

Explicit (fol. 153b, line 16– fol. 154a, line 4):

LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā ŴāǨ˙̑ ŁLJʓ͛ ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ˬͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ɬͲ ƴǨʉ̥Αҙҏā ǽ΀ć ɼ̵ĔLJʶͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā Ȉ˳̒
Ɏʥ̵Βā ɬ̑ ɬʉ˶̤ ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒.
A New Manuscript 17

The end of the sixth part, which is the last, of Galen’s commentary on
the second book of Hippocrates, book called ‘Epidemics’. Translation of
Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq.

In its present condition, A1 contains 156 and not 164 folios, as indicated in the
catalogue entry. Discrepancies between the present foliation (in modern Arabic
numerals) and a previous modern foliation (in Eastern Arabic numerals) sug-
gest that several folios have dropped out between folios 90 (marked 90 in both
the present and Eastern Arabic foliations) and 102 (marked 102 in the present
foliation and 110 in the Eastern Arabic). This discrepancy coincides with a gap
in the manuscript between fol. 94b and 95a. The text breaks off at the bottom
of fol. 94b with the end of Book ii.4.79 and recommences on fol. 95a with the
second sentence of Book ii.6.4. The resulting gap corresponds to the last eighth
of Book ii.4 and a small amount of material from Book ii.6, probably amount-
ing to seven or perhaps eight folios, taking into account any colophon that may
have concluded Book ii.4, a note about the loss of Book ii.5 and a title marking
the beginning of Book ii.6. We do not encounter any further text loss between
fol. 95a and the end of the manuscript.
Neither of the extant colophons (for Books ii.3 and ii.6) gives us the name of
the scribe or the place or date at which the manuscript was copied. At the end
of Book ii.3 (fol. 55a), we read that the present copy originated ‘with the copy of
Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (Ɏʥ̵Βā ɬ̑ ɬʉ˶̤ ɼʦʶ͵ ɬͲ)’. This does not mean that the copyistʼs
exemplar was Ḥunayn’s own autograph; rather, this concluding note was prob-
ably copied with the rest of the text of ii.3 at every stage of the transmission.
A1 contains only Parts Three, Four and Six of Galen’s Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two. On the title page (fol. 1a), the scribe wrote
‘Parts Three, Four and Six of Galen’s Commentary on the end of the Book Two
of the Epidemics of Hippocrates. Translation by Ḥunayn bin ʾIsḥāq (ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā
Ɏʥ̵Βā ɬ̑ ɬʉ˶̤ ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒ ŴāǨ˙ʒͫ LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ŁLJʓ͛ ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ƢLJ˳ʓͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ɬͲ ɼ̵ĔLJʶͫāć ɼˈ̑āǨͫāć)’.
Above these words, another hand added ‘a volume from Galen’s Commentary
on Hippocrates’ Book Entitled ‘Epidemics’. Translation by Ḥunayn, concerning
medicine (ȇ˅ͫā ǽ͎ ɬʉ˶̤ ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒ LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā ŴāǨ˙̑ ŁLJʓ˜ͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ɬͲ ǚˬʤͲ)’. This
indicates that rather than being defective at the beginning, the manuscript com-
prises the complete volume, presumably preceded by a (now lost) volume con-
taining Book Two, Parts One and Two.
Discounting such merely orthographic differences as ŴāǨ˙̑ (A1) for ŴāǨ˙̑Αā
(E1, M) and LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā (A1) for LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ͎Βā (E1, M), a number of significant variants dem-
onstrate that while the text preserved by A1 is similar to that of E1 and M and
does not represent a separate recension, A1 is an independent and reliable wit-
ness to Ḥunayn’s text. The text was prepared with some care and copied by a
scribe who was clearly conversant with the subject matter. With the exception
of a marked tendency to produce haplographies and omissions of entire phrases
18 Bink Hallum, N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann, Simon Swain, Uwe Vagelpohl

by saut du même au même (moving from one instance of a term to the next while
dropping the intervening words), the scribe of A1 correctly reproduced techni-
cal terms and even proper names.
The exact relationship between the manuscripts, especially between E1 and
A1, still needs to be determined. A sample collation of just over four folios of A1,
however, covering around 800 words and corresponding to paragraphs ii.3.1–5
and ii.6.149–150, shall serve to illustrate a number of tendencies.6 It revealed
74 instances in which readings preserved by A1 were at variance with E1, M
or both. By far the largest set of these variants (34 or 46%) consists of instances
in which A1 supported the reading which we had selected for our forthcoming
edition before inspecting A1, possibly a testament to the reliability of the text of
A1. This set of 34 variants can be further divided into two subsets: 17 variants
(50%) in which A1 supports selected readings found in E1 against M, and 17 var-
iants (50%) in which A1 supports selected readings found in M against E1. The
fact that these 34 instances in which A1 preserves our preferred reading, evenly
split between agreement with E1 and M, shows that A1 should be considered
not only a reliable, but also an independent witness to the text.
Further evidence for the independence of A1 is provided by five instances
in which A1 offers preferred readings found in neither E1 nor M, and a further
eight instances in which A1 offers discounted variants found in neither E1 nor
M. Of the latter, however, five may be nothing more than the result of slips of
the pen, palaeographical errors or silent modifications based on stylistic or ter-
minological preferences of the scribe (for example, LJ˳͛ć A1 for LJ˳͛ E1, M in ii.3.3;
two instances of Ǩʉˉʓͫā A1 for Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā E1, M in ii.3.5; ƛǍ˙ͫā A1 for ƛǍ˙ͫ E1, M in ii.6.150;
and Ʀćǚˬ˙˳ͫā A1 for Ʀćǚˬ˙ʓ˳ͫā E1, M in ii.6.150). The text of A1 and the variants it
offers demand to be taken seriously in future studies of the Arabic Epidemics
and have been fully incorporated into our forthcoming edition, as well as in the
quotations from it contained in this volume.

6 The full text of the collated passages can be seen in the appendix below.
A New Manuscript 19


Sample 1: ii.3.1–5 HV7

ɬʉ˶̤ ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒ 10LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ͎Βā ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā 9ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ŁLJʓ͛ ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ˬͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ɬͲ ɼʔͫLJʔͫā 8ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā (1)
14.13ȫʓ͵ĢLJ͎ ɼ˶̈ǚ˳̑ ɼ̓ĔLJʥͫā 12ƛLJʥͫā ɼˏ̿ ǚˈ̑ ΈLJ̑Ǎʓ˜Ͳ ụ̈̌ć LJͲ 11Ɏʥ̵Βā ɬ̑

ĢLJ̓ǚͫLJ̑ ɷ͵ǚ̑ ɬʦʶ̈ć ΈāĔĢLJ̑ ƹāǍ΀ Ɏʷ˶ʓʶ̈ ȅʓ̤ Ǩ̓ǚʓͲ ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏāć ĔĢLJ̑ Ƚ̀ǍͲ ǽ͎ 15ƹLJ˙ˬʓ̵ҙҏā :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘ (2)
.ș̈Ģǚʓͫā ƱẠ̌ć ɡˁ͎Αā ɬͲ ɷ̣ć

ɬͲ ɼˈ͎Ĕ Ǩʉˀ̈ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ ҙҏ ɷ͵Βā ɡ˳ʤͲ ƛǍ˙̑ ɷˬ͛ 16Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ǨͲΑā ɬͲ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā Ʉ̿ć ǚ͘ :ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƛLJ͘ (3)
ƛLJ˳ˈʓ̵ā» ƛLJ͘ ɬʉ̤ ƛǍˀˏͫā ŁLJʓ͛ ǽ͎ ƱĔḲ̌ć ɷ̤Ǩ̶ć ƴǨʉʔ͛ Ƚ̀āǍͲ ǽ͎ ɑͫĕ ɬʉ̑ć 17.ǚˁͫā ȅͫΒā ǚˁͫā
ŷǍ͵ ķΑā ɼ͛Ǩʥͫā ɬͲ Ǩ̥ΐā ŷǍ˶̑ ɷ͛Ǩʥ̈ ćΑā ƱĔǨʒ̈ ćΑā ɷ˶ʦʶ̈ ćΑā ɷ͈Ǩˏʓʶ̈ ćΑā Ʀǚʒͫā Α ҨҞ˳̈ LJ˳Ͳ 18ɼʓˉ̑ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫā
΋ Αā ȅʓͲ ƦǍͲΑLJ˳͎ Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ ƦǍ˜̈ LJͲ LJͲΑLJ͎ .ɼˈʉʒ˅ˬͫ 19ƢćLJ˙Ͳ Ǎ͎́ ΈāǨʉʔ͛ ƦLJ͛ LJ˳ˬ͛ć ƹLJ˅̥ ƦLJ͛
ƛLJ˙ʓ͵ҙҏā łĔĢ
ṳ̈̌āć Ʉ˶̿ ǽ͎ ɷͲҨҞ͛ ɡˈʤ͎ Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ LJͲΑāć 22«.ɑͫĕ Ǩʉ͈ łĔĢ ΋ Αā 21ȅʓͲć ƱǨʉ͈ 20ȅͫΒā ƹǽ̶ ɬͲ
āǛ΀ ǽ͎ ƛǍ˙ͫā ɼˬ˳̣ ɷ̑ ɨ́ˏ̈ ƛLJʔͲ ɷ͵ΑLJ͛ āǛ΀ ɡˈ̣ć ĔǨʒͫā ȅͫΒā Ǩʥͫā ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈ ķǛͫā Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā Ǎ΀ć Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ɬͲ
ɡˈ͎ 24LJ˳͛ ƱǨʉ͈ 23ɨʉˬˈʓͫ ɷ̑ ǚˀ˙̈ ɨͫć ɷʶˏ˶ͫ ƴǨ͛Ǜ̒ ɷˬˈ̣ LJ˳͵Βā ɷ͵Αҙҏ Έāǩʉ̣ć Έ ҙҏǍ͘ ɷʉ͎ ɷͫǍ͘ ɡˈ̣ć ŁLJʒͫā
ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ ҙҏ 25ɷ͵Αā Ƚ̵āć ƢҨҞ˜̑ ɬʉ̑ć ŔǨ̶ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ɷ͵ΒLJ͎ ƴĔLJʥͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩʉ̑ǚ̒ ǽ͎ ɷ̑LJʓ͛ ǽ͎
.ɼ˳ʉˆ͇ ƴǍ͘ ɷʉ͎ LJ˳͇ Έ ҨҞˁ͎ ƴǨʉʶ̈ ƴǍ͘ ɷˈͲ LJ˳ʉ͎ ҙҏć Ʊǚ̀ ȅͫΒā ƹǽʷͫā ɬͲ ɼˈ͎Ĕ ƹǽ̶ 26Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ɬͲ ɡ˳ˈʓʶ̈

7 MS E1, fol. 73b, line 22–fol. 74a, line 18; MS A1, fol. 1b, line 2–fol. 3a, line 3; MS M fol. 35b,
line 1–fol. 36a, line 3.
8 Ante ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā add. ɬ͇Αā ŁĢ ɨʉ̤Ǩͫā ɬ˳̤Ǩͫā ɷˬͫā ɨʶ̑A1.
9 ŴāǨ˙̑Αā] E12, M: om. E1: ŴāǨ˙̑ A1.
10 LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ͎Βā] E12, M: om. E1: LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā A1.
11 Ɏʥ̵Βā ɬ̑ ɬʉ˶̤ ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒] E12, M: om. E1, A1.
12 ƛLJʥͫā] E12, M: om. E1: ƹāǍ́ͫā ƛLJ̤ A1.
13 ȫʓ͵ĢLJ͎] E12, M: om. E1: ȫʓ͵ĢLJ̑ A1.
14 ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ... ȫʓ͵ĢLJ͎ ɼ˶̈ǚ˳̑] om. E1, in marg. add. E12.
15 ƹLJ˙ˬʓ̵ҙҏā] M, A1, A2: ƹLJ˙ʶʓ̵ҙҏā E1.
16 Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā] E1: Ǩʉˉʓͫā M, A1.
17 ǚˁͫā ȅͫΒā] E1, A1: om. M.
18 ɼʓˉ̑] A1: Ƚ͎Ĕ M: ɷ˶ʉˈ̑ E1.
19 ƢćLJ˙Ͳ] M, A1: ƢLJ˙Ͳ E1.
20 Post ȅͫΒā add. ƹǽ̶ M.
21 ȅʓͲ] E1, A1: ǽ΀ M.
22 Aph. ii. 51
23 ɨʉˬˈʓͫ] E1, A1: ɨˬˈʓͫ M.
24 LJ˳͛] E1, M: LJ˳͛ć A1.
25 ɷ͵Αā] M, A1: ɷ͵Αāć E1.
26 Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā] E1, A1: Ǩʉˉʓͫā M.
20 Bink Hallum, N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann, Simon Swain, Uwe Vagelpohl

ǽ͎ ȫʉͫć ĔǨʒͫā ȅͫΒā Ǩʥͫā ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈ ķǛͫā Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ǽ͎ Ȉˬ͘ LJ˳͛ ɷͲҨҞ͛ ɡˈʤ͎ Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ LJͲΑāć (4)
ƦǍ˜̈ Ǩ̥ΐā Ʉ˶̿ Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈ 28ǚ͘ ɷ͵ΒLJ͎ .Ⱥ˙͎ ƹāǍ́ͫā ɬͲ ɷ˶Ͳ ƦǍ˜̈ LJ˳ʉ͎ 27ɬ˜ͫć ɷˬ͛ Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā āǛ΀
Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ 30Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ɑͫĕ Ǩ͛Ǜ̈ ɨͫć Ǩʉ̑ǚʓͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ Ģŕΐҙҏāć ƴķćĔΑҙҏā 29ƛLJ˳ˈʓ̵ā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ LJ˳΀ṳ̈̌Αā ɬʉ˙̈Ǩ˅̑
35LJ˳΀āṳ̈̌Βā ɬʉʓ̣́ ȅˬ͇ ƦǍ˜̈ Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā 34āǛ΀ć .ƦǚʒͫLJ̑ Ⱥʉʥ˳ͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈ ķǛͫā 33Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā 32Ǩ͛ĕ LJ˳͵Βā 31ɷ˶˜ͫć

ƦΑā ȅͫΒā Ȉʤʓ̤ā 38ȅʓͲ ǽˉʒ˶̈ ҙҏ ɷ͵Βā ƛćɎ̈ ŴāǨ˙̑Αāć .œĢLJʦͫā Ʀǚʒͫā 37Ț˅ʶ̑ 36ɷ̒LJ͘ҨҞ˳̑ Ǩ̥ΐҙҏāć ƹāǍ́ͫā ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵LJ̑
ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵ҙҏā Ɏ̈Ǩ˅̑ LJͲΒā ɬʉ̣́Ǎͫā ṳ̈̌ΑLJ̑ Έ ҙҏćΑā ƱǨʉˉ̒ ɬ˜ͫć ΈLJˈͲ ΈLJˈʉ˳̣ ɬʉ̣́ǍͫLJ̑ ƱǨʉˉ̒ ƦΑā 40Ʀǚʒͫā ƛLJ̤ 39Ǩʉˉ̒
ĢLJ̤ ƹāǍ΀ ɷʉ͎ Ȉʉ̑ ɬͲ ɷˬ˙˶̒ ƦΑā 41Ȉʤʓ̤ā ȅʓͲ ɡʔ˳ͫā ǽ͎ ȶ̈Ǩ˳ˬͫ ƦǍ˜̈ ķǛͫā ǚˬʤͫā ƴLJ͘ҨҞͲ Ɏ̈Ǩ˅̑ LJͲΒāć
ƴLJ͘ҨҞ˳̑ œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ ƱĔǨʒ̒ 44ȅʓ̤ ɼΈ ˈ͎Ĕ ΈLJˈʉ˳̣ ɬʉ̣́ǍͫLJ̑ ɷ͵ǚ̑ ǚ̈Ǩʒʓͫ ǚˀ˙̒ ҙҏ 43ĔĢLJ̑ 42ƹāǍ΀ ɷʉ͎ Ȉʉ̑ ȅͫΒā
ɷ̑ ǚͲ āĕΒLJ͎ .ɬʉ̣́Ǎͫā ṳ̈̌ΑLJ̑ 46Έ ҙҏćΑā ƱĔǨʒ̒ 45ɬ˜ͫ ĔĢLJʒͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵LJ̑ ɡ̥āĔ ɬͲć ǚˬʤˬͫ ĔĢLJʒͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā
50ƹāǍ΀ ƦLJ͛ ȅʓͲ ƹāǍ́ͫā ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵ā ǨͲΑā ɑˬ˳͵ LJ˶ʶͫć ΈLJˈʉ˳̣ 49ɬʉ̣́Ǎͫā 48LJ˶ˬ˳ˈʓ̵ā ɼʥͫLJ̿ ƴǚͲ ɑͫĕ 47ȅˬ͇

.ɷ˜ˬ˳͵ ɬʥ˶͎ 52ĢLJ̓ǚͫā 51ǨͲΑā LJͲΑLJ͎ .LJ́ʉˬ͇ Ǎ΀ ǽʓͫā ƛLJʥͫLJ̑ Ɏʷ˶ʓʶ̈ ƦΑā ɬͲ ǚ̑ ҙҏ ɷ͵Αā ɑͫĕć ΈāĔĢLJ̑ Ȉʉʒͫā
ΈLJˈʉ˳̣ ɬʉ̣́Ǎͫā ɬͲ ǚ̈Ǩʒʓͫā ɷͫLJ˶̈ ȅʓ̤ ΈāǨʉʶ̈ ǨͲΑҙҏā ƛćΑā Ǜ˶Ͳ Ʀǚʒͫā ɷ̑ ȅ˅ˉ̈ LJͲ ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ 53ҨҞ͎ (5)
ķǛͫā Ǩʉˉʓͫā ɨ́ˏ̒ ƦΑā āǛ΀ ɬͲ ĢĔLJ͘ Ȉ͵Αāć .ɷʉˬ͇ ƦLJ͛ ķǛͫā ƛćΑҙҏā œāǩ˳ͫā ǚ̀ œāǩͲ ȅͫΒā 54ɼʓˉ̑ Ǩʉˀʉ͎

27 ɬ˜ͫć] E1: ɬ˜ͫ M, A1.

28 ǚ͘] E1, M: om. A1, in textu add. A11.
29 ƛLJ˳ˈʓ̵ā] M, A1: om. E1.
30 Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā] E1, A1: Ǩʉˉʓͫā M.
31 ɷ˶˜ͫć] E1: ɷ˶˜ͫ M, A1.
32 Post Ǩ͛ĕ scr. et del. Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā E1.
33 Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā] E1, A1: Ǩʉˉʓͫā M.
34 āǛ΀ć] M, A1: Ǎ΀ć E1.
35 LJ˳΀āṳ̈̌Βā ɬʉʓ̣́] E1, A1: LJ˳΀ṳ̈̌Αā ɬʉ̣́ć M.
36 ɷ̒LJ͘ҨҞ˳̑] E1, A1: ƴLJ͘ҨҞ˳̑ M.
37 Ț˅ʶ̑] E1, A1: Ț˅ʶͫ M.
38 ȅʓͲ] M, A1: LJͲ E1.
39 Ǩʉˉ̒ ƦΑā] M, A1: om. E1, in marg. add. Ǩʉʉˉ̒ E13.
40 Ʀǚʒͫā] M, A1: om. E1.
41 ȶ̈Ǩ˳ˬͫ ƦǍ˜̈ ķǛͫā ... Ȉʤʓ̤ā] M: œLJʓ̤ā ... ȶ̈Ǩ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̈ ȅʓ̤ E1, A1.
42 ƹāǍ΀] E1, A1: om. M.
43 ĔĢLJ̑] M, A1: ĔāǨ̑ E1.
44 ȅʓ̤] M, A1: om. E1.
45 ɬ˜ͫ] M, A1: ɷ˶˜ͫ E1.
46 Έ ҙҏćΑā] M, A1: ȅͫćΑā E1.
47 ȅˬ͇ ɷ̑ ǚͲ] M: ǽ͎ łǚͲ E1: ȅˬ͇ ɷʓ͵ǨͲ A11.
48 LJ˶ˬ˳ˈʓ̵ā] E1, A11: Ȉˬ˳ˈʓ̵ā M.
49 ɬʉ̣́Ǎͫā ... ɷ̑ ǚͲ āĕΒLJ͎] E1, M: om. A1, in marg. add. A11.
50 ƹāǍ΀] E1, A1: ƹāǍ́ͫā M.
51 ǨͲΑā] E1, M: om. A1.
52 Post ĢLJ̓ǚͫā add. ɷ̑ E1.
53 ҨҞ͎] E1, M: ҙҏć A1.
54 ɼʓˉ̑] A1: ɷ˶ʉˈ̑ E1, M.
A New Manuscript 21

ɑˬ̒ ȇ̤LJ̿ 57Ȉˬ˙͵ ƦΒā 56ɑ͵āΑ ɑͫĕć 55Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ ɷͫǩ˶̒ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ Ʉʉ͛ Ǩʥͫā ȅͫΒā ĔǨʒͫā ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈
ǽ˶͇Αā ΈLJˈʉ˳̣ ɬʉ̣́Ǎͫā ɬͲ ɼˈ͎Ĕ ɬʦʶ̈ ƦΑā ɬͲ ΈāĢṲ̈̀ ɷ΋͵ǚ̑ Ȉˏʷ͛
΋ ĢLJ̤ Ȉʉ̑ ȅͫΒā ĔĢLJ̑ Ȉʉ̑ 58ɬͲ ƛLJʥͫā
ķǛͫā 62Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ɼˈ͎Ĕ ƦǍ˜̈ ķǛͫā 61Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā ǚ̀ć œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫā 60ĢLJ̓ǚͫLJ̑ć ɡ̥āĔ ɬͲ ƹāǍ́ͫā 59ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵LJ̑
ɬ͎ ɬͲ ɷͲҨҞ͛ ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ẹ̑ć Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƢҨҞ͛ ƦLJ͛ LJ˳ͫć .ș̈Ģǚʓͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ˅̑ Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ ƦǍ˜̈

Sample 2: ii.6.149–150 HV63:

ȅͫǍ̈́Ǎ͘ Ģāǚ˙Ͳ 64ΈLJ͎Ǩ̿ ΈLJ̑āǨ̶ ɷʒ̤LJ̿ ŁǨʷ̈ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶ʉ͎ ŷāǚ̿ ĢLJ˳ Όʦͫā ɬͲ ŰǨ͇ āĕΒā :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘ (149)
ɨ́͵Αā ɑͫĕć «ťΑāǨͫā Ƚ̣ć» ɬͲ 66ɷ͘LJ˙ʓ̶ā LJ˳͵Βā ɨ̵LJ̑ «ĢLJ˳ʦͫā» ƦǍ˳ʶ̈ ɬʉʉ͵LJ͵Ǎʉͫā ƦΒā :ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƛLJ͘ (150)
«ťΑāǨͫā ƦLJ˙ˏ̥» ɨ΀ǚ˶͇ ɷ˳̵ā ƦLJ˜͎ ƦLJ˙ˏʦͫā 70«ǽͫLJ͎»ć ťΑāǨͫā ɨ̵ā ɨ΀ǚ˶͇ «āǨ͘»ć 69«ǽͫLJ͎āǨ͘» 6768ɷ͵Ǎ˳ʶ̈
ΈLJͲĔ 72ƱΑ ҨҞ˳̈ ɷ͵Αā ɡʒ͘ ɬͲć ťΑāǨͫā ɬʦʶ̈ ɷ͵Αā ɡʒ͘ ɬͲ 71Ǩ˳ʦͫā ŁǨ̶ ɬͲ ŰǨˈ̈ ŰĢLJˈͫā āǛ΀ ĿǨ͵ LJͲ ΈāǨʉʔ͛ć
75ɬ˜ͫ ȅ˶ˈͲ «ŷāǚ̿ ĢLJ˳ʦͫā ɬͲ ŰǨ͇ āĕΒā» ƛLJ͘ ɬͲ 74ƛǍ˙ͫ ȫʉˬ͎ ɑͫǛ͛ ǨͲΑҙҏā ƦLJ͛ 73ĕΒāć .ΈāĢLJ̤ ΈLJ̈ĢLJʦ̑
ĢLJ˳ʦͫā ƦΑā ɑͫĕć «ŷāǚ̿ ɨͫnj˳ͫā ťΑāǨͫā 76ƦLJ˙ˏ̥ ɬͲ ŰǨ͇ āĕΒā» ƛLJ͘ ɬͲ ƛǍ˙̑ ɷʉʒ̶ āǛ΀ ƛLJ͘ ɬͲ ƛǍ͘
79āǛ΀ 78Ǜʦ͎ 77.ŁāǨʷͫā ŁǨ̶ ƴǨʔ͛ ɬͲ ťΑāǨˬͫ ŰǨˈ̈ ķǛͫā ŰĢLJˈͫā ɷ˶˜ͫ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫā ŁāǨʷͫā ŁǨ̶ Ǎ΀ ȫʉͫ

55 Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘] M, A1: Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ E1.

56 ɑ͵Αā] M, A1: om. E1.
57 Ȉˬ˙͵] E1, A1: ȇˬ˙̒ M.
58 ɬͲ] M, A1: om. E1, in marg. add. E12.
59 ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵LJ̑] M, A1: ƈLJʷ˶ʓ̵ā E1.
60 ĢLJ̓ǚͫLJ̑ć] A1: ĢLJ̓ǚͫLJ̑ E1, M.
61 Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā] E1, M: Ǩʉˉʓͫā A1: post Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā scr. et del. Ǩʉʔ˜ͫā E1.
62 Ǩʉʉˉʓͫā] E1, M: Ǩʉˉʓͫā A1.
63 MS E1, fol. 122b, lines 12–29; MS A1 fol. 148b, line 17–fol. 149b, line 13; MS M 82b, lines
64 ΈLJ͎Ǩ̿] M, A1, A2: om. et vacat E1.
65 ṳ̈̌āć] M, A1, A2: ƴṳ̈̌āć E1.
66 ɷ͘LJ˙ʓ̶ā] M, A1: ɷ͗LJ˙̵ā E1.
67 ɷ͵Ǎ˳ʶ̈] A1: om. E1: ƦǍ˳ʶ̈ M.
68 ɷ͵Ǎ˳ʶ̈ ɨ́͵Αā ɑͫĕć] om. et vacat E1.
69 ǽͫLJ͎āǨ͘] M, A1: ƛLJ͘ E1.
70 ǽͫLJ͎ć] M, A1: ƛLJ͘ć E1.
71 Ǩ˳ʦͫā ŁǨ̶ ɬͲ ŰǨˈ̈ ŰĢLJˈͫā āǛ΀] M, A1: om. et vacat E1.
72 ƱΑ ҨҞ˳̈] E1, M: ƱΑ ҨҞͲ A1.
73 ĕΒāć] A1: āĕΒāć E1, M.
74 ƛǍ˙ͫ] E1, M: ƛǍ˙ͫā A1.
75 Post ɬ˜ͫ add. ƦǍ˜̈ M.
76 ƦLJ˙ˏ̥] E1, A1: ĢLJʦ̑ M.
77 Post ŁāǨʷͫā add. Ǩʉʔ˜ͫā M.
78 Ǜʦ͎] E1, A1: Ʊǚʥ͎ M.
79 āǛ΀] E1: ƱǛ΀ M, A1.
22 Bink Hallum, N. Peter Joosse, Peter E. Pormann, Simon Swain, Uwe Vagelpohl

ƱǛ́ͫ 84Ʀćǚˬ˙ʓ˳ͫā ɷʉ͇ǚ̈ 83LJ˳͇ ȉʥʒ͵ LJ˶̑ ɨˬ΀ć 82ƹLJ˅ʦͫLJ̑ 81ƛǍ˙ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ ɡʉ͘ LJ˳Ͳ 80ƱǨ̥ΐāć ɑʉͫΒā
ɬͲ Ǽˬʓ˳̈ ĢLJ˳ʦͫā ƛLJ̤ ǽ͎ 86ťΑāǨͫā ƦΑā ƦǍ˳͇ǩ̈ ɨ́͵ΒLJ͎ 85.ɼͲǍʓ˜˳ͫā ĢāǨ̵Αҙҏā ɬͲ ɨ΀ǚ˶͇ ǽ΀ ǽʓͫā ɡ̈ćLJ͘Αҙҏā
ǽ˶ˈ̈ 89ɡ΀ LJ˶ͫ āǍʓʒʔ̈ ɨͫć LJ́ˬˬʥ̈ć łāĢLJʦʒͫā ɑˬ̒ șˁ˶̈ ɷʶʒ̈ć 88ɷ̒ĢāǨʥͫ žǨˀͫā 87ŁāǨʷͫāć ĢLJʦʒͫā
ɡ˳ˈʓʶ˳ͫā ȅ˶ˈ˳ͫā ȅˬ͇ Έ ҨҞ̿Αā ƹLJ˳ͫā ɬͲ ƹǽ̶ ɷ˅ͫLJʦ̈ ɨͫ ķǛͫā ŁāǨʷͫā ƛǍ˙ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ «žǨˀͫā ŁāǨʷͫLJ̑»
ȅˬ͇ ΈLJ͎Ǩ̿ ȅ˳ʶʉ͎ ɡʉˬ͘ ɷʉ͎ ƹLJ˳ͫā ƦΑā ҙҏΒā ƹLJ˳ͫLJ̑ œǩͲ ǚ͘ ķǛͫā ŁāǨʷͫā ɷ̑ ǽ˶ˈ̈ 90LJ˳͵Βā ćΑā Ɏ̇LJ˙ʥͫā ȅˬ͇
ȅͫΒā ɼ̣LJ̤ ΈLJˁ̈Αā 92ɑ̑ ȫʉͫć .ɷ̑ 91œǩͲ ķǛͫā ƹLJ˳ͫā ťLJʉ˙̑ ɷʉˬ͇ ȇˬ͈Αā ŁāǨʷͫā ƦΑҙҏ ƴĢLJˈʓ̵ҙҏā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́
ɨ̓ Έ ҙҏćΑā ƢLJ˳ʥͫā 93ȅͫΒā ɷˬ̥ǚ̒ ƦΑā ĢLJ˳ʦͫā Ǜʉʒ˶ͫā ŁĢLJʷͫ ŰǨ͇ ȅʓͲ ĔẠ̌Αҙҏā ƦΑā ɡʒ͘ ɬͲ ɷ˶ʉʉʒ̒ć āǛ΀ ȵʉʦˬ̒
LJͲć Ǩʉˈʷͫā ɑʷ͛ ƹāǛˉͫā ĔǍ˳ʥ˳ͫā ƢLJˈ˅ͫā ɬͲć ȇ͵Ǩ˜ͫā ĢLJ˳ʦͫLJ̑ ȇ΀Ǜ̈ ķǛͫā ƢLJˈ˅ͫā ɬͲ ǚˈ̑ ɬͲ ɷ˳ˈ˅̒
ɷ̣āǩͲ ȅˬ͇ ȇͫLJˉͫā ΈLJ˙ʉ͘Ģ ΈLJ̑āǨ̶ ɷͲLJˈ̈́ ǚˈ̑ ɷʉ˙ʶ̒ ɨ̓ 95.ťĢǚ˶̥ ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā ǽͲćǨͫā Ǩʉˈʷͫā ɬͲ 94ɷ˶Ͳ Ǜʦʓ̈
ƢLJ˳ʥͫā ȅͫΒā ĔǍˈ̈ ɨ̓ ΈāǨʉʔ͛ ΈLJʉʷͲ ǽʷ˳̈ ƦΑā ǽ͎ ɷʉͫΒā Ƣǚ˙ʓ͎ ɷͲǍ͵ ȅ͎Ǎʓ̵ā āĕΒLJ͎ ƢǍ˶ͫā ȇˬ˅̑ ƱǨͲΑLJ̒ ɨ̓ .ƹLJ˳ͫā
.Ŀǚˉ̒ LJͲ ɡʔ˳̑ ȅʷˈʓ̈ ɨ̓ ɨʥʓʶʉ͎

80 ƱǨ̥ΐāć] E1, A1: ƴǨ̥Αā M.

81 ƛǍ˙ͫā] E1, M: om. A1.
82 ƹLJ˅ʦͫLJ̑] E1, A1: ƹLJ˅ʦͫā M.
83 LJ˳͇ ȉʥʒ͵ LJ˶̑] M: LJͲ ǚˈ̑ ȉʥ̑ LJ˳̑ E1: LJͲ ǚˈ̑ ȉʥʒ͵ LJ˶̑ A1.
84 Ʀćǚˬ˙ʓ˳ͫā] E1, M: Ʀćǚˬ˙˳ͫā A1.
85 ɼͲǍʓ˜˳ͫā] E1: ɼ̑Ǎʓ˜˳ͫā M, A1.
86 ťΑāǨͫā] M, A1: ťLJ˶ͫā E1.
87 ŁāǨʷͫāć] M, A1: ŁāǨʷͫLJ͎ E1.
88 ɷ̒ĢāǨʥͫ] E1, A1: ɼ̈ĢāǨʥͫā M.
89 ɡ΀ LJ˶ͫ āǍʓʒʔ̈] M, A1: ɡ΀LJ˘ͫā āǍ˳̵ E1.
90 LJ˳͵Βā ćΑā] M: LJ˳͵ΒLJ͎ E1, A1.
91 œǩͲ] E1, A1: œāǩͲ ǽ͎ M.
92 ɑ̑ E1, A1: ɑͫ M.
93 ȅͫΒā] A1: om. E1, M.
94 ɷ˶Ͳ] E1, A1: om. M.
95 ťĢǚ˶̥] E1: ŦćǨ˶̤ M: ťćĢǚʐ̤ A1.

Greek Epidemics
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 25

Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology in Galen’s

Commentaries on Epidemics, Books One and Two1
Philip van der Eijk

Introduction: modern and Galenic ways of

reading the Epidemics

In the history of medicine and science, the Hippocratic Epidemics have

consistently been admired for their strong empirical, observational powers.2
The Epidemics in general, it has been said, and books One and Three in
particular, show us Greek medical science in the making.3 In the case histories,
individual patients are being observed day by day during the course of their
illness, and their symptoms and, occasionally, their reactions to treatment are
meticulously recorded, sometimes so accurately that later medical readers have
felt encouraged to undertake attempts at retrospective diagnosis. In the sections
devoted to the so-called ‘constitutions’ (καταϲτάϲειϲ), diseases and symptoms

1 I am deeply grateful to Peter E. Pormann, Simon Swain and the other members of
the Warwick Epidemics team for their invitation and for their help (especially with the
interpretation of the passages preserved in Arabic only) and patience during the revision of this
paper for publication. The research on which this paper is based was funded by the Alexander
von Humboldt Foundation as part of the project ‘Medicine of the Mind, Philosophy of the
Body. Discourses of Health and Well-Being in the Ancient World’, based at the Humboldt-
Universität zu Berlin.
2 Throughout this paper, I use the word ‘Hippocratic’ in the pragmatic, descriptive sense
of ‘having been attributed, at some stage of its transmission, to Hippocrates’, regardless of the
question of the justification of this attribution. Galen had no doubts about the authorship of
Epidemics, book One, but suspended judgement on the authorship of book Two.
3 For appraisals of the Epidemics in eighteenth-century medicine (Boerhaave, van Swieten)
see Leitner 1989. For an example of early twentieth-century assessments of the observational
strengths displayed in the Epidemics, see W. H. S. Jones’ characterisation: ‘But the most
striking feature of this work is its devotion to truth. The constitutions are strictly limited to
descriptions of the weather which preceded or accompanied certain epidemics; the clinical
histories are confined to the march of diseases to a favourable or a fatal issue. Nothing
irrelevant is mentioned; everything relevant is included’ (Jones 1923, 144). For more recent,
and epistemologically more nuanced, but nevertheless very positive evaluations of the powers
of observation in the Epidemics, see Grmek 1989, 284–355; Lichtenthaeler 1993; Jouanna 1999,
291–2, 303–7; Graumann 2000.
26 Philip van der Eijk

are related to more general patterns of weather, climate and environment of

particular regions, thus presenting early attempts at what would be called today
demographic and environmental history of disease. And in the methodological
sections, especially in Book One, we find the author giving account of his own
procedures and stating the general principles of the medical profession.4 Here,
we read the famous definition of the physician’s duties as ‘to help, or to do no
harm (ὠφελέειν, ἢ μὴ βλάπτειν)’,5 followed by the description of the Hippocratic
triangle of doctor, patient and disease, with the former two being involved
in a joint battle against the latter;6 and further down in Epidemics, Book One,
there is the well known checklist of items the physician has to pay attention
to in the examination of a patient and in the casting of a diagnosis and prog-
Throughout the Epidemics, all this takes place against the background of a
mildly theoretical framework that reflects the authors’ presuppositions but
which remains largely implicit. As pointed out by Volker Langholf and Wesley
Smith, we can detect elements of a doctrine of crisis and critical days, a theory
of environmental and meteorological medicine, assumptions about particular
bodily fluids and pathological agents and processes, and presuppositions about
what to look for when examining a patient or visiting an area struck by disease.8
Yet there is no standardisation of disease terminology, no systematic classifica-
tion of disease, nor is there any preoccupation with treatment or cure, for treat-
ment, if referred to at all, is mentioned almost exclusively in the context of the

4 I am using the term ‘author’ here in the singular, although it is of course quite probable that
the Epidemics are the result of multiple authorship or constitute compilations of information
derived from various archival sources. For Galen’s reception of the work, however, this point
is irrelevant.
5 Hippocratesʼ Epidemics, Book i. 11 (i. p. 190, line 3 Kw; ii. pp. 634–6 L) commented
upon by Galen in Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book One, p. 76, lines 1–24 W
(xvii/a. pp. 148–9 K; cf. i.2.136–9 V). References to the Greek text (where this survives) of
Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ are to the edition by Ernst Wenkebach 1934,
followed by the corresponding volume and page number in Kühn 1821–33 (where applicable).
Translations from the Greek are my own, although I have benefited greatly from comparison
with the forthcoming translation of the corresponding Arabic sections by Uwe Vagelpohl and
Bink Hallum, and where relevant, I have added a reference to the corresponding passage (book,
section and paragraph number) in their translation of the Arabic version. Likewise, references
to Book Two (which survives in Arabic only) are to book, section and paragraph number of the
forthcoming translation by Hallum and Vagelpohl, followed by the corresponding page and
line numbers in the CMG translation by Pfaff (where applicable).
6 Hippocratesʼ Epidemics, Book i. 11 (i. p. 190, lines 3–6 Kw; ii. 636 L); commented upon by
Galen in his Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book One, p. 76, line 25–p. 77, line 15 W
(xvii/a. pp. 149–51 K; cf. i.2.140–1 V).
7 Epidemics, Book i. 23 (i. p. 199, line 9–p. 200, line 2 Kw; ii. pp. 668–70 L), commented upon
extensively by Galen in his Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book One, p. 102, line 23–
p. 110, line 26 W (xvii/a. pp. 203–19 K; cf. i.3.1–27 V).
8 Langholf 1990; Smith 1991.
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 27

patient’s reaction to it. All in all, it has often been argued, we seem to be wit-
nessing the birth of clinical, observational medicine, aspiring at high standards
of accuracy and precision, honesty and integrity. Whoever the authors or re-
dactors of the Epidemics were, they seem to have been primarily occupied with
gathering empirical data, as unbiasedly as possible, without attempting to edit,
fabricate or suppress information in order to promote their own achievements
or elevate their own status. Indeed, one further feature for which the authors
of the Epidemics have long been admired is the fact that they admit failure in
their diagnosis or treatment of patients, thus contributing to the lofty picture of
the self-critical Hippocratic physician that was long cherished by classicists and
members of the medical profession alike.
This is, roughly, the traditional picture that has dominated appraisals of the
Epidemics from the early modern period onwards. Of course, some cracks have
come into this. For one thing, most students of the Epidemics nowadays are
acutely aware that no observation is value-free, and no record of a patient’s
symptoms is beyond selection, interpretation or bias in representation, quite
apart from the fact that access to these observations is complicated by the vo-
cabulary and terminology in which they are cast. These considerations should
make medical as well as non-medical readers beware of taking the descriptions
of the Epidemics too much at face value. In addition, there has been increasing
criticism of the practice of retrospective diagnosis on the basis of the case histo-
ries, though it is worth pointing out that scholars such as the late Mirko Grmek
and, more recently, Lutz Alexander Graumann, still accepted it as a valid pro-
cedure, provided that certain conditions are met.9 Thirdly, comparative literary
and cultural studies into the genre of the medical case history have highlighted
the remarkable variety in forms and functions that case histories may display
in different contexts, civilisations and time frames, again suggesting that one
should not take the specific form and function of the case histories preserved in
the Epidemics for granted.10 And fourthly, linguistic and stylistic analysis of the
Hippocratic case histories, such as that by Rainer Hellweg or Volker Langholf,
has led to the hypothesis that, especially in the later books of the Epidemics,
there is evidence of polishing or at least editing, possibly with a view to pur-

9 See Grmek 1989, especially chapters 11, 12 and 13; Jouanna and Grmek 2000, lxxvi–xc,
e.g. p. lxxxii: ‘In an astonishingly high number of cases described in Epidemics, Books Five and
Seven, one can … formulate a retrospective diagnosis that is fairly certain. (Dans un nombre
étonnamment élevé de cas décrits dans les Épidémies V et VII on peut … énoncer un diagnostif
rétrospectif assez sûr.)’ See also Graumann 2000.
10 Even in Graeco-Roman medicine, case histories display considerable variation, as emerges
from a comparison of Hippocratic case histories with those found in Galen and Rufus; see
Lloyd 2009, Ullmann 1978, Swain 2008 and ed. Pormann 2008c, 64–73; for later developments
in medieval Islamic medicine, see Álvarez Millán 2010; for cross-cultural perspectives, see
Lloyd 2007.
28 Philip van der Eijk

poses of teaching and instruction for medical students, or for illustration of

general theoretical points.11
Yet for all these qualifying considerations, much of the idealised picture of the
Hippocratic Epidemics still stands. They continue to be regarded as landmarks
of empirical science, based on careful and systematic observation and providing
the foundation for comparative analysis of data in order to arrive at universal
truths about disease, the human body and the environment.

However, Galen’s approach to the Epidemics, as reflected in his surviving com-

mentaries on books One, Two, Three, and Six, is rather different.12 Galen has
no desire whatsoever to show that the case histories are unbiased records of
neutral, empirical observation, meant to support an inductive process of data
collection and processing. He unashamedly reads them in the light of theoretical
concepts and ideas reflected in other Hippocratic works and, more importantly,
his own medical writings. Accordingly, Galen claims that there are certain pre-
requisites for a correct understanding of the Epidemics. Thus at an early stage
of his commentary on book One, he says that readers of Epidemics should first
study other Hippocratic works such as Nature of Man, Airs Waters Places and
the Aphorisms in order to understand the work properly.13 Galen often supple-
ments the account provided in the Epidemics with details derived from other
Hippocratic texts or, more often, from his own medical writings, to which he
refers frequently, both his commentaries on other Hippocratic writings, such as
those on Aphorisms and Prognostic,14 and works by himself not in the form of a
There are several reasons for this. One is a general one, to do with the fact that
ancient ways of commenting on a medical or philosophical text are so different
from ours. Galen was part of the interpretative and exegetical culture of the
early Imperial period. This exegetical culture, and Galen’s place in it, has been
11 Hellweg 1985; Langholf 1977b.
12 For practical reasons, I concentrate in this paper on Galen’s commentaries on Books i and
ii, as these – and their Arabic transmission – were the basis for the Warburg conference where
this paper was presented. On special features of Galen’s commentaries on Books iii and vi, see
Manetti and Roselli 1994, 1552–4.
13 P. 6, line 26–p. 7, line 4 W (xvii/a. p. 7 K; cf. i.1.15 V).
14 Book ii.1.70 HV (cf. 172, lines 1–23 Pf).
15 Thus Method of Healing is referred to in Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book
One, p. 75, lines 1–2 W (xvii/a. p. 145 K; cf. i.2.129 V); Mixtures is referred to in Book One,
p. 93, line 29 W (xvii/a. p. 186 K; cf. i.2.204 V); in Book Two, ii.1.115 HV (cf. p. 184, line 2 Pf),
ii.3.123 HV (cf. p. 293, lines 18–19 Pf; Pfaff erroneously translates ‘Über die Krisis’), ii.6.6 HV
(cf. p. 355, line 32 Pf); Critical Days is referred to in Book One, p. 63, line 34 W (xvii/a. p. 123
K; cf. i.2.74 V), p. 97, line 14 W (xvii/a. p. 192 K; cf. i.2.216 V), p. 100, line 22 W (xvii/a. p. 199
K; cf. i.2.225 V), p. 124, line 5 W (xvii/a. p. 247 K; cf. i.3.69–71 V); Natural Faculties is referred
to in Book Two, ii.1.142 HV (cf. p. 191, lines 18–19 Pf); Difficulty of Breathing is referred to in
Book Two, ii.3.58–9 HV (cf. p. 274, line 32 Pf), ii.3.69 HV (cf. p. 277, line 13 Pf).
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 29

discussed in considerable depth by Daniela Manetti and Amneris Roselli, Simon

Swain, Heinrich von Staden and Rebecca Flemming, and there is no reason to
repeat their findings.16 Suffice it to say that ancient commentators on philo-
sophical, scientific and medical texts were primarily motivated by pragmatic
reasons, often to do with the teaching practice: the writings of Plato, Aristotle or
Hippocrates had to be studied and explained to students not for historical rea-
sons but because the views they contained were still valid, relevant and true to
philosophical and medical students of many centuries later. Thus early Imperial
commentators’ ways of reading are synthetic rather than analytical, systematic
rather than historical, and often deliberately ahistorical and anachronistic, at-
tributing views to earlier authorities that they could not possibly have held.
Moreover, exegesis served an important function in the exposition of a philoso-
pher’s or medical writer’s own ideas: the authority of the ancients (παλαιοί,
ἀρχαῖοι) provided important backing to a thinker’s own arguments and shaped,
to a very large extent, the structure of one’s own positive argument.
All this is not to deny Galen’s originality or peculiarity in this culture of ex-
egesis; nor is it to play down the variety of forms, modes and genres of exegesis
he and others employed, ranging from the lemmatic running commentary to
much freer ways of engagement with the text of an earlier author. Yet when
confronting our ways of reading the Hippocratic Epidemics with Galen’s, or in-
deed with that of other ancient exegetes, we need to be aware of the differences
between ancient and modern commentaries and of the place of exegesis in the
culture in which they were written.

The title Epidemics and the theoretical dimensions of the work

There is, however, also a more specific reason why Galen’s approach to the
Hippocratic Epidemics is so different from that of modern readers, and this has
to do with his interpretation of the title of the work. As is well known, the
meaning of the title Epidemics (Ἐπιδημίαι) is unclear and ambiguous, and the
word has often been taken to refer to the doctor’s ‘visits’ to his patients.17 Yet
as the Preface to the commentary on Book One shows, Galen takes the word
ἐπίδημοϲ in the sense of ‘epidemic disease’ as opposed to local or endemic
(ἔνδημοϲ) diseases18:

16 Manetti and Roselli 1994; Swain 1996; von Staden 2002, 2006, 2009; Flemming 2008.
17 For a discussion see Langholf 1990, 78–9, referring, among other things, to the use of
ἐπιδημία in the title of the historian Ion of Chios (d. c. 420 BC).
18 Book i.1.2–3 V (the Greek of this section does not survive). All translations from the
Arabic are taken from the forthcoming edition and translation by Vagelpohl and Hallum.
30 Philip van der Eijk

ɬͲ ǚˬ̑ ǽ͎ ŰǨˈ̒ LJ˳͵Βā Ȉ͵LJ͛ ƦΒāć ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ƱǛ΀ ƦΑā ɼ̈ǚˬʒͫā ŰāǨͲҙҏā ɬʉ̑ć ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ƱǛ΀ ɬʉ̑ ƈǨˏͫāć
ȇʉˀ̒ ŰāǨͲΑā ǽ͎́ ɼ̈ǚˬʒͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā LJͲΑāć .ŰĢLJ͇ ȇʒ̵ ɬͲ ɨ́ͫ Ńǚʥ̒ ŰāǨͲΑā ǽ΀ LJ˳͵Βā LJ́͵Αā ҙҏΒā Ʀāǚˬʒͫā
ŁLJʓ͛ ǽ͎ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā Ʉ̿ć ǚ͘ć .ɷʉ͎ ŰǨˈ̒ ķǛͫā ǚˬʒͫā ɡ΀Αҙҏ ɼˏͫLJʥ˳ͫLJ͛ ƦǍ˜̒ ȅʓ̤ ΈLJ˳̇āĔ ṳ̈̌āć ǚˬ̑ ɡ΀Αā
ɑˬʓ͎ ɨ΀ǚˬ̑ łҙҏLJ̤ ȇʶʥ̑ Ʀāǚˬʒͫā ɬͲ ǚˬ̑ ǚˬ̑ ɡ΀Αā ȇʉˀ̒ ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ķΑā Ƚ̀āǍ˳ͫāć ƹāǍ́ͫāć ƹLJ˳ͫā
.ɼ̈ǚˬʒͫā ȅ˳ʶ̒ ǽʓͫā ǽ΀ ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā

Galen said: Hippocrates entitled this book Epidemics because most of his
discussion and detailed description in it deals with the diseases called ‘epi-
demic’. It means ‘the visiting’ and refers to a single disease affecting a large
group at the same time. The difference between these and local [i.e. en-
demic] diseases is that, even though they [sc. epidemics] occur in a certain
location, they are only diseases which affect them due to an accidental
cause. Local diseases are diseases people of one location suffer from all the
time: they are like a [constant] companion of the inhabitants of the place
where they occur. In Airs, Waters, Places, Hippocrates described which dis-
eases affect the inhabitants of each country in accordance with its condi-
tions. These diseases are called ‘local’.

Accordingly, Galen takes the Hippocratic Epidemics – or at any rate book One –
as a treatise on a specific type of diseases affecting large numbers of people due
to causes that go beyond individual people’s eating patterns and lifestyles, and
whose main cause is the air that people breathe. This is because the Epidemics,
in Galen’s interpretation, presuppose a specific classification of diseases, not
only distinguishing ‘epidemic disease’ from local, or endemic, diseases but also
distinguishing ‘common’, or ‘general’ from ‘individual’ or ‘diverse’ diseases19:

ɼ˶̈ǚͲ ɡ΀Αā ȅˬ͇ ṳ̈̌āć Ȉ͘ć ǽ͎ Ńǚʥ̒ ǽʓͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā Ȉˬ͘ LJ˳͛ Ʉˀ̈ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƦΒLJ͎ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ LJͲΑLJ͎
ζƴǨʉʔ͛ ɼ͇LJ˳ʤͫ ƦҨҞͲLJ̶ ƦLJʉͲLJ͇ LJ˳́͵Αā ŰǨ˳ͫā ɬͲ ɬʉʶ˶ʤͫā ɬ̈ĕLJ΀ ɨˈ̈ć .ɨ΀Ǩ̵ΑLJ̑ ǚˬ̑ ɡ΀Αā ćΑā ɨ΀Ǩ̵ΑLJ̑
Ȉ̀Ǩ͇ ƦΒāć ǽʓͫā LJ́ˬ͛ ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩ̇LJ̵ LJͲΑāć .ťLJ˶ͫā ɬͲ ƴǨʉʔ͛ ɼ͇LJ˳̣ ȇʉˀ̈ LJ́˶Ͳ ṳ̈̌āǍͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā ƦΑā ǽ˶͇Αā
ɼ͇LJ˳ʤͫā ɑˬ̒ ɬͲ Έāṳ̈̌āć Έāṳ̈̌āć LJ́˶Ͳ ṳ̈̌āć ɡ͛ ȵʦ̈ ɬ˜ͫ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫā LJ́˶Ͳ ṳ̈̌āǍͫā ɨˈ̈ ɨͫ ƴǨʉʔ͛ ɼ͇LJ˳ʤͫ
ɑͫǛ͛ ůLJ̥ ťLJ˶ͫā ɬͲ ṳ̈̌āć ṳ̈̌āǍͫ LJ́̓ćṳ̈̌ ƦΑā LJ˳͛ ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ƱǛ΀ć .ɼˏˬʓʦ˳ͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏLJ̑ žǨˈ̒ LJ˳͵ΒLJ͎
LJ́̓ćṳ̈̌ ƦΑā LJ˳͛ć ɑͫĕ žҨҞ̥ ȅˬ͇ LJ́ʉ͎ ƛLJʥͫLJ͎ ɼʉͲLJˈͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā LJͲΑLJ͎ .ɨ́˶Ͳ ṳ̈̌āć ɡ͛ ǽ͎ ůLJ̥ LJ́ʒʒ̵
.ǽͲLJ͇ ȇʒ̵ LJ́ʒʒ̵ ɑͫǛ͛ ƢLJ͇

As I said, Hippocrates describes in this book diseases which simultane-

ously affect inhabitants of an entire city or country. These two kinds of

19 Book i.1.4–5 V (the Greek of this section does not survive); see also p. 9, lines 4–5 W
(xvii/a. p. 10 K; cf. i.1.22 V), with reference to Airs, Waters, Places.
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 31

diseases [sc. epidemic and local] have in common that they involve a large
community, i.e. that the same disease affects a large group of people. Even
though they [also] affect large groups, there is not a single of the other
diseases which a large number share [in this way]. Rather, each of them
affects each member of the community individually. They are known as
‘variable’ diseases. Just as they affect people individually, each of them
arises from an individual cause. The opposite applies to ‘general’ diseases:
their occurrence is general, as is their cause.

Furthermore, Galen argues, the Epidemics presuppose a specific theory of dis-

ease causation, distinguishing between diet, exercise and air or external influ-

ƢLJˈ̈́ ɬͲ ƛćLJ˶ʓ̈ LJͲ LJ́˶Ͳ ṳ̈̌āć ɼʔˬ̓ ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā LJ́ʉ͎ Ńǚʥʓ͎ Ʀāǚ̑Αҙҏā ȅˬ͇ ĔǨ̒ ǽʓͫā LJ́ˬ͛ ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā ťLJ˶̣Αāć
ƹāǍ΀ ɬͲ œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ Ʀǚʒͫā ȅ˙ˬ̈ LJͲ ȉͫLJʔͫāć LJ΀Ǩʉ͈ć łLJ͛Ǩʥͫā ɬͲ ɡˈˏ̈ LJͲ ǽ͵LJʔͫāć LJ˳΀Ǩʉ͈ ɬͲć ŁāǨ̶ ćΑā
ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈ LJ˳͵Βā LJ́̓ćṳ̈̌ Ǩʔ͛Αā ƦΑā ҙҏΒā ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā ƱǛ΀ Ƚʉ˳̣ ɬͲ Ńǚʥ̒ ǚ͘ ɼʉͲLJˈͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏāć .ƱǨʉ͈ ɬͲ ćΑā
ǚˬ̑ ɡ΀Αā ȅˬ͇ ćΑā ΈLJˈͲ ɼ˶̈ǚͲ ɡ΀Αā ȅˬ͇ ƢLJˈͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā Ńćṳ̈̌ ƦΑā ɑͫĕć ζƦāǚ̑ΑҙҏLJ̑ Ⱥʉʥ˳ͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā ƛLJ̤
ɬͲ ćΑā ƢLJ͇ ŁāǨ̶ ɬͲ ƢLJˈͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ĔLJ˜̈ ҙҏ ΈLJˁ̈Αā ɑͫǛ͛ć ΈāǨʉʔ͛ Ɏˏʓ̈ LJ˳Ͳ ȫʉͫ ƢLJ͇ ƢLJˈ̈́ ɬͲ
.ƢLJ͇ ŴǨˏͲ ȇˈ̒

There are three types of causes which affect bodies and generate diseases:
the first is food, drink or other things one ingests; the second, physical
exercise and other things one engages in; and the third, the air or other
external [influences] on the body. General diseases are caused by all of
these causes, but they mostly arise because of the condition of the air sur-
rounding the bodies. That is to say, it is rare that a general disease affecting
the inhabitants of an entire city or country arises because of shared food.
Likewise, it also rarely happens that a general disease arises because of
shared drink or excessive [physical] exertion.

20 Book i.1.5–6 V. See the following summary (ii.1.3 HV; cf. p. 155, lines 13–20 Pf): ‘Galen
said: In the first book, Hippocrates described the issue of three states of air which cause
diseases. In the third part of this same book, he described the issue of one pestilential state. He
began by describing all these states in terms of change in the air which surrounds the bodies,
and its deviation from its nature. Then he proceeded by describing the nature of the diseases
which befall many people because of these states. (ŃҨҞ̓ ǨͲΑā ȅͫćΑҙҏā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎ Ʉ̿ć ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƦΒā :ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƛLJ͘
Έ ҙҏćΑā Ƣǚ˙͎ .ɼʉ̇LJ̑ć ƴṳ̈̌āć ƛLJ̤ ǨͲΑā ɷ˶ʉˈ̑ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ ɬͲ ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎ Ʉ̿ćć ŰāǨͲΑā LJ́˶͇ Ȉ̓ṳ̈̌ ƹāǍ́ͫā łҙҏLJ̤ ɬͲ łҙҏLJ̤
ǽʓͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā Ƚ̇LJʒ̈́ ɼˏˀ̑ ɑͫĕ Ƚʒ̒Αā ɨ̓ .ɷʓˈʉʒ̈́ ɬ͇ ɷ̣ćǨ̥ć Ʀāǚ̑ΑҙҏLJ̑ Ⱥʉʥ˳ͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā Ǩʉˉ̒ ɼˏ̿ LJ́ˬ͛ łҙҏLJʥͫā ɑˬ̒ Ʉ̿ć ǽ͎
łҙҏLJʥͫā ɑˬ̒ ɬ͇ ťLJ˶ͫā ɬͲ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫ Ȉ̓ṳ̈̌.)’
32 Philip van der Eijk

Galen demonstrates that this theory of disease causation has a genuine

Hippocratic pedigree by means of a long quotation from Nature of Man, in
which the author (Hippocrates, according to Galen) distinguishes between dis-
eases caused by lifestyle and diseases caused by the air people inhale. When
one particular disease afflicts a large number of people at the same time, we are
dealing with a disease of the latter kind, Hippocrates argues, for this has one
cause common to all, as opposed to people’s lifestyle that is different from one
individual to another.21

Thus according to Galen, causal explanation plays a major part in the Epidemics,
and even where this is not sufficiently clear from the text, his exegesis will point
this out. The following passage makes a connection between exegesis and causal
explanation (aitiología) and thus provides justification for Galen’s procedure22:

… μεμνημένων ἡμῶν, ὅτι τὸ μὲν κυρίωϲ ὀνομαζόμενον ἐξηγεῖϲθαι κατὰ

τὰϲ ἀϲαφεῖϲ γίνεται λέξειϲ, ἤδη δὲ διὰ τὸ τῶν ἐξηγητῶν ἔθοϲ καταχρώ-
μενοι καὶ τὰϲ αἰτιολογίαϲ τῶν ϲαφῶϲ εἰρημένων ἐξηγήϲειϲ ὀνομάζομεν,
ὅπερ καὶ νῦν ἡμεῖϲ ποιοῦμεν ἑπόμενοι τῇ κρατούϲῃ ϲυνηθείᾳ. τὴν γὰρ λέ-
ξιν αὐτὴν οὖϲαν ϲαφῆ καὶ μηδεμιᾶϲ ἐξηγήϲεωϲ δεομένην προφερόμενοι,
τῶν ὑπ’ αὐτῆϲ δηλουμένων ϲαφῶϲ τὰϲ αἰτίαϲ ἐπιχειροῦμεν λέγειν.

… we need to bear in mind that although the term ‘exegesis’ in the proper
sense applies to textual passages that are obscure, we also use it on ac-

21 P. 7, line 23–p. 8, line 13 W (xvii/a. pp. 8–9 K; cf. i.1.18 V): ‘I will show that it was
Hippocrates who distinguished the two kinds of diseases that I discussed in this way, when he
stated that air is the cause of epidemic diseases (καὶ πιϲτώϲομαι τὰ γένη τῶν νοϲημάτων, ὧν
διῆλθον, Ἱπποκράτει διῃρημένα εἶναι οὕτωϲ, αἴτιόν γε τὸν ἀέρα 〈τῶν〉 ἐπιδημίων νοϲημάτων
ἀποφαινομένῳ). For in his Nature of Man he writes the following: “Some diseases develop
because of lifestyle and some because of the air which we live on by inhaling it (αἱ δὲ νοῦϲοι
γίνονται αἱ μὲν ἀπὸ διαιτημάτων, αἱ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματοϲ, ὃ ἐϲαγόμενοι ζῶμεν). We need to
distinguish between these two kinds of diseases in the following manner. When one particular
disease afflicts a large number of people at the same time, we must attribute the blame for this
to what is most general and used most frequently by all of us: and this is the air we breathe.
It is obvious that the lifestyle of each of us individually cannot be the cause of a disease that
includes everyone without exception, young and old, females and males, drinkers of wine and
drinkers of water, those fed with barley porridge and those fed with bread, those who rarely
toil and those who wear themselves out. Lifestyle, then, cannot be the cause of the disease
since people’s lifestyles are varied in all sorts of ways, whereas the disease that occurred was
one and the same. On the other hand, when diseases that occur at a specific time are varied, it
is clear that their cause is the lifestyle of each of the people who fall ill.’
22 P. 80, lines 3–9 W (xvii/a. pp. 156–7 K; cf. i.2.151 V). Note, however, that at ii.4.15 HV
(cf. p. 317, lines 11–17 Pf), Galen says that his only purpose is to ‘explain the meaning of what
is said (ƛLJ͘ LJ˳ʉ͎ ƱLJ˶ˈͲ ŔǨ̶Αā ƦΑā)’ and ‘not … to clarify Hippocrates’ teachings and provide proofs for
them (ɬʉ΀āǨʒͫLJ̑ LJ́ʉˬ͇ ǽ̒ΐāć ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƹāĢΐā ɬʉ̑Αā ƦΑā ǽ̀Ǩ͈ ȫʉˬ͎)’.
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 33

count of the normal practice of the exegetes in an improper sense to re-

fer to the statement of the causes of things that have been stated clearly.
This is exactly what we are doing here, following the prevailing habit, for
when presenting a passage that is clear and does not require any exegesis,
we attempt to state the causes of what has been clearly described in this

Thus exegesis in Galen’s view involves not just elucidation of obscure passages
but also causal explanation of phenomena whose description itself is perfectly
clear. This is appropriate, he believes, for the Epidemics are anything but free
from theoretical assumptions about underlying causes. For example, Galen
credits Hippocrates with the distinction between ‘procatarctic causes’ and ‘pre-
disposing’ causes, a distinction not found in any of the Hippocratic writings
and which modern scholarship tends to date to the Hellenistic period.23 Further-
more, Galen argues that the Epidemics unashamedly presuppose an elaborate
theory of environmental and meteorological medicine, in which the dominance
of humours and specific types of diseases and the mixtures of the surrounding
air are all said to be interconnected according to climatic and seasonal patterns
and changes.24 This may be less questionable from a modern standpoint, con-
sidering that environmental factors play such a big part in the Epidemics. Yet
the explanation Galen offers for this is cast entirely in terms of his own theory

23 Book ii.1.14 HV (cf. p. 158, lines 1–32 Pf): ‘I am going to summarise what I have said from
the beginning and then divide it. I say that when Hippocrates said ‘abundant rain came with
the heat of the summer during its entirety. This happened mostly together with a south wind’,
he indicated the cause called ‘procatarctic’, which brings about the generation of carbuncles.
This cause is external to the bodies affected by the disease. By saying ‘pus develops under
the skin’, he indicated the cause called ‘pre-disposing’, which brings about the generation
of the carbuncles. This cause first occurs within the body. By saying ‘when it is congested,
it becomes hot’, he indicated the way in which this cause brings about carbuncles, namely
the excessive heat of the humour predominant in the body, this predominance being due to
putrefaction. He called it ‘pus’, because it is unnatural, bad and malicious. When he said ‘and
generates itching’, this is a symptom which precedes the occurrence of carbuncles. (ɡ˳ʤͲ LJ͵Αāć
«ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ȽͲ ƦǍ˜̈ LJͲ Ǩʔ͛Αā ƦLJ͛ć ɷˬ͛ Ʉʉˀͫā Ǩ̤ ȽͲ ĔẠ̌ ĢLJ˅ͲΑā łƹLJ̣» ɷͫǍ˙̑ ƛĔ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƦΒā ƛǍ͘ΑLJ͎ ɷˈ˅͘Αā ɨ̓ ɷͫćΑā Ǜ˶Ͳ ǽͫǍ͘
ƛĔć .ɼ͎ΐҙҏā LJ́ʓͫLJ͵ ǽʓͫā Ʀāǚ̑Αҙҏā ɬͲ œĢLJ̥ ȇʒ̵ Ǎ΀ ȇʒʶͫā āǛ΀ć .Ǩ˳ʤͫā ǚͫǍ̒ ƦǍ˜̈ ɷ˶Ͳ ķǛͫā ĶĔLJʒͫā ȅ˳ʶ̈ ķǛͫā ȇʒʶͫā ȅˬ͇
ǽ͎ Ńǚʥ̈ ķǛͫā ȇʒʶͫā Ǎ΀ć Ǩ˳ʤͫā ǚͫǍ̒ ƦǍ˜̈ ɷ˶Ͳ ķǛͫā ƢĔLJ˙ʓ˳ͫā ȅ˳ʶ̈ ķǛͫā ȇʒʶͫā ȅˬ͇ «ǚ̈ǚ̿ ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒ Ǩʉˀ̈ć» ɷͫǍ˙̑
ȇͫLJˉͫā Ⱥˬʦͫā ƴĢāǨ̤ ŴāǨ͎Βā Ǎ΀ ɑͫĕć Ǩ˳ʤͫā ȇʒʶͫā ɑͫĕ Ńǚʥ̈ LJ́̑ ǽʓͫā ɼ́ʤͫā ȅˬ͇ «ɬʦ̵ ɬ˙ʓ̤ā āĕΒLJ͎» ɷͫǍ˙̑ ƛĔć Έ ҙҏćΑā Ʀǚʒͫā
«ɼ˜̤ ǚͫćć» ɷͫǍ͘ LJͲΑLJ͎ .ΈLJʔʉʒ̥ ΈLJʈ̈ĔĢ ΈLJ̣ćǨ̥ ɼʉˈʉʒ˅ͫā ɬ͇ ΈLJ̣ĢLJ̥ ƦLJ͛ ɷ͵Αā ɡʒ͘ ɬͲ Έāǚ̈ǚ̿ ƱLJ˳̵ć ɼ͵Ǎˏˈͫā ȇʒʶ̑ ɷ͵LJʒˬ͈ć Ʀǚʒͫā ǽ͎
Ǩ˳ʤͫā Ńćṳ̈̌ Ƣǚ˙ʓ̈ ŰǨ͇ Ǎ͎́.) ’
24 P. 13, lines 11–15 W (xvii/a. p. 18 K; cf. i.1.34 V): ‘What is further useful is this division of
the year into four seasons, as this, too, was shown before by Hippocrates himself in the work
in which he sets out the dominance of humours and the types of diseases and the mixtures
of the surrounding air that govern both of these, and which present four different kinds.
(χρηϲίμη δὲ καὶ 〈ἡ〉 εἰϲ τέϲϲαραϲ ὥραϲ, ὡϲ καὶ τοῦτο δέδεικται πρότερον 〈ὑπ’〉 αὐτοῦ τοῦ
Ἱπποκράτουϲ ἐν οἷϲ τάϲ τε τῶν χυμῶν ἐπικρατείαϲ διδάϲκει καὶ τὰϲ τῶν νοϲημάτων ἰδέαϲ καὶ
τὰϲ ἀμφοτέρων τούτων ἡγουμέναϲ κράϲειϲ τοῦ περιέχοντοϲ, τέτταραϲ ἐχούϲαϲ διαφοράϲ.)’
34 Philip van der Eijk

of ‘mixtures’ or ‘temperaments’ (kráseis), the specific proportions between the

elementary qualities hot, cold, dry and wet that determine an individual pa-
tient’s bodily make-up, susceptibility to disease and interaction with envi-
ronmental factors, and which can be inferred or interpreted on the basis of a
patient’s outward appearances. Galen expounds this theory in his important
treatise Mixtures, to which he often refers in the commentary on the Epidem-
ics. Although in reality this theory owes more to Aristotle than to Hippocrates
(as is clear from the many references to Aristotle in Galen’s Mixtures),25 Galen
nevertheless claims that in developing this theory, he is essentially just spelling
out ideas already present in Hippocrates, as he shows in two others works more
closely associated with the interpretation of Hippocratic texts, namely Elements
according to Hippocrates and the Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘On the Nature of
Man’. This theory of mixtures is important in order to explain, as Galen puts it,
why different patients react differently to the same causal agents, for this is due
to the interaction between the ‘mixture’ of the environment and the mixture of
the body;26 and this knowledge is in turn an essential condition for the physi-
cian’s ability to predict and to prevent diseases27:

Ȉʒʔ̈ LJ́ˁˈ̑ć Ǩ̀LJʥͫā Ȉ͘Ǎͫā œāǩͲ ɬͲ ɼͫLJʥʓ̵ҙҏā ɷʉͫΒā ŷǨʶ̒ Ʀāǚ̑Αҙҏā ȶˈ̑ ĢLJ̿ LJ́ˬ͛ ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā ƱǛ́ˬ͎
ǽ͎ ΑLJ˅ʦͫā ɬͲ ŰǨ˳ͫā ɷͫ ŰǨˈ̈ LJ́ˁˈ̑ć ɼΈ ʓ̑ ĢǨ̀ ɷ˶Ͳ ɷͫLJ˶̈ ҙҏ LJ́ˁˈ̑ć ɼˬ̈Ǎ̈́ ƴΈ ǚͲ œāǩ˳ͫā ɑͫĕ ƢćLJ˙̈ć
LJ˳͵Βā ƹāǍ́ͫā ɬͲ ĢǨˁͫā LJ́ͫLJ͵ āĕΒā Ʀāǚ̑Αҙҏā Ȉ͵LJ͛ LJ˳˜͎ .Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ œāǩͲ ɬͲ ĢǨˁͫā ɷͫLJ˶̈ ƦΑā ɡʒ͘ Ǩʉ̑ǚʓͫā
ķǛͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̈ Ǩʉ̑ǚʓͫā ɬͲ ŰǨ˳ͫā LJ́ͫ ŰǨ͇ āĕΒā ɑͫǛ͛ ζɷ̣āǩͲ ɡ͛LJʷ̈ LJͲ ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ɬͲ LJ́ʒʉˀ̈
.ɷʉ͎ ΑLJ˅ʦˬͫ Έ ҨҞ͛LJʷͲ LJ́ͫ ŰǨˈ̈

For all of these reasons, some bodies change quickly owing to the mixture
of the present season and some remain stable and resist this mixture for a
long time. Some do not suffer any harm at all from it and some fall ill due to
an unhealthy lifestyle before they suffer harm from the mixture of that sea-
son. When bodies suffer harm from the air, they only suffer it from diseases
which resemble its mixture; likewise, when they develop a disease caused
by their lifestyle, it resembles the unhealthy aspect of their lifestyle. People
who are aware of this are able not only to predict which diseases occur in

25 See van der Eijk 2012a and 2012b.

26 Book i.1.10–11 V (the Greek of this section does not survive).
27 Book i.1.11 V; the fragmentary Greek text runs as follows (p. 5, lines 30–36 W; xvii/a.
p. 5 K): ‘μόνον προγνώϲεται τὰϲ γινομέναϲ νόϲουϲ ἐν ἑκάϲτῃ τῶν καταϲτάϲεων, 〈ἀλλὰ〉 καὶ
κωλύϲει γίνεϲθαι, ταῖϲ τοῦ περιέχοντοϲ ἡμᾶϲ ἀμέτροιϲ κράϲεϲι τὴν ἐναντίαν ἐπιτεχνώμενοϲ
δίαιταν. εὔδηλον γὰρ ὡϲ, εἴπερ εὐκραϲία τῶν πρώτων 〈ϲωμάτων〉 ἐϲτὶν ἡ ὑγεία, διαφθαρήϲεται
μὲν ὑπὸ τῆϲ τοῦ περιέχοντοϲ δυϲκραϲίαϲ, φυλαχθήϲεται δ ὑπὸ τῆϲ κατὰ τὴν δίαιταν
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 35

each of the constitutions in accordance with their mixture, but also to pre-
vent them from happening by carefully arranging their lifestyle to counter-
act the mixture that excessively dominates the air surrounding us. For it is
obvious that if health consists in the good balance of the primary bodies, it
will be damaged by the bad mixture of the surrounding air, whereas it will
be preserved when the lifestyle counteracts this (bad mixture).

This combination of exegesis and (causal) explanation is very clearly illustrated

by the following passage, which provides exactly such an ‘account of the causes
of what has been clearly described’. This account consists of a detailed discus-
sion of various types or groups of people mentioned in a specific Hippocratic
lemma (‘adolescents, young men, adults with thin-haired bodies, thin and coarse
voices, lisping and quick-tempered, and women’).28 This amount of detail is nec-
essary, according to Galen, for three reasons: (1) because as long as all of these
details are not outlined, the preceding lemma is not useful for the prognosis and
treatment of the diseases; (2) because it becomes difficult for us to discover the
causes of which many of the people mentioned died; and (3) because the text as
it stands is unclear as regards the extent to which people actually died or were
likely to die29:

… εἰ μὴ πάντα ταῦτα διοριϲθείη, πλέον οὐδὲν ἡμῖν οὔτ’ εἰϲ πρόγνωϲιν οὔτ’
εἰϲ θεραπείαν ἐκ τῶν εἰρημένων ὑπάρξει. εἰ δὲ μὴ περὶ πάντων τῶν νοϲη-
μάτων, ἀλλὰ περὶ ὧν τὸν λόγον ἐποιεῖτο μόνων τῶν φρενιτικῶν ἀκούοι-
μεν εἰρῆϲθαι ταῦτα, χαλεπώτατόν ἐϲτι καὶ οὕτωϲ εὑρεῖν τὰϲ αἰτίαϲ, δι’
ἃϲ ἀπώλλυντο οἱ πλεῖϲτοι τῶν εἰρημένων. 〈καὶ〉 μέντοι καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ τοὺϲ
πλείϲτουϲ ἀπόλλυϲθαι διττὸν εἶναι 〈δοκεῖ,〉 … ὥϲτε καὶ τὴν αἰτιολογίαν
γίνεϲθαι διττήν … ἡ μὲν οὖν ἀϲάφεια τοῦ λόγου τοϲαύτη ἐϲτὶ καὶ τοιαύτη,
προηγεῖϲθαι δ’ αὐτῆϲ 〈τῆϲ ἐξηγήϲεωϲ δεῖ τὸ〉 εὑρεῖν τὴν κρᾶϲιν ἑκάϲτου
τῶν εἰρημένων. οὐ γὰρ οἷόν τε ϲυνῆφθαι τῇ καταϲτάϲει τὸν λόγον ἄνευ

… as long as all of these distinctions [sc. about age, physical appearance,

sex etc.] have not been made, the discussion will not provide anything fur-
ther that is useful for prognosis or treatment. Yet when we understand this
passage as not referring to all diseases but only to those diseases he men-
tioned, that is to say, cases of phrenitis, this, too, makes it extremely difficult
for us to discover the causes of which most of the people mentioned died.
Yet even his expression ‘most people died’ allows two interpretations. …
Consequently, our search for the cause [aitiología] takes two forms as well,

28 Book i. 19 (i. p. 195, lines 16–17 Kw; ii. p. 656 L).

29 P. 92, line 30–p. 94, line 4 W (xvii/a. pp. 184–6 K; cf. i.2.202–3 V).
36 Philip van der Eijk

… This is the extent30 and severity of the obscurity in this lemma. Before
providing elucidation [ἐξήγηϲιϲ], we need to identify the mixture of each
of the bodies he described, for without this we cannot connect what is said
[in this lemma] with [what is said about] the constitution.

This discussion draws heavily on Galen’s theory of mixtures as set out in Mix-
tures, where he points out that the categories or types of people mentioned by
Hippocrates correspond with different physiological ‘mixtures’, which can be
identified by inferential reasoning on the basis of external appearances,31 includ-
ing physiognomonical signs. This is echoed at several places in the commentary
on book Two, for example in ii.2.20 HV (cf. p. 183, line 16–p. 184, line 15 Pf),
where indications of the body’s internal physiological state are drawn on the
basis of an individual’s character traits, and in ii.4.79 HV (cf. p. 347, line 17 Pf)
and ii.4.85 HV (cf. p. 351, line 11 Pf), where Galen refers to Mixtures for showing
how parts of the body indicate their mixture (but not that of the whole body);
cf. also ii.6.11 HV (cf. p. 355, line 32 Pf).
Further theoretical concepts, well known from Galen’s other writings, are
introduced and developed as the commentary unfolds. Thus we encounter the
notions of crisis and critical days, for which, again, Galen often refers to his own
writings with these titles.32

Galen’s reading of the Epidemics versus that of the Empiricists

The importance, in Galen’s eyes, of this theoretical background for the

understanding of the Hippocratic text makes it easier to explain Galen’s
frequent impatience, in the commentary on the Epidemics, with empirical, or
Empiricist readings of the text. For reasons that are obvious, and not so different
from those of modern readers I referred to in the beginning, the Empiricists had
taken a strong interest in the Hippocratic Epidemics. Thus in our text, Galen
frequently mentions Heraclides of Tarentum as the first commentator on the
Epidemics; and we find a number of references to Zeuxis and other Empiricists.33

30 Reading τοϲαύτη in p. 93, line 21 W.

31 This idea is developed in book two of Galen’s Mixtures; see especially ed. Helmreich 1904,
p. 40, line 11; p. 42, lines 21–2; p. 50, lines 13–5; p. 72, lines 9–p. 74, line 3.
32 See for example p. 124, line 5 W (xvii/a. p. 247 K; cf. i.3.69 V), where he refers to his
account, in the work On Critical Days, of ‘the cause that induces the occurrence of the crisis
on those days that fall between the days following the cycles.’
33 For example, ii.1.13 HV (cf. p. 158, line 4 Pf), ii.3.6 HV (cf. p. 258, line 34 Pf), ii.3.90 HV
(cf. p. 284, line 19 Pf).
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 37

By contrast, we find only one reference to the Methodists, and a critical one at
that (ii.2.193 HV; cf. p. 255, line 38 Pf).
Yet Galen’s assessment of the Empiricists’ work is not altogether favourable.
His main objection is that they entertain a naive concept of experience and
that, in failing to take account of causes, they miss the point both in their ex-
egesis of the Hippocratic text and in actual medical practice. The main target
of Galen’s criticism is one of his own masters, the medical writer Quintus who,
although perhaps not a full-blown Empiricist in the strict sense of the word,
clearly adopted an empirical approach to the text.34 At an early stage of the
commentary, Quintus is taken to task for saying that ‘we know these phenom-
ena through experience only, without there being any relation to the cause that
necessitates it’35:

κακῶϲ οὖν ὁ Κόιντοϲ ἐξηγεῖται καὶ ταῦτα τὰ βιβλία καὶ τὰ τῶν Ἀφοριϲμῶν,
〈ἐν〉 οἷϲ ὧδέ πωϲ ἔγραψε· ‘περὶ δὲ τῶν ὡρέων, ἢν μὲν ὁ χειμὼν αὐχμηρὸϲ
καὶ βόρειοϲ γένηται, τὸ δὲ ἔαρ ἔπομβρον καὶ νότιον, ἀνάγκη τοῦ θέρουϲ
πυρετοὺϲ ὀξεῖϲ καὶ ὀφθαλμίαϲ καὶ δυϲεντερίαϲ γίνεϲθαι.’ τῇ πείρᾳ γὰρ
μόνῃ τοῦτο ἐγνῶϲθαί φηϲιν ὁ Κόιντοϲ ἄνευ τοῦ κατὰ τὴν αἰτίαν λογιϲμοῦ,
πρῶτον μὲν αὐτὸ τοῦθ’ ἁμαρτάνων, **36 ὅτι τὰϲ αἰτίαϲ, ὧν εἶπε κατὰ τοὺϲ
Ἀφοριϲμοὺϲ τούτουϲ ὁ Ἱπποκράτηϲ, αὐτὸϲ αὖθιϲ ἐν τῷ Περὶ ὑδάτων καὶ
ἀέρων καὶ τόπων ἔγραψεν, εἶθ’ ὅτι τὸ χρήϲιμον μέροϲ τῆϲ διδαϲκαλίαϲ

Thus Quintus erred not only in his exegesis of these books but also in those
on the Aphorisms, in which Hippocrates says the following: ‘Regarding the
seasons, when the winter is dry with northerly wind, and the spring rainy
with southerly wind, it necessarily follows that in summer, acute fevers and
ophthalmia and dysentery occur’. Quintus maintained that we only know
these phenomena through experience without any theoretical reasoning
about their cause. His first error is … that he was not aware that already in
his Airs, Waters, Places Hippocrates described the causes of the things that
he mentioned in his Aphorisms. The second is that he ignored that part of
this chapter’s teaching that is concerned with practical application.

Further down, the same Quintus is criticised for saying that knowledge of the
location in which diseases occur does not contribute in any way to prognosis
and prediction, and for failing to ask himself the question why, in the Epidemics,

34 On Quintus, see Manetti and Roselli 1994, 1580–93; Grmek and Gourevitch 1994.
35 P. 6, lines 6–16 W (xvii/a. p. 6 K; cf. i.1.13 V).
36 There is a lacuna in the Greek text here.
38 Philip van der Eijk

Hippocrates only describes four varieties of changes of seasonal mixtures, even

though in reality there are many.37
In reaction to this, Galen in his own commentary on the Epidemics states
the more nuanced position on the relationship between reason and experience
that we also encounter elsewhere in his works. Of course, Galen does not deny
the importance of experience, far from it: experience is ultimately the decisive
test (βάϲανοϲ). Yet experience needs to be used in close conjunction with rea-
soning (λόγοϲ): it needs to be informed, ‘determined’, ‘qualified’ or ‘specified’
(διορίζεϲθαι) by theoretical considerations. Moreover, to say that there is no
need to pay attention to causes, as the Empiricists do, is plainly wrong.
Galen articulates this carefully nuanced position in a number of passages in
his commentary on the Epidemics. Thus at a crucial point, at the end of the in-
troduction to his commentary on book I, and right before starting with the line
by line commentary of the Hippocratic text, he adds38:

μετὰ ταῦτα δὲ εἰϲ ἐκείνην ἤδη τρέψομαι, τοϲοῦτον ἔτι προειπών, ὅπερ καὶ
ἐν 〈ἄλλοιϲ〉 πολλοῖϲ τῶν ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ γεγραμμένων βιβλίων εἰρῆϲθαι φθάνει,
προτρέποντόϲ μου γυμνάζεϲθαι τοὺϲ ἐκμαθεῖν θέλονταϲ τὴν ἰατρικὴν τέ-
χνην ἐν τοῖϲ κατὰ μέροϲ αἰϲθητοῖϲ, ὡϲ διαγινώϲκειν αὐτούϲ, ἃ καθόλου
προμεμαθήκαϲιν. ταῦτα δὲ αὐτὰ τὰ κατὰ μέροϲ ἀρχὴν τῆϲ 〈τῶν〉 καθόλου
ϲυϲτάϲεωϲ οἱ ἐμπειρικοί φαϲιν εἶναι, λέγοντεϲ ἀληθῆ ἐκεῖνα τῶν θεωρημά-
των ὅϲα τὴν ϲύϲταϲιν ἐξ ἐμπειρίαϲ ἔϲχηκεν. ἡμῖν δὲ οὐχ οὕτωϲ, ἀλλὰ καὶ
διὰ λόγου δοκεῖ πολλὰ τῶν θεωρημάτων εὑρῆϲθαι, κρίνεϲθαι μέντοι καὶ
τούτων τὴν ἀλήθειαν ὑπὸ τῆϲ πείραϲ βεβαιουμένην τε καὶ μαρτυρουμένην.

I will turn to the commentary on Hippocrates’ text after offering a remark

I made in many others of my books, when I urge those who intend to
study medicine to acquire training in individual observable things, so that
they can discern [in practice] what they have learned before [in theory].
The Empiricists claimed that these individual items are the starting point
of the general structure, and they said that the only reliable concepts are
those that have their basis in experience. We do not take this view, for we
think that, in addition, many concepts are derived by reasoning, yet the
truth of these, too, is assessed by experience, which confirms and testifies
to them.

37 P. 17, lines 3 and 18 W (xvii/a. pp. 24–5 K; cf. i.1.44 and 1.46 V). In the same context,
Galen refers to the Empiricists: ‘The Empiricist doctors said that the gatherings of states
of bad mixture, which they call syndromes, and which turn out to be the causes of these
diseases, have been discovered by experience, and in support of this claim they interpreted the
Aphorisms, for example…’ (p. 17, lines 8–11 W).
38 P. 10, line 22–p. 11, line 1 W (xvii/a. pp. 13–14 K; cf. i.1.26 V).
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 39

Likewise in the commentary on Book Two, Galen registers agreement between

Hippocrates and Erasistratus in making a distinction between establishing
something theoretically on the basis of the nature of the thing and by means
of experience.39 Furthermore, Galen expresses agreement with Aristotle’s state-
ment that one should first establish whether something exists or not (τὸ ὅτι)
and only then examine what its causes are (τὸ διότι).40 And in his commentary
on the Hippocratic discussion of the anatomy of the vascular systems (also in
book II), Galen affirms that observation on the basis of dissection is the source
of Hippocrates’ (and Herophilus’) account of the blood vessels41:

39 Book ii.2.31 HV (cf. p. 215, lines 20–43 Pf): ‘Galen said: There are things that are deduced
and learned from the nature of the thing, which is called inference by analogy, and there are
things that you need to test to know them. In my opinion, Hippocrates spoke likewise in this
lemma, which is similar to the statement that Erasistratus made later in the first chapter of
his book known as the General Observations where he wrote “a [kind of] food may loosen
the bowels in some people and block the bowels in others. I know some people who digest
beef more quickly than they digest other foods”. For this is also his opinion on this subject in
another passage in which he said “I know a man who was struck by summer cholera when
he drank a little bit too much Lesbian wine”. It is not possible to determine what is the matter
with one who is in this condition except by testing, and of necessity, you must examine [him]
to judge how he is with a certain thing and test that thing on him if you want to know whether
his nature concerning it is like other people’s nature or if he differs from them concerning
it, and you do this with each thing in this way. (ɼˈʉʒ̈́ ɬͲ ɨˬ΋ ˈΌ̒ć œǨʦʓʶΌ Ή ā ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā ɬͲ ƦΒā :ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƛLJ͘
΋ ̒ ƹLJʉ̶Α
Ή ā ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā ɬͲć ΈLJ̵LJʉ͘ Έ ҙҏҙҏǚʓ̵ā ȅ˳ʶ̈ ɑͫĕć ƹǽʷͫā
ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘ ȇʶ̤Αā LJ˳ʉ͎ ɑͫǛ͛ć .LJ́˳ˬˈ̒ ȅʓ̤ LJ́̑Ǩʤ̒ ƦΑā ȅͫΒā LJ́ʉ͎ œLJʓʥ̈ ƹLJʉ̶Α
ƦΒā ƛLJ͘ ȉʉ̤ ɼʉˬ˜ͫā ɡ̈ćLJ͘ΑҙҏLJ̑ žćǨˈ˳ͫā ɷ̑LJʓ͛ ɬͲ ȅͫćΑҙҏā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎ ȫ̈́āǨ˅ʶ̵āĢΑā ǚˈ̑ ɬͲ ɷͫLJ͘ ķǛͫā ƛǍ˙ͫLJ̑ ɷʉʒ̶ Ǎ΀ć ƛǍ˙ͫā āǛ΀
Ƚ̈ć ťLJ˶ͫā ȶˈ̑ ǽ͎ ɬ˅ʒͫā Ɏˬ΍ ˅̈Ό ǚ͘ ṳ̈̌āǍͫā ƢLJˈ˅ͫā» ɨ́̇āǨ˳ʓ̵ā ɬͲ ŷǨ̵ΑLJ̑ Ǩ˙ʒͫā ƢǍʥͫ ƦǍ̇Ǩ˳ʓʶ̈ ΈLJͲǍ͘ žǨ͇Αҙҏ ǽ͵Βāć ɨ́ˁˈ̑ ǽ͎ ɷˬ͘
ɬͲ ƛćLJ˶̒ ȅʓͲ ƦLJ͛ Έ ҨҞ̣Ģ žǨ͇Αҙҏ ǽ͵Βā» ƛLJ͘ ƦΑā Ǎ΀ć ɷͫLJ͘ Ǩ̥ΐā ƛǍ͘ ǽ͎ ŁLJʒͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ ɷ̈ΑāĢ āǛ΀ ƦΑā ΈLJˁ̈Αā ɑͫĕć .«ɼ˳ˈ̈́Αҙҏā Ǩ̇LJʶͫ
ƴΈ ĢćǨ̀ ȇʤ̈ ǚ͘ć ɼ̑ǨʤʓͫLJ̑ ҙҏΒā ƱǨͲΑā žǨˈʓ̈ ƦΑā ɬ˜˳̈ ȫʉˬ͎ ƛLJʥͫā ƱǛ΀ ɷͫLJ̤ Ȉ͵LJ͛ ɬͲ΋ ć .«ɼΉ ˁʉ΀ ɷ̒Ǩʓ͇ā Έ ҨҞʉˬ͘ Έ ҨҞˁ͎ ťǍʒʶͫ Ǩ˳̥
ɼˈʉʒ̈́ ɡʔͲ ɷʉ͎ ɷʓˈʉʒ̈́ ɡ΀ ɨˬˈ̒ ƦΑā łĔĢΑā āĕΒā ɷʉ͎ ƹǽʷͫā ɑͫĕ ŁǨʤ̒ ƦΑāć ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā ɬͲ ƹǽ̶ ȽͲ ɷͫLJ̤ Ʉʉ͛ ɷʉˬ͇ ɨ˜ʥͫLJ̑ Ǩˆ˶̒ ƦΑā
ƛLJʔ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ȅˬ͇ ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā ɬͲ ṳ̈̌āć ɡ͛ ǽ͎ ɑͫĕ ɡ˳ˈʓʶ̒ć ɷʉ͎ ɨ́ˏͫLJʦ̈ ćΑā ťLJ˶ͫā Ǩ̇LJ̵.)’
40 Book ii.6.28 HV (cf. p. 364, lines 1–13 Pf): ‘Aristotle said (and he was right saying it) that
in all such statements, it should first be determined whether the thing itself exists and then
what its cause are. So, we ourselves also need to do this. First, we should test empirically
whether what was said exists as was said, then, afterwards, we should start studying the
cause through which it exists. That which rarely exists is difficult to test empirically. For
empirical knowledge is only the remembrance of something that is seen many times in the
same condition. I have not seen these features come together in the same single even a few
times, let alone many times so that I could test this lemma empirically. (ŁLJ̿Αāć ƛLJ͘ ȫʉˬ̈́Ǎ˅̵ĢΑā ƦΒāć
LJ˶ͫ ǽˉʒ˶̈ ǚ˙͎ .ɷʒʒ̵ LJͲ ȇˬ˅̈ ɨ̓ ĔẠ̌ǍͲ ɷ͵Αā ȫˏ˶ͫā ǽ͎ ƹǽʷͫā ĢΎǚ˙̈ ƦΑā Έ ҙҏćΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ ɡ̈ćLJ͘Αҙҏā ɬͲ ƱǛ΀ ƱLJʒ̶Αā Ƚʉ˳̣ ǽ͎ ƦΒā ɷͫǍ͘ ǽ͎
ɬ͇ ȉʥʒͫā ǽ͎ ǚˈ̑ Ǜ̥ΑLJ͵ ɨ̓ ɡʉ͘ LJͲ ƛLJʔͲ ȅˬ͇ ụ̈̌Ǎ̈ ɡʉ͘ ķǛͫā āǛ΀ ɡ΀ ɼ̑ǨʤʓͫLJ̑ ɬʥʓ˳͵ ƦΑā Έ ҙҏćΑā ǽˉʒ˶ʉ͎ ɑͫĕ ɡˈˏ͵ ƦΑā ΈLJˁ̈Αā ɬʥ͵
ƹǽʷͫā Ȼˏ̤ ǽ΀ LJ˳͵Βā ɼ̑Ǩʤʓͫā ƦΑā ɑͫĕć ɼ̑ǨʤʓͫLJ̑ ɷ͵LJʥʓͲā Ǩʶˈ̈ ŴǨˏͫā ǽ͎ ҙҏΒā ụ̈̌Ǎ̈ ҙҏ ķǛͫā ƹǽʷͫāć ƦLJ͛ ɷˬ̣Αā ɬͲ ķǛͫā ȇʒʶͫā
ɬʥʓͲΑā ƦΑā Ģǚ͘ΑLJ͎ ƴǨʉʔ͛ ĢāǨͲ ɬ͇ Έ ҨҞˁ͎ ɼˬʉˬ͘ ΈāĢāǨͲ ƦLJʶ͵Βā ǽ͎ Ȉˈ˳ʓ̣ā ƛLJʥͫā ƱǛ΀ ĢΑā ɨͫ LJ͵Αāć .ƴṳ̈̌āć ƛLJ̤ ȅˬ͇ ƴǨʉʔ͛ ΈāĢāǨͲ ĿǨ̈ ķǛͫā
ɼ̑ǨʤʓͫLJ̑ ƛǍ˙ͫā āǛ΀.)’ A comparable case is in ii.6.130 HV (cf. p. 396, lines 32–8 Pf), where Galen says
that empirical validation of a particular combination of phenomena is difficult because that
particular combination itself is very rare.
41 Book ii.4.5 HV (cf. p. 312, lines 10–19 Pf).
40 Philip van der Eijk

œLJʓʥʉ͎ .ƦāǍʉʥͫā Ʀǚʒ̑ ǚˬʤͫā Ⱥʉʥ̈ ɑͫǛ͛ łǍʉʒͫLJ̑ ƦLJ˅ʉʥͫāć ɼ˶̈ǚ˳ͫLJ̑ ĢǍʶͫā Ⱥʉʥ̈ LJ˳͛ ɷ͵Αā ɑͫĕć
ɷͫ Ǩ́ͅ LJͲ ǽˉʒ˶ʉ͎ ɷ͵ćĔ LJͲ ɬ̈LJ͇ć ǚˬʤͫā Ɏ̶ āĕΒLJ͎ .ǚˬʤͫā Ɏʷ̈ ƦΑā ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒ LJͲ ɬ̈LJˈ̈ ƦΑā ĔāĢΑā ɬͲ
ɨͫ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƦΒLJ͎ .ɷʉ͎ ȇʓ˜̈ ƦΑā ĔāĢΑā ƦΒā ɷʒʓ˜̈ć ƱĢLJʒ̥Βā ĔāĢΑā ɬͲ ɷ̑ Ǩʒʦ̈ć ɷˆˏʥʓ̈ ƦΑā ΈLJ˶ʉ̑ ΈāĢǍ́ͅ ȫʥͫLJ̑
ťǍʉʒʉˬ˙̵Αā ɷʉͫΒā ȅ̤ćΑā ǽ̤Ǎ̑ ɷ˶Ͳ Ɏ̈ǚˀʓ̑ ҙҏć ƦLJ΀Ǩ̑ ćΑā ťLJʉ͘ Ή ɷʉˬ͇ ɷͫĔ ƹǽʷͫā āǛ΀ ɬͲ ȇʓ͛ LJͲ ȇʓ˜̈
.ɼˆ˙ʉͫā ǽ͎ ćΑā ƢLJ˶˳ͫā ǽ͎

Just as Hippocrates only knew these things because he cut open the skin
and observed what he saw under it, so too did Herophilus know them later.
He was not content to learn this from Hippocrates, but aspired to know
from the nature of the things itself from which Hippocrates had learned
what he knew without exception. He wrote books about the anatomy of
the blood vessels like those written by Hippocrates. A number of ancient
physicians have also exposed [sc. by dissection] and seen these blood ves-
sels in people’s bodies, and they wrote books about them similar to those
of Hippocrates and Herophilus.

Yet in Galen’s view, medical knowledge is arrived at not through a process of

unbiased empirical observation or induction; on the contrary, empirical obser-
vation is pointless unless it is accompanied and informed by theoretical consid-
erations. Experience may ‘confirm’ or ‘testify to universal reason (μαρτυρεῖ τῷ
καθόλου λόγῳ)’,42 or it may ‘speak against it’; but empirical observations do not
speak for themselves, and always need to be contextualised and theoretically
underpinned, not only in processes of scientific discovery but also in the assess-
ment, scrutiny and refutation of scientific claims made by others. This reminds
us of Galen’s concept of ‘qualified experience’ (διωριϲμένη πεῖρα), well known
from other contexts, especially dietetics and pharmacology.43 This need for
‘qualification’, ‘determination’ or ‘specification’ (διοριϲμόϲ) of empirical testing
is expressed in a number of passages in the commentary on the Epidemics as
well.44 Furthermore, there are cases, Galen argues, where experience is simply
incapable of testing a claim and where logical or theoretical considerations are
needed. This is expressed in a difficult but influential passage in which Galen
seems to criticise Hippocrates through the mouth of Diocles, whom he cites for
raising a ‘theoretical’ (λογικόϲ) objection against Hippocrates’ assumption of
the existence of quintan, septan and nonan fevers45:

42 P. 142, line 10 (xvii/a. p. 284 K; cf. i.3.116 V).

43 On Galen’s concept of qualified experience see van der Eijk 2005, ch. 10.
44 Thus we may suspect that when Galen says that a statement by Hippocrates ‘is correct
and true, although it is not correct and true when said in this unqualified way’ (ii.6.75 HV),
the Greek term used was ἀδιορίϲτωϲ. See also ii.6.78 HV (p. 381, lines 3–4 Pf): ‘This lemma is
not correct when taken separately and in isolation (Țˀ̈ ɨͫ ĔḲ̌ć ĔǨ͎Αā ƦΒā ƛǍ˙ͫā āǛ΀)’.
45 P. 112, line 15–p. 113, line 5 W (xvii/a. pp. 222–3 K; cf. i.3.32 V).
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 41

… οὐ περὶ ὀνόματόϲ ἐϲτι 〈καὶ〉 ϲημαινομένου ζήτηϲιϲ, ἀλλὰ περὶ πράγμα-

τοϲ … πεμπταίαϲ δὲ περιόδουϲ ἐθεαϲάμεθα ἀμφιβόλουϲ, οὐ μὴν ἀκριβεῖϲ
γε καὶ ϲαφεῖϲ, ὡϲ ἀμφημερινὰϲ καὶ τριταίαϲ καὶ τεταρταίαϲ. οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ
λογικῆϲ ἀποδείξεωϲ ἡγοῦμαι δεῖϲθαι τὸ πρᾶγμα τὴν κρίϲιν ἐκ πείραϲ λαμ-
βάνον … πρὸϲ δ’ οὖν τὸν Ἱπποκράτην τάχα καὶ λογικὴν ἄν τιϲ ἀπόδειξιν
εἴποι, καθάπερ ὁ Διοκλῆϲ. ‘ἐπὶ τίϲι γὰρ ἐρεῖϲ [τίϲι] ϲτοιχείοιϲ ἢ χυμοῖϲ τὴν
πεμπταίαν ἢ ἑβδομαίαν ἢ ἐναταίαν γίνεϲθαι περίοδον οὐχ ἕξειϲ.’ οὐ μὴν
οὐδ’ ἔγραψέ τινα ἡμῖν ἄρρωϲτον οὕτω νοϲήϲαντα, καίτοι γ’ ἐχρῆν, ὥϲπερ
ἄλλων πολλῶν καθολικῶν θεωρημάτων παραδείγματα διὰ τῶν κατὰ μέ-
ροϲ ἐδίδαξεν, οὕτω κἀπὶ τούτων ποιῆϲαι.

… the enquiry is not about the name and what is signified by it but about the
real thing. … As for periods of five days, I have seen ambiguous cases, but not
exact and clear ones comparable to periods of two, three or four days. Indeed
I think this matter does not require theoretical demonstration but is decided
on the basis of experience. … Now against Hippocrates one may perhaps also
raise a theoretical proof, as Diocles does: ‘On the occasion of what elements
or humours a fever recurring every five, or seven, or nine days occurs, you
will not be able to say.’ Nor indeed has he [i.e. Hippocrates] given us any de-
scription of someone who was ill in this manner. Yet just as he taught [in the
form of] examples of many other general postulates by means of individual
[cases], likewise he ought to have produced them in these cases too.

The point of Diocles’ objection seems to be that one cannot tell whether a fever
occurring after an interval as long as four, six or eight days is the same fever
unless there are clear symptoms shared, such as particular states of the elements
(i.e. elementary qualities) or the humours. The problem he is raising is that his
opponent is unable to say what level, number, or nature of shared symptoms
would suffice to make that identification valid. This would make good sense of
Galen’s characterisation of Diocles’ objection as ‘theoretical’, as opposed to the
‘empirical’ scrutiny that Galen refers to in the preceding section.46

46 For a discussion of this passage (Diocles, fr. 57 vdE), see van der Eijk 2001, 125–7. Contrary
to what Wenkebach suggests, the Arabic version is based on a manuscript not reading ϲηπεδόϲιν
but ϲτοιχείοιϲ : ‘Especially against Hippocrates someone who argues against him would need to
argue with a rational demonstration, as did Diocles: “you are not able to say which elements or
humours caused fevers with a cycle of five, seven or nine days” (ɷʉˬ͇ șʓʥ̈ ƦΑā șʓʥʉˬ͎ ɼ̿LJ̥ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā LJͲΑāć
ǽ͎ ćΑā ȫͲLJʦͫā ǽ͎ Ģćǚ̒ ǽʓͫā ȅ˳ʥͫā ƦǍ˜̒ ŴҨҞ̥Αҙҏā ćΑā Ǩ̿LJ˶ˈͫā ķΑā ɬͲ ƛǍ˙̒ ƦΑā Ģǚ˙̒ ҙҏ ɷ͵Αā ɑͫĕć ζȫʉˬ˙̈Ĕ șʓ̤ā LJ˳͛ ɼʉ̵LJʉ͘ ɼʤʥ̑
Ƚ̵LJʓͫā ǽ͎ ćΑā Ƚ̑LJʶͫā)’ (i.3.32 V). Τhis modifies the interpretation of the fragment (Diocles, fr. 57 vdE)
compared to that offered in van der Eijk 2001, 125–7, with στοιχείοιϲ to be understood as the
elementary qualities hot, cold, dry and wet, rather than the elements themselves, in accordance
with Diocles frs. 51 and 54. For later interpretations of this passage in the context of discussions
about the question of the existence of fevers recurring every five or seven or nine days in tenth-
century Arabic medical literature, for example al-Kaskarī, see Pormann 2008a, 100–103.
42 Philip van der Eijk

Galen’s approach to the case histories

In the light of these considerations on the relationship between reason and

experience, the general and the particular, and the theoretical and the practical,
it may now come as less of a surprise that, in his commentary on Epidemics,
books One and Two, Galen has little interest in the peculiarities of the case
histories. At another crucial juncture in the commentary on book One, when he
has arrived at the point in the Hippocratic text where the case histories begin,
he says47:

Before starting with the exegesis of individual patients it seems better, for
the purposes of clarity and brevity, to present a general account about all of
them. In my book The Therapeutic Method, and in other works, I explained
that there are two ways in which one finds out about something one examines:
the first is through reasoning, by which one arrives at knowledge of the gen-
eral, universal genus of each individual phenomenon, the second is through
experience of the individual phenomena until one arrives through it at the
general, universal concept. Our claim is that while all concepts that make an
art complete are general, the actions that the practitioners of the arts carry out
all deal with particular, individual phenomena. Anyone who first determines
and describes a general concept also needs to devote himself to practice in the
particular phenomena, and the particular phenomena are also very useful for
the confirmation of general concepts. They also serve the students who want
to understand as examples of the general concepts that are based on them.
This is why, in the books I have written, I do not limit myself to discussing
general matters but also deal with particulars, transcribing from the books
of Hippocrates, and particularly the Epidemics, those passages in which he

47 P. 126, line 13–p.127, line 15 W (xvii/a. pp. 251–3 K; cf. i.3.79–80 V). I quote the italicised
passages in Greek: διττὴ ἡ τῶν ζητουμένων εὕρεϲιϲ οὖϲα, μία μὲν ἡ διὰ τοῦ λόγου πρὸϲ τὴν
γνῶϲιν ἀφικνουμένη τοῦ καθόλου τε καὶ κοινοῦ παντὸϲ τῶν κατὰ μέροϲ εἴδουϲ, ἄλλη δ’ ἡ
διὰ 〈τῆϲ πείραϲ ἀπὸ〉 τῶν κατὰ μέροϲ ἐπὶ τὸ κοινόν τε καὶ καθόλου παραγιγνομένη. καὶ τὰ
μὲν ϲυμπληροῦντα 〈πᾶϲαν τέχνην θεωρήματα λέγομεν πάντα〉 εἶναι καθόλου, τὰϲ δὲ πράξειϲ
τῶν τεχνιτῶν ἐπὶ τῶν ἀτόμων εἰδῶν γίγνεϲθαι, δεῖϲθαι δὲ τῆϲ ἐπ’ αὐτῶν γυμναϲίαϲ καὶ
〈τὸν τὰ〉 καθόλου πρότερον εὑρόντα καὶ μέντοι καὶ πρὸϲ βεβαίωϲιν αὐτῶν τῶν ηὑρημένων
καθόλου χρήϲιμα γίγνεϲθαι τὰ κατὰ μέροϲ. ἔϲτι δὲ καὶ πρὸϲ τὴν τῶν μανθανόντων γνῶϲιν
οἷον παραδείγματα ταῦτα τῶν ἐπιτετραμμένων αὐτοῖϲ καθόλου θεωρημάτων. διὰ τοῦτο
κἀγὼ κατὰ τὰϲ πραγματείαϲ ἁπάϲαϲ, ἃϲ ἐποιηϲάμην, οὐ τὰ καθόλου μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ
κατὰ μέροϲ διῆλθον, ἐκ τῶν Ἱπποκράτουϲ βιβλίων καὶ μάλιϲτα τῶν Ἐπιδημιῶν παραγράψαϲ
〈ἐκείναϲ τὰϲ〉 ῥήϲειϲ, ἐν αἷϲ διηγήϲατο ἅπαντα ἀπ’ ἀρχῆϲ μέχρι τέλουϲ τὰ ϲυμβάντα τοῖϲ
ἀρρώϲτοιϲ … ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ παρέγκεινταί τινεϲ ἀϲαφεῖϲ λέξειϲ, δι’ ἐκείναϲ ἔδοξεν ἄμεινον εἶναι
καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ὑπομνήματα ποιήϲαϲθαι … εἰ δὲ τῶν ἐν τῷ Προγνωϲτικῷ γεγραμμένων ἐν τῷ
καθόλου τὰ παραδείγματα μόνα νῦν ἐπιϲημαινοίμην, ἀναπέμπων 〈τὸν μανθάνοντα κατὰ〉 τὸ
ϲύμπαν τῆϲ διδαϲκαλίαϲ εἰϲ τὰϲ γεγραμμέναϲ μοι πραγματείαϲ, ἐλπίζω ϲύντομον ἔϲεϲθαι τὸν
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 43

described all that happened to the patients from the beginning to the end. In
my work Breathing Difficulties, I have discussed all cases of people with
breathing problems mentioned in the Epidemics, and in my work Critical
Days all cases of crisis [mentioned in the Epidemics], and I have followed
the same procedure in my other books. Therefore, for those eager to learn
the art of medicine, there is no need for further exegesis [here]. However,
since there are some unclear passages in the text, I decided on account of these
that it was better to write this commentary as well. If I were to describe the
whole nature of each of the symptoms that Hippocrates mentioned as oc-
curring in each of the diseases, or if I were to describe the causes through
which these symptoms occur, I would be forced to transfer to the present
work everything I said about it in all of my books and I would risk having
to write one whole book about each of these patients. If, however, I merely
mark the accounts of these patients as examples for the general points he
made in the Prognostic and refer the student for full instruction to the books
in which I explained them, I expect that my comments will be short.

This is an important passage for Galen’s views on the relationship between

the empirical and the theoretical, experience (empeiría or peîra) and reason
(lógos). For it provides an epistemological motivation for Galen’s way of han-
dling, in the present commentary, the case histories of Epidemics i. He says that
he has used them in his other works as empirical illustration of the general
points made there, and that, for this reason, he has refrained, in the present
commentary on Epidemics i, from providing comprehensive discussion and
explanation of all the symptoms listed in all the case histories presented by
Hippocrates. In doing so, Galen may well think that he is in good company,
for as he says in an earlier passage, Hippocrates himself, in one of the sections
devoted to the ‘constitutions’ (katastáseis), has done something similar, by con-
firming the general observations he made in his Prognostic with examples from
particular cases; and since Galen previously commented on his Prognostic, there
is no need to explain things in detail here.48 This is in accordance with Galen’s
opinion that the Epidemics follow the Prognostic in sequence in order of compo-
sition by Hippocrates.49

48 Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book One, p. 66, lines 3–6 W (xvii/a. pp. 127–8
K; cf. i.2.88 V): ‘At this point, Hippocrates confirms the general observations he made in
his Prognostic with examples from particular cases. Since I previously commented on his
Prognostic, I do not need to repeat anything about the clearly manifest correspondence
between what he described in this book and in the former. (Ἃ καθόλου διὰ τοῦ Προγνωϲτικοῦ
γράμματοϲ ἐδίδαξε, ταῦτα μὲν νῦν ὡϲ ἐπὶ παραδειγμάτων διὰ τῶν κατὰ μέροϲ πιϲτοῦται·
προεξηγηϲάμενοι δὲ 〈τὰ〉 κατὰ τὸ Προγνωϲτικὸν οὐδὲν ἔτι δεόμεθα περὶ τῆϲ ϲυμφωνίαϲ
τούτων πρὸϲ ἐκεῖνα λέγειν ἐναργῶϲ φαινομένηϲ.)’
49 P. 75, lines 9–19 W (xvii/a. pp. 146–7 K; cf. i.2.131 V).
44 Philip van der Eijk

Thus what, at first sight, seems just a matter of literary organisation and ar-
rangement on Galen’s part has a more profound epistemological justification.
After all, Galen could have decided to use his commentary on the Epidemics as
the central text where he would provide the explanations for the phenomena
described in the case histories, and he could have decided to provide cross-ref-
erences to these in his other works. Yet he has organised the material the other
way round, providing full explanation in the commentaries on Prognostic, Airs
Waters Places and Aphorisms, while limiting himself to an outline in the com-
mentary on the Epidemics. This reflects his view on the relationship between
the theoretical and the universal on the one hand and the empirical and the in-
dividual on the other, and on the reversed priority of the former over the latter.
This is of wider relevance for a correct understanding of the nature of Ga-
len’s commentary on Epidemics, Book One. For this commentary belongs to
that group of Galenic commentaries that, at least according to Galen’s own in-
dications in his autobibliographical writings, were primarily written for Ga-
len’s own consumption and not for wider circulation.50 By contrast, according
to these Galenic characterisations of his own writings, the commentary on book
Two was written for a wider readership.51 In this regard, the relationship be-
tween the Galenic commentaries on books One and Two would be the reverse
of that between the two Hippocratic books themselves, at least in Galen’s own
assessment. For according to Galen, book Two of the Epidemics was written by
Hippocrates just as notes for himself, or perhaps for his sons,52 whereas book
One seems to envisage a wider readership. As Galen points out in this connec-
tion, it would be more appropriate to regard book Three of the Epidemics as
book Two in the sequence, and one may add here that in this regard he has mod-
ern scholarship on his side, for books One and Three are generally regarded as
being roughly of the same date – if not by the same author – while books Two,
Four, Six, and again Five and Seven seem to form later collections. In Galen’s
opinion, book Two differs from book One in that, in the first book,53

Ʉ̿ćć ŰāǨͲΑā LJ́˶͇ Ȉ̓ṳ̈̌ ƹāǍ́ͫā łҙҏLJ̤ ɬͲ łҙҏLJ̤ ŃҨҞ̓ ǨͲΑā ȅͫćΑҙҏā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎ Ʉ̿ć ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƦΒā
łҙҏLJʥͫā ɑˬ̒ Ʉ̿ć ǽ͎ Έ ҙҏćΑā Ƣǚ˙͎ .ɼʉ̇LJ̑ć ƴṳ̈̌āć ƛLJ̤ ǨͲΑā ɷ˶ʉˈ̑ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ ɬͲ ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎
ǽʓͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā Ƚ̇LJʒ̈́ ɼˏˀ̑ ɑͫĕ Ƚʒ̒Αā ɨ̓ .ɷʓˈʉʒ̈́ ɬ͇ ɷ̣ćǨ̥ć Ʀāǚ̑ΑҙҏLJ̑ Ⱥʉʥ˳ͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā Ǩʉˉ̒ ɼˏ̿ LJ́ˬ͛
Ǩ͛ĕ ɷ˶˜ͫ ƛLJʔ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ȅˬ͇ ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ƱǛ΀ ǽ͎ ɑͫĕ ɡˈˏ̈ ɨͫć .łҙҏLJʥͫā ɑˬ̒ ɬ͇ ťLJ˶ͫā ɬͲ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫ Ȉ̓ṳ̈̌
ɷʉ͎ Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫā ǚˬʒͫā Ǩ͛ĕ ɨ̓ ɼ˶ʶͫā łLJ͘ćΑā ɬͲ ɷʉ͎ Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫā Ȉ͘Ǎͫā Ǩ͛ĕ ɨ̓ Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā Έ ҙҏćΑā

50 See On My Own Books ix (ed. Boudon-Millot 2007, p. 160, line 17), with the discussion by
von Staden 2009, 135–44.
51 On My Own Books ix (ed. Boudon-Millot 2007, 160, line 22).
52 Book ii.4.3 HV (cf. p. 311, line 3 Pf), ii.4.28 HV (cf. p. 314, lines 34–5 Pf).
53 Book ii.1.3–4 HV (cf. p. 154, lines 13–28 Pf).
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 45

ɡˈ͎ Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ Ʉ̿ć ɨ̓ .œāǩ˳ͫā ɑͫĕ ɬ͇ ťLJ˶ͫā Ʀāǚ̑Αā ǽ͎ ǚͫǍ̒ ķǛͫā Ⱥˬʦͫāć Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ œāǩͲ Ǩ͛ĕ ɨ̓
ƦLJ͛ ķǛͫā ŰǨˈͫāć ɑͫĕ Ƣǚ˙̒ ķǛͫā ŰǨˈͫā Ǩ͛ĕ ɨ̓ Ǩ˳ʤˬͫ ǚͫǍ˳ͫā ȇʒʶͫā Ńṳ̈̌ ɷ̑ ķǛͫā Ⱥˬʦͫā ɑͫĕ
.ƱLJ́ʓ˶Ͳ ɷ͈Ǎˬ̑ ǚ˶͇ ɷʉ͎ Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫā ŰǨˈͫāć Ʊǚ̈ǩ̒ ǚˈ̑ ɷʉ͎ Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫā ŰǨˈͫāć ƛLJʥͫā ɑˬ̒ ǽ͎ ɷˈͲ
.ģLJʤ̈ ΒҨҞͫ Ʊǚˀ͘ ƹāǍ́ͫā ƛLJ̤ Ǩ͛Ǜ͎ ɷ̑ ȅ˶̓ ɨ̓ ɷ̒ĔLJ͇ žҨҞ̥ ȅˬ͇ ŰǨ˳ͫā Ǩ͛ĕ ɷ˳̈ǚ˙̒ ǽ͎ ȇʒʶͫāć

Galen said: In the first book, Hippocrates described the issue of three states
of air which cause diseases. In the third part of this same book, he de-
scribed the issue of one pestilential state. He began by describing all these
states in terms of change in the air which surrounds the bodies, and its
deviation from its nature. Then he proceeded by describing the nature of
the diseases which befall many people because of these states. In this book,
he did not do this in this way, but rather discussed first the disease which
occurred; then he discussed the season when it occurred; then he discussed
the country in which it occurred; then he discussed the mixture of this time
and the humour generated in the bodies of the people by this mixture; then
he described the way in which the humour works which was the cause
for the carbuncles being generated; and then he discussed the symptom
which preceded this, the symptom which accompanied it in this state, the
symptom which occurred in it after its increase and the symptom which
occurred in it when it reached its climax. The reason for his mentioning the
disease first contrary to his usual practice—he then turns and mentions the
state of the air—is his intent to be brief.

However, this difference is not a matter of principle or doctrine but entirely due
to a desire for brevity, as Galen goes on to say: ‘We find that the author of this
book, whether it be Hippocrates himself, or his son Thessalus, desires to be brief
(ģLJʤ̈ Βҙҏā ȅˬ͇ ΈLJˀ̈Ǩ̤ ɷ˶̑ā ťǍͫLJ̵LJ̓ ćΑā ƦLJ͛ ɷʶˏ͵ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ƱǛ́ͫ Ƚ̀āǍͫā ǚʤ͵ ǚ˙͎).’54
Judging by these Galenic self-characterisations, one might be tempted to ex-
plain the brevity of the commentary on book One, especially concerning the
case histories, as a result of Galen’s intention not to publish the work. Yet in
practice, the difference between the commentary on book One and that on book
Two is not so clear-cut. Indeed, when reading the commentary on book One, it
is hard to imagine that it was intended solely for private consumption. It dis-
plays many features found in other Galenic commentaries, though perhaps to
a lesser extent55: there is discussion of variant readings preserved in different
copies of the text;56 there are, as we have seen, the polemical sneers at other

54 Book ii.1.5 HV (cf. p. 154, lines 31–3 Pf).

55 For formal differences between Galenic commentaries not primarily intended for wider
circulation and those envisaging a broader readership see von Staden 2009, especially 150.
56 See, for example, p. 36, lines 9–13 W (xvii/a. p. 64 K; cf. i.1.92 V), p. 43, lines 3–29 W
(xvii/a. pp. 78–80 K; cf. i.1.129 V), p. 76, lines 3–24 W (xvii/a. pp. 148–9 K; cf. i.2.142 V), p. 82,
46 Philip van der Eijk

commentators, especially Quintus and the Empiricists; there is occasional criti-

cism of Hippocrates,57 though more often we find Galen pointing out that the
text as it stands is unclear and can only be properly understood when put, as we
have seen, in the context of other Hippocratic texts or against the background
of Galen’s own works. Yet the main reason for thinking that the audience of the
commentary may well have been larger than Galen’s autobibliography would
let us believe is the fact that the commentary on book One itself tells us that the
text is meant both for people without medical knowledge and those with some
medical knowledge58:

Ἐν τῷ πρὸ τούτου βιβλίῳ λέλεκται περὶ τῆϲ τῶν ὡρῶν εἰϲ ἀλλήλαϲ μετα-
βολῆϲ, εἴρηται δὲ καὶ ἡ κατὰ φύϲιν ἑκάϲτηϲ κρᾶϲιϲ αἵ τε προθεϲμίαι τῆϲ
ἀρχῆϲ αὐτῶν καὶ τῆϲ τελευτῆϲ. ὡϲ ἂν οὖν ἐκείνων μεμνημένων ἡμῶν, ὅϲα
τῶν νῦν λεγομένων ἐξηγήϲεωϲ δεῖται προϲθήϲω, ϲτοχαζόμενοϲ οὔτε μόνων
τῶν ἐϲχάτωϲ ἀμαθῶν οὔτε μόνων τῶν ἱκανὴν ἐχόντων τὴν παραϲκευήν·
πρὸϲ ἅπανταϲ γὰρ ὁ τοιοῦτοϲ λόγοϲ ἕξει μετρίωϲ. τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ὁ μὲν
τοῖϲ ἐϲχάτωϲ ἀμαθέϲιν οἰκεῖοϲ ἀνιάϲει τοὺϲ ἐν ἕξει διὰ τὸ μῆκοϲ, ὁ δὲ τού-
τοιϲ ἐπιτήδειοϲ ἀϲαφὴϲ ἔϲται τοῖϲ ἀμαθέϲιν. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ χρὴ τοῖϲ τοιούτοιϲ
ὑπομνήμαϲιν ἐντυγχάνειν ἀγαπῶνταϲ, ἀλλ’ ἄλλο παρ’ ἄλλου καὶ ἄλλωϲ
ἀκούϲαντεϲ πλατύτερον πολλάκιϲ ταὐτὰ δυνηθεῖεν 〈ἂν〉 ἄνευ παρακοῆϲ
ἐκμανθάνειν τι χρηϲτόν.

In the preceding book, I described the process of change from one season
to the next and specified the natural mixture of each and the dates deter-
mining the beginning and end of each of them. As we mentioned, I discuss
those passages that are in need of exegesis, but I am aiming neither exclu-
sively at those without any medical knowledge nor exclusively at those
who already have considerable medical knowledge. This mode of explana-
tion will be appropriate for everyone. There are two other modes: the first
one, appropriate for people without any medical knowledge, offends those
who have such knowledge due to its tediousness. The second one, address-
ing those with medical knowledge, is unclear for those without medical
knowledge. Yet people who love medical knowledge do not need to read
such books, but they hear one thing from one person and another from
another, and hearing the same thing many times in different ways they can
learn something useful without misunderstanding.

lines 19–28 W (xvii/a. p. 162 K; cf. i.2.165 V), p. 92, lines 25–6, p. 94, lines 6–10 (in app.) W
(xvii/a. pp. 183–4, 187 K; cf. i.2.202, 2.219 V), p. 99, lines 4–12 W (xvii/a. p. 197 K; cf. i.2.223 V),
p. 123, lines 12–23 W (xvii/a. p. 246 K; cf. i.3.68 V).
57 For example, p. 145, line 26–p. 146, line 7 W (xvii/a. pp. 288–9 K; cf. i.3.126 V), p. 150,
line 1–p. 151, line 8 (xvii/a. pp. 299–301 K; cf. i.3.140 V).
58 P. 45, line 18–p. 46, line 6 (xvii/a. pp. 84–5 K; cf. i.2.3 V).
Exegesis, Explanation and Epistemology 47


We have considered various reasons why Galen’s reading of the Epidemics

is the way it is, and why it is so different from the way the Epidemics have
been read, and continue to be read today, by historians of science and medical
doctors. To Galen, the Epidemics are, essentially, a treatise on a special kind of
disease. They fit in with an existing medical theory and are based on a number
of assumptions and presuppositions, which they are meant to illustrate and
confirm rather than reveal or demonstrate. Furthermore, Galen uses the writing
of the commentary on the Epidemics as an opportunity to criticise the Empiricist
appropriation of the Hippocratic text as a statement of their methodological
principles; and in reaction to the Empiricists’ view on experience, he uses the
commentary as a vehicle for expressing his own belief that experience, however
vital and ultimately decisive as a criterion, needs to be qualified by theoretical
and universal considerations.
48 Philip van der Eijk
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 49

Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen:

The Case of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two
Brooke Holmes1

It is well known that Galen’s commentaries on texts from the Hippocratic

Corpus are organised by the methodological principle ‘to make clear what is
unclear’.2 Galen is often content to blame obscurity on the limitations of the
reader, a strategy that allows him to cast himself as an exemplary teacher. The
Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two, however, confronts a rather
different species of obscurity, one due to the difficult nature of the treatise itself,
which, as Galen regularly observes, is rife with enigmatic words and frustrating
gaps. The difficulty can sometimes be attributed to problems with the state of
the text (variant readings, possible omissions). In other cases, Galen blames the
text’s impenetrability on the interpolations of forgers who aim to create obscu-
rity and ambiguity because, he alleges, they want to create puzzles that only
they can solve, thereby inflating their own reputations.
But perhaps the most important reason for the difficulties posed by Epidem-
ics, Book Two, in Galen’s view, lies in the circumstances of its composition.
Despite the fact that, at the outset of his commentary, he professes not to care
whether the treatise was written by Hippocrates or by his son Thessalus,3 he
later agrees with those who believe that Hippocrates did not write the text for
publication but prepared it, rather, as a notebook: ‘for the mode of the expres-
sion used in the text is inadequate to convey the meaning he intends in a way

1 This essay was written with the generous support of the American Council of Learned
Societies, the Fondation Hardt pour l’étude de l'Antiquité classique, and the Elias Boudinot
Bicentennial Preceptorship at Princeton University. I would like to express my thanks as well
to Peter E. Pormann for the invitation to be involved in the Epidemics in Context project and
the original conference audience for their comments and questions.
2 See, for example, Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 1, proe. (xvii/b. p. 561 K);
Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Fracturesʼ 3, proe. (xviii/b. p. 318 K). Galen’s commentaries on
Hippocrates have been the subject of considerable research over the past thirty years. See
especially Smith 1979, 61–176; Manetti and Roselli 1994. See also Manuli 1983b; Lloyd 1991;
Debru 1994; Jouanna 2000b; Flemming 2002; von Staden 2002; Yeo 2005; Flemming 2008;
Manetti 2009.
3 Book ii.1.5 HV (cf. p. 155, lines 31–5 Pf).
50 Brooke Holmes

that is entirely comprehensibleʼ.4 If such stylistic infelicities are inexcusable in

those trying to communicate with a larger public, they are forgivable in those
writing for their own private purposes. The style of Epidemics, Book Two, thus
seems to prove that it was written as an aide-mémoire.5 Given the origin of the
text, we must be content, Galen concedes, ‘with approximation and conjecture
and not secure knowledgeʼ.6
Yet the enigmatic nature of Epidemics, Book Two, also affords the commen-
tator an opportunity. For it allows Galen to present himself as a riddle-solver
and a code-cracker and, hence, the true heir of Hippocrates, the son who does
not just transmit the father’s private writings, as Thessalus does, but unpacks
their latent truths. The terseness of Epidemics, Book Two, which exaggerates
the brachylogy so characteristic of the Epidemics as a whole, also invites expli-
cation and appropriation.7 Galen’s commentary is, accordingly, addressed not
just to enigmas but also to silences. These silences, significantly, tend to crop up
in places where Galen expects a cause. Much as modern readers, at least until
fairly recently, have tended to see in the Epidemics a paradigm of pure clinical
observation, devoid of theoretical commitments, the ancient Empiricists read
these texts as validating their rejection of speculation about hidden things.8 It is,
in fact, partly to wrest control of the Epidemics from the Empiricists that Galen
writes his commentaries in the first place, declaring in his study of Epidemics,

4 Book ii.1.90 HV (cf. p. 177, lines 12–20 Pf). See also ii.1.195 HV (cf. p. 205, lines 18–27 Pf),
ii.2.115 HV (cf. p. 239, lines 42–3 Pf), ii.3.87 HV (cf. p. 283, lines 7–14 Pf). On Thessalus’s
role, see also ii.2.22 HV (cf. p. 213, lines 23–6 Pf), ii.3.64 (cf. p. 276, lines 1–3 Pf). Explaining
the enigmatic style of Epidemics, Book Two, is all the more important in view of the fact
that Galen frequently praises the clarity of Hippocrates’ writing and the master’s interest in
communication: see Sluiter 1995.
5 On private memory, see also Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Six 2.29 (xvii/a.
p. 955 K; p. 93, lines 3–8 W). The distinction between public and private as a generic marker
was already in place in earlier Hippocratic commentaries (Manetti and Roselli 1994, 1568).
6 Book ii.2.49 HV (cf. p. 221, lines 9–11 Pf).
7 On stylistic differences between the various Epidemics, see Smith 1989. Galen’s
commentaries reflect these differences: those on Epidemics, Books One and Three, are less
polemical vis-à-vis other commentators and hew more closely to the text, while those on
Epidemics, Books Two and Six, are more upfront about the interpretive problems involved.
(Galen thought Epidemics, Books Four, Five, and Seven, were not Hippocratic at all.) Some of
the differences in Galen’s treatment can also be explained by whether the commentary was
produced in the first or second ‘phaseʼ of his commentary writing. On the chronology of the
commentaries, see Smith 1979, 123–5, 147–55 on the composition of Epidemics, Book Two.
8 For the modern history of reading the Epidemics and a more nuanced approach to the
texts’ theoretical commitments, see Langholf 1990; King 1998, 54–74. For the Empiricists’
refusal to see causes in the Epidemics, see, for example, i.1.13 V (xvii/a. p. 6 K; p. 6, lines
6–16 W). On Galen’s battles against the Empiricists in his Hippocratic commentaries more
generally, see Manetti and Roselli 1994, 1535–8, 1593–1600, and von Staden 2002, 119–21,
who argues that Galen’s rescue of Hippocrates from the Empiricists is a crucial feature of his
exegetical ‘plotʼ.
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 51

Book One, that ‘Hippocrates already went to the trouble of explaining what he
described. What remains to be done is to give the causes of [the phenomena]
that he describedʼ.9 In the Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two,
Galen does not lose sight of this aim, claiming that Hippocrates advises us to
search for the causes and to study them.10 The commentary on causes that he
supplies is thus presented as an expansion of something inherent in the original
text and a locus for his claim to Hippocrates’ legacy.
The causes that Galen supplies, however, both here and in other Hippocratic
commentaries, are more often than not products of his own medical-philosoph-
ical system, a system heavily indebted to its more immediate predecessors and
especially the Hellenistic anatomists. Indeed, the uneven and inscrutable na-
ture of Epidemics, Book Two, makes it especially susceptible to what Heinrich
von Staden has called Galen’s mode of ‘inflationaryʼ reading.11 That is, the text
readily supplies gaps to be filled by Galen’s own aetiological-theoretical ap-
paratus in the guise of Hippocrates’ (unexpressed) beliefs about hidden causes
and structures.12 But what makes Galen’s exegetical practise in his reading of
Epidemics, Book Two, particularly interesting is the way in which he articulates
the causal apparatus along anatomical lines. The prevalence of anatomy in Ga-
len’s commentary is a response, in part, to the fact that the account in Epidemics,
Book Two, of the blood vessels and ‘nervesʼ was considered by Galen and others
to be the only genuine Hippocratic account of these structures.13 It reflects, too,
Galen’s interest in Hippocrates as not just the father of medicine but the father

9 Book i.2.202 V (xvii/a. p. 183 K; p. 92, lines 21–2 W).

10 Book ii.1.154 HV (cf. p. 195, lines 23–5 Pf).
11 Von Staden 2002, 112. By means of such a reading, von Staden argues, ‘the two ancient
canons—the earlier brachyological and allusive, the later expansive and explicit—often are
made to resemble each other, indeed to be identical in their scientific theories and in their
medical practices. Text and commentary, as an ensemble, thus project a reassuring image
of scientific systematicity and of a scientific truth that is not vulnerable to the vagaries of
temporal context or cultural exigencyʼ (ibid., 114). Rebecca Flemming offers a slightly different
perspective: ‘The most important thing [sc. in Galen’s Hippocratic commentaries] was the
multiplicity and thickness of the connections made, the ways in which points could be joined
up and made sense of, not absolute purity or consistencyʼ (2002, 112).
12 On Galen’s attribution of his own ideas to Hippocrates, see De Lacy 1979, 363; Lloyd 1988;
Debru 1994, 53–4; von Staden 2002, 114–16; Yeo 2005; Flemming 2008, 343–6.
13 Galen dismisses the accounts in On Places in a Human Being, Mochlion, and On the Nature
of a Human Being as spurious (ii.4.4 HV [cf. p. 311, lines 14–22 Pf]). See also Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Nature of Manʼ 1, proe. (xv. pp. 10–11 K; ed. Mewaldt 1914, 7, lines 21–8, line 18),
where, having pronounced the first and third sections of On the Nature of a Human Being
authentic, he dismisses chapters 9–15 as largely an interpolation, singling out the account of
the blood vessels precisely because it does not accord with the account at Epidemics ii. 1.6; see
also On the Opinions of Hippocrates and Plato 6.3.27–31 (v. pp. 527–9 K; ed. De Lacy 1978–84,
378, line 36–380, line 24). On Galen’s difficulties in recuperating Hippocratic anatomy, see
Lloyd 1991, 403–4.
52 Brooke Holmes

of anatomy, an interest that he inherited from some of his teachers.14 The signif-
icance of anatomy in the tradition of anti-Empiricist Hippocratic interpretation
and the elliptical, sketchy nature of the original treatise create the conditions
under which Galen folds his own, post-Hellenistic vision of the networked body
into his interpretation of Epidemics, Book Two. The Galenic body, richly webbed
with nerves, veins, and arteries, not only insinuates itself into the Hippocratic
account of the blood vessels and nerves but becomes the subtext that Galen un-
covers at other points in the treatise.
In this paper, I analyse the conflation of anatomy and causality in Galen’s
Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two, by focusing on the phe-
nomenon that seems to trigger it most often, that of sympathy (sympátheia),
which Galen uses to describe cases where one part of the body suffers as a result
of its relationship to another part.15 The language of sympathy (sympátheia,
sympáskhein, sympathês) does not appear in Epidemics, Book Two, nor, in fact,
in any other classical-era Hippocratic text.16 Yet Galen shows himself in other
commentaries to be more than willing to put that language into the mouth of
Hippocrates.17 Indeed, he sees a commitment to sympathy within the body in a
broad sense as one of the defining pillars of the master’s system, adopting a line
from the treatise On Nutriment—almost certainly dating from the Hellenistic
or imperial period—as something of a Hippocratic slogan.18 In the case of the

14 Garofalo 1992, 610. Galen wrote a whole treatise entitled On the Anatomy of Hippocrates
in five or six books that is no longer extant (it is mentioned at The Function of the Parts of
the Body 14.4 [iv. p. 154 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 293, lines 15–16]). The great anatomist
Marinus is also said to have endorsed the account in Epidemics, Book Two, at Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii.4.43 HV (cf. p. 331, lines 5–8 Pf).
15 Siegel 1968, 360–82 remains the standard discussion of sympathetic affections in Galen.
See also De Lacy 1979, 361–3; Holmes, Forthcoming. Keyser 1997 discusses sympathy in
Galen’s pharmacology.
16 The word does appear several times in treatises widely believed to be post-classical: see
Letters 13 (ix. p. 334 L; ed. Smith 1994, 64, line 4), 23 (ix. p. 394 L; ed. Smith 1994, 102, line 9);
Precepts 14 (ix. p. 272 L; ed. Heiberg 1927, 35, lines 6–7).
17 See, for example, Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Six 1.2 (xvii/a. pp. 800–1
K; p. 7, lines 17–20 W), where Galen explains a lemma from Epidemics, Book Six, by supplying
katà sympátheian. See also, for example, Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.1 (xvii/b.
p. 783 K); Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Jointsʼ 3.96 (xviii/a. p. 623 K); Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Six 1.2 (xvii/a. p. 803 K; p. 8, line 26 W).
18 Nutriment 23 (ix. p. 106 L; ed. Deichgräber 1973, 36): ‘ϲύρροια μία, ϲύμπνοια μία, πάντα
ϲυμπαθέα, κατὰ μὲν οὐλομελίην πάντα, κατὰ μέροϲ δὲ τὰ ἐν ἑκάϲτῳ μέρει μέρεα πρὸϲ τὸ
ἔργον’ (There is one flowing together; there is one common breathing; all things are in
sympathy, everything according to the whole and according to the part, all the parts in each
part, with reference to its function). On the dating of Nutriment, see Diller 1936; Deichgräber
1973, 69–75; Joly 1975; Jouanna 1999, 401 (all dating it to the post-classical period in view of
Stoic influence, despite differences of opinion regarding how late the treatise is). For Galen’s
citation of the Nutriment passage, see Causes of Pulses 1.12 (ix. p. 88 K); Natural Capacities
1.12 (ii. p. 29 K; ed. Helmreich 1893, 122, lines 6–10), 1.13 (ii. p. 38 K; ed. Helmreich 1893, 129,
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 53

Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two, we lack the original Greek

text. Nevertheless, it is possible to detect here, too, in Ḥunayn’s use of the terms
šāraka and mušāraka, traces of Galen’s extension of the concept of sympathy
(and related concepts) to Hippocrates.19 On such occasions, Galen does not sim-
ply attribute a concept of sympathy to his classical predecessor. He also takes
advantage of the opportunity to elucidate causal connections by introducing his
own sophisticated model of an intricately and precisely networked body.

Chest, Breasts, Genitals, Voice: The Vascular Network

The language of sympathy does not occur, as I have just observed, in the
Hippocratic treatises dating to the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Yet we do
find, on several occasions, a term that will become closely associated with the
concept of sympathy in Galen—namely, koinōnía (or, rather, the Ionic koinōníē):
‘associationʼ, ‘communityʼ, ‘partnershipʼ. The plural (koinōníai) appears twice,
both times in contexts that suggest sympathetic affections triggered elsewhere
in the body by a primary ill.20 The singular is found, conveniently enough, in

lines 7–9), 3.13 (ii. p. 196 K; ed. Helmreich 1893, 243, lines 10–13); The Method of Healing 1.2
(x. p. 16 K); Tremor, Palpitation, Spasm, and Shivering 6 (vii. p. 616 K); The Function of the
Parts of the Body 1.8 (iii. p. 17 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, i. 12, lines 16–18), 1.9 (iii. p. 24 K; ed.
Helmreich 1907–9, i. 17, lines 13–15).
19 The Greek text in Kühn 1821–33 (xvii/a. pp. 303–479) is a forgery probably dating from the
Renaissance. I have therefore relied largely on the Warwick translation, with attention to the
Arabic original where relevant, through the generous help of Bink Hallum, Peter E. Pormann,
and Uwe Vagelpohl. The use of šāraka to translate sympáskhein is seen at Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, i.2.155 V (xvii/a. p. 158 K; p. 80, line 20 W), suggesting that mušāraka
was used to translate sympátheia. See also below, n. 31. It is worth noting, however, that the
verb and the noun, respectively, can also be used to translate koinéō/koinōnéō and koinōnía/
koinōníē, as at Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, i.2.110 V (xvii/a. p. 136 K; p. 70,
line 11 W), 3.15 (xvii/a. p. 212 K; p. 106, line 31 W), 3.26 (xvii/a. p. 218 K; p. 110, lines 19–20 W).
(I owe these references to Uwe Vagelpohl.) See also Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ,
ii.1.73 HV (cf. p. 173, lines 8–11 Pf), where, as Bink Hallum has pointed out to me, the koinōníē
of the Hippocratic text is translated by means of mušāraka. The context is usually sufficient
to determine whether Galen is referring to sympátheia or koinōníē, concepts that are often—
although not always—related (sympathetic affections occur when there is an ‘associationʼ
between two parts). My method here has been to identify passages in the translation
where Galen appears to be discussing sympathetic affections and relationships and then to
check these passages against the instances of šāraka and mušāraka in the Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two, provided to me by Bink Hallum. On Ḥunayn’s translation
more generally, see Pormann 2008a and the other papers in this volume.
20 Epidemics vi. 3.24 (v. p. 304 L; ed. Manetti/Roselli 1982, 76, lines 4–5); Humours 20 (v. p. 500 L).
For other instances of sympathetic affection in the Hippocratic Corpus, see Holmes, Forth-
54 Brooke Holmes

Epidemics, Book Two, in a discussion of critical signs that closes with a brief
summary of a particular type of sign:

πολλὰ δὲ καὶ τῶν τοιούτων, οἷον ἀποφθειρουϲέων οἱ τιτθοὶ ποϲιϲχναίνο-

νται· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐναντίον οὐδὲ βῆχεϲ χρονίαι, ὅτι ὄρχιοϲ οἰδήϲαντοϲ παύο-
νται· ὄρχιϲ οἰδήϲαϲ ὑπὸ βηχωδέων ὑπόμνημα κοινωνίηϲ ϲτηθέων, μαζῶν,
γονῆϲ, φωνῆϲ. (Epidemics ii. 1.6, v. p. 76 L)21

There are many phenomena of this kind, as when, in women who are about
to abort, the breasts completely wither up. For there is no contradiction
even in that chronic coughs subside following the swelling of a testicle.
The testicle that has swollen because of the coughs is a reminder of the
relationship between the chest, the breasts, the genitals, and the voice.

The symptom—the withering breast, the swollen testicle—here acquires, beyond

its diagnostic function, a mnemonic one: it recalls to the reader a schema of
relationships within the sexed body with which he is apparently already fa-
miliar. The idea of such a ‘community’ of parts or places within the body is, in
fact, suggested by other Hippocratic writers. For example, a number of treatises
seem to assume—and, on at least one occasion, explicitly refer to—a vessel that,
in the female body, joins the uterus to the breasts, allowing for the transmission
of milk and, under pathological conditions, menstrual blood.22 Many writers
also imply the presence of a kind of tube or vessel connecting the vagina to the
mouth or nostrils, perhaps building on popular concepts of the female body;
there is further evidence, beyond the passage from Epidemics, Book Two, of
a belief in a similar tube in the male body.23 These may be the routes that the
author has in mind here.

21 I print Robert Alessi’s unpublished text for the Budé series here and throughout; I am very
grateful to him for making it available to me. I have also consulted Smith 1994, in addition to
Littré 1839–61. Translations from Epidemics, Book Two, are my own.
22 For milk, see On Seed/On the Nature of the Child 21 (vii. pp. 510–14 L; ed. Joly 1970, 67,
line 9–68, line 18); On the Glands 16 (viii. pp. 570–72 L; ed. Joly 1978, 121, lines 11–20). For
menstrual blood, see On the Diseases of Women ii. 133 (viii. p. 282 L). On the sympathy of the
breasts and the uterus in the Corpus (and Aristotle), see also Dean-Jones 1994, 215–22 and
below, n. 27.
23 Epidemics ii. 5.1 (v. p. 128 L) also suggests a relationship between the testicle and the voice
(Galen’s commentary on this passage, unfortunately, is lost). See further, with an emphasis
on the female body, Manuli 1983a, 157; King 1998, 49–51, 68–9; Dean-Jones 1994, 72–3. For
popular ideas about the relationship of a woman’s ‘two mouthsʼ, see Armstrong and Hanson
1986. The mouth, of course, is not the same as the voice. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the
‘tubeʼ assumed by these authors would be sufficient to relate changes in the sexual organs to
those of the voice. See Duminil 1983, 121, who posits Aristotle’s On the Generation of Animals
4.8, where Aristotle locates the principle of the voice close to the source of the spermatic
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 55

Nevertheless, the underlying web of connections is not described by the

Hippocratic author, creating an opportunity for the commentator to step in and
flesh out what the source text leaves unsaid. Galen intervenes in the text even
before mentioning the koinōníē between chest, breast, genitals, and voice. For if
the symptoms of the withering breasts or the swollen testicle are imagined by
the Hippocratic author to call up a correspondence between the breasts and the
uterus or the chest and the genitals that is familiar to his reader, Galen fears that
his reader will be baffled by such symptoms. He thus hastens to signal ‘the con-
nection and association that exists between the genital organs and the chestʼ as
the underlying explanation of what is happening on the surface.24 ‘Hippocratesʼ
himself, of course, goes on to identify this connection but, as we have just seen,
he does so matter-of-factly and without explanation.
Following a brief interlude about the precise meaning of genitals in the passage,
Galen returns to the connection between the genital region and the chest, which,
he indicates, requires further elaboration: ‘I need to describe the reason for that
connectionʼ.25 What follows is an extended description of the anatomical struc-
tures that Galen sees as the ground of the relationships drawn by the Hippocratic
author. He traces the paths of two sets of veins—one deep, the other superficial—
that create a bond between the upper body (chest, breasts) and the reproductive
organs, on the one hand, and the upper body and the testicles or the vulva, on
the other, concluding: ‘this shows how the connection and association between
the chest and the breasts, the generative organs, and the voice takes place: it is an
association due to these veinsʼ.26 Whereas the author of Epidemics, Book Two, is
vessels in the heart, as the missing link between the voice and the genitals in Epidemics, Book
Two. I think it unlikely that the Aristotelian model underlies the passage here.
24 Book ii.1.72 HV (cf. p. 173, lines 4–7 Pf). The phrase ‘connection and association’ is Bink
Hallum’s translation of ittiṣāl and mušāraka, the latter probably translating Galen’s koinōnía.
(Pfaff offers ‘Verbindungʼ and ‘Gemeinschaftʼ.) For the phenomenon of shrunken breasts
signaling an imminent miscarriage, see also Aphorisms 5.37–8 (iv. p. 544 L), with Commentary
on Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.37–8 (xvii/b. pp. 828–9 K); Aphorisms 5.53 (iv. pp. 550–52 L),
with Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.53 (xvii/b. pp. 845–50 K). Galen himself cites
his discussions in the Aphorisms commentary at Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ,
ii.1.70 HV (cf. p. 172, lines 28–9 Pf). See further The Affected Parts 6.5 (viii. pp. 436–7 K); The
Function of the Parts of the Body 14.4 (iv. p. 153 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 292, line 19–293,
line 4), 14.8 (iv. p. 179 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 312, line 16–313, line 21). On the vascular
relationship between the uterus and the breasts, see especially the discussion at The Function
of the Parts of the Body 14.4–5 (iv. pp. 150–58 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 290, line 21–296,
line 7), 14.8 (v. pp. 176–9 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 310, line 8–313, line 7). See also, for
example, Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.50 (xvii/b. p. 843 K), 5.52 (xvii/b. p. 844 K),
5.53 (xvii/b. pp. 846–7 K); Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii.1.96 HV (cf. p. 179, lines
12–16 Pf), ii.3.166 HV (cf. p. 304, lines 17–24 Pf); The Method of Healing 13.19 (x. pp. 925–6 K);
The Anatomy of Veins and Arteries 8 (ii. p. 813 K).
25 Book ii.1.75 HV (cf. p. 173, lines 27–8 Pf).
26 Book ii.1.76 HV (cf. p. 174, lines 16–19 Pf). Note that by Galen’s time, phléps had come
to mean ‘veinʼ as opposed to artery. The difference is not recognised in the classical-era
56 Brooke Holmes

content to speak of the koinōníē of parts of the body, much as another Hippocratic
author simply refers to the ‘relatednessʼ (homoethníē) of the uterus and the breasts,
Galen is compelled to map out in some detail the network that underwrites these
affinities, which he presents as the subtext of Hippocrates’ remarks.27
In articulating the paths of these veins, Galen is not, in principle, violating
the spirit of the original text. The vessels that transport fluids and air were a
fundamental part of Hippocratic medicine, and several authors, including the
author of Epidemics, Book Two, attempted to chart systematically their routes
through the body—an ambitious undertaking, given the apparent absence of for-
mal dissection, at least of humans, in the classical period.28 Moreover, the drive
to identify the underlying causes of symptoms is a marked feature of a number
of Hippocratic texts; the texts of the Epidemics, too, clearly draw on a developed
etiological system.29 Nevertheless, in supplementing the source text, Galen goes
a step further, supplying the details that he believes are required to adequately
account for the vague ‘associationʼ signaled at Epidemics ii. 1.6. The fact that
these details are drawn from his own understanding of the vascular network,
developed through his extensive experience with animal dissection and clinical
practise and also undoubtedly coloured by his own theoretical expectations, is
consistent with his practise elsewhere of grounding associations between parts
of the body and the resulting sympathetic affections in an anatomical landscape
drawn with the pretense of precision.30 In the commentary on Epidemics, Book

Hippocratic texts: see Duminil 1983, 23–61. Galen shows that he is aware of the earlier,
broader usage of phléps in Epidemics, Book Two, at The Opinions of Hippocrates and Plato 6.8.45
(v. p. 574 K; ed. De Lacy 1978–84, 416, lines 24–6), but he is not consistent in his historical
sensitivity. I use the term ‘vascularʼ in part as a way of acknowledging the lack of distinction
in the Hippocratic text.
27 Homoethníē: On the Diseases of Women ii. 174 (viii. p. 354 L). The term also occurs at On
Places in a Human Being 1 (vi. p. 278 L; ed. Craik 1998, 36, line 4), in a slightly different context,
still involving sympathetic affection.
28 Epidemics, Book Two, not only offers an important early account of vascular anatomy but
also, as Wesley Smith has observed, ‘give[s] evidence of a systematic interest in getting control
of the body’s means of communication, defining them, mapping the channels, and learning
to manipulate themʼ (1989, 151). See also Harris 1973, 62 on the interconnecting veins in the
anatomical account at 4.1, which he believes is based on animal dissection (he is followed here
by Langholf 1990, 145, 147). On vascular connectivity elsewhere in the Corpus, see On Joints
45 (iii. p. 556 L; ii. p. 107, line 10–p. 108, line 5 Kw); On Places in a Human Being 3 (vi. p. 282
L; ed. Craik 1998, 40, lines 30–31). In the surgical treatises, the verbs koinéō and koinōnéō are
often used to describe the interconnection of parts of the body (primarily skeletal): see On
Joints 13 (iv. p. 118 L; ii. p. 134, line 8 Kw), 45 (iv. p. 190 L; ii. p. 172, line 3 Kw), 86 (iv. p. 324 L;
ii. p. 243, line 8 Kw); On Fractures 9 (iii. p. 450 L; ii. p. 62, line 4 Kw), 10 (iii. p. 450 L; ii. p. 62,
line 15 Kw), 11 (iii. p. 452 L; ii. p. 63, line 15 Kw).
29 On the interpretation of symptoms in early medical writing, see Holmes 2010, 121–91. On
the etiological basis of the various Epidemics texts, see especially Langholf 1990.
30 Especially in the late work The Affected Parts, Galen emphasises the need for a strong
grounding in anatomy to understand sympathetic affections, especially those involving the
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 57

Two, Galen’s own vision of the inside of the body emerges in the gap that the
Hippocratic text leaves between two apparently isolated events: the disappear-
ance of a cough and the swelling of the testicles; the withering of the breasts
and the abortion shortly after. In his commentary, then, Galen does not simply
respond to the need for a cause or explanation of the phenomenon noted in the
source text but threads his explanation along the pathways of the body that he
(but not necessarily ‘Hippocratesʼ) understands to lie beneath the skin.
Galen’s anatomical knowledge is, in fact, one of the criteria against which
he judges others’ attempts to make sense of the roughly juxtaposed details so
characteristic of the Epidemics. In his Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ,
Book Three, for example, he cites the interpretation of one of the case histories
by the followers of Sabinus: Pythion was suffering in his stomach and from this,
these exegetes say, his hands were trembling through sympathy (κἀξ ἐκείνου
κατὰ ϲυμπάθειαν αἱ χεῖρεϲ ἔτρεμον).31 Galen has no problem with his rivals’
recourse to sympathy as a way of explicating a Hippocratic lemma. What he
contests is their allegation that sympathy exists at all between the stomach and
the hands. For, he says, they cannot demonstrate an ‘associationʼ (koinōnía) be-
tween the body parts in question and, as a result, they cannot account for how
an affection is trafficked from one part to the other. It is not just their diagnosis
that falls short without such proof. Their interpretation of the Hippocratic text
fails as well.32
The work of the commentator is hemmed in not only by anatomical fact,
however, but also by the constraints of the text. Galen’s detour into vascular
anatomy at Epidemics ii. 1.6 is facilitated by the silence of the Hippocratic origi-
nal. For the absence of any elaboration of the alleged koinōníē in the lemma

nerves: see The Affected Parts 1.6 (viii. pp. 57, 60–63 K), 3.14 (viii. p. 208 K), 4.7 (viii. p. 257 K).
For his understanding of vascular anatomy, see Harris 1973, 267–306. At the same time, Galen’s
strong commitment to a venous relationship between the breasts and the uterus seems to be
due as much to his expectations as to empirical research. Goss makes a rare intervention in
his translation of The Anatomy of Veins and Arteries when Galen mentions the ‘associationʼ
(koinōnía) between the breasts and the uterus (ii. p. 813 K; ed. Goss 1961, 363), stating: ‘this is
a rather wishful observationʼ. Galen’s interest in this association is probably due not just to
existing ideas about the sympathy of the breasts and the uterus in the medical tradition but
also to his teleological understanding of the female body: see The Function of the Parts of the
Body 4.8 (v. pp. 176–9 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 310, line 8–313, line 7).
31 Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Three 1.4 (xvii/a. p. 520 K; p. 24, lines 6–7 W).
Interestingly, in the Arabic version, we find the word šāraka to render Greek sympátheia. The
phrase is translated as (MS E1, fol. 139a, lines 17–18):

«.LJʓʷˈ̒ĢLJ͎ ζƦāǚʉͫā ɼˬˈͫā ɑˬ̒ ǽ͎ ƴ΋ ǚˈ˳ͫā Ȉ͛ĢLJ̶ ɨ̓ .ɼΉ ˬ͇ ɷ̒ǚˈͲ ǽ͎ ɡ̣Ǩͫā ɑͫǛͫ Ȉ̀Ǩ͇» ɷ͵Βā ƦǍͫǍ˙̈ ɨ΀ǚʤ͵ ǚ͘ć
We have found them saying: ‘A stomach disease occurred to that man. Then the hands shared
that disease [šārakat ... fī tilka l-ʿillati] with the stomach, so that they trembled’.
32 See also ii.4.41–2 HV (cf. p. 329, line 11–p. 330, line 32 Pf), where commentators go astray
because they lack the anatomical knowledge gained through autopsy.
58 Brooke Holmes

means that he is free to draw his own connections between, say, the breasts
and the uterus without having to recuperate anything from the parent text. The
situation is more delicate in Galen’s extended commentary on the account of the
vessels and ‘nervesʼ at the beginning of the fourth section of Epidemics, Book
Two, where he is forced to accommodate a more detailed original text, a text
whose omissions and errors are more glaring.33 The stakes, moreover, are high.
Galen believes the passage represents the only genuine Hippocratic account of
vascular anatomy available. The anatomical description ostensibly proves that
Hippocrates engaged in systematic dissection, allowing Galen to put him first
in an anatomical tradition that continues through Herophilus and Marinus to
Galen himself.
Despite the stress Galen places on the genuine provenance of the vascular
anatomy in the text, the authenticity of the passage is complicated by the fact
that the very style of the description proves in his mind that Epidemics, Book
Two, was not written by Hippocrates as a book for public circulation but, rather,
compiled by his son, Thessalus, ‘from things he found recorded by Hippocrates
on pages, sheets, and scattered fragmentsʼ.34 The lacunose, scattershot nature
of the text is temporarily kept hidden, as Galen offers a generous and polished
‘paraphraseʼ of the Hippocratic account that strategically shifts attention from
exegesis to an impromptu, stand-alone anatomy lesson for the sake of the reader.
But once he has concluded the educational digression, Galen is compelled to
return to the text and the nature of its origins. In revisiting the question of
origins, he implicitly acknowledges the difficulties that his own presentation
of the material has worked to fill: you cannot help but think here, he says, that
Hippocrates was writing only for himself, ‘to remind him[self] of what he had
seenʼ. For, if he had meant for the passage under consideration to be read by
others, ‘he would certainly have explained and clarified it as he had done in the
books he wrote for people to readʼ.35 However authentic the text, then, it was
not intended for our eyes, nor, for that matter, for anyone else’s.

33 Epidemics ii. 4.1 (v. pp. 120–26 L); ii. 4.2–57 HV (cf. p. 310, line 22–p. 338, line 31 Pf).
Alessi’s version of the Hippocratic text, which I have followed, was first presented as Alessi
2007. The passage from Epidemics, Book Two, also appears at On the Nature of Bones 10 (ix.
pp. 178–80 L; ed. Duminil 1998, 147, line 1–149, line 10). The anatomical account is rather
opaque: for discussion, see Harris 1973, 60–62; Duminil 1983, 34–47, 101–8; Langholf 1990,
145–9. The situation is complicated by discrepancies between the passage as it has been
transmitted by the direct manuscript tradition (where it has almost certainly been subject to
corruption) and the lemma in Galen’s commentary. On these discrepancies and the difficulties
they raise, see Duminil 1983, 109–13; Garofalo 1992. The textual problems do not, however,
bear on my discussion here. Alessi 1996 discusses more generally the usefulness of Galen for
establishing the text of Epidemics, Book Two.
34 Book ii.4.3 HV (cf. p. 310, lines 23–6 Pf).
35 Book ii.4.11 HV (cf. p. 314, lines 34–40 Pf).
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 59

From one perspective, the inward-turning nature of the text under these cir-
cumstances makes the task of the interpreter more complex. Yet it also creates
opportunities; more specifically, it opens up a means for Galen to salvage a more
unwieldy source text, a text in which ‘Hippocratesʼ confronts anatomy head-on.
Insofar as, from Galen’s perspective, that confrontation can occur only through
dissection—‘whoever wants to see for himself what is beneath the skin must cut
through the skinʼ36—the text presumably represents Hippocrates’ notes result-
ing from his observation of the vascular system.37 We might imagine, then, that
there is little room for Galen’s own vision.
But while the original text does have a tendency to get in the way, the larger
problem turns out to be not what Hippocrates puts in but what he leaves out.
The reason for these omissions, Galen claims, is the very origin of the text as
a private document, designed only to trigger the memory of its author—hence,
its many gaps and points of obscurity. These gaps are what Galen exploits in
order to slip in his own model of vascular anatomy, this time under the guise of
shared memories of dissection: indeed, he goes so far as to imaginatively retrace
the path of Hippocrates’ scalpel.38 The two great physicians thus together form
a closed community of experts gathered around the open body. Galen’s com-
mentary purportedly translates this ‘sharedʼ but esoteric memory into exoteric
instruction by mediating between Hippocrates’ notes, meant only for his own
eyes and those of his sons, and the readers who, lacking the requisite knowledge,
would otherwise be shut out of the text (the commentary on Epidemics, Book
Two, being one of the commentaries that Galen intended for a wider audience).
Yet it is not simply that the text leaves things out. The very significance of
what it leaves out confirms, for Galen, its personal mnemonic function. Early in
his exegesis of the lemma, he remarks that it is strange that Hippocrates would
neglect to offer a full account of the major veins in the body, that is, those that
are ‘clearly visibleʼ and known to all who practise dissection—the first mention
of a lacuna in the original text—and that he would instead focus on the veins
that had eluded other physicians because of their fineness.39 The absence of
such an account, he concludes, can only prove that Hippocrates wrote the text
to remind himself of the most elusive phenomena that he had seen while dis-

36 Book ii.4.4 HV (cf. p. 311, lines 30–31 Pf).

37 This, in fact, is the conclusion of Langholf 1990, 148–9, arguing that the imperfect and
pluperfect tenses of the passage indicate these are minutes written down after observation (of
a dissected animal).
38 ‘If, first of all, he cut the lower belly along the membrane that is stretched over the belly
known as the peritoneum, then he observed what was beneath it. He saw the intestines and
bowels. On the right side of the abdomen he saw the liver, and on the left he saw the spleen.
After them he saw the kidneys, and after that the stomach and intestines. He saw the stomach
touching the diaphragm, bound by the liver on the right side and the spleen on the left…’
(Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii.4.5 HV [cf. p. 311, line 40–p. 312, line 5 Pf]).
39 Book ii.4.11 HV (cf. p. 314, lines 40–43 Pf).
60 Brooke Holmes

secting and for the benefit of his sons—not for a general public. By describing
the anatomical account as a sketch oriented toward what escapes the untrained
or inattentive eye, Galen grants himself considerable leeway to locate what the
text does give him within his own more precise understanding of the vascular
system while also accounting for its more obvious omissions. The reading he
offers is presented as addressing a shortcoming that is due not to the limits of
Hippocrates’ knowledge but to the circumstances and aims of the text’s com-
Galen does at times suggest that Hippocrates’ knowledge has its limits. These
are mentioned casually and in passing, as when Galen disputes Hippocrates’
description of a vein lying below an artery by pointing out that it only appears
to lie below the artery, in reality being stretched to its side, or when he remarks
that Hippocrates is ‘not speaking correctlyʼ.40 He also acknowledges the mo-
ment when the Hippocratic author recognises his own limits and admits that he
does not yet know what happens to the vessels after they descend to the lower
belly (ὅπῃ δ’ ἐντεῦθεν, οὔπω οἶδα).41
Galen’s response in this last case is also interesting, however, for the com-
peting scenarios it suggests for understanding Hippocrates’ confession of ig-
norance. He lends some weight to the ‘not yetʼ (οὔπω) of the text by observing
that Hippocrates did not know about these veins ‘at the time he wrote what he
did about thisʼ.42 He leaves open the possibility, then, that the anomalous gap
in Hippocrates’ understanding was eventually closed through further research.
But he also takes the statement as confirmation of the fact that Hippocrates
intended his notes to be read by his sons. The statement of ignorance, from
this perspective, is perhaps addressed to the sons who will extend the father’s
research program. The self-conscious lacuna within the source text is thus over-
determined. It either marks the space which Hippocrates’ vast learning eventu-
ally came to fill, so that exegesis remains the process of restoring to the reader
the aspects of this learning that remained private (cryptic or unsaid); or it carves
out the space for the master’s sons to supplement their paternal inheritance
with their own learning, so that exegesis shades into the communication of new
knowledge, the son having surpassed the father. For us, of course, the tension
between what Hippocrates leaves unsaid and what Hippocrates does not (yet)

40 Book ii.4.22 HV (cf. p. 320, lines 26–7 Pf), ii.4.34 HV (cf. p. 326, lines 32–4 Pf). Galen has
the greatest difficulty in accounting for the brachylogy of the account of the nerves (ii.4.40–
57 HV [cf. p. 328, line 43–p. 338, line 31 Pf]), but he vents most of his frustration on other
commentators for failing to recognise the difficulty of the original account (while continuing
to exonerate Hippocrates, for the most part, by restating his hypothesis that the master was
simply writing notes to himself: see, for example, ii.4.49 HV [cf. p. 333, line 44–p. 334, line 4
41 Epidemics ii. 4.1 (v. p. 124 L).
42 Book ii.4.28 HV (cf. p. 324, lines 5–6 Pf).
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 61

know is more frequent in Galen’s exegesis than Galen himself would like to
One of the most intriguing cases where Hippocrates fails to note the obvi-
ous in the anatomy at 4.1 is his silence regarding the veins that come from
the breasts; more intriguing still, he observes instead the veins that run to the
shoulders, which are harder to see on account of the fact that they lie deep in-
side the body.43 Galen’s explanation of the silence is that, by making note of the
veins running to the shoulders, Hippocrates was, in a sense, also making note of
those running to the breasts, which share the same origin: in keeping with the
inverted logic of ‘private writingʼ, it was simply more important to mention the
less visible branch rather than the veins that ‘everyone can seeʼ. Yet the omis-
sion becomes particularly interesting in light of our earlier discussion of the
‘communityʼ or ‘associationʼ (koinōníē) between the chest and the reproductive
organs, including the breast and the uterus. For it was precisely by means of the
vein joining these parts that Galen had explained in that passage the transfer of
affections between them, without, of course, saying anything about the absence
of such a vein in the one genuinely Hippocratic account of the vascular system.44
Hippocrates’ refusal to spell out the underlying relationship between the
breast and the uterus becomes increasingly stubborn as we move into the sixth
section of Epidemics, Book Two, where we find a series of remarks implying
the association of the two parts of the (female) body: in each case, the text falls
tantalizingly short of spelling out the venous connection that Galen believes
must lie beneath the affections. Hippocrates says, ‘to hold back the menses in
women, apply a very large cupping instrument to her breast’; Galen steps in
with the reason for the prescription—namely, ‘the shared blood vessels between
the breasts and the wombʼ.45 Hippocrates says that if the milk flows in abun-
dance, the fetus will be weak; conversely, if the breasts are hard, the fetus will be
strong. Galen again supplies the cause: ‘this happens because of the connection
between the blood vessels from which the foetus and the breasts are nourishedʼ.46

43 Book ii.4.16 HV (cf. p. 317, lines 22–9 Pf).

44 When the anatomy at Epidemics ii. 4.1 can be used to underwrite what Galen identifies
as sympathetic affections, he does not hesitate to use it: see Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Aphorismsʼ 7.17 (xviii/a. p. 117 K), where he explains a lemma declaring that hiccups are bad
in the case of inflammation of the liver by referencing a sympathetic affection of the stomach,
noting that the sympathy relies on common nerves (neûra) that are very short, ‘as Hippocrates
himself taught in the second book of the Epidemicsʼ.
45 Epidemics ii. 6.16 (v. p. 136 L); Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii.6.94–5 HV
(cf. p. 386, lines 23–33 Pf). See also Aphorisms 5.50 (iv. p. 550 L), with Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.50 (xvii/b. pp. 842–3 K).
46 Epidemics ii. 6.18 (v. p. 136 L); Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii.6.98–9 HV
(cf. p. 387, lines 6–20 Pf). See also Aphorisms 5.52 (iv. p. 550 L), with Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.52 (xvii/b. p. 844 K); The Function of the Parts of the Body 14.8 (v.
p. 178 K; ed. Helmreich 1907–9, ii. 312, lines 7–13).
62 Brooke Holmes

In the next line, Hippocrates finally seems to acknowledge the anatomical sub-
structure underlying his remarks, stating bluntly that ‘a thick vessel goes to
each of the breastsʼ (the text transmitted by the direct manuscript tradition and
printed by Littré, Smith, and Alessi reads ‘φλὲψ ἔχει παχέα ἐν ἑκατέρῳ τιτθῷʼ
[there is a thick vessel in each breast]).47 Galen, in any case, thinks Hippocrates
has finally got around to doing etiology for himself, offering ‘a statement by
which he indicated the cause of these two things that he described and also
added to this the connection and joining of the veinsʼ.48 Galen’s own remarks
about the connection between the breast and the uterus would thus seem only
to have anticipated what Hippocrates himself eventually observes.
The difficulty that Galen has to face is that Hippocrates’ vessels do not go
anywhere besides the breasts: indeed, in the version transmitted by the manu-
scripts for Epidemics, Book Two, they do not go anywhere at all, at least techni-
cally (the expression ἐν ἑκατέρῳ τιτθῷ is locative). In short, these vessels do not
join up with the vascular system described at 4.1, nor do they find a pathway
to the uterus. If connectivity implies causality, the Hippocratic ‘explanationʼ is
In fact, it is worth noting that despite the apparent assumption of a connect-
ing vessel relating the breasts to the uterus in a number of Hippocratic texts,
no systematic Hippocratic account of the vascular system supplies anatomical
support for this assumption, as Marie-Paule Duminil has observed;49 the sole ex-
ception is a passage from the probably post-classical compilation On the Nature
of Bones that is also quoted in Aristotle’s History of Animals, where Aristotle
attributes the account to the otherwise unknown Syennesis of Cyprus.50 Du-
minil tries to account for the silence of the Hippocratic texts on this point by
suggesting that the vascular bond between the breasts and the uterus was not
considered part of the principal network of vessels.51 Reflecting on Hippocrates’
reticence in the sixth section of Epidemics, Book Two, Galen takes the opposite
approach, falling back on the reasoning that Hippocrates is just making a note
for himself of what he would otherwise forget, with the result that he leaves out
what is most important. Galen, in any event, is left once again to fill in the gaps,
which he eventually does with great decisiveness:52

47 Epidemics ii. 6.19 (v. p. 136 L); Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii. 6.100 HV
(p. 387, lines 21–2 Pf). The shift from the locative to the directional preposition may have
been introduced in the translation into Arabic; Galen, in any event, clearly believes that the
veins extend to the breasts from elsewhere in the body.
48 Book ii.6.101 HV (cf. p. 387, lines 26–9 Pf).
49 Duminil 1983, 120–22.
50 See Aristotle History of Animals 3.2, 511b24–30 and On the Nature of Bones 8 (v. p. 174 L;
ed. Duminil 1998, 144, lines 7–17), with Harris 1973, 20–21; Duminil 1983, 68–71. The system
is neatly diagrammed in Harris 1973, fig. 1.
51 Duminil 1983, 122.
52 Book ii. 6.101 HV (cf. p. 387, lines 32–41 Pf).
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 63

Ǩ̥Αā ƈćǨˈ̑ ɡˀʓ̒ ȵ˙ͫā ɬͲ Ⱥ̵ćΑҙҏā 53ɨˆˈͫā ȇ͵LJ̣ ȅͫΒā ɡˏ̵Αā ȅͫΒā ƈǍ͎ ɬͲ ǽ̒ΑLJ̒ ǽʓͫā ƈćǨˈͫā ƦΑā ɑͫĕć
ǽ̒ΑLJ̒ ǽʓͫā ƈćǨˈͫā ɑˬ̒ ɬͲć ɨ̤Ǩͫā ȅͫΒā ǽ̒ΑLJ̒ ǽʓͫā ƈćǨˈͫā LJ́˶Ͳ ȉˈʒ˶̒ ǽʓͫā Ƚ̀āǍ˳ͫā ɬͲ ɡˏ̵Αā ɬͲ ȅ͘āǨʓ̈
łĢLJ̿ 57ƈćǨˈͫā 56ƱǛ́ͫć ɬʉ̈ǚʔͫā ǽ͎ ƴǨʉʶʉͫLJ̑ Ȉʶʉͫ ɼˏ̇LJ̈́ ȉˈʒ˶̒ 55ǚ͘ 54ɡˏ̵Αā ȅͫΒā ȵ˙ͫā ɼʉ̤LJ͵ ɬͲ
Έāụ̈̌ ɼ˳ʉˆ͇ ɼ͛ĢLJʷͲ ǽ΀ć Ģǚˀͫā ǽ̤āǍ͵ Ǩ̇LJ̵ć ɬʉ̈ǚʔͫā ɬʉ̑ć ǚʉͫǍʓͫā ƹLJˁ͇Αā ɬʉ̑ ƛLJˀ̒ҙҏāć ɼ͛ĢLJʷ˳ͫā
.Ƚ̀āǍ˳ͫā ƱǛ΀ ǽ͎ ŃĔāǍʥͫā ǽ͎ ɼ͛ĢLJʷ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̒ LJ́ʒʒʶ̑ć

That is to say that the veins that run downwards next to the middle bone of
the sternum join other blood vessels ascending from below from the places
from which the blood vessels that run to the uterus branch out. From these
blood vessels that descend from the region of the sternum, not a small
number branch out into the breasts, and these blood vessels constitute the
coaffection and connection between the genitals and the breasts and other
areas of the chest. This is a very strong coaffection and the cause of the
shared phenomena [mušāraka fī al-ḥawādiṯ] in these places.

So that is what Hippocrates meant to say. Yet because we need Galen to supply
the details, we end up with his own understanding of the bond between the
breast and the uterus.
We have seen that the repeated references in Epidemics, Book Two, to the
coaffection between the reproductive organs (and the genitals) and the chest
and especially between the uterus and the breasts, references that lack any in-
dication of the anatomical substructure of these sympathetic affections, create
a series of opportunities for Galen to supplement the Hippocratic text.58 In fact,

53 ɨˆˈͫā] scripsit Vagelpohl: ɨˆ͇Αҙҏā E1, M.

54 Post ɡˏ̵Αā add. Ƚ̀āǍ˳ͫā ɬͲ M.
55 ǚ͘] E1: ǚ˙͎ M.
56 āǛ́ͫć ɬʉ̈ǚʔͫā ǽ͎] E1: ƱǛ́̑ ɬʉ̈ǚ̓ ȅͫΒā M.
57 ƈćǨˈͫā] dittogr., del. M.
58 See also ii.2.77–8 HV (cf. p. 229, lines 28–32 Pf), another case where Galen invokes the
vessel between the uterus and the chest as part of his project of discovering the ‘acceptable
and convincing causeʼ in a mysterious case where a woman gives birth to a child that is
entirely fleshy and about four digits large. There are a handful of other instances in the
Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two, where it is likely that the word mušāraka
translates sympátheia or koinōnía. Two of these involve the association between the uterus
and the limbs or hips that results in sympathetic affections. At ii.3.15 HV (cf. p. 262, lines
38–9 Pf), the Warwick translation refers to ‘coaffection [mušāraka] between the limb and
the wombʼ. (Garofalo 2009, 136 modifies Pfaff’s ‘infolge der Verbindung der Nerven mit der
erkrankten Gebärmutterʼ with ‘per simpatia della parte coll’utero’.) At ii.4.72 HV (cf. p. 344,
lines 16–18 Pf), Galen refers to a discussion of the coaffection (mušāraka) of the hip or leg
and the uterus in his commentary on Hippocrates’ On the Diseases of Women. For other cases
of sympathetic affection, see ii.2.130 HV (cf. p. 244, lines 19–27 Pf) and 2.141 (cf. p. 246, lines
24–5 Pf). At ii.1.119 HV (cf. p. 184, line 34 Pf), Galen speaks of an ‘associationʼ (mušāraka)
between parts of the body; at ii.1.128 HV (cf. p. 187, line 14 Pf), of an ‘associationʼ (mušāraka)
64 Brooke Holmes

Galen himself suggests that such ‘communitiesʼ and the sympathetic affections
to which they give rise within the body should occupy a privileged place in the
mind of the physician.
On the heels of the remark about the thick vein that goes to (or is in) the
breast, we encounter the following: ‘these things have the largest part in
understandingʼ (ταῦτα μέγιϲτον ἔχει μόριον ϲυνέϲιοϲ).59 The statement is cryp-
tic, largely because it is unclear what the referent of ‘these thingsʼ (ταῦτα)
should be. Some commentators, Galen reports, believe that Hippocrates means
that the parts of the body he has just mentioned—either the veins or the breasts,
presumably—contribute greatly to the power of the mind.60 Such a reading, Ga-
len thinks, is pure madness. On his interpretation, the line functions as the cap-
stone to the preceding remarks on the breast-uterus association, confirming
the deeper resonance of that association and, ultimately, its anatomical basis.
Reading the passage as an echo of the earlier discussion of the koinōníē between
chest, breast, genitals, and voice, he recounts a series of sympathetic affections
that restate the evidence for the community between these parts of the body
in both men and women, stressing the connecting veins that he himself has
repeatedly identified as the (unspoken) ground of sympathy. In the end, it is
just these veins that Galen thinks Hippocrates is talking about when he refers
to that which contributes most to ‘understandingʼ: ‘It is best, as I have said,
to understand him to mean that what he described about the connection be-
tween the veins is useful for many medical conceptsʼ.61 That which has gone
persistently unsaid—namely, the venous relationship between the chest and the
genitals—thus becomes foundational for medicine in yet another instance of the
principle gov-erning the treatise’s composition: what is most important is taken
for granted by the text, since it is not possible that Hippocrates could ever forget
it, let alone not know it to begin with.

between the arteries and an association (mušāraka) between the arteries and the bowel; at
ii.1.129 HV (cf. p. 187, line 36 Pf), of an ‘associationʼ (mušāraka) between certain body parts
and blood vessels.
59 Epidemics ii. 6.19 (v. p. 136 L); ii.6.102 HV (cf. p. 388, lines 1–2 Pf).
60 The reading has some support from Epidemics ii. 6.32 (v. p. 138 L), where blood gathering
in the breasts foretells the onset of madness (the same material also appears at Aphorisms
5.40 [iv. p. 544 L]; see also Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Aphorismsʼ 5.40 [xvii/b. pp. 832–3
K], where Galen claims to have never seen the phenomenon). Galen does not dispute the
sign here but struggles to explain it and thus focuses on attacking the interpretation of
Sabinus (Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, ii.6.162 HV [cf. p. 408, line 40–p. 409, line 11
61 Book ii.6.103 HV (cf. p. 388, lines 26–8 Pf).
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 65

Why is it that Galen is so invested in vascular connectivity in his exegesis of

Epidemics, Book Two? To try to answer this question, it is worth taking a short
detour through another instance of sympathy, one that establishes a different
nexus within the body. The case sets the stage for further reflection on whether
Galen’s response to the phenomenon of sympathetic affections can tell us some-
thing about his larger exegetical project in the Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two.

Seeing and Believing: The Truth in Magnets

The case of Lycies—or Lycie: it is unclear, as Galen points out, whether the
patient is a man or a woman62—is recounted in Epidemics, Book Two, in a
predictably spare manner:

Λυκίῃ τὰ ὕϲτατα ϲπλὴν μέγαϲ, καὶ ὀδύναι καὶ πυρετὸϲ καὶ ἐϲ ὦμον ὀδύ-
ναι· καὶ ἡ φλὲψ ἡ κατὰ ϲπλῆνα ἐπ’ ἀγκῶνι ἐτέτατο· καὶ ἔϲφυζε μὲν πολλά-
κιϲ· ἔϲτι δ’ ὅτε καὶ 〈οὔ·〉 οὐκ ἐτμήθη, ἀλλ’ ἅμα ἱδρῶτι διῆλθέν τι αὐτόμα-
τον, ἔξω διιόντων· ὁ ϲπλὴν τὰ δεξιὰ ἐνετείνετο, πεῦμα ἐνεδιπλαϲιάζετο, οὐ
μὴν μέγα· παρεφέρετο, περιεϲτέλλετο· φῦϲα ἐνεοῦϲα· οὐ διῄει κάτω οὐδέν,
οὐδὲ οὔρει· ἀπέθανε. (Epidemics ii. 2.22, v. p. 94 L)

Towards the end Lycies had an enlarged spleen, as well as pains, fever,
pains towards the shoulder. The blood vessel on the side of the spleen63 was
tense at his elbow. It often throbbed; but sometimes it did not. There was
no phlebotomy, but something passed on its own together with the sweat,

62 Book ii.2.100 HV (cf. p. 235, lines 17–31 Pf), ii.2.110 HV (cf. p. 239, lines 9–19 Pf). Galen
reads the account as if the patient were male but remains agnostic. Modern editors have been
split on the sex of the patient. Smith prints the female name Lycie, but Alessi makes a good
case for printing Lycies. One decisive factor determining whether the patient is male or female
is the phrase πρὸ τοῦ τόκου (‘before childbirthʼ), which appears right after ἀπέθανε (‘she
diedʼ). Littré prints πρὸ τοῦ τόκου at the end of 2.22 (and casts the patient, accordingly, as the
female Lycie). Smith, however, despite printing Lycie, assigns the phrase to the beginning of
the next chapter (2.23), as does Alessi (who prints Lycies). Note as well that both Littré and
Smith print the phrase ἰήθη ἐλλεβόρου πόϲει Λυκίη as the first line of the chapter. But in
Galen, the subject of ἰήθη is a patient from the previous chapter, Demaenete, and the lemma
in question (ii.2.99 [cf. p. 235, lines 1–16 Pf]) begins ‘during the last days of Lycies’ illness…ʼ
Alessi follows Galen in assigning ἰήθη ἐλλεβόρου πόϲει to 2.21 and converts the nominative
Λυκίη to a dative governed by the next phrase (τὰ ὕϲτατα ϲπλὴν μέγαϲ).
63 Smith has ‘from the spleenʼ for κατὰ ϲπλῆνα. I find ‘on the side of the spleenʼ preferable,
following not only Galen’s interpretation (‘on the side of the spleenʼ, in the Warwick
translation; ‘auf der Seite der Milzʼ, in Pfaff) but also the analysis of Duminil 1983, 95. Alessi
translates ‘du côté de la rateʼ.
66 Brooke Holmes

when the excretions [?] were taking place.64 The spleen was stretched tight
along its right side; the breath doubled its pace, but without being very
deep. He became delirious, was wrapped up.65 Flatulence. Nothing passed
below, not even urine. He died.66

To the novice reader, the text is a staccato series of symptoms, whose relation-
ship to one another is opaque. From Galen’s perspective, however, we have a
case awash in sympathetic affection.67 For the shared suffering of the spleen and
the shoulder implied in the second line of the Hippocratic account, Galen, as
we have come to expect, supplies the underlying rationale. In this instance, the
affection travels not along a vein but via a kind of domino effect. The suffering
of the spleen triggers suffering in the peritoneum, which, in turn, causes suf-
fering in the diaphragm, which causes suffering in the inner membrane of the
ribs, which causes suffering in the clavicle, which makes the shoulder hurt: the
shoulder is thus joined to the spleen at fifth remove. The predominant principle
of sympathy appears to be that of proximity, and indeed, Galen a little later ex-
patiates on the phenomenon by which the spleen and the diaphragm affect one
another through contact.68
The veins remain critical, however, to grasping the symptoms described, albeit
in a slightly different capacity than we have seen thus far. The Hippocratic cue
is the reference to the tenseness of the blood vessel ‘on the side of the spleenʼ.
Galen takes this to mean, reasonably enough, that Hippocrates is referring to a
sympathetic affection of a blood vessel on the left side, where the spleen is lo-
cated, a phenomenon that he describes as sympathy ‘on the same sideʼ. Not only
does such sympathy affect the blood vessel. It also means that any nosebleeds—
often a crucial form of crisis—during illnesses of the spleen occur through the
left nostril; conversely, during illnesses of the liver (located on the right side
of the body), these symptoms occur on the right.69 What is crucial for our pur-
poses is how other physicians, according to Galen, account for the sympathetic
connectivity in play: they posit a vein that runs from the left side of the spleen
upwards in complementary fashion to that running from the right side of the

64 I follow Alessi’s translation here (‘alors que les excrétions avaient lieuʼ), with the sense
that the event described earlier in the sentence occurred at a time in the illness before the
patient was constipated (as signaled by οὐ διῄει κάτω οὐδέν, οὐδὲ οὔρει).
65 In the Warwick translation: ‘he suffered insomnia and was constipatedʼ. Galen discusses
different interpretations of the original at ii.2.109 HV (cf. p. 238, line 42–p. 239, line 9 Pf).
66 Galen’s lemma continues with what in modern editors is printed as 2.23 and 2.23b.
67 The word mušāraka occurs fourteen times from 2.101–8.
68 Book ii.2.106 HV (cf. p. 238, lines 6–8 Pf), ii.2.108 HV (cf. p. 238, lines 39–40 Pf). On
sympathy by contact elsewhere in Galen, see Siegel 1968, 369–70.
69 Book ii.2.102 HV (cf. p. 236, lines 12–19 Pf). On nosebleeds that occur in connection with
affections of the spleen, see also ii.1.183 HV (cf. p. 203, lines 19–29 Pf), ii.2.117 HV (cf. p. 240,
lines 17–19 Pf), ii.3.77 HV (cf. p. 279, lines 29–33 Pf).
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 67

liver (that is, the ‘hollowʼ blood vessel). In other words, they identify a vascular
connection underlying the coordinated symptoms.70 And yet, here, for once, it
is precisely such a connection that Galen rejects, for the simple reason that ‘in
dissections we do not see this blood vessel that they saw in their dreamsʼ.71 The
dreamt-up vein is no innocent error. The problem is that when people—presum-
ably laypersons, but perhaps also less experienced physicians—learn that it does
not exist, they stop believing in the phenomenon of sympathy ‘on the same sideʼ
altogether. And this, for Galen, is to fail to believe in something that is obvious
to anyone who has seen it.
By way of explaining the nature of the doubt about sympathy here, Galen
starts by observing that it is one thing to describe what happens, another to give
the cause. Much as in the discussion of the association between the breast and
the uterus, sympathetic affections here open onto larger questions about the re-
lationship between seeing and understanding—but with a twist. For it is not just
the relationship of seeing and understanding that is at stake but the relationship
of seeing and believing: in the absence of an adequate explanation, we believe
only what we can see.
To illustrate the point, Galen offers a brief digression on the magnet, one of
the great marvels of antiquity.72 Given that the attraction exercised by magnets
could be described in terms of sympathy in the first centuries AD—as it is, ap-
propriately enough, by Galen himself in Natural Capacities—it is perhaps not
surprising that he introduces the magnet at this particular moment as some-
thing whose power is easy to see but difficult to explain.73 No one who has
witnessed its power with their own eyes, he says, doubts the phenomenon. But
those who hear of it only secondhand often do disbelieve the report because
no adequate reason for magnetic attraction is given. It is the same with sympa-
thetic affections ‘on the same sideʼ: seeing is believing, since the phenomenon
‘manifestly occursʼ, but doubt creeps in when autopsy is absent and no credible
explanation emerges to fill the void.
Remarkably, though, Galen is at a loss himself to explain such sympathetic
affections without a vein to ground the connection: all he can do is promise to

70 The hypothesis of a vessel relating affections of the spleen to the shoulder and the arm (on
the left) and those of the liver (on the right) already appears at On Diseases i. 26 (vi. p. 194 L; ed.
Wittern 1974, 78, lines 7–14), although it seems to be rejected by the author of Epidemics, Book
Two, as Duminil 1983, 95–8 argues. See also On Affections 28 (vii. p. 242 L), 32 (vii. p. 250 L),
where phlebotomy on the right and left sides is recommended for affections of the liver and
spleen, respectively.
71 Book ii.2.102 HV (cf. p. 236, lines 22–3 Pf).
72 Book ii.2.103 HV (cf. p. 236, lines 32–44 Pf).
73 For explanations of the magnet in terms of sympathy, see, for example, Clement of
Alexandria Stromateis 2.370; Galen Natural Capacities 1.14 (ii. pp. 44–51 K; Helmreich 1893,
133, line 11-138, line 21); Pliny Natural History 34.42. On the magnet as a stock marvel in
antiquity more generally, see Wallace 1996, especially 181–2.
68 Brooke Holmes

devote a future treatise to the question. For the moment, we are left with only
a scattering of symptoms that refuse to resolve into a constellation along the
lines offered by anatomical investigation. By Galen’s own reckoning, then, we
have little reason to believe the account of the case of Lycies unless we have had
firsthand experience of sympathy ‘on the same sideʼ.
The problem posed by the case of Lycies exposes something of what is at
stake in an exegesis of Epidemics, Book Two. To the extent that Hippocrates is
writing to and for himself, he does not need to persuade anyone else about the
truth of what he has seen. The text exists, rather, to help him recall his earlier
observations. It thus lacks, for the most part, explanations of why things hap-
pen the way they do. The risk, one might imagine, is that the reader who has
not witnessed everything described in the text will not necessarily believe what
it describes, unless, of course, causes are supplied. Herein lies the need for the
ideal exegete who can verify the account given by introducing an explanation.
The exegete bridges the gap between the Hippocratic text and its later readers,
not just to explain the source material but also, at another level, to guarantee its
credibility for an audience that Hippocrates never intended. If the case of Ly-
cies reflects something of a failure in this regard, it also sheds some light on the
nature of Galen’s ambitions elsewhere in the commentary.
The ideal exegete can be understood as occupying the position of the text’s
other addressee—namely, the son.74 The role of the exegete is defined in part
by knowing what Hippocrates meant: one aspect of the interpreter’s task is to
clarify the language and terminology of the text.75 But it is defined, too, by being
able to stand in the shoes of the father and to see what he saw—after all, that is
the only way that a text represented as mnemonic can trigger a glimpse of real-
ity. What sort of presence does this position imply? On the one hand, it is just
a question of seeing clinical events for oneself. On the other hand, if the son is
to offer an explanation of these events, he needs, in Galen’s view, to be able to
call upon another eyewitness experience—namely, that of dissection. For dissec-
tion is crucial to understanding and vouching for the causes that lie beneath the
surface of the body and, in parallel fashion, the surface of the text.76

74 The triangulated relationship between the son, the father’s books, and the father’s legacy
also appears at Anatomical Procedures 14.1 (ed. Duckworth 1962, 183–4), where Galen recounts
how the son of the great anatomist Numisianus, Heraclianus, hoarded his father’s books and,
despite Galen’s many attempts to ingratiate himself, never once allowed Galen to see them.
Heraclianus’s aim in not showing the books, Galen says explicitly, was ‘to secure himself in
the sole possession of all that his father leftʼ. See also Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ,
ii.6.141 HV (cf. p. 400, lines 16–26 Pf), where the paternity of the text is in play.
75 See, for example, Manetti 2009, on Galen’s display of his grasp of Hippocratic linguistic usage.
76 See ii.4.5 HV (cf. p. 312, lines 10–19 Pf), where Herophilus is not content to learn from
Hippocrates but desires to see inside the body for himself. Galen rails against those who follow
Hippocrates blindly, without direct empirical knowledge, at 6.61 (cf. p. 375, lines 22–5 Pf); see
further Lloyd 1991, 402.
Sympathy between Hippocrates and Galen 69

Yet the experience of dissection is not just about offering explanations to se-
cure the truth of what the text reports: it, too, represents a ‘being presentʼ, and
it is an experience that is crucial to proving something about Hippocrates him-
self. For Galen does not simply want to demonstrate that what Hippocrates de-
scribed happened, that is, that Hippocrates reported events correctly: he wants
to show that Hippocrates had already seen for himself the causes underlying
the events that he described. What this entails for Galen, as for Hippocratising
anatomists before him, is ascribing to Hippocrates the experience of dissection.77
But what about the truth of Epidemics, Book Two, as a text, that is, as a cru-
cial supporting document for the image of Hippocrates championed by Galen?
What does it mean for Galen to be present before this truth? That is, what does
it mean for the son to believe not just in what the father saw but in the fact that
he saw, and where what is seen is not just scatterings of symptoms but the logic
behind them? Under these circumstances, the two paths to belief that we saw
in the context of the magnet—one simply seeing something happen, the other
having it explained—converge, insofar as what Galen wants to see in the text
is a causal web. By turning the anatomical body into the subtext of the original
treatise, Galen does just that: he creates the conditions under which he can ‘seeʼ
the causal understanding that he believes is latent in the text. For if Galen sees
beneath the surface of the text a fuller vision of the body, and especially the
vascular body, that he attributes to Hippocrates, he is also ‘seeingʼ the connec-
tions that Hippocrates ostensibly drew between symptoms, for the reason that
the veins function as the very materialisation of causality.
More than once we have seen that, in the cases of sympathetic affection in the
Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two, Galen seems to believe that
to supply the cause means to articulate the path of a vein relating one part of
the body to another while, in the last case, that of Lycies, to deny the presence
of a vein is, conversely, to eliminate the ground of explanation. That is, in these
cases, giving the causes of the affections becomes indistinguishable from expos-
ing the underlying anatomical connections.
What the instances of sympathetic affection make especially clear is, first,
that the more Galen can map the flotsam of the Hippocratic text onto his own
model of the body, the more coherent and, indeed, the more believable that text
becomes, not just for the reader but for Galen himself. But these instances con-

77 ‘For the true and the false of what becomes manifest from dissection are differentiated by
something by which we examine other perceptible things, namely differentiation by means
of the senses. So, just as one who has not seen the city known as Athens has not seen the
Propylaeum in it, the Kerameikos, or the other places in it, likewise one who has not performed
a dissection has not seen the arteries, veins, or other body parts or vessels. For just as a wall
surrounds a city, and walls surround houses, so, too, the skin surrounds the body of a living
being. So, whoever wants to see for himself what is beneath the skin must cut through the
skinʼ (ii.4.4 HV [cf. p. 311, lines 22–31 Pf]). On the text of the passage, see Garofalo 2009, 142.
70 Brooke Holmes

firm, too, that the very act of mapping the text along the lines of the anatomical
body validates an interpretation in which Galen is deeply invested—namely, an
interpretation that cements Hippocrates’ proper place at the origin of a tradition
of medicine organised around the enquiry into causes and anatomical expertise.
Here, Galen’s own experience with dissection and, more specifically, his mem-
ory of dissection, becomes a pivotal part of his work as a commentator, insofar
as it allows him to imagine himself when he reads as present not only before
the anatomical body but, in fact, before the logic of causes ostensibly already
witnessed by the father. That logic and, accordingly, Hippocrates’ grasp of that
logic thus acquire something of the manifest truth that characterises the veins.
The transition from seeing to believing can be seen, accordingly, as extending
beyond believing in the events described in the text to believing in the very
presence of explanation at the origins of the text, which is nothing less than
believing in Hippocrates as the father of dogmatic medicine.
The Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two, must be seen as part
of the larger exegetical project of Galen’s Hippocratic commentaries, through
which he not only lays claim to the authority that the name Hippocrates had
come to stand for but grounds it in his own understanding of the body. Yet
the nature of the original Hippocratic text creates exceptional challenges and
opportunities for this project. On the one hand, it offers what Galen thought
was the only genuine Hippocratic anatomy, especially rich in its account of
the vascular system. On the other hand, Epidemics, Book Two, is riddled with
gaping silences and glaring omissions, with the result that Galen himself must
establish, at several critical points, connections between the anatomy offered
and the cases and phenomena described or, more accurately, between the anat-
omy Hippocrates ‘reallyʼ had in mind and the rest of the text. He does so by
introducing his own vision of the networked body, albeit in the guise of the
text’s concealed substructure and the concrete enactment of its causal logic.
He enlists this vision most vigorously in instances of sympathetic affections,
whose surface appearance—symptoms scattered across the body—exaggerates
the disjointed, seemingly random quality of the text itself. By making manifest
the connections underneath these affections, Galen does not simply lend the
Hippocratic text coherence and credibility but also helps shape a father figure
for medicine whose memory Galen honours as if it were his own.

The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on

Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two, as a source for the
Hippocratic Text: First Remarks
Robert Alessi

At first sight, the second book of the Epidemics startles the modern reader as it
consists of diverse statements that are at different stages of elaboration. Some of
these statements are quite difficult to understand because they are not explicit.
For example, roughly in the middle of Book Two, one finds a particular katásta-
sis, that is a description of the season, weather and diseases during one period
at a particular geographic place. One also finds several elaborate nosological
descriptions, many remarks on sick people and on the weather, numerous clini-
cal observations, some general statements seemingly inferred from experiment,
and a few remarks that are barely understandable except to the author.
The Epidemics require a particular scholarly approach: in one respect, consid-
ering the nature of the topics which the author examines, the questions he for-
mulates have to be situated in the larger framework of fifth and fourth-century
discussions. But in another respect, considering that the Epidemics were based
essentially on concrete inquiries and medical experiments, the statements made
in the book have to be scrutinised. As the text is on the whole very difficult,
Galen’s Commentary is extremely helpful for establishing and interpreting the
Hippocratic text, although its Greek original is lost. This commentary allows us
to compare the Hippocratic text not only with the lemmas that form part of the
commentary but also with the commentary itself and the numerous variants or
discussions it contains that date back to Galen’s predecessors.
The following example allows us to assess the usefulness of Galen’s work for
the interpretation of the Hippocratic text. In the introduction to his commen-
tary of Epidemics, Book Six, Galen recounts the corruptions that he finds in the
Hippocratic text, which are due to earlier scholarsʼ false conjectures. Because
his text contained many such corruptions, Galen thought that it was better to
retrieve, to record and to explain the most ancient readings which he could find
in the works of past commentators1:

1 p. 3, lines 4–10 W; xvii/a.793 K.

72 Robert Alessi

〈Οὐκ οἶδ’ ὅπωϲ καὶ τοῦτο τὸ βιβλίον, ὥϲπερ καὶ ἄλλο τι τῶν τοῦ〉
〈Ἱπποκράτουϲ〉 ϲυγγραμμάτων ἐλυμήναντο πολλοὶ τῶν ἐξηγητῶν ἄλλοϲ
ἄλλωϲ, ὡϲ ἕκαϲτοϲ ἤλπιϲε πιθανῶϲ ἐξηγήϲαϲθαι, τὴν κατὰ τοῦτο λέξιν
ὑπαλλάττων, ὥϲτε ἠναγκάϲθην ἐγὼ διὰ τοῦτο τά τε παλαιότατα τῶν
ἀντιγράφων ἐπιζητῆϲαι τά τε ὑπομνήματα τῶν πρώτων ἐξηγηϲαμένων τὸ
βιβλίον, ἐν οἷϲ καὶ 〈Ζεῦξίϲ〉 ἐϲτι 〈καὶ〉 | ὁ 〈Ταραντῖνοϲ〉 καὶ ὁ 〈Ἐρυθραῖοϲ
Ἡρακλείδηϲ〉 καὶ πρὸ αὐτῶν 〈Βακχεῖόϲ〉 τε καὶ 〈Γλαυκίαϲ〉.

I do not know how this book, too, among others of Hippocrates’ treatises,
has been maltreated in different ways by many commentators under the
pretext that each of them hoped to propose a persuasive commentary, al-
tering the original reading; thus I had to retrieve the most ancient readings
and the works of those who first commented on this book as well; among
whom we find Zeuxis, Heraclides (of Erythrae and of Tarentum), and be-
fore them Baccheios and Glaukias.

In fact, Galen’s commentary on Epidemics, Book Two gives us many examples

of this remarkable method. Since the Warwick Epidemics Project provided me
with the first draft copy of their forthcoming edition of Galen’s Commentary
on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two, I began to consider the Arabic version
for my own edition of Hippocrates’ Epidemics, Book Two, which will be pub-
lished in the Collection des Universités de France (Paris, Les Belles Lettres). In
this paper, I would like to present my first remarks about this very stimulating
work that has now become available. For Greek medical studies, the Warwick
edition of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two is highly
relevant. The lemmas which are preserved only in Ḥunayn’s Arabic transla-
tion are of crucial importance for establishing the Greek text of Hippocrates,
since we know that these lemmas go back to a time when Galen’s text had not
yet been contaminated by the received Hippocratic text. Also, I would like to
add that this edition will allow us to gather and analyse better the abundant
Hippocratic citations which are contained in Galen’s commentary. Such a col-
lation would be all the more crucial since, at least for Books Two and Six of
the Epidemics, the Hippocratic manuscripts are known to have been influenced
by Artemidorus Capito’s edition in the first century AD.2 In other words, the
Arabic version of Galen’s commentaries is the only source from which one can
reconstruct the Hippocratic text at a stage which is prior to all other witnesses. I
will try to show through several examples how comparing the Hippocratic text
with the lemmas and discussions that date back to Galen’s predecessors allows

2 On these questions, see Manetti’s and Roselli’s edition of Hippocrates’ Epidemics, Book Six
(1982, xlii–iii), and Pfaff 1931; see also below p. 73.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 73

us to either restore the original reading (and sometimes to follow closely the
textual tradition) or restore the correct interpretation of one particular reading.3

Influence of Galen’s Commentary on the Hippocratic text

As for the Hippocratic text of Epidemics, Book Two, I will consider here, among
the manuscripts of the direct tradition, the ones of the upper part of the stemma
that are worthy of interest:
− Vaticanus Gr. 276, (V), twelfth century
− Parisinus Gr. 2140, (I), thirteenth century
− Vaticanus Gr. 277, (R), fourteenth century
− Parisinus Gr. 2142, (H) part. rec., fourteenth century
We know that these four manuscripts are to be divided into two branches: V and
its descendants and IRH. The latter three manuscripts are, directly or indirectly,
descendants of the branch of manuscript M (Marcianus Gr. 269, s. X), although
Book Two of the Epidemics is not present in Marcianus, which has a substantial
Before examining how one can consider Galen’s Arabic lemmas for editing
Hippocrates’ Epidemics, Book Two, I would like to comment on the overall re-
lationship between the two texts. The following two statements equally apply:
1. All the manuscripts of the direct tradition descend from one common ances-
tor; the influence of Galen’s Commentary on it is obvious.
2. The extant direct tradition has been influenced in turn by Artemidorus Cap-
ito’s edition, dating back to the first century AD.
Several examples allow us to assess the influence of Galen’s Commentary on
the direct tradition of Epidemics, Book Two. My first example is taken from
Epidemics ii.3.17–18, a passage which all the extant manuscripts seem to have
misplaced, but which Foes returned to its correct position in his 1595 edition.
Foes was followed by Littré, but not by Smith4:

3 On the Arabic translation of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics, see the

very important work of Garofalo 2009, who made an extensive examination of the text, using
Madrid, Escorial, MS árabe 804 (henceforth MS E1) for the commentary on Book Two of the
Epidemics; see also Garofalo’s emendations (2010a, 255–6). On the Arabic text of Galen’s
commentaries on Books One and Three of the Epidemics, see Garofalo 2010b. I would also
like to express my gratitude to Ivan Garofalo for giving me the draft copy of an article (to be
published in 2011) about Galen’s lemmas of Epidemics, Book Two, and their Arabic translation
(Garofalo, forthcoming).
4 I quote here and below the text and apparatus from my forthcoming edition of the
Hippocratic Epidemics, Book Two.
74 Robert Alessi

3.17 […] Πρὸ τοῦ τόκου τὰ γάλακτα, τῆϲ μὲν τροφῆϲ ὑπερβαλλούϲηϲ, τῆϲ
2 δὲ 〈ὅληϲ〉 ὀκταμήνου ἀπαρτιζούϲηϲ· διὸ τὰ ἐπιμήνια ἀδελφὰ τῶν ὀκτα-
μήνων· πρὸϲ δεκάμηνον τεινόντων γενόμενα, κακόν. 3.18 Τρωμάτων ἢν
4 ἰϲχυρῶν ἐόντων οἴδημα μὴ φαίνηται μέγα, κακόν· τὰ χαῦνα, χρηϲτὸν,
τὰ ἄνω νεμόμενα, κάκιον. Οἷϲιν οἰδήματα ἐφ’ ἕλκεϲι 〈φαίνεται〉, οὐ μάλα
6 ϲπῶνται, οὐδὲ μαίνονται· […]

Apparatus: 1 Πρὸ τοῦ τόκου] scripsi; ĔҙҏǍͫā Ȉ͘ć ɡʒ͘ Gal.(Ar.): πρωτοτόκων codd. Littré:
πρὸ τόκων Smith 1 τροφῆϲ ὑπερβαλλούϲηϲ] pro 〈ὅληϲ〉 ὀκταμήνου ἀπαρτιζούϲηϲ et
item contra Gal. De Usu partium 4 77 20 (ed. Helmreich) Theoph. Prot. De corp. hum. Fab-
rica 5 38 52 (ed. Greenhill) codd. Littré 1 ὑπερβαλλούϲηϲ Gal.U Gal.(Ar.) Theoph Prot.]
μεταβαλλούϲηϲ V I1slRH Littré: μεταβαλούϲηϲ I 2 ὅληϲ] addidi e Gal. (ƴǚ͇ ƴΑāǨ˳ͫā ɡ˳˜ʓʶ̒ć)
Gal. Theoph. Prot.: om. codd. Gal.U Littré edd. 2–3 διὸ-γενόμενα, κακόν] trsp. ante οἷϲιν
οἰδήματα codd. Smith sed hic habent Foes Littré 2 ἐπιμήνια codd. Gal.] γάλακτα Gal.U
Theoph. Prot. Littré 2–3 ὀκταμήνων codd. Gal.] ἐπιμηνίων Gal.U Theoph. Prot. Littré
3 τεινόντων γενόμενα] τείνοντα Smith 3–4 Τρωμάτων-κάκιον] om. Gal. 5 νεμόμενα]
4 μενόμενα Smith.

3.17 […] Before birth, milk appears, if nutriment is in excess and a full
eight-month period is complete; therefore menstruation is the counterpart
of the eight months: stretching to the tenth month is a bad 〈sign〉. 3.18 In
case of severe wounds, if no important swelling appears, it is a bad 〈sign〉;
the loose 〈swellings〉 are good; those stretching upwards are worse. Those
who have swellings after wounds do not have much convulsions nor de-
lirium. […]

As one can see from the apparatus, the direct tradition moves part of the sen-
tence of 3.17, that is ‘διὸ τὰ ἐπιμήνια, ἀδελφὰ τῶν ὀκταμήνων· πρὸϲ δεκάμηνον
τείνοντα, κακόνʼ, before the sentence of 3.18 which starts with the words οἷϲιν
οἰδήματα. Galen’s lemmas have a lacuna in which the first lines of 3.18 are lost:
from τρωμάτων ἢν ἰϲχυρῶν ἐόντων to νεμόμενα, κακόν. There is no doubt that
this same lacuna had affected the ancestor of our four manuscripts, for in those
manuscripts, as in Galen’s lemmas, the last sentence of 3.17 is placed just before
the one in 3.18 which starts with the words οἷϲιν οἰδήματα. In my opinion, it is
likely that the copyist, who mistakenly filled the lacuna, did not copy the miss-
ing words after the last sentence of 3.17, as he should have done, but before it.
The resemblance between those sentences (γενόμενα, κακόν / νεμόμενα, κάκιον)
may have caused this mistake. I think that this simple example illustrates the
influence of Galen’s lemmas on the source of the Hippocratic manuscripts.5

5 However, as we are missing any external witness, such examples do not constitute positive
evidence of direct influence of Galen’s commentary on the Hippocratic text. For further
discussion of the influence of Galen’s lemmas on the MV branch of Hippocratic manuscripts,
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 75

The second example that illustrates the relationship between Epidemics, Book
Two and Galen’s Commentary is drawn from both treatisesʼ division into ‘sec-
tions’.6 Roughly speaking, both are divided into six sections, but the section
breaks in these respective treatises do not match. Furthermore, one finds in the
Hippocratic text three ‘titles’ appended to the last three ‘sections’: ‘about veins
(περὶ φλεβῶν)’ (section 4); ‘physiognomy (φυϲιογνωμονίη)’ (section 5); and ‘on
physiognomy (φυϲιογνωμονικόϲ)’ (section 6). It is worth noting that Smith is
the first modern editor who deleted all three ‘titles’ from his edition, although
he kept the Greek numbering of the sections.7 Unfortunately, he does not give
any justification for this deletion, although these two reasons may have induced
him to remove them:
1. Sections four, five and six of Epidemics, Book Two are further divided respec-
tively into five, twenty-four and thirty-two ‘subsections’ or ‘paragraphs’, al-
though we barely find actual anatomical or physiognomonical statements in
the first or first two paragraphs of each section.
2. We cannot find any trace of the words περὶ φλεβῶν, φυϲιογνωμονίη and
φυϲιογνωμονικόϲ in Galen.
So, it is worth discussing briefly how the placement of these words connects
with the sectional division of the text of Epidemics, Books Two in not only the
manuscripts of the upper part of the stemma, but also in Galen’s Commentary.
At first sight, the six-section division of both texts shows that the section
breaks which occur in the Hippocratic text and in Galen’s Commentary seem
to be independent from each other. For example, the first section of Epidemics,
Book Two presents various statements about the relationship between diseases
and external conditions (e. g. weather), crisis, segregations etc. whereas the cor-
responding section in Galen presents the same content, with the further addi-
tion of the first nine clinical observations of Epidemics, Book Two, section two.
Section two in Galen includes the beginning of the so-called katástasis of Perin-
thus, which belongs to Epidemics, Book Two, section three in the Hippocratic
In the Hippocratic manuscripts, section breaks mostly appear in the form of
a colon, followed by a hyphen and a thin blank space. In the first three sections,
however, the manuscripts do not include any title or section numbering. Fur-
thermore, while manuscripts RH agree with the section breaks that we find in
Littré’s edition (which are found already in the 1525 Aldine edition), manuscript

from which Book Two of the Epidemics derives, see Pfaff 1931, 558–81, and 1932, 67—82, Diller
1973, 154–63 and 223–33.
6 On the particular question of the division of Galen’s commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics
2 into six sections, see Pormann 2008a for his examination of the Arabic manuscripts; see also
Garofalo (forthcoming, 2011). I am here focusing on the aforementioned Greek manuscripts
of Hippocrates.
7 See Smith 1994, 66, 74, 80.
76 Robert Alessi

V does not have any break mark until section 3.8 H has all the section breaks,
except the one at the beginning of section three, although it is a rather impor-
tant break, since it indicates the beginning of the so-called katástasis of Perin-
thus.9 So these differences are rather striking, since they pertain to manuscripts
which belong to the same branch. They seem to indicate that the division of this
treatise into sections was not standardised fully even at such a late stage of the
Starting from section four, the situation appears to be different: all the manu-
scripts present firstly the same title—‘on veins (περὶ φλεβῶν)’— and then the
same section number—‘section four (τμῆμα δ’)’. Moreover, section four of Ga-
len’s commentary starts at the same place. This coincidence is significant. But
much more interesting is the case of section five: all manuscripts present firstly
‘physiognomy (φυϲιογνωμονίη)’ (IRH: -ία V), but only manuscripts IRH subse-
quently have ‘section five (τμῆμα ε’)’, whilst manuscript V presents this section
numbering five lines below in Littré’s edition10 after the words ‘it cannot be
broken up (οὐκ οἷόν τε λύεϲθαι)’ (Smith), where one can also find a break mark.
In other words, the section numbering appears exactly at the place where sec-
tion five of Galen’s commentary starts.11 Of course, this arrangement cannot be
due to chance: it clearly shows that the section numbering, which only occurs
in the Hippocratic text at the beginning of sections four and five, is drawn from
the division of Galen’s Commentary. In fact, in section five, manuscript Vʼs read-
ing of the section numbering five lines below the word φυϲιογνωμονίη, which
certainly would have been interpreted as a title, leads us to assume that the
source of manuscripts IRH has moved mistakenly the numbering after the ‘title’
a few lines above. Thus, in my opinion, the reading of manuscript V already
existed in the archetype.
In section six, the manuscripts differ significantly from each other: none of
them have any section numbering; all have the word φυϲιογνωμονικόϲ (codd.:
-κόν Littré post φυϲιογν. add. δεύτεροϲ R); manuscripts V I do not present any
section break, whilst manuscripts RH have one. In Galen’s Commentary, section
six (ɼ̵ĔLJʶͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā) starts two lines below. Naturally, all the discrepancies in the
placement of these various section breaks reinforce the conclusion that the sec-
tion numbering does not belong to an early stage of the extant direct tradition;
after all, this numbering only occurs twice in the whole treatise.

8 References follow Littré’s edition.

9 Except L. V, 90.6: post θέρεοϲ add. ∼ V IR: om. H. Anyway, IRH present in section 2
several additional break marks that might have been used to distinguish some of the clinical
observations. For instance, in the passage quoted here, ms. R adds ἄρρωϲτοϲ δ’ after θέρεοϲ.
10 L. V, 128.7 = 74.7 Smith.
11 ɼʶͲLJʦͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā; this part of Galen’s commentary was already lost in Ḥunayn’s Greek
manuscripts. See Pormann 2008a.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 77

It is also obvious that so-called ‘titles’ such as ‘on veins (περὶ φλεβῶν)’, ‘phys-
iognomy (φυϲιογνωμονίη)’ or ‘on physiognomy (φυϲιογνωμονικόϲ)’ do not con-
stitute titles of whole ‘sections’ in the treatise. Certainly, we must retain these
titles in the modern editions, but we should keep in mind that they are titles of
‘paragraphs’ or, at the very most, titles of pieces of text, if not titles of selected
extracts. Although one cannot make any conclusive arguments about this sub-
ject, such titles might have been introduced into the Hippocratic text at various
stages of the tradition in order to identify more easily certain passages or pieces
of text to which the commentators used to refer. These titles could have served
as markers in this long and difficult treatise. In this sense, manuscript R, which
is likely to have been more contaminated than the others, contains more such
markers. Here is a brief account of the situation:
− L. V, 84.2: ante γυγὴ ἐκαρδιάλγει add. ἄρρωϲτοϲ α’ (‘first patient’) R. –
This is the actual beginning of ‘section 2’ (〈τμῆμα δεύτερον〉) in Littré’s
edition, where clinical observations are found. Τhe words τμῆμα δεύτερον
are not found in the manuscripts, but MS R adds the words ‘first patient
(ἄρρωϲτοϲ α’)’, which help the reader to get his bearings in the text.
− 90.7 ante τῇ τοῦ ϲκύτεωϲ add. ἄρρωϲτοϲ δ’ R – same situation with
‘fourth patient (ἄρρωϲτοϲ δ’)’.
− 100.2 ante ἐϲ Πέρινθον add. καιροῦ κατάϲταϲιϲ R – This is where the ‘third
section’ in Littré’s edition starts: καιροῦ κατάϲταϲιϲ means ‘constitution of
the season’. Actually ‘section three’ starts with the katástasis of Perinthus.
− 132.14 post φυϲιογνωμονικόϲ add. δεύτεροϲ R – in other words:
‘about physiognomony two’ where Littré’s ‘section six’ starts, after
‘physiognomony one’ of ‘section five’ as we have already seen above.
In other words, one may assume that the first two ‘titles’ were used to distinguish
certain clinical observations from others. Of particular importance is the second
title, as it occurs at a place where all the other manuscripts have a break mark.
Therefore, this addition, while obviously the result of contamination, probably
corresponds to a break that could already be found at an earlier stage of the
tradition in the archetype of the Hippocratic manuscripts. Finally, as one can see,
two other markers of the same manuscript have been used without considering
any kind of overall continuous section numbering of the treatise. For example,
one finds καιροῦ κατάϲταϲιϲ at the beginning of ‘section three’ in Littré’s
edition, and φυϲιογνωμωνικὸϲ δεύτεροϲ of section six, which is connected to
remarks of physiognomonical interest, at the beginning of ‘section six’.
78 Robert Alessi

Capito’s Edition

As I said above, the extant direct tradition of Epidemics, Book Two is completely
derived from Capito’s edition, which was produced in the first century AD.
Galen’s commentary presents a highly accurate witness to this edition. It allows
us to go beyond the vicissitudes of textual transmission and to follow closely the
story of the Hippocratic text, because Galen faithfully reported the readings of
the manuscripts.12
My first example comes form the very beginning of Epidemics, Book Two13:

1.1 Ἄνθρακεϲ θερινοὶ ἐν Κραννῶνι· ὗεν ἐν καύμαϲιν ὕδατι λάβρῳ δι’ ὅλου
2 καὶ ἐγίνετο μᾶλλον νότῳ· [καὶ] ὑπογίνονται μὲν ἐν τῷ δέρματι ἰχῶρεϲ·
ἐγκαταλαμβανόμενοι δέ, θερμαίνονται, καὶ κνηϲμὸν ἐμποιέουϲιν· εἶτα
4 φλυκταινίδεϲ ὥϲπερ πυρίκαυϲτοι ἐπανίϲταντο καὶ ὑπὸ τὸ δέρμα καίεϲθαι

Testimonia: 1–5 Ἄνθρακεϲ… ἐδόκεον] cf. Gal. De Temperamentis libri iii (ed. Helmreich
1 531 1) 1–2 Ἄνθρακεϲ… νότῳ] cf. Gal. In Hippocr. Epid. I comm. (ed. Wenkebach 17a
27 10); Gal. In Hippocr. Aphorismos comm. (ed. Kühn 17b 579 14); Gal. In Hippocr. Epid.
III comm. (ed. Wenkebach 17a 649 9) 1 〈Ἄνθρακεϲ〉… ὅλου] cf. Gal. In Hippocratis Epid.
I comm. (ed. Wenkebach 17a 36 7) 1 ὗεν… δι’ ὅλου] ibid. (17a 38 4) 2 ἐγίνετο… νότῳ]
cf. Gal. In Hippocr. Epid III comm. (ed. Wenkebach 17a 650 1-2) 2–5 [καὶ] ὑπογίνονται…
ἐδόκεον] cf. Gal. In Hippocr. Epid. VI comm. (ed. Wenkebach 17a 983 2) 2–3 [καὶ]
ὑπογίνονται… θερμαίνονται] cf. Gal. In Hippocr. Prognosticum comm. (ed. Heeg 18b
205 2).

Apparatus: 1 θερινοὶ ἐν Κραννῶνι scripsi ƦǍ͵āǨ˙̑ ƦLJ͛ ķǛͫā ǽˏʉˀͫā Ǩ˳ʤͫā (Κραννῶνι recte pro-
pos. Garofalo e ƦǍʉ͵āǨ͘ Gal.(E1), lege ƦǍ˶͵āǨ͘ uide ἐνκραννώνιοι V) Gal.] ἐν Κρανῶνι θ. R
Littré Smith Gal.E1(17a 27 10) apud Wenkebach Gal.E3 apud Wenkebach Gal.T apud
Helmreich Gal.Aph. : ἐν Κρανῶνι οἱ θ. I2H : ἐνκρανώνιοι θ. I : ἐνκραννώνιοι θ. V : ἐν
Κρανῶ οἱ θ. Gal.E3(L) 1 ὗεν Gal.T apud Helmreich Gal.E1 apud Wenckebach Gal.Aph.
ĢLJ˅ͲΑā łƹLJ̣ Gal. Littré] ὓεν I1RH : οἱ ἐν V om. Gal.E3(L) : post ὗεν add. καὶ τὰ ἑξῆϲ Gal.
E1(17a 27 10)(Q) 1 ἐν I1slRH] om. V I 1 καύμαϲιν V IRH Gal.E1 omnibus in locis apud
Wenkebach Gal.T apud Helmreich Gal.Aph.] καύματι Gal.E1(17a 36 7)(MQ) 1 λάβρῳ RH
Gal.E1 omnibus in locis apud Wenkebach Gal.E3 apud Wenkebach Gal.Aph.] λαύρῳ V
I Gal.T(codd.) Gal.E3(L) 1 δἰ ὅλου codd. Gal.E3 apud Wenkebach Gal.T apud Helmreich
Gal.Aph.] διόλου Gal.E1 apud Helmreich omnibus in locis : post δι’ ὅλου add. und es
war meiste davon bei Südwind Gal.E1(17a 36 7)(H: om. U) 2 καὶ hic scripsi ƦLJ͛ć Gal.]
trsp. post ἐγίνετο codd. Smith Gal.E3(L) primo in loco : δὲ pro καὶ post ἐγίνετο Lit-
tré Gal.T apud Helmreich Gal.Aph. : om. Gal.E1(17a 27 10) apud Wenkebach Gal.E3(O
Wenkebach) utroque in loco 2 ἐγίνετο V I1slRHpc ƦLJ͛ć Gal.] ἐγίνοντο Vsl I2sl Gal.T apud
Helmreich Gal.E3(O) utroque in loco Gal.Aph. : ἐγένετο IHac Littré Smith : ἐγένοντο Gal.
E1(17a 27 10) apud Wenkebach Gal.E3(17a 649 9)(L Wenkebach) Gal.E3(17a 650 1) apud

12 See also p. 72 above and footnote 41 below.

13 v. p. 72, lines 3–7 L; translation, with modifications by Smith 1994, 18, lines 3–8.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 79

Wenkebach 2 νότῳ V IpcRH ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ȽͲ Gal.] νότου Iac : 〈ἐγίνοντο δὲ μᾶλλον〉 ἐν νώτῳ
falso coni. Ermerins sed in tergo magis fiebant olim Calvus 2 καὶ ante ὑπογίν. deleui
e Gal.P(VRF P) 2 ὑπογίνονται Gal.T(MV) Gal.P(VP) Ǩʉˀ̈ Gal.] ὑπογίγνονται Gal.P(F) :
ὑπεγίνοντο IRH Littré Smith Gal.T apud Helmreich : ὑπεγίνετο V : οἱ πόδεϲ γίνονται
(sic) pro ὑπογίν. Gal.P(R) 2 ἐν (οὖν pro ἐν Gal.P(F) ἐν del. Ermerins) τῷ (Gal.P(PFVsl:
om. R)) δέρματι codd. Gal.P(VRP)] ὑπὸ τὸ δέρμα Gal.T apud Helmreich ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒ Gal.
3 ἐγκαταλαμβανόμενοι V IH] ἐγκατε- R -μεναι Gal.P(R) 3 θερμαίνονται Gal.P apud Heeg
Gal.E6(H Wenkebach) ɬʦ̵ ɬ˙ʓ̤ā āĕΒLJ͎ Gal.] ἐθερμαίνοντο codd. Littré Smith Gal.P(R) Gal.T
apud Helmreich Gal.E6(U) 3 κνηϲμὸν codd. Gal. (M(P)E12)] om. Gal.(E1) 3 ἐμποιέουϲιν
scripsi] ἐμποιοῦϲιν Gal.E6(ex H reposuit Wenkebach) ǚΎͫć … ɬ˙ʓ̤ā āĕΒLJ͎ Gal.] ἐνεποίεον codd.
Littré Smith ἐνεποίουν Gal.T(M) Gal.E6(U) 3 εἶτα codd. Gal.T Gal.E6] ɷʉ͎ Gal. i.e. dum ut
uid. 4 φλυκταινίδεϲ V IR Gal.E6(U)] φλυκτε- H φλύκταιναι Gal.T apud Helmreich łLJ̥LJˏ͵
Gal. 4 πυρίκαυϲτοι codd.] πυρίκαϲτοι Gal.E6(U) 4 ἐπανίϲταντο Gal.T apud Helmreich
Littré] διαν- codd. Smith ἐξαν- Gal.T(M (e ΕΠΑΝ-) œǨʦ̒ Ȉ͵LJ͛ Gal. ἀνίϲταντο Gal.E6(U).

1.1 The anthrax of summer in Crannon: during the hot weather, there were
violent and continuous rains, and this occurred more with wind from the
south — There are serous gatherings in the skin; when caught, they grow
hot and cause itching. — Then small blisters as though from burns rose up,
and seemed like burns under the skin.

As one can see, the author distinguishes two kinds of causes in describing the
anthrax of Crannon:14
1. The external causes that are reported in the past tense: weather constantly
wet (ὗεν… ὕδατι λάβρῳ δι’ ὅλου, ‘violent and continuous rains’), hot (ἐν
καύμαϲιν) and under the influence of wind from the south (καὶ μᾶλλον
2. The internal causes (ὑπογίνονται… ἐμποιέουϲιν, ‘there are… they cause’)
that are reported in the present tense.
We know positively from Galen’s commentary that all three verbs in the
present tense, ‘there are 〈serous gatherings〉 (ὑπογίνονται)’, ‘they grow hot
(θερμαίνονται)’, and ‘they cause (ἐμποιέουϲιν)’, constitute the original reading.
The author, says Galen, chose to describe in the present tense signs which
commonly accompany the appearance of anthrax: serous accumulations
in the skin (ὑπογίνονται … ἰχῶρεϲ), catching of these humours in the skin
(ἐγκαταλαμβανόμενοι δέ), inflammation and itching (κνηϲμὸν ἐμποιέουϲιν).
What follows in the past tense pertains specifically to the anthrax that appear
in Cranon.
According to Galen, all of the ancient commentators knew this original read-
ing and continued to comment on the reason why Hippocrates used different

14 For the Arabic text here and below, see ii.1.2 HV; for this passage, see also Pormann
(2008, appendix 1) who provides a sample collation of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’
‘Epidemics’, Book Two, part one.
80 Robert Alessi

tenses in this passage. But, Artemidorus Capito and his disciples simplified these
different tenses and left the past tense only, which we find in all Hippocratic
manuscripts as well as in all modern editions, including that of Smith:15

ķǛͫā ȇʒʶͫā ɬ͇ ȉʥʒ̈ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ Ǩʶ͎ ɬͲ ƛāǩ̈ ҙҏć ƹLJͲǚ˙ͫā Ƚʉ˳̣ LJ͎́Ǩˈ̈ ɼʦʶ˶ͫā ƱǛ΀ ƦΑā ȇʉʤˈͫāć
āćǨʉ͈ ƦΑā ȅˬ͇ ɷ̑LJʥ̿Αāć 17ťĢćǚʉͲLJ̈́ĢΑā Ƣǚ˙̒ć ɼˏˬʓʦͲ ƦLJͲģΑā ȅˬ͇ ƛǚ̒ 16ŵLJˏͫΑā ƛLJ˳ˈʓ̵ā ȅͫΒā ŴāǨ˙̑Αā LJ͇Ĕ
ǚ̈ǚ̿ ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒ Ǩʉˀ̈ ƦLJ͛ć» :ƛLJʔ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ȅˬ͇ ṳ̈̌āć ƦLJͲģ ȅˬ͇ ƛǚ̒ LJ́ˬ͛ LJ΀Ǎˬˈʤ͎ ŵLJˏͫΑҙҏā ƱǛ΀
.«ɼ˜̤ ǚͫćć ɬʦ̵ ɬ˙ʓ̤ā āĕΒā ƦLJ͛ć

It is amazing that all ancient authors knew this reading, and that those ex-
plaining this book kept on looking for the reason which prompted Hippoc-
rates to use forms indicating different times. Earlier, Artemidorus [Capito]
and his colleagues were the first who altered these forms and made them
all indicate one time like this: ‘There were serous gatherings under the
skin’ and ‘when it was congested, they grew hot and generated itching’.

This information, which is given by the ancient commentators, is of paramount

importance for modern editors. It allows them to restore an ancient reading which
Capito’s authority removed from the direct tradition in the first century AD.18
In fact, from the very first paragraph of Epidemics, Book Two, the author con-
templates the role of external causality in the development of diseases, trying
to distinguish between what should be attributed to the disease itself and what
depends on the environment. This is why time indications are present in every
passage at the beginning of each paragraph. Through word order, the author
first lays stress on what pertains to the environment and subsequently exam-
ines its influence on the development of diseases. There is a constant tendency
from the beginning of Epidemics, Book Two to mention first the elements which
refer to the environment. He does so in paragraph one: ‘during the hot weather
there was continuous rain (ὗεν ἐκ καύμαϲιν ὕδατι λάβρῳ δι’ ὅλου)’ (hot and
thoroughly wet conditions); and in paragraph two (my following example): ‘in
hot weather when it is dry (ἐν καύμαϲιν ἀνυδρίηϲ)’ (hot and dry weather), then
‘under the same conditions (ἐν τούτοιϲι δέ)’, which refers to ‘in hot weather
when it is dry’:

15 See ii.1.13 HV.

16 ŵLJˏͫΑā ƛLJ˳ˈʓ̵ā] M: ΈLJͅLJˏͫΑā ɡ˳ˈʓʶ̈ ƦΑā E1.
17 ťĢćǚʉͲLJ̈́ĢΑā] scripsi: ťćǚʉͲLJ̈́ĢΑā E1: ťćǚ˶ͲLJ̈́ĢΑā M.
18 I will discuss in my forthcoming edition the complex situation presented by the variants
of the Greek manuscripts of Galen in the other treatises: Mixtures, and the commentaries on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Prognosticʼ and Epidemics, Book Six.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 81

1.2 Ἐν καύμαϲιν ἀνυδρίηϲ οἱ πυρετοὶ ἀνίδρωτεϲ τὰ πλεῖϲτα· ἐν τούτοιϲι δέ,

2 ἢν ἐπιψεκάϲῃ, ἱδρωτικώτεροι γίνονται· κατ’ ἀρχάϲ, ταῦτα δυϲκριτώτερα
μέν 〈εἰϲιν〉 ἢ ἄλλωϲ· ἀτὰρ ἧϲϲον, εἰ μὲν εἴη διὰ ταῦτα, μὴ διὰ τῆϲ νούϲου
4 τὸν τρόπον. Οἱ καῦϲοι ἐν τῇϲι θερινῇϲι καὶ ἐν τῇϲιν ἄλλῃϲιν ὥρῃϲιν, ἐπι-
ξηραίνονται δὲ μᾶλλον θέρεοϲ.

Apparatus: 1 καύμαϲιν V I2 ut uid. H] καύμαϲι R 1 ἀνυδρίηϲ IRH] ἀνυδρίη V 1 ἀνίδρωτεϲ

V] ἀνιδρῶτεϲ IRH 1 τούτοιϲι δέ del. Ermerins et trsp. δέ pro ἐν : Ǩʥͫā ǽ͎ interpr. Gal. 1 δέ
IRH] δ’ V 2 κατ’ ἀρχάϲ V I (καταρχάϲ RH) hic scripsi sicut Gal. et aliqui interpretes olim
fecerunt] cum superioribus uerbis coniunxit Littré Smith 3 δυϲκριτώτερα V] δυϲκριτό-
IRH 3 μέν εἰϲιν scripsi ƦǍ˜̈ Gal.] μένει V IacR Smith : μένη IacH : μέν Littré Ermerins 3 ἢ
IRH LJ˳Ͳ Gal. Littré Smith] εἰ V 3 ἢ ἄλλωϲ· ἁτὰρ ἧϲϲον] del. Ermerins 3 μὲν scripsi ƦLJ͛ ȅʓͲ
āǛ΀ ȇʒʶ̑ Gal.] μὴ codd. edd. 3 μὴ scripsi ŰǨ˳ͫā ƛLJ̤ ȇʒʶ̑ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫć Gal.] ἀλλὰ codd. edd. (e
〈ΤΑΥΤ〉ΑΜ〈Η〉) 4 θερινῇϲι codd. ɼʉˏʉˀͫā łLJ͘ćΑҙҏā ǽ͎ Gal. in comm. ut u. l.] ƴĢLJʥͫā łLJ͘ćΑҙҏā ǽ͎ Gal.
(i.e. θερμῇϲι e ΘΕΡΙΝΗΙΣΙ).

1.2 In hot weather when it is dry, fevers are mostly devoid of sweat. But
under the same conditions, if there is little rain, there is more sweat. When
〈this happens〉 at the outset, the cases present some more difficult crises
than otherwise, but they were of less difficult 〈crises〉 if they came under
these conditions and not from the nature of the disease. Causus occur more
in summer; they also occur in other seasons, but are drier in summer.

To sum up, as one can see from the apparatus, Ermerins (1859–67) is the first
modern editor who pointed out that the text of the manuscripts means the op-
posite of what the author is trying to establish. For example, the author writes a
few lines below that cardialgia, which is caused by the autumnal season, is less
harmful than when the disease itself is of cardialgic nature.19 To remove the con-
tradiction, Ermerins makes a strong emendation and deletes the words ἢ ἄλλωϲ,
ἀτὰρ ἧϲϲον, whereas there is no contradiction in Galen’s lemma, about which,
of course, Ermerins knew nothing. As one can see in the apparatus presented
here, the Arabic allows one to restore the original reading in a very conserva-
tive way. In the first clause of line 3, one finds no negation in the Arabic text;
thus, one must read μέν instead of the μή of the Hippocratic manuscripts from
the Arabic ‘when it is due to this cause (āǛ΀ ȇʒʶ̑ ƦLJ͛ ȅʓͲ)’. But the second clause
is negative, as one can see from the Arabic: ‘and not 〈due〉 to the state of the
disease (ŰǨ˳ͫā ƛLJ̤ ȇʒʶ̑ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫć)’. The corresponding affirmative Greek clause
can explain easily a misreading of uncial characters: ‘μή (not)’ is confused with
‘ἀλλά (but)’.

19 Epidemics ii.1.3 HV (v. p. 72, lines 14–16 L; ed. Smith 1994, 18, lines 16–18).
82 Robert Alessi

Improving the Hippocratic Text

I would now like to comment on several examples to show how one may either
improve the Hippocratic text or our understanding of difficult passages by using
Ḥunayn’s Arabic text. My first example is related to the usefulness of Galen’s
commentary itself. It comes from a very difficult passage (Epidemics ii.1.7) about
segregations (apostásies) of humours, which reads as follows:

1.7 Ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ ἢ διὰ φλεβῶν, ἢ τόνων, ἢ δι’ ὀϲτέων, ἢ νεύρων, ἢ δέρμα-

2 τοϲ, ἢ ἐκτροπέων ἑτέρων· χρηϲταὶ δέ, αἱ κάτω τῆϲ νούϲου, οἷον κιρϲοί,
ὀϲφύοϲ βάρεα· ἐκ τῶν ἄνω, ἄριϲται δὲ αἱ μάλιϲτα κάτω καὶ αἱ κατωτέρω
4 κοιλίηϲ, καὶ προϲωτάτω ἀπὸ τῆϲ νούϲου, καὶ αἱ κατ’ ἔκρουν, οἷον αἷμα ἐκ
ῥινῶν, πύον ἐξ ὠτόϲ, 〈ἱδρώϲ,〉 πτύαλον, οὖρον, κατ’ ἔκρουν. Οἷϲι μὴ ταῦτα,
6 ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ, οἷον ὀδόντεϲ, ὀφθαλμοί, ῥίϲ[, ἱδρώϲ]. Ἀτὰρ καὶ τὰ ὑπὸ δέρμα
ἐϲ τὸ ἔξω ἀφιϲτάμενα φύματα, οἷον ταγγαὶ καὶ τὰ ἐκπυοῦντα, ἢ ἕλκοϲ, καὶ
8 τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐξανθήματα, ἢ λοποί, ἢ μάδηϲιϲ τριχῶν, ἀλφοί, λέπραι, ἢ τὰ
τοιαῦτα· ὅϲα ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ μέν εἰϲιν ἀθρόωϲ ῥέψαϲαι καὶ μὴ ἡμιρρόπωϲ, καὶ
10 ὅϲα ἄλλα εἴρηται, 〈κακόν,〉 ἢν [μὴ] ἀναξίωϲ τῆϲ περιβολῆϲ τῆϲ νούϲου,
οἷον τῇ Τημενέω ἀδελφιδῇ ἐκ νούϲου ἰϲχυρῆϲ, ἐϲ δάκτυλον ἀπεϲτήριξεν,
12 οὐχ ἱκανὸν δέξαϲθαι τὴν νοῦϲον, ἐπαλινδρόμηϲεν, ἀπέθανεν.

Testimonia: 3–4 ἄριϲται δέ-νούϲου] Cf. Gal. In Hippocratis Prognosticum comm. (ed.
Heeg 18b 216 4).

Apparatus: 1 Ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ IRH] -ϲηεϲ V 1 τόνων V I2rasRH] ȇˀˈͫLJ̑ i. e. νεύρων Gal.

1 νεύρων codd.] ĢLJ̒ćΑҙҏLJ̑ i. e. τόνων Gal. 1–2 δέρματοϲ V I2RH Gal.] δόγματοϲ I 2 ἐκτροπέων
codd. ɡʉ˳ͫā ɬͲ Gal.] om. Gal. in comm. ut u. l. 2 κιρϲοί] κριϲοί falso Artemidorus; uide
Gal. comm. 3 ὀϲφύοϲ V RH] ὀϲφῦοϲ Iras 3 ἐκ τῶν ἄνω codd.] trsp. post κάτω Langholf
e Gal. uide Medical Theories, p. 81 n. 7 3 ἄριϲται V RH] ἄριϲτα I: ἄριϲτοι Gal.P(P) 3 αἱ
(pr.) Gal.P apud Heeg ƦǍ˜̈ LJͲ ȅˀ͘Αā ɡˏ̵Αā ȅͫΒā Gal.] trsp. ante κάτω IRH Littré : om. V Smith.
3–4 καὶ αἱ–κοιλίηϲ] om. Gal.P apud Heeg 3 κατωτέρω scripsi ƦćĔ Gal.] κατωτάτω
codd. edd. 4 καὶ ante προϲωτάτω Iras 4 προϲωτάτω codd.] πορρωτάτω Gal.P(P) αἱ
πορρωτάτω Gal.P(VRF) Ƚ̀ǍͲ ǚˈ̑Αā ǽ͎ ƦLJ͛ LJͲć Gal. 4 ἀπὸ] om. Gal.P apud Heeg 4 νούϲου V
I2RH Gal.P(F)] νόϲ. I ut uid. 4 αἱ κατ᾽ ἔκρουν codd.] ǚ˳̤Αā Ǎ͎́ … ķǨʤ̈ LJͲć i. e. ἄριϲται iter.
Gal. ut uid. 4 κατ’ ἔκρουν, οἷον IRH] κατέκκρουνοι οἷον (sic) V 4 αἷμα V IpcRH] αἵμα
Iac 5 ῥινῶν scripsi] ῥινέων codd. 5 πύον V Ipc?RH] πῦον Littré : πύου Iac ut uid. 5 ἱδρώϲ
hic legit Gal. uide adn. 5 πτύαλον V IrasRH 6 ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ IRH] -ϲηεϲ V 6 ἱδρώϲ codd.
edd.] inclusi et supra reposui (uide supra l. 5) e Gal. 6 τὰ V H2] τὸ IRH 6 δέρμα V IrasRH
7 ἀφιϲτάμενα V Smith] trsp. ante ἐϲ τὸ IRH Littré 7 ταγγαί IRH] γαγγαί V ȇˀˈͫā ǚ˙ˈ̒
Gal. 7 ἐκπυοῦντα V IrasRH 7 ἢ codd. ć Gal. ut semper in hac sent.] οἷον Littré e cod. Par.
Gr. 2144 (= F) Smith 8 ἐξανθήματα I2ras 8 λοποί IRH] λόποι V Littré 8 μάδηϲιϲ V] μάδιϲιϲ
IRH 8 λέπραι Iras 9 ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ IRH] -ϲηεϲ V 9 μέν εἰϲιν V R] μὲν εἰϲὶν IH : ras. ante εἰϲιν
praebet I 9 ῥέψαϲαι V] ῥεύϲαϲαι IRH 9 ἡμιρρόπωϲ I] ἡμίρροποϲ V RH 10 εἴρηται V IRH]
εἰρέαται H2 in marg. 10 κακόν scripsi ƹǽ̶ ҨҞ͎ Gal.(M)] ȅ̵ ҨҞ͎ Gal.(E1) : ƹķĔǨͫLJʒ͎ Hallum,
Vagelpohl so ist sie doch Schädlich Pfaff : κακὰ Smith : καὶ codd. Littré 10 μὴ inclusi Gal.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 83

secutus sicut Smith ŰǨ˳ͫā Ģāǚ˙Ͳ ȇʶʥ̑ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫ ƦΒā uidelicet ἀναξίωϲ sine μή 11 Τημενέω IH
ťǍʉ͵LJͲLJ̒ Gal. Littré] Τημενίω R : Τιμενέω V Smith 11 ἀδελφιδῇ V R ut uid.] -ίδῃ I : ἀδελφίδι
Hras 11 νούϲου V] νόϲ. IRH 11 δάκτυλον V IH] δάκτολον R sed pr. -ο- puncto notatum
12 οὐχ V IH] οὐχ’ R 12 τὴν V IRpcH] τῆν Rac.

1.7 Segregations occur either through the vessels, or the sinews, or the
bones or the tendons or the skin, or other outlets. Those beneath the dis-
ease are good, such as varicose veins, heaviness in the loins. Coming from
above, the best are those that go furthest downwards, and those that go
beneath the belly and are most distant from the disease, and those that
come through outflow, as blood from the nose, pus from ear, urine, sweat,
through outflow. Those 〈patients〉 to whom this does not occur, have seg-
regations, for example in teeth, eyes, nose. There are also 〈swellings〉 under
the skin that turn outward, like scrofulas and suppurations, or ulcer and
similar eruptions, or peeling, loss of hair, white scaliness, leprosy, or the
like. Those segregations which occur massively and are not half-complete,
and all the others that have been discussed, are bad if they are inadequate
for the size of the disease, as with Temenes’ niece: from a strong disease,
〈segregation〉 settled in one toe, which was unable to receive the disease: it
ran back up and she died.

I would like to make just two remarks in this paper on this very difficult text.
The first remark is about the word ἱδρώϲ, ‘sweat’, which is given after ῥίϲ,
‘nose’, by the manuscripts but is found nowhere in Galen’s lemmas. Langholf,
who edited this passage in his book on Medical Theories in Hippocrates (1990, 81,
n. 7), rightly points out: ‘ἱδρώϲ VIHR: om. Arabs’, whereas Smith says nothing
about this variant. But, no editor has noticed that Galen could read this word in
his own manuscripts. We know from his commentary that he did not read ἱδρώϲ
after ῥίϲ but rather one line above in the list which is given from καὶ αἱ κατ’
ἔκρουν to οὖρον, κατ’ ἔκρουν, ‘and those that come through outflow, as blood
from the nose, pus from ear, urine, sweat, through outflow’ (lines 4–5 above). So,
the question is not whether we have to retain ἱδρώϲ or not, but where we have
to read it.
Galen gives us two important bits of information in his commentary. Firstly,
commenting on oἷϲι μὴ ταῦτα, ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ, οἷον ὀδόντεϲ, ὀφθαλμοί, ῥίϲ (line 6),
Galen says we should read ‘ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ ἄλλαι’ instead of ‘ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ’20 and
understand that those patients to whom the first kind of segregation does not
occur have other kinds of segregations. Then, Galen adds21:

20 In English: ‘we should read “other segregations” instead of “segregations”’.

21 See ii.1.88 HV.
84 Robert Alessi

Ǩ̇LJ̵ć ƈǨˈͫāć ƛǍʒͫā ɡʔͲ ŸǨˏʓʶʉ͎ Έ ҨҞʉ̵ ķǨʤ̈ LJ˳̑ ƦǍ˜̈ œćǨʦͫā ȶˈ̑ ƦΒā ƛLJ͘ ɷ͵ΑLJ͛ 22Ǩ͛ĕ LJͲ Ńǚʥ͎

What he mentioned happens as if he had said that some discharges occur

by means of something that flows and is excreted like urine, sweat and oth-
ers he mentioned along with them both …

So, Galen explicitly states that he could read ‘sweat’ in the first list of segrega-
tions. Nevertheless, it is rather striking that he says nothing about sweat while
commenting on this first list a few lines above23:

œćǨʦͫā žLJ˶̿Αā ɬͲ Ʉ˶̿ žLJ͇Ǩͫā ƦΒā ƛLJ͘ ɷ͵ΑLJ͛ ɬ̈Ǩʦ˶˳ͫā ɬͲ ķǨʤ̈ ķǛͫā Ƣǚͫā ɬͲ Έ ҨҞʔͲ ɑͫǛͫ ŁǨ̀ć
Ǩ̥ΐā Ʉ˶̿ ƛǍʒͫāć Ǩ̥ΐā Ʉ˶̿ ƈāǩʒͫāć 24Ǩ̥ΐā Ʉ˶̿ ɬʉ͵ĕΑҙҏā ɬͲ ķǨʤ̒ ǽʓͫā ƴǚ˳ͫāć Έ ҨҞʉ̵ ķǨʤ̈ ķǛͫā
25.ƦLJʉˈʉʒ̈́ ƦāǨͲΑā ɬ̈Ǜ΀ ƦΑā ȅˬ͇

He gave as an example for this blood that flows from the nostrils, as if he
had said that nosebleeds are one kind of discharge that flows. Pus that
runs from the ears is another kind, saliva is another kind, and urine is yet
another kind, these [last] two are natural.

It is very hard to be conclusive in such a delicate matter. I would note, however,

that Galen, when writing in both of these passages ƛLJ͘ ɷ͵ΑLJ͛, ‘as if he had said’, did
not intend to give us the full list of the segregations on which he was comment-
ing. This is obvious in the first passage quoted here. The second passage lets us
understand that saliva and urine are the last two elements of the list. Assuming
from the first passage, which I have quoted above, that ‘sweat’ is to be found in
the first list of segregations, I would thus move ἱδρώϲ of the Hippocratic manu-
scripts back to between πύον ἐξ ὠτόϲ and πτύαλον. This move is much easier if
we retain minhu of MS E1, which introduces a small break in Galenʼs list.
On the other hand, one may assume that because Galen only mentioned ἱδρώϲ
when commenting on the second list of segregations, this word was moved
there in the Hippocratic manuscripts. But the first list is about fluids: blood,
pus, saliva, urine, whereas we only find body parts in the second one: teeth,
eyes, nose. As in this latter case, segregations occur because humours settle in
parts of the body and not because they flow out. It would have been nonsense

22 Ǩ͛ĕ] E1: Ʉ̿ć M.

23 See ii.1.86 HV.
24 Post Ǩ̥ΐā add. ɷ˶Ͳ E1.
25 ƦLJʉˈʉʒ̈́ ƦāǨͲΑā] M: ɬʉˈʉʒ̈́ ɬ̈ǨͲΑā E1.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 85

to mention the fluid instead of the affected body part. Thus, as one can see from
Galen’s Commentary, ἱδρώϲ must be read in the first list.
My second remark concerns the reading κατωτέρω on the basis of Ḥunayn’s
dūna (see my apparatus ad loc.), instead of κατωτάτω given by the Hippocratic
manuscripts. The text reads as follows: ‘the best [sc. segregations] are those
that go furthest downwards, and those that go beneath the belly and are most
distant from the disease, and those that come through outflow (ἄριϲται δὲ [sc.
ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ] αἱ μάλιϲτα κάτω, καὶ αἱ κατωτέρω κοιλίηϲ, καὶ προϲωτάτω ἀπὸ
τῆϲ νούϲου, καὶ αἱ κατ’ ἔκρουν)’; see above, p. 82, line 3–4. Pfaff’s translation
of the Arabic as ‘unter dem Bauche (under the belly)’,26 which may induce us
to read κατωτέρω, does not help, since we know that the Arabic translators are
not always consistent in rendering the Greek comparatives and superlatives.
However, the end of this passage (ii. 1.7) provides further evidence of this; it
reads as follows in the Hippocratic manuscripts: ‘Βηχώδειϲ ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ αἱ μὲν
ἀνωτέρω τῆϲ κοιλίηϲ, οὐχ ὁμοίωϲ τελέωϲ ῥύονται (as for segregations 〈that
come〉 from coughing conditions, the ones, above the belly, do not cure com-
pletely the same way…)’. This is the text which one reads in all of the editions,
including Smith’s. But Ḥunayn includes more words which are obviously miss-
ing from the Hippocratic tradition27:

ƈǍ͎ ɬͲ 29ɷ˶Ͳ ƦLJ͛ LJͲć ɨˬ̵Αā 28Ǎ͎́ ɬ˅ʒͫā ƦćĔ ɬͲ ƛLJˈʶͫā ɡˬ͇ ȽͲ ƦǍ˜̒ ǽʓͫā łLJ̣āǨʦͫā ɬͲ ƦLJ͛ LJͲ
30ɑͫĕ ɡʔͲ ȅˬ͇ ɷʉ͎ ɼͲҨҞʶͫā ƛLJ˳͛ ȫʉˬ͎ ɬ˅ʒͫā

discharges that occur alongside coughing illnesses from below the belly
are more benign, and in those from above the belly, the recovery does not
occur so fully completely.

These additional words allow the modern editor to restore from the Arabic
the Hippocratic text as follows: Βηχώδειϲ ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ αἱ μὲν 〈κατωτέρω τῆϲ
κοιλίηϲ, ɨˬ̵Αā Ǎ͎́· αἱ δὲ〉 ἀνωτέρω τῆϲ κοιλίηϲ, οὐχ ὁμοίωϲ τελέωϲ ῥύονται. ‘As
for segregations that come from coughs, the ones, 〈below the belly, are good,
whereas the others,〉 above the belly, do not cure completely the same way’. In
this particular case, I think that we may very well understand ƦćĔ ɬͲ as parallel
to ƈǍ͎ ɬͲ, for which we have the Greek ἀνωτέρω, as κατωτέρω. If this is the case,
one would for the same reason have to read the same κατωτέρω from the Arabic
ƦćĔ instead of κατωτάτω in the first passage quoted.

26 Ed. Wenkebach/Pfaff 1934, 175, lines 31–2.

27 Book ii.1.100 HV.
28 Ǎ͎́] scripsi: ǽ͎́ E1, M, A2.
29 ɷ˶Ͳ] scripsi: LJ́˶Ͳ E1, M, A2.
30 ɑͫĕ ɡʔͲ] E1, M: ƛLJʔ˳ͫā ɑͫĕ A2.
86 Robert Alessi

I would like to express my gratitude to Oliver Overwien with whom I had the
opportunity to discuss this passage. According to him, we may also have here
a case of ‘contextual translation’.31 In other words, unable to understand the
meaning of κατωτάτω κοιλίηϲ in this passage, Ḥunayn may have interpreted it
as ‘from below the belly’ by transferring the easily understandable κατωτέρω
τῆϲ κοιλίηϲ, which he found in the Hippocratic text a few lines below. If so, one
would not change the text above. Admittedly, there is no final conclusion on
such a difficult matter, for one may also argue that κατωτάτω of the Hippocratic
manuscripts may have been ‘attracted’ from the comparative to the superlative
in a sentence where superlative forms are so abundant. Since the two branches
of the Hippocratic manuscripts derive from one common source and we know
that this tradition has in toto been influenced by Artemidorus Capito’s edition
and conjectures, Galen’s lemmas represent the only external witness which may
allow us to assess normalisations such as those provided by this example.

Interpretation of the Hippocratic text

Before concluding, I would like to point out other examples which illustrate
the usefulness of Ḥunayn’s Arabic text for understanding difficult passages
in the Epidemics. The Arabic version sometimes prevents us from proposing
unnecessary and misleading conjectures. One of the passages for which scholars
have tried to suggest many conjectures is the following one:32

2.9 Ἀπήμαντοϲ καὶ ὁ τοῦ τέκτονοϲ πατὴρ τοῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κατεαγέντοϲ,
2 καὶ Νικόϲτρατοϲ οὐκ ἐξέβηϲϲον· ἦν δὲ ἑτέρωθι κατὰ νεφροὺϲ ἀλγήματα·

2.9 Apemantus, the father of the carpenter and Nicostratus did not cough;
but they had pain elsewhere, in the kidney region.

Apparatus: 1 Ἀπήμαντοϲ H V ťǍ˅˶ͲLJ͎Αā Gal.(M)] Ἀποίμ. IR : ȫ˅ʑ˳͗ (sic) Gal.(E1)

1 κατεαγέντοϲ V] καταγ. IRH 2 ἐξέβηϲϲον] āǍˬˈʶ̈ Gal. ut uerbum simplex ut uid. 2 δὲ
IRH] δ’ V 2 ἑτέρωθι codd. Ǩ̥ΐā Ƚ̀ǍͲ Gal.(M) … ǽ˶͇ā Ǩ̥ā Ƚ̀āǍͲ Gal.(E1)] alii alia.

31 About Ḥunayn and ‘contextual translations’, see Overwien, below, pp. 156–69; see also
Overwien 2010, 61–2.
32 Epidemics ii.2.9. The story of these three patients has been abundantly discussed by
Nikitas 1968, 161–8; see also Langholf 1990, 182, 184.
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 87

One must also read this story in connection with Epidemics iv. 29 (v. p. 172, line 9
L; ed. Langholf 1977b, Per. 203–6) which is much more elaborate.33 I would only
point out here that all three patients of Epidemics iv.29 share common symp-
toms: Apemantus has ‘pains in the right flank (ἀλγήματα ἐν τῷ δεξιῷ κενεῶνι)’,
the carpenter34 is likely to have pain ‘in the same region (ἐκ τῆϲ αὐτῆϲ ἴξιοϲ)’;
as for Nicostratus, he too has something ‘on the right side (ἐκ δεξιῶν)’. In other
words, the physician is extremely specific in localising the part of the body
where pains — or segregations, which is roughly the same in his mind — occur.35
I would finally point out that all these patients feel pain in the same region of
their bodies, but either on the left or on the right side.
Given such precision, looking back at the text of Epidemics ii.2.9, ‘elsewhere
(ἑτέρωθι)’ in the phrase ‘they had pain elsewhere, in the kidney region (ἦν δ’
ἑτέρωθι κατὰ νεφροὺϲ ἀλγήματα)’ seems like a ‘riddle with no clue’, as Lang-
holf 1977b, 117 described it: ‘hetérōthi is perhaps not corrupt, but in any case ob-
scure; for solutions, see Nikitas 1968, 161-3. (ἑτέρωθι ist vielleicht nicht korrupt,
jedenfalls aber rätselhaft; Lösungsvorschläge bei Nikitas ...)’. Indeed, how can
one understand ἑτέρωθι, ‘on another side’, whereas the pain is κατὰ νεφρούϲ,
‘in the region of the kidneys’ with the plural νεφρούϲ? Among the numerous
conjectures scholars have made, one may quote ἑκατέρῳ (Ermerins 1859-67),

33 This passage reads as follows (translation by Smith 1994, 125, modified according to the
Greek text edited by Langholf 1977b, 154–5 quoted here):
Ἀπημάντῳ, ᾧ τὰ ἐν ἕδρῃ, ἀλγήματα ἐν τῷ δεξιῷ κενεῶνι, καὶ παρὰ τὸν ὀμφαλὸν (κάτωθεν
ὀλίγον, καὶ ἐκ δεξιοῦ). πρὸ τοῦ ἀλγήματοϲ προούρει αἱματῶδεϲ. ἔληξε τρίτῃ. καὶ ὁ τέκτων
ἐπὶ τὰ ἕτερα ἐκ τῆϲ αὐτῆϲ ἴξιοϲ. καὶ οὗτοϲ προούρει αἱματῶδεϲ. λήγοντοϲ δὲ ἀμφότεροι
ὑποϲτάϲειϲ εἶχον, καὶ τοῦτο τρίτῃ. ἐπεχλιαίνετο δὲ πλεῖϲτα Ἀπήμαντοϲ· ὁ ἕτεροϲ οὐκ
ἐνόει εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ τὰ ἀριϲτερά. καὶ Νικοϲτράτῳ προϲεγένετό τι τὰ ὕϲτατα ἐκ τῶν δεξιῶν
(κατώτερον ἢ οἷϲιν ἐν τοῖϲ ἀριϲτεροῖϲι). πρόμακρα δὲ πρὸ τοῦ κενεῶνοϲ μέχρι πρὸϲ
ὀμφαλὸν ἀμφοτέροιϲιν.
Apemantus, who had problems in his seat: pains in the right flank and beside the navel
(slightly below and from the right). Before the pain began, he made bloody urine. That
stopped on the third day. The carpenter had 〈pains〉 on the other side, from the corresponding
direction. He too made bloody urine. When it stopped, both had segregations, and that on
the third day. Apemantos was very hot; the other did not feel 〈hot〉, except on the left.
Nicostratus too ended up having something in the right (lower down than those who had it
in the left); both 〈groups〉 had protrusions in front of the flank up to the navel.
34 In my opinion, one may not distinguish the carpenter of Epidemics, Book Four from the
carpenter’s father of Epidemics, Book Two; on this point see the commentary of my forthcoming
edition; see also Nikitas 1968, 240–1.
35 The details given by the physician are numerous. See for instance, ‘beside the navel (παρὰ
τὸν ὀμφαλὸν)’; ‘slightly below (κάτωθεν ὀλίγον)’; ‘and from the right (καὶ ἐκ δεξιοῦ)’, with
additional effort in localising, as ‘slightly (ὀλίγον)’, shows; ‘the same place (ἐκ τῆϲ αὐτῆϲ
ἴξιοϲ)’ for the carpenter, but ‘towards the left (ἐπὶ τὰ ἕτερα)’; ‘on the right side’ for Nicostratus,
but ‘a little lower than the others’, etc.
88 Robert Alessi

ἑκατέρωθι (Nikitas 1968, 162), ‘on both sidesʼ.36 As for Smith, in his edition of
Epidemics, Book Two (1994, 34-5), while retaining ἑτέρωθι of the manuscripts, he
interprets the passage as follows: ‘but they had pains around the kidneys on both
sides’. In this latter case, the Greek text is not conjectural but the translation is.
Pfaff’s translation of this passage does not help modern editors improve their
understanding of the passage: ‘…but instead they had pains in their kidneys (…
sondern sie hatten dafür Schmerzen in den Nieren)’ (Pfaff in Wenkebach / Pfaff
1934, 204, lines 39–40). Langholf identified ‘dafür (instead)’ as a possible variant,
and interpreted it as pro eo, eius uicem. But, fortunately, Hallum’s and Vagel-
pohl’s edition of the Arabic text puts an end to any further discussion. There is
no variant in Galen’s lemma, and ἑτέρωθι must be read in the Greek text and
interpreted as ‘but they had pain elsewhere, I mean in the kidneys (ɨ́̑ ƦLJ͛ ɬ˜ͫć
ȅˬ˜ͫā ǽ͎ ǽ˶͇Αā Ǩ̥ΐā Ƚ̀ǍͲ ǽ͎ Ƚ̣ć)’ (ii.1.191 HV). In 1999, I myself proposed to translate
this passage as follows: ‘they experienced pain elsewhere, in the kidneys (ils
éprouvaient des douleurs ailleurs, aux reins)’, and stated in my commentary:37

pourquoi ne pas établir un lien entre cette section et la précédente, où il est

question de paralysie au bras droit et à la jambe gauche, et constater que
pour ces trois patients les douleurs, nous dit l’auteur, étaient situées «à un
autre endroit» (ἑτέρωθι), c’est-à-dire dans la région des reins?

why should one not establish a link between this section and the previous
one, where paralysis in the right arm and left leg is discussed; the author
states that in the case of these three patients, the pain is located ‘at a differ-
ent place (hetérōthi)’, that is to say in the kidneys?

Today, if I may add, this interpretation almost matches the Arabic text of the
MS E1, which is ‘pains elsewhere, that is to say [ʾaʿnī] in the kidneys (ǽ͎ Ƚ̣ć
ȅˬ˜ͫā ǽ͎ ǽ˶͇Αā Ǩ̥Αā Ƚ̀āǍͲ)’. Must we retain the reading of the MS E1 as Ḥunayn’s
attempt at explaining ἑτέρωθι in this particulary difficult passage? Does the
text of the Ambrosianus come from an emendation which Colville made about
words that he did not find in the Hippocratic text? I would incline to retain ʾaʿnī
of MS E1, even if one cannot be positive about this.
As a matter of fact, scholars have connected sections eight and nine of Epi-
demics ii.2,38 but no one has suspected that one may read them as one and the

36 Nikitas 1968, 162, n. 2 points out the difficulties which editors have had in translating this
passage: Foes: ‘alioqui in renes’; V. D. Linden: ‘alibi circa renes’; Littré: ‘ailleurs’; Kapferer: ‘auf
der einen oder der anderen Seite’. See the references in Nikitas 1968, 161–2.
37 Alessi 1999, 238.
38 See for example, Deichgräber 1933, 69 and Nikitas 1968, 63–4. Epid. ii.2.8 must be read
in turn in connection with Epid. vi.7.1, in which one finds an overall sketch of coughing
conditions accompanied by descriptions of possible outcomes. See in particular Manetti/
The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ 89

same section. By adding ‘that is to say (ʾaʿnī)’, if we posit that he did so, Ḥunayn
may have been aware that he gave us both his translation and his interpreta-
tion of this difficult passage. Unfortunately, the Arabic ‘they did not cough (lam
yasʿalū)’ does not allow us to distinguish between mere coughing conditions
(Gr. βήϲϲειν, cough) and coughing conditions with expectoration (Gr. ἐκβήϲϲειν,
‘cough out’), see my apparatus above. In this context, one should note that Ga-
len’s commentary on this section is poor and does not make any explicit distinc-
tion. Nevertheless, we must admit that Apemantus, the father of the carpenter,
and Nicostratus did cough, but without expectoration. Hence, according to the
sketch of Epidemics vi.7.1, they did not suffer from quinsy or paralysis. The
female patient of ii.2.8 (the preceding section), also did have a coughing condi-
tion (ἐκ τῶν βηχωδέων), but her cough was brief (βραχὺ βηξάϲῃ): hence she had
paralysis, but her paralysis was insignificant.39 Since the three patients of Epi-
demics ii.2.9 do not expectorate, paralysis does not occur, but instead they have
segregation of humours towards another part of the body, ἑτέρωθι.40 Whether
we follow the text of MS E1 or not, Ḥunayn’s interpretation shows that he per-
fectly understood the connection between the two sections, but was unable to
distinguish between the various forms of coughing, for Galen’s commentary did
not help him in this regard.

Roselli 1982, 142: ‘The normal criterion for the explanation of individual phenomena is an
increase from diseases caused by lighter coughing to more virulent and more serious forms (Il
criterio ordinatore dell’esposizione dei singoli fenomeni è un crescendo dalle malatie generate
da tosse più lievi alle forme più violente e più gravi)’.
39 I will not discuss how I established the text of ii. 2.8 for my forthcoming edition; it runs as
follows: ‘case of someone who had a brief cough: the right arm and the left leg were affected
after some coughing by a paralysis that is not worth mentioning (ᾗ ἡ χεὶρ ἡ δεξιή, ϲκέλοϲ δὲ
ἀριϲτερὸν ἐκ τῶν βηχωδέων, βραχὺ βηξάϲῃ· οὐκ ἄξιον λόγου παρελύθη παραπληγικῶϲ; cas
de celle qui eut une toux brève: le bras droit et la jambe gauche connurent, à la suite des toux, une
paralysie de peu d’importance)’. I based my interpretation on the Arabic: ‘she coughed little
which did not afflict her with as difficult a paralysis as that through hemiplegia (Έ ҙҏLJˈ̵ Ȉˬˈ̵ć
șͫLJˏͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ ȅˬ͇ ƹLJ̥Ǩʓ̵ā LJ́ʉˬ͇ ĢǛˈʓ̈ ȫʉͫ ΈāǨʉʶ̈)’ (ii.1.189 HV). See already Pfaff in Wenkebach/Pfaff 1934,
204, lines 6–8: ‘(…) und das (sc. das Mädchen) nur wenig hustete, gewann die Lähmung nicht
die Gewalt, wie bei den Seitenlähmung’.
40 One would think that such a vague word as ἑτέρωθι is rather striking from a physician
who tried to localise with great accuracy the body parts where segregations of humours
occurred; but accuracy is found in Epid. iv.29. As one can see, examples which even Galen
found unclear and unspecific could be in fact perfectly clear and elaborate for the physician,
his colleagues and disciples. This seems to me the strongest evidence that Books Two, Four
and Six of the Epidemics should not be read in isolation.
90 Robert Alessi


I intentionally commented in this paper on examples which illustrate different

points. The first two examples (Epidemics ii.1.1–2) showed how one can
assess accurately the influence of Artemidorus Capito on the extant Greek
manuscripts. In fact, every single time Galen reports a particular reading in
Capito’s edition, we find it in all the extant manuscripts of Epidemics, Book
Two.41 So, for the modern editor, the great benefit of such improvements in the
Hippocratic text not only brings a better sense to particular passages but also
allows us to understand that this difficult book is far from being unstructured.
As seen above, with the help of Galen’s lemmas, one can observe that the author
examines in Epidemics ii.1.1–2 the influence of the environment on the course of
diseases. Actually, he continues to examine this environmental influence in the
first five sections of Epidemics ii.1, before explaining, in sections six and seven,
the development of the disease itself, paying particular attention to fevers and
segregations of humours as critical phenomena.
In the case of difficult passages such as Epidemics ii.1.7, Ḥunayn’s Arabic
text undoubtedly allows us to improve the received Hippocratic text by using
Galen’s lemmas, as the example of the misplaced word ἱδρώϲ illustrates. Fur-
thermore, this same example shows us how the Arabic stimulates discussions
that may lead to new readings (for example, κατωτέρω instead of the transmit-
ted κατωτάτω), or how one can restore words that are obviously missing in the
Hippocratic text.
My final example shows that at times Ḥunayn understood Galen and Hippoc-
rates extremely well. This aspect may be the most important one: translating
is also interpreting. The Arabic translator possesses the distinction of not only
giving us today a translation of the Greek, but also of revealing the proper un-
derstanding of a great scholar. He helps the modern editor to understand how
to approach difficult passages, both when he has to make conjectures of his own
and when he has to retain the text given by the Greek tradition.

41 Of course, this influence has to be examined for every single book of the Hippocratic
corpus, since the manuscripts are not necessarily homogeneous. In Galen’s Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Two, Capito is mentioned five times: ii.1.13 HV ≈ Epid. ii.1.1;
ii.1.82 HV ≈ Epid. ii.1.7; ii.2.86 HV ≈ Epid. ii.2.20; ii.3.61 HV ≈ Epid. ii.3.7; and ii.3.90 HV ≈
Epid. ii.3.10. Apart from the orthographic reading κιρϲοί/κριϲοί in Epidemics ii.1.7 (see my
apparatus above p. 82), the Hippocratic manuscripts are always consistent with Capito’s
emendations. I will discuss this further in my forthcoming edition of Epidemics, Book Two.

Syriac and Arabic Epidemics


The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its

Grigory Kessel

In piam memoriam Raineri Degen

Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq (d. 873) reports that Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’
‘Epidemics, Books One, Three and Six, was translated into Syriac by Job of Edessa
(ʾAyyūb al-Ruhāwī, d. c. 835).2 Unfortunately, this Syriac translation does not
survive.3 The late antique Alexandrian commentaries on the Epidemics, Book
Six, have only partially come down to us in their original Greek. Moreover,
before now, there were no extant Syriac translations of these commentaries.4
This is not an uncommon phenomenon in the field of Syriac studies, as so many
translations perished, owing to the vagaries of transmission. But, it rarely hap-
pens that one discovers a completely unknown Syriac translation of a late an-
tique medical text. I shall argue, however, in this article that a Syriac translation
of an otherwise lost commentary on the Hippocratic Epidemics, Book Six, does
survive in a unique manuscript.
First, I shall review the scholarship on this manuscript and describe it, thereby
revealing some peculiar characteristics of the text, henceforth called the Syriac
Epidemics. Then, I shall take one lemma from the Hippocratic text as an exam-
ple, and carefully examine the commentaries on it by Galen and John of Alexan-
dria, in order to compare them to the Syriac Epidemics. This allows me to reach
positive conclusions: I shall identify the author who wrote the Greek source

1 I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Peter E. Pormann (Warwick) who

invited me to contribute first to the conference and then to the volume; at the final stages, he
was kind enough to offer constructive criticism and greatly helped improve the text. I should
like to express warm thanks to Sebastian Brock (Oxford) and Ivan Garofalo (Siena) who read
a first draft of the paper and made some important corrections. All imperfections and errors
are solely mine. I gained access to the manuscript discussed here through a digitised microfilm
from the Arthur Vööbus Collection of Syriac Manuscripts on Film, owned by the Lutheran
School of Theology at Chicago and administered by the Oriental Institute of the University
of Chicago. I am deeply grateful to Stewart Creason (Oriental Institute, Chicago) who readily
assisted me in this matter.
2 See Pormann 2008a, 252–7.
3 See Degen 1981 and Kessel forthcoming.
4 See Degen 1972, Gignoux 2001, Habbi 2001.
94 Grigory Kessel

of the Syriac Epidemics, as well as the translator who rendered it into Syriac.
The results of my investigation will have significant consequences not only for
Syriac studies, but also for the history of medicine in late antiquity, and for the
textual criticism of the Hippocratic Epidemics, Book Six, and the commentaries
on it by Galen and John of Alexandria.

The manuscript

The unique manuscript of the Syriac Epidemics—Damascus (Maʿarat Ṣīdnāyā),

Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, MS 12/25 (henceforth MS D)—was virtually
unknown to European scholarship before 1978. Arthur Vööbus (d. 1988),
a renowned scholar of Syriac studies, first announced his discovery of the
manuscript during a special lecture in Toronto.5 He discovered that the
manuscript contained parts six through eight of Galen’s Commentary on the
Epidemics, book six.6 Vööbus highlighted the importance of the finding by
stating that7

… in this manuscript we have before us a very precious monument: in it

the very first record of the Graeco-Syro translation of the medical works by
such meritorious translator as Job of Edessa has come into our possession.

Thus, Vööbus unequivocally concludes that MS D contains a Syriac version of

Galen’s commentary that was produced by Job of Edessa, an active exponent of
the Greek-Arabic translation movement of the ninth century.8 Since we have
very little evidence of the intermediary role which Syriac translations played
in the transmission of Greek medical knowledge into Arabic,9 one can appreci-
ate Vööbus’ enthusiasm for such an extensive text as Galen’s Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Six.10 The absolute certainty of Vööbus’ identifi-
cation arouses, nevertheless, certain doubts, especially when one learns that he
initially described the medical treatise very differently. Vööbus did not identify
the translation as containing Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ,
Book Six, but rather as a work of the previously unknown Syriac author Šemʿōn
of Bēṯ Hūzāyē.11
5 For the life and career of Vööbus, see Kasemaa 2007.
6 Vööbus 1978, 3.
7 Vööbus 1978, 6.
8 On him, see Ullmann 1970, 101–2 and Sezgin 1970, 230–1.
9 For the possible reasons, see Brock 2004b, 10–11.
10 Vööbus reiterated his identification in Vööbus 1988, 439.
11 Fischer 1977, plate 24, contains a reproduction of MS D, fols. 28b–29a; see also Vööbus
1978, 2.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 95

Vööbus was not the only one who managed to get access to and examine
MS D. The manuscript appears to be mentioned for the first time in Anton Baum-
stark’s (d. 1948) Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, where the learned German
scholar assumed that the codex contained the Syriac version of the Hippocratic
Epidemics.12 The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Iġnāṭiyūs Afrām I Barṣūm (d. 1957),13
one of the most educated and prolific Syriac scholars of the twentieth century,
unambiguously attributed the medical treatise to an East Syriac monastic author
of the seventh century, Šemʿōn d-Ṭaibūṯēh.14 Šemʿōn d-Ṭaibūṯēh is documented
as having written a medical text which until very recently was considered to be
lost.15 Rainer Degen examined a few available fragments and concluded that the
manuscript contains a Syriac version of parts six (incomplete), seven and eight
of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Six, and was copied by
Šemʿōn of Bēṯ Hūzāyē sometime in the tenth century.16 Finally, one may men-
tion two available catalogue descriptions of the manuscript that were compiled
by the Syrian Orthodox bishop Yūḥannā Dōlobānī (d. 1969).17 In the first cata-
logue, the manuscript is listed among the manuscripts belonging to the Syrian
Orthodox St. Mark’s Monastery Library in Jerusalem.18 In the other catalogue,
the codex is described as an item belonging to the holdings of the Patriarchal
Library in Ḥimṣ.19 On the basis of the colophon, Dōlobānī argues that a Mar
Šemʿōn of al-ʾAhwāz was the author.
The summary of the proposed identifications is as follows: the manuscript
contains 1) a Syriac version of Hippocrates’ Epidemics (Baumstark); 2) a medi-
cal treatise of the East Syriac author Šemʿōn d-Ṭaibūṯēh (Afrām I Barṣūm); 3) a
medical treatise of Šemʿōn of Bēṯ Hūzāyē (original identification of Vööbus); 4)
a Syriac version of a part of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’,
Book Six (Vööbus, Degen) that was produced by the East Syriac translator Job of
Edessa (final opinion of Vööbus) and copied by Šemʿōn of Bēṯ Hūzāyē (Degen); 5)
a medical treatise on the Epidemics written for Šemʿōn of al-ʾAḥwāz (Dōlobānī).
Similarly, scholars dated the manuscript differently, with opinions ranging from

12 Baumstark 1922, 353, additional note to p. 231, n. 15 [Syriac version of Hippocrates].

13 On him, see Macuch 1976, 441–5.
14 Barṣūm 1987, 161, n. 4. The first Arabic edition appeared in 1943 and an English translation
in Barṣūm 2003; on p. 187, n. 2, he indicates that the manuscript has been allocated the number
234 in the library.
15 I am currently preparing a study on the literary heritage of Šemʿōn d-Ṭaibūṯēh, in which
I shall discuss all available evidence and partially reconstruct the content of Šemʿōn’s medical
16 Degen 1981, 151; Degen 1979, 1986 dealt with the Arabic version of the Hippocratic
Epidemics without, however, discussing MS D or the Syriac Epidemics.
17 See Macuch 1976, 446–9 for information on Yūḥannā Dōlobānī.
18 Dōlobānī 1994, 430–1 [no. 234]. The catalogue was originally compiled in Syriac by
Dōlobānī approx. in the 1920s but remained unpublished until its facsimile edition in 1994.
19 Bahnām 1959, 167; Dōlobānī et al. 1994, 607 [no. 12/25].
96 Grigory Kessel

the eighth to eleventh centuries: 1) AD 705 (Afrām I Barṣūm); 2) AG20 1017

[AD 706] (Dōlobānī’s earlier catalogue); 3) AG 1024 [AD 712] (Dōlobānī’s later
catalogue), 4) ca. tenth century (Degen); and 5) AD 1024 (Vööbus). The conflict-
ing opinions about the manuscript can only be resolved by studying it more
Until the 1950s, MS D was preserved in the library of St. Mark’s Monastery in
Jerusalem, where it was consulted by Baumstark, Afrām I Barṣūm and Dōlobānī
for his earlier catalogue. Sometime in the 1950s, it was transferred to the Patri-
archal Library, first in Ḥimṣ and later in Damascus, where it is kept at present.
It is in the Patriarchal Library that Dōlobānī accessed it for his later catalogue,
and Vööbus photographed it.22 A modern copy of the MS D exists, although I
was unable to see it.23

MS D was written on parchment and originally consisted of 104 folios in eleven

quires; the first quire is lost at present. The text is arranged in one column and
the number of lines per page varies from thirty-four to thirty-nine. The manu-
script is ruled with lead. All the quires are made of five bifolia and quire marks
appear regularly on the first and last page. The original foliation is preserved
throughout.24 The characteristics of its neat and regular hand suggest that it
belongs to the earliest manuscripts written in East Syrian script during the sev-
enth and eighth centuries.25 The codex is in a satisfactory condition of preserva-
tion and bears some traces of restoration.
There is one colophon in the manuscript. It runs as follows (fol. 104b):

20 AG or ‘Anno Graecorum (in the year of the Greeks)’ refers to the Seleucid era that began
on 1 October, 312 BC.
21 The following description is based upon the black-and-white microfilm made by Vööbus
and thus depends on its (sometimes imperfect) quality. For instance, it is not possible to
distinguish clearly a red ink that was normally used in the Syriac manuscripts for marking the
rubrics and titles. Therefore, a direct inspection of the codex is still necessary.
22 Desreumaux 1991 does not mention that MS D was formerly in the library of St. Mark’s
monastery in Jerusalem, whereas a few of the transferred manuscripts are nevertheless
mentioned. On fols. 2a and 103b, however, there is a seal indicating that the manuscript
belonged to this library.
23 Athanasius Y. Samuel, the late Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the U.S.
and Canada, possessed this manuscript (Degen 1972, 121, n. 48) and it is now preserved in the
Archdiocese of the Eastern United States, Teaneck, New Jersey (personal communication of
George A. Kiraz).
24 I deduce the absence of the first quire relying on quire marks and foliation. In the present
study, I refer to the original folio numbers.
25 See plates 160 and 163 in Hatch 1946.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 97

[…] ¾å…ĂÍ܃ ¿ÿؚ½âƒ

K úýñÿ⃠¾ÙâÊÙñ~ƒ ¾ÁÿÜ €ÿÝãß äàü
‰ûèƒ ¾ÙÓÏ ffjde áî Ā÷å Ìæâ J äÐòâJ †~ ÌæâJ €ÿÜJ †~ Àƒ… ¿ÿÙùæòÁ Àûøƒ
J çãàÜ
ǿ]ǿúæñ €ÿ܃
N ‹ÍÂÁ ¾åÌß ç؃ ‹…†ÿØ~ o¿ÿßÍÅÄ áîƒ ¾éÙÄ ÞØ~ ‹…ÍÙåÍÐå ¿Ìß~ƒ
[¿ÿæØ]Êâ çüÍü ç⠾؇†…
K ÿÙÁ ç⠐Íïãü ‹ûãß ¾ÙâÊÙñ~ƒ Àƒ… ~[ÿØ

The writing of the Book of Epidemics, meaning ‘arrivals of diseases (mēṯyāṯā

d-ḵūrhānā)’, has been finished.26 […] Everyone who will read this volume
or will copy from it, or will collate with it, let him pray on behalf of Baboy27
the sinner, who wrote [it]. Let God have mercy upon him as [He had
upon] the robber on Golgotha. The very same Baboy wrote that volume of
Epidemics for Mār Šemʿōn of Bēṯ Hūzāyē from the city Šūšan.

Thus, the colophon provides us only with the name of the scribe (Baboy) and the
person who commissioned it, Mār Šemʿōn, probably a bishop of the region Bēṯ
Hūzāyē in Ḫūzistān.28 No date is provided.
The various dates proposed for this manuscript stem from three notes on
the last page that contain the following dates: October 1017; November 1020,
November 1024. The dating depends on the era to which these dates refer. The
Syriac Christians generally used the Seleucid era, called the ‘era of the Greeks’.29
According to this era, the three dates would correspond to AD 705, AD 708 and
AD 712. Vööbus contested this interpretation on paleographical grounds and
argued that the given dates refer to the Christian era.30 Vööbus’ view cannot
be accepted for two reasons. Firstly, as it was said earlier, the handwriting of
the manuscript clearly belongs to the period between AD 600 and AD 768. Sec-
ondly, the Christian era only began to be commonly used in East Syriac (mainly
Chaldean) manuscripts in the sixteenth century.31 Therefore, both internal and
external evidence exclude the possibility that the dates provided in the notes
refer to the Christian era.
Therefore, MS D must have been produced before AD 705 and the palaeo-
graphical evidence suggest that this happened not long before this date. In its
original with the missing quire, MS D contained the commentary of the second
half of Epidemics, Book Six. Furthermore, some characteristics of MS D, such as
handwriting, punctuation, arrangement of the text, are similar to those found in

26 See Sokoloff 2009, 704 for this rendering.

27 The name is enciphered by means of ancient numerical symbols 〈10-6-2-2〉 (I owe this
explanation to Sebastian Brock), for which see Duval 1881, xv and 14–5.
28 None of the known bishops of that ecclesiastical province (Fiey 1993, 83–5) can be
identified with the given Šemʿōn.
29 Bernhard 1969, 64–98.
30 Fischer 1977, plate 24.
31 Kaufhold 2008, 314.
98 Grigory Kessel

London, British Library, MS Add. 14661 (henceforth MS Add.). This manuscript

dates back to the sixth or seventh century and contains Sergius of Rēšʿaynā’s
Syriac translation of Galen’s Powers of Simple Drugs.32 Although the manuscript
was brought to the British Library from the Syrian Orthodox monastery in Wādī
l-Naṭrūn, Egypt, some of its paleographical and codicological characteristics are
very similar to those of early East Syriac manuscripts.33 Therefore, these two
manuscript represent, in a way, the earliest period in which scribes produced
manuscripts containing translations of Greek medical texts. This begs the ques-
tion of who authored the Syriac Epidemics in MS D and how.

Text: Preliminary observations

Firstly, an examination of the Syriac text reveals that it is a lemmatic commentary
on the Hippocratic Epidemics, Book Six. Each section starts with a lemma that
is marked by red ink; sometimes, special marks appear in the margins. The
extant text approximately begins with the commentary on lemma vi. 5.3 and
continues until the last lemma at end of Book Six.34 Thus, the surviving Syriac
text represents parts five through eight of Epidemics, Book Six.
Superficially, the text gives the impression that it is a Syriac translation of Ga-
len’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Six.35 Indeed, a comparison
of the two texts clearly shows that Syriac Epidemics is based upon Galen’s com-
mentary and occasionally follows it almost word for word. Nevertheless, the
Syriac Epidemics cannot be a translation of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’
‘Epidemics’, Book Six, for its interpretation, although based on Galen’s commen-
tary, presents an independent treatise. In other words, the Syriac Epidemics is in
a certain sense a supercommentary, a commentary on Galen’s commentary. One
frequently comes across such explicit references to Galen’s text, such as ‘Galen
said/says ( | )’36; ‘Galen accepts ( )’37; ‘Galen rejects
( 38
)’ . Occasionally, the opinion of Galen is commended: ‘Galen said
well ( )’39 and ‘Galen offers a profound interpretation
( )’40. The absolute authority of Galen for the author
32 See Renan 1852, 324; Wright 1870–72, iii. 1187; Sachau 1870b, 73; Merx 1885, 237; Bhayro
2005, 152.
33 For the history of this library, see Evelyn-White 1932, 439–58 and Brock 2004a.
34 That is, it discusses the text in v. p. 316, line 3–p. 356, line 15 L.
35 Ihm 2002, 102–3 (§ 70).
36 Fol. 14b, 15b and passim.
37 Fol. 21b and passim.
38 Fol. 14a and passim.
39 Fol. 95b.
40 Fol. 88a.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 99

is confirmed by the use of such expressions as ‘our interpreter Galen (

)’41 or merely ‘the interpreter ( )’.42 The Syriac text is, therefore,
based on Galen’s Commentary on Epidemics, Book Six, but who is its author?
To answer this question and to investigate the nature and scope of the Syr-
iac Epidemics, we shall now take one Hippocratic lemma, and discuss in turn
how Galen, John of Alexandria, and the author of the Syriac Epidemics each
approached their task. By comparing these three commentaries, we will shed
new light on their interrelationship and interdependence. The choice of these
three commentaries is determined by the fact that they survive; it would also
have been interesting to compare Palladius’ approach, but unfortunately, his
commentary on this lemma is lost. To facilitate the discussion, I have divided the
Hippocratic lemma as well as the commentaries into corresponding sections. In
my discussion, I shall refer to them by the letter of the text: H for Hippocrates;
G for Galen’s commentary; J for John; and S for Syriac Epidemics. This letter is
followed by the section number. The Hippocratic lemma in question already
poses some difficulties of interpretation43:

[1] Ὀδμαὶ τέρπουϲαι, [2] λυποῦϲαι, [3] πιμπλῶϲαι, [4] πειθόμεναι· [5] με-
ταβολαὶ, ἐξ οἵων οἵωϲ ἔχουϲιν.
[1] Odours: pleasant, [2] noxious, [3] filling, [4] persuading. [5] Alterations,
from the sort of things which they are.

The lemma occurs in the context of a list of things to which the physician
should pay heed. At the beginning of the paragraph, we merely have the enig-
matic statement: ‘Things from the small tablet (τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ϲμικροῦ πινακιδίου)’.
Paragraph seven where this lemma occurs and the next two appear to form a
homogenous section, presumably once written on this ‘small tablet’.44 The text
basically consists of a list of words in the nominative, with very few verbs.
Therefore, the exact sense often remains incomprehensible. We have such an
instance in this lemma: the word ‘peithómenai’, literally ‘persuaded’ (H 4), has
already puzzled ancient interpreters and remains a crux even for modern edi-
tors.45 Apart from this difficultly, the overall sense appears to be clear: smells
may have various effects (H 1–4); and one should examine how and why these
smells change (H 5).

41 Fol. 13a.
42 Fol. 40a.
43 Hippocrates, Epidemics, vi. 8.7 (v. p. 344, line 19–p. 346, line 1 L); translation by Smith
1994, 279 (slightly modified).
44 Manetti/Roselli 1982, 167–8.
45 This sentiment also is reflected in the translation of Manetti/Roselli, 169 and 171): ‘Odori:
che arrecano godimento, che arrecano dolore, che saziano …: I cambiamenti, da che cosa, come
100 Grigory Kessel

This lemma gave rise to various interpretations, the most influential one be-
ing by Galen; it only survives in Arabic translation46:

.ɼ˙͎āǍ˳ͫLJ̑ Ƚ˙̒ ǽʓͫāć Α ҨҞ˳̒ ǽʓͫāć ķĕnj̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫāć Ǩʶ̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘

[1] «ķĕnj̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̈āćǨͫā» LJͲΑāć [2] .ĕǛˬ̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā LJ́̑ ǽ˶ˈʉ͎ «Ǩʶ̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» LJͲΑā :ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƛLJ͘
ƹLJʶ˶ͫā ɡˬ͇ ǽ͎ ɬ̈Ǩʦ˶˳ͫā ɬͲ LJ΀Ǎ̑Ǩ˙̈ ƦΑā ƹLJʒ̈́Αҙҏā ƴĔLJ͇ ɬͲ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā ɡʔͲ ɼ́̈Ǩ˜ͫā Ț̈āćǨͫā LJ́̑ ȅ˶ˈ͎
ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā LJ́̑ ȅ˶ˈ͎ «Α ҨҞ˳̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» LJͲΑāć [3] .ɨ̤Ǩͫā Ɏ˶̥ LJ́ͫ ƛLJ˙̈ć ȫˏ˶ʓͫā LJ́ʉ͎ ȫʒʥ̈ ǽʓͫā
ȉʥʒͫā ǽ͎ āǍ̀LJ̥ ǚ͘ć [4] .Ǩ˳ʦͫā ɼʥ̇āĢć ĢLJʥͫā ǩʒʦͫā ɼʥ̇āĢć Ɏ̈Ǎʶͫā ɼʥ̇āĢ ɡʔͲ ćǛˉ̒ ƦΑā LJ́͵ΑLJ̶ ɬͲ
Ƚ˙̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» ɷͫǍ͘ ȅ˶ˈͲ ƦΑā āǍ˶ͅ ɨ́͵Αā ɑͫĕć .ǽ΀ Ț̇āćǨͫā ķΎ Αā «ɼ˙͎āǍ˳ͫLJ̑ Ƚ˙̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» ɬ͇
ɬ˜̈ ɨˬ͎ «Ǩʶ̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» Ǩ͛ĕ ǚ͘ ƦLJ͛ ĕΒāć ṳ̈̌āć ȅ˶ˈͲ «Ǩʶ̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» ɷͫǍ͘ ȅ˶ˈͲć «ɼ˙͎āǍ˳ͫLJ̑
LJ˳͵Βā «ɼ˙͎āǍ˳ͫLJ̑ Ƚ˙̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» ɷͫǍ͘ ƦΑā ƢǍ͘ ƛLJ͘ ɑͫǛͫć [5] .ȅ˶ˈͲ «ɼ˙͎āǍ˳ͫLJ̑ Ƚ˙̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā» Ǩ͛Ǜͫ
.Ƚˏ˶̒ ǽʓͫā Ț̇āćǨͫā ɷ̑ ȅ˶͇

Hippocrates said: Smells which please, smells which irritate, which fill and
which are suitable.
[1] Galen said: By ‘smells which please’, [Hippocrates] means the smells
which are delightful. [2] By ‘smells which irritate’, he meant repulsive
smells such as the smells that the physicians usually bring near the
nostrils in the case of women’s diseases that cause shortness of breath; this
[condition] is called ‘uterine suffocation [ḫanq al-raḥim]’. [3] By ‘smells
which fill’, he meant smells which by their nature are nourishing such as
the smell of barley-mush, the smell of the hot bread, and the smell of the
wine. [4] They became engrossed in trying to find out which smells are ‘the
smells which are suitable’. For they thought that his words ‘smells which
are suitable’ had the same meaning as his words ‘smells which please’.
Since he had already mentioned the ‘smells which please’, there was no
sense in mentioning ‘smells which are suitable’. [5] Therefore some people
said that by saying smells ‘which are suitable’ he meant only those smells
which are useful.

Galen only comments on H 1–4 here. Since H 5 is missing, scholars have ques-
tioned what sort of Hippocratic text Galen used. Manetti and Roselli have ar-
gued that this omission of H 5 already occurred in the text that Galen used.
Moreover, the Arabic version of Galen’s commentary varies from the Greek
text of the Hippocratic work as it has come down to us. For H 1–3, the Arabic
version appears to reflect the Greek original, but H 4 poses some problems. Is

46 Galen, Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ vi.8 (Madrid, Escorial, MS árabe 805,

fol. 167b, lines 17–26; cf. p. 443, lines 10–28 Pf).
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 101

‘which are suitable [allatī taqaʿu bi-l-muwāfaqati]’ an adequate rendering for

the difficult ‘persuading (peithómenai)’?47 Galen (G 4) already noted that this
term aroused some controversy in antiquity. Apart from the difficult word ‘per-
suading (peithómenai)’, Galen comments on this lemma in a fairly succinct way.
He gives a number of synonyms for the various smells (G 1–3). In G 2, he gives a
concrete medical example for irritating smells: they are used in treating uterine
suffocation. And in G 3, he explains the meaning of filling smells as those as-
sociated with certain foodstuffs.
Interestingly, John of Alexandria, a medical author from late antiquity, both
depends on Galen but also significantly goes beyond him48:

[0.1] Ὀδμαὶ τέρπουϲαι, [0.3] πιμπλᾶϲαι, [0.4] πειθόμεναι· [0.5] μεταβολαί,

ἐξ οἵων ὡϲ ἔχουϲιν.
[1.1] Περὶ ὀϲμῶν ἐνταῦθα διαλέγεται ὁ Ἱπποκράτηϲ. [1.2] ἀλλὰ δεῖ
ἀναμνῆϲαι τὸν τελειότερον τῶν πολλάκιϲ ἡμῖν εἰρημένων· εἴρηται γάρ,
ὅτι ϲύγκειται τὸ ἡμέτερον ϲῶμα ἐκ τῶν ϲτερεῶν, ἐξ ὑγρῶν, ἐκ πνευμά-
των, καὶ πνευμάτων 〈ψυχικῶν〉, φυϲικῶν, ζωτικῶν· ὅτι τὰ ϲτερεὰ ἐκ ϲτε-
ρεῶν τρέφεται, τὰ δὲ ὑγρὰ ἐκ τῶν ὑγρῶν, αὔξεται δὲ τὰ πνεύματα ἐκ τῶν
πνευμάτων καὶ ἀναρρώννυται. [1.3] χρείαν οὖν ἔχομεν εὐώδων καὶ δυϲώ-
δων πνευμάτων, ἀλλὰ πρὸϲ τὴν διάφορον διάθεϲιν τὴν ὑποκειμένην. [1.4]
ψυχροῦ γάρ, εἰ τύχοι, πάθουϲ ὑποκειμένου τότε βούγλωϲϲα, τότε λιβα-
νωτὸν ῥαίνω, τότε κλάδουϲ ἐλαίαϲ προϲφέρω ὀϲφραίνεϲθαι καὶ κλά-
δουϲ δρυΐνουϲ καὶ ἁπλῶϲ πάντα τὰ θερμά. [1.5] εἰ δὲ καῦϲόϲ ἐϲτι καὶ ζέϲιϲ
πολλὴ καὶ διακαὴϲ ὁ πυρετόϲ, τότε μυρϲίναϲ, τότε ῥόδα προϲφέρω, τότε
καὶ τὴν γῆν ὕδατι ῥαίνω, πολλάκιϲ δὲ καὶ ἀμπέλων ἕλικαϲ ὑποϲτρων-
νύω. [1.6] ὅτι γὰρ τοῦτο ἀληθέϲ, κέχρημαι πολλάκιϲ τοῖϲ εὐώδεϲιν διὰ
τὸ ἀναρρῶϲαι τὰϲ δυνάμειϲ. οὕτω πολλάκιϲ ἐπὶ τῶν λιποθυμούντων τὰ
εὐώδη προϲφέρω καὶ ἀναρρώννυμι τὰϲ δυνάμειϲ· ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐνταῦθα ἢ
θερμὰ εὐώδη ἢ ψυχρὰ εὐώδη πρὸϲ τὴν διάφορον αἰτίαν τὴν ποιήϲαϲαν τὴν
[2.1] Τί δὲ λέγει; ὅτι ‘ἐμπιπλᾶϲαι’ ἀντὶ τοῦ ‘πλήρωϲιν ἐργαζόμεναι’. [2.2.]
πολλάκιϲ γὰρ γίνεται διαφόρηϲιϲ οὐ μόνον πνευμάτων, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑγρῶν,
καὶ προϲφέρω οἶνον. καὶ οὗτοϲ ὁ οἶνοϲ, καθὸ μέν ἐϲτιν οἶνοϲ, ὑγρὸϲ καὶ
ποιεῖται ἀναπλήρωϲιν τῶν ὑγρῶν, καθὸ δὲ εὐώδηϲ, ἀναρρώννυϲι τὰ πνεύ-
ματα. [2.3] δεῖ δὲ ὑμᾶϲ εἰδέναι κἀκεῖνο τὸ βαθύτερον, ὅτι οὐ μόνον τῶν εὐώ-
δων χρείαν ἔχομεν ἐν τοῖϲ ἔργοιϲ τῆϲ τέχνηϲ, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν δυϲώδων. [2.4]

47 ‘Welche passen’ in Pfaff’s translation.

48 John of Alexandria, Commentary on ‘Epidemics’, Book Six (ed. Duffy 1997, 100, line 29–
104, line 9); translation, with slight modifications, by Duffy as well. The final section (4) is
lacking in the Greek text, but present in the Latin translation (ed. Pritchet 1975, 404; 148d, lines
102 Grigory Kessel

οὕτω γοῦν ἐὰν χόριον ἀναδράμῃ καὶ μὴ κενοῦται, τὸ ἔμβρυον δυϲχερῶϲ

ἐξάγεται. τότε τρίχαϲ καίομεν ἢ ῥάκοϲ ἢ ἕτερόν τι τοιοῦτον δυϲῶδεϲ, καὶ
παρέχομεν τῇ γυναικὶ ὀϲφραίνεϲθαι, ἵνα τῇ δυϲωδίᾳ ἀνιωμένη ἡ φύϲιϲ
ϲυϲταλῇ καὶ τῇ ϲυϲτολῇ ἐκκρίνῃ τὸ ἐπεχόμενον.
[3.1] Καὶ ὅτι τοῦτο ἀληθέϲ ἐϲτιν, ὅτι αἱ ὀϲμαὶ μάλιϲτα αἱ εὐώδειϲ ἀναρρων-
νύουϲι τὰϲ δυνάμειϲ, λέγουϲί τι θαυμαϲτὸν περὶ Δημοκρίτου· [3.2] ἡνίκα
γὰρ ὁ Δημόκριτοϲ ὁ τὸν βίον γελῶν ἠβουλήθη ἐξαγαγεῖν ἑαυτὸν ἐκ τοῦ
βίου, πανήγυριϲ ἔμελλεν ἐπιτελεῖϲθαι ἐν Ἀβδήροιϲ, ἔνθα ἦν ὁ Δημόκριτοϲ.
[3.3] εἶτα οἱ Ἀβδηρῖται ᾔτηϲαν αὐτὸν μὴ ἐξαγαγεῖν τέωϲ, ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ
πένθοϲ ϲχοίη ἡ πόλιϲ. [3.4] καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖϲ ὁ Δημόκριτοϲ· ‘Ἕωϲ πόϲων
ἡμερῶν βούλεϲθε ἀναμείνω;’ οἱ δὲ εἰρήκαϲιν· ‘Ἕωϲ τεϲϲάρων ἡμερῶν τῶν
τῆϲ ἑορτῆϲ.’ [3.5] καὶ ἐκέλευϲεν ὁ Δημόκριτοϲ ἐνεχθῆναι ἀγγεῖον μέλιτοϲ,
καὶ εἰϲ αὐτὸ ὀϲμώμενοϲ διέμεινεν τὰϲ τέϲϲαραϲ ἡμέραϲ. [3.6] ὡϲ δὲ ἕτεροί
φαϲιν, ἐκέλευϲεν κλίβανον ἐνεχθῆναι καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ ἄρτουϲ ὀπτᾶϲθαι, καὶ
οὕτωϲ ἐκ τῆϲ ὀϲμῆϲ τῶν ἄρτων διέμεινεν. [3.7] λοιπὸν εἰ βούλει πιϲτεῦϲαι,
πίϲτευϲον. ἔϲτι δὲ τῷ ὄντι εἰπεῖν, ὅτι δυνατόν ἐϲτιν δι’ αἴτηϲιν καθαρᾶϲ
ψυχῆϲ πρὸϲ τὸ θεῖον μεῖναι πλείονα χρόνον τὴν ψυχὴν ἐν τῷ ϲώματι. καὶ
πολλάκιϲ τοῦτο ἐποίηϲεν ὁ Δημόκριτοϲ. ἀλλὰ ταύτην τὴν αἰτίαν ὡϲ ἰα-
τροὶ οὐ δεχόμεθα. [3.8] ἀμέλει γοῦν καὶ ὁ Γαληνὸϲ ὡϲ ἰατρὸϲ ἰατρῷ ἐγκα-
λεῖ τῷ Θεϲϲαλῷ εἰϲ ἓξ μῆναϲ ἐπαγγελλομένῳ παραδιδόναι τὴν ἰατρικήν.
ὁ γὰρ Θεϲϲαλὸϲ οὐ ταύτην ἔλεγεν τὴν ἰατρικὴν παραδιδόναι εἰϲ ἓξ μῆναϲ·
ἀλλ’ ἰϲτέον, ὅτι ἀπελθὼν οὗτοϲ εἰϲ Αἴγυπτον ὠφελήθη τὸ ἐξ ὑπερτέραϲ
δυνάμεωϲ θεραπεύειν, καὶ ταύτην ἔλεγε διὰ ἓξ μηνῶν παραδιδόναι.
[4] Permutationes ex qualibus ut habent. ecce communis epilogus inquirendi
a qualibus in qualia. Oportet fieri permutationes ab odorabilibus ad fetida
aut econtrario.

Odours: pleasant, noxious, filling, persuading. Alterations, from the sort of

things which they are.
[1.1] At this point, Hippocrates discusses the subject of odours. [1.2] But
we should remind the more advanced student of what we have said on
numerous occasions, namely that our body is composed of solids, fluids
and pneumas; that the pneumas are the psychic, natural and vital; that
the solids are nourished by solids, the fluids by liquids and the pneumas
are increased and fortified by gases. [1.3] We, therefore, have a need for
pleasant and unpleasant gases, but according to the different underlying
conditions. [1.4] For example, if the disease I am dealing with is a cold one,
then I sprinkle sometimes with bugloss, sometimes with frankincense, at
other times I offer [the patient] to smell olive branches and oak branches
and in a word all the hot things. [1.5] But if there is burning heat and
considerable seething heat and the fever is burning, then I variously offer
myrtle and rose, or I sprinkle the ground with water, or perhaps I strew the
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 103

ground with vine tendrils. [1.6] Since this is true, I often employ fragrant
things in order to revive the powers [of the body]. Thus, I frequently in
cases of fainting apply fragrant substances and restore the powers; and in
these cases [I use] either warm fragrances or cold ones depending on the
different causes responsible for the fainting.
[2.1] And what does [Hippocrates] say? He says that they are filling, in the
sense that they produce fullness. [2.2] For perhaps dispersion occurs, not
just of pneumas, but also of fluids, and then I offer wine. And this wine,
to the extent that it is wine, it is moist and replenishes the fluids, but to
the extent that it is fragrant, it revives the pneumas. [2.3] But you should
also be aware of a deeper point, namely, that in the works of the art, we
have a need not only of fragrances, but also of foul smelling substances.
[2.4] Thus, for example, if the chorion recedes and is not passing out,
then the foetus is delivered with difficulty. In this situation we burn some
hair or a rag or something similar that has a foul smell and offer it to the
woman to inhale, in order to provoke nature into contradiction by means
of the malodour and then, due to the contraction, to expel the retained
[3.1] And the truth of this, namely, that smells, but especially fragrant
ones, revive the powers, is borne out by the noteworthy story told about
Democritus. [3.2] For at the time when Democritus, who made little of
life, wanted to remove himself from it, a festival was about to take place
in Abdera, where Democritus lived. [3.3] At that point, the Abderites
requested him not to take his life immediately in order to save the city
from going into mourning during a festival. [3.4] And when Democritus
asked them, ‘How many days do you want me to wait?’ they replied, ‘For
the four days of the festival’. [3.5] So Democritus ordered a jar of honey to
be fetched and he spent the four days inhaling from it. [3.6] But as other
tell it, he ordered an oven to be brought and loaves of bread to be baked
in it, and in this way, he survived on the smell of the loaves. [3.7] Now, if
you want to believe that, go ahead. And one can state as a fact that it is
possible for a pure soul, by virtue of praying to the divinity, to remain in
the body for a longer time. Perhaps that is what Democritus did. However,
as doctors we do not accept this explanation. [3.8] In the same way, Galen
too in his capacity as a doctor criticised Thessalus as a doctor because he
promised to teach medicine in six months. The fact is that Thessalus did
not claim to be teaching this kind of medicine in six months; you should
know that he went to Egypt where he acquired the ability to cure with
the help of a higher power and this is what he said he would teach in six
[4] ‘Alterations from what kinds of things, how they are’. This is a general
conclusion that enquires ‘from what kinds of things to what kinds of
104 Grigory Kessel

things’. [It means that] it is necessary that odours change either into foul
smelling substances or vice versa.

John’s commentary on this lemma is significantly longer than that by Galen.

Although the former differs from the latter, it is nonetheless based on it and
makes considerable use of its interpretations. The text of the lemma which John
quotes varies in two significant aspects from that found in the Hippocratic text
and in Galen’s commentary; firstly, it omits ‘noxious (λυποῦϲαι)’, present in
H 2 and Galen; and secondly, it includes the difficult phrase in H 5, omitted in
Galen’s commentary. The Latin version of the commentary has the following
list: ‘smells, uplifting, pleasing, filling, fulfilling (Odores leuatorii, delectabiles, re-
plentes, perficientes)’.49 It has four adjectives, but it is difficult to see how the first
two Latin ones relate to the first two Greek ones, ‘pleasant, noxious (τέρπουϲαι,
λυποῦϲαι)’: the former are synonyms, whereas the latter are antonyms. Be that
as it may, although we find clear signs that John knew Galen’s commentary, the
text of his lemma must here be of a different origin, perhaps going back to an
independent strand of the Epidemics’ textual tradition.
John follows Galen in his explanation of the lemma: he builds upon Galen’s
interpretation and aims to present comprehensively the therapeutic value of the
smells. John begins by describing how smells can affect the body (J 1). He di-
vides the body into solids, fluids, or pneumas, and further distinguishes between
psychic, natural and vital pneumas. Gases [pneúmata], presumably associated
with smells, influence pneumas [pneúmata]. John maintains that both good and
bad smells are necessary, thereby picking up on ideas in the Hippocratic lemma
(H 1–2) and in Galen’s commentary. John provides a few examples of the use of
different smells, couching them in terms of cold and hot. None of these exam-
ples corresponds to those mentioned by Galen (G 2); they therefore appear to
reflect the medical practice of John’s time.
In the next paragraph, John first (J 2.2) deals with ‘filling smells’ (H 3). In each
case, John goes beyond Galen: he explains ‘filling smells’ in terms of pneuma,
and he develops Galen’s example of uterine suffocation (J 2.3–4). Likewise, in
the next paragraph (J 3), John includes a vivid story about Democritus who
prolongs his life through fragrant smells (that of honey or that of bread, accord-
ing to two different versions). This leads John to an interesting reflection about
Methodism and religion, again absent from Galen’s commentary. The final para-
graph (J 4), extant only in the Latin version, deals with the end of the lemma (H
5), which is omitted in Galen’s commentary. It consists of a short reflection that
things necessarily change.
The Syriac Epidemics shares many features with John’s commentary50:

49 Ed. Pritchet 1975, 401; 148c, lines 17–18.

50 MS D, fols. 73b–74b.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 105

Í元 N áÓâ ÿØ~ûØÿØ .¾ÐØĂ šÍß êÙÒûùñÍØ ¾æýâ [1.1] :çÙùÙïâ uçÙòàÏÿý⃠u¾ÐØĂ
ÌàÝß ÀăÙÐå ÊÙÁ† v¾ÙæÙÝß ¾åšÍÙÏ ÊÙÁ† v¾åšÍÙÐß ¾ãýå ÊÙÁ† .¾æýòå ¾Ï†ûß çÙàÙÐâ
çÙàØ~ çâ .çÙàÙÐ⠐†Ìæ↠.¾Ï†ûß çÙÁû⠐†Ìæâ ¾ÐØà ûÙÄ ‹…N ¾ÙàÄ [1.2] .¾ãüÍÄ
51¾æñ˜÷↠ÀûØûø āÙÏ †Ìß ÿØ~ƒ çÙàØ~† vêØÿæå†~† Àƒ˜†ƒ ¾åÎÜ~ çÙñ˜–† çØûØûøƒ
¾Ï†ûß çÙàÙÐ↠.¾å†Ìß çÙýæÝâ ûÙÄ çÙ߅.
vçÙÁûøÿâ ¾ïø†Ă ÊÙÁƒ Íå…J .52çÙåÿâƅƒ ”~ .½ÙÅè K çÙæÁ‡
K ûÙÄ çæÙÐýÏÿâ [2.1]
53¾æàÂÐâ ¾Á½Ü ½ÙÅè ûÙÄ çÙæÁ‡ [2.2] ¾ãüÍÅÁ ¿†Ìãß ƒÿï⃠Êâ ¾ýÏ áÓâ
˜~~ƒ ¿šÍÙéâ çâ Ā~ ¿†…J [2.3] ¾ãüÍÅÁ ÌÁ ÌàÝÁ ¿†…N Ā ÊÜ ¾ÏÍãÁ ¿†…J
†~ vāÁÍÐß óàÏÿýåƒ ˜~Ā ÊÂîƒ N ¾æÁ‡ƒ ¾ýÙÁ ¾éÜÍÒ áÓâ v™½ÏJ ¾æ܅ 54ûØÊσ
uçæÙÁûùâ çÙ߅ ¾â†Ă…ƒ ç؃ ‹…J [2.4] ˜~Ā ¾Ð߃ƒ vçØûÙÂø Āƒ ÀăÅñƒ ¿šÍÙéâ áÓâ
¾ÏÍ⃠ÀûÓïß 55ÍýüÍòã߆ .¾æàÂÐâ ¾ýÏ ÌÁ ÿØ~ƒ ¾ÏÍãß ÍæÓùãß çØ÷âƒ
[3.2] .¾æãÐ߃†
K ¿ÿØÿÐüƒ ¾ÐØĂ ç؃ çÙè˜ÿâ .çÙè˜ÿ⃠¾ÐØĂ ”~ ç؃ ÿØ~ [3.1]
ÞØ~ƒ ÀûÙÝü ûÙÄ Ā çØûâ~ƒ J Àƒ… ÞØ~ƒ ¿ÿÙïüš ç⠋…N ¾ïØÊØ çÙ߅ ûÙÄ çÙè˜ÿâƒ
ÊÜ êÙÒûøÍ⃃ :çÙýå~ K ûÙÄ çØûâ~J [3.3] .Êâ ¿ÿÙïüš ¾åÿå ÿà⃠¿šÍæãØÌ߃
¿ÿÙæÙÜ K ¿šÍåÊÂïãß
K ¿Îσ N áÓâ .¿Íùå Ā† ¾ãüÍÄ çâ ¾æýåƒ ÚÂҖ~ u¾Âè ¿†…N
.¿šÍ⃠¾ãéÁ āñ~ ÑýϚ~ ¾òÙéÁ Ā ûïéãß ¾Á– N Àƒ… Ê܆ [3.4] .ÚàÐâš~ƒ
¿ÿÙåƒ €…˜ÿè~ ¾åÌàÓ↠.Ãéå N Ā ¿šûÂÙè ¾åÌàÓ↠ÌãüÍÅß ¾è˜ÿå Āƒ Ā~
u…ÿæØÊãÁ ¿†…N ¿†…ƒ J ¿šÍÝà⃠Àƒ½î ¿ †…
N ˜ƒ~ ç؃ ÊÜ [3.5] .¿šÍ⠋…Íàî
†š~ ÌéæÄ ÚæÁ† K êÙÒûùↃƒ …šÍÏ~ K :¾Á˜ ¾ÅÏ †ÊÂïåƒ ¾ýæÙæÁK ††… çØÊØÿî†
.Àƒ½ïÁ šÍ⚃ ¾ïÁš Ā† ûÂØÿè~ƒ Ìß çØûâ~† ¿šûÂÙè áÂùåƒ Ìæâ çÙïÁJ ÊÜ …šÍß
Ž½üJ :ðãü N çÙ߅ Ê܆ .āÁ~ ÞàÁÍå ÿÙÁ ÚæÁ† K çæÏ .Àƒ½î çØÊÂîJ ¿ÿæØÊâ ÚæÁK ÊÜ Āƒ
¿ÿߚ Ìß çØûâ~† J Í æ
N î .¾Ï~ƒ Úß  †ÿå~ çÙïÁ ¾ã܆ Àƒ½î ÞÂß ¿ÿâÍØ K ¾ã܃ Íå~
ÊÙÁ† v¾ãÐ߃ ¾Ðؘ —Íéåƒ v¾ãÐß Íñ½å† À˜Íåš …šÍß ÍÁûùåƒ Êùñ† [3.6] .çÙâÍØ K
Ìà؃ ‹Íåš çâ āñ~† .úÙïå …ÿÙÁ ÚæÂß K Āƒ ¾Á– ÊÁ vçÙâÍØ ¿ÿߚ ¾Ðå† ¾è˜šÿå ¾Ðؘ
çÙàØ~ ç؃ çÙýå~
K .Ìß ÿÙ↠†…N ¾Ðؘ Ñå :çÙâÍØ K ¿ÿߚ ¾Ðåƒ úòèƒ J ç؃ ÞØ~ [3.7] .ûÂïå
Ā~ .¿†…N —½èJ ¾ãÐ߃ ¾Ðؘ çâ ¿†…N Āƒ çØûâ~J [3.8] :‘ÍÓØûùↃ áî çÙîÿýâƒ
vçÙâÍØK ¿ÿߚ 56Úàüƒ ¾âÊî ¿†…N ÑØûâ ¾åÌÁ :‹…†ƒ~– ¿†…N äÙèƒ ¾ýÁƒƒ ¾å½â çâ
—½è ¾ãÐ߃ ¾Ðؘƒ çØûâ~ƒ J Íå… çØûØûüƒ ¾åûÂèJ ç؃ ÿØ~ûØÿØ [3.9] .ÿÙâ çØÊ؅†
çæýæ܃ ˜ÿÁ çâ áÙ܅ çæÏ ç⃠.57¿ÿØÍϚ š†… Àƒ… ¿ÿÙïüš ¾æ܅ [3.10] .¿†…N
.¾Ï†Ăƒ ¾Üûý߆ v¾æýòå ¾Ï†ûß çÙÁûâ[ƒ] †Ìæâ ¾Ðؘƒ ¾æ܅ ûâ½å :¾øÍè áîƒ ÿàâ
.¾æàÂÐâ K ¾ýÏK çâ ¿ÿÙéܚ ç؆…J †Ìæ↠.çØÌß çÙàÙÐâ[ƒ] ç؃ †Ìæâ

51 See Bhayro 2005, 160.

52 The word is apparently written incorrectly and should be emended to .
53 See ¾æàÂÐâ ¾ãè (BL Add. 14460, fol. 68a, line 26) for ἀμβλωθρίδιόν ἐϲτι φάρμακον (xii.
p. 130, line 1 K).
54 See ûØÊσ ¾å… ˜~~ (ed. Sachau 1870a, 89, line 15) for εὔκρατον ᾖ τὸ περιέχον (i. p. 370,
line 7 K); çß ûØÊσ ¾å… ˜~½Á (ed. Sachau 1870a, 89, line 22) staying for ἐπὶ μὲν τοῦ περιέχοντοϲ
(i. p. 370, line 13 K).
55 See þüÍñÿâ (ed. Merx 1885, 270, line 10) for διαφορητικώτερον (xi. p. 853, lines 12–13 K);
¾ýüÍò↠(ed. Merx 1885, 305) for καὶ τὸ περιεχόμενον (xii. p. 116, lines 15–16 K).
56 My conjecture: the manuscript reading Úàïüƒ is corrupt.
57 See ¿ÿØÍϚ (ed. Sachau 1870a, 92, line 3) for ἡ ἔνδειξιϲ (i.384, line 16); (ed.
Merx 1885, 303, line 11) for ἀποδείξειϲ (xii. p. 84, line 3 K).
106 Grigory Kessel

çÙòàÐý⃠¾ÐØà áÙ܅ ûâ~J ¿ÿà⠚Íß çß ¿š½å :¾æ܅ ûâ~š~ áÙ܅ çÙ߅ ÊÜ [4.1]
¾æÝØ~ [4.2] vçÙåÌâ çÙàØ~† çÙùÙïâ çÙàØ~ƒ v¾ÐØĂ áî ÍÂùïãß —ƒ‡ ç؃ Íå…J .çÙùÙïâ
.çÙùÙï⃠çÙàØ~ çâ ç؃ —†ûïå çÙÙ元 çÙàØĀ çâ ¾ÂÅå —†ûïå †Ìæ↠€ûøÿå 58†Ìæã߃
.çÙåÌ↠çÙùÙï⃠¾ÐØăß “Êãß —ƒ‡ƒ çØûâ~J Ā~ çÙùýòâ ¾æ܅ Íß ç؃ ¾åăÏ~ [4.3]
çÙàØ~ƒ ¾åÎÜ~ [4.4] vÀ˜ƒ†÷Á† ¾ïßÍÓÁ çØÊϚÿ⃠çÙàØĀ çÁÎÁ €ûùå çÙùÙï⃠çÙàØ~†
.āÙÐß ûÙïå† ÿÏÿÐå †ÌØÊؽÁƒ
K vçÙãÙãφ çÙòØûσ
ÍØÍÐãß ÿØ~ ¾Ü˜… ç↠[5.2] .çÙè˜ÿ⃠çÙàØĀ ç؃ Íå…J :ûâ~J ç؃ ÍïÂéâ [5.1]
—ƒ‡ .ûÙâ~ †ÊÜ ç⃠ÞØ~ ¿ÿØÿÐü ç↠¾ãÐß ç⃠çÙàØ~ ç؃ çÙè˜ÿâ ¾æÐØĂ çÙè˜ÿâƒ
¾ÐØĂ çÙàØĀƒ ÍÂùïãß
āø šûÂÁ .…ûâ~J çÙýσ ‹… óàÏ çÙéÙòÒÿ⃠‹…ƒ J :áÙ܅ çæØûâ~J .59çÙéÙòÒÿ⃠ûâ~J [6]
†ÌØÿØ~ƒ v¾Ùåš~K ÿÙÁ ”~ ¾å… ûÙÄ †…N ÀÊÙî ¿šÍåÊÂïâ óàÏ ÑýϚ~ ¿ÿüÍýÏ
.¿ÿàãÁ çÙÐýÏÿâ ¾å… ÞØ~ƒ ¾ãÝè½Á ½ÙÅè çÙæÁ‡ K ûÙÄ çÙ߅ ”~ .ā⃠K ¿ÌÁ~K
ûâ~J :çÙéÙò⃠ûâ½åƒ óàφ .êÙÒûùñÍØ ¾Ü˜… ”~ ÑýϚ~ ¾ãÝè~ ¾åÌÁ ÌÁ
o.¾ÐØĂ ÚÙå… ç؃ Íå…J .çØûòü ¿ÌØăÝ߃ çÙàØ~ ¾ÐØĂ ç؃ çÙéÙòÒÿâ .çÙéÙòÒÿâƒ
áî ƒÍÐàÁ ¾Ü˜… :Íùýñ çÙýå~K ¾òàÏÍü K o†ÌØÿØ~ƒ :ÞØ~ :†ÌàÜ :çâ :¾òàÏÍü K [7.1]
ç؃ çÙýå~K [7.2] .†ÌØÿØ~ çÙàØ~ ¿šăÂÙèƒ ¾òàÏÍü áî Ãùïåƒ —ƒ‡ƒ .…ûâ~ J ¿šûÂÙè
.‘˜~~ áî† .¿ÿàܽâ K áî .¾òàÏÍüƒ K ‹Ìß
J …Íãè
J †ÌàÜ áî .¿ÿàãß çØÊÂî ÿؽæàÜ
¾ãÙãÐß ÀûØûø 60¾Ä‡Íâ ç⠐~ƒ vÃùïå ˜~~ƒ ¾òàÏÍü K áîƒ —ƒ‡ƒ ûâ~ƒN çØûâ~†
. ¾ÂÙÒûß ¾ýÙÂØ ç↠v¾ýÙÂÙß ¾ÂÙҘ ç⠐~† vÀûØûùß ¾ãÙãÏ ç⠐~† vóàÏÿüš

v¾ÙæãØÿß ¾æÙÁûÄ ç⃠¾åÎÜ~ .çÙòàÏÿý⃠62¾éÜÍÒ K áî ”~ uÍÂùïãß ç؃ —ƒ‡ [7.3]
¾æÝØ~ƒ vçß ûØÊσ ˜~~ áî uÍÂùïãß ÿØ~ûØÿØ ûÙÄ —ƒ‡ .¾ÙÙÁûÅß ¾Ùæãؚ çâ†
63[…] ”~ †ÌØÿØ~ ¾æ܅ [7.4] uóàÏÿý⃠¾æÝØ~† ÌćÍâ óàÏÿýâ

‘Odours that are variable, [odours that] oppress’.

[1.1] Hippocrates proceeds to the odours [rīḥē] mostly because they
strengthen the psychic pneuma; through breathing [they strengthen] the
vital [pneuma]; through the vital [pneuma they strengthen] the natural
[pneuma]; and through the nostrils [they strengthen] the entire body. [1.2]
For it is known that some smells increase the pneuma, some strengthen

58 My conjecture: the manuscript reading is corrupt.

59 See çÙéÙòÒÿ⃠(ed. Merx 1885, 283, line 9) for ὅτι πειϲθήϲονται (xii. p. 2, line 1 K);
çÙéÙòÒÿâ Āƒ (ed. Merx 1885, 283, line 12) for ἀπειθήϲουϲι (xii. p. 2, line 4 K).
60 See ç⠾ćÍâ (ed. Merx 1885, 270, line 7) staying for ἐπὶ [...] κράϲει (xi. p. 853, line 10 K).
61 See þÙÂØ āñ~† ÃÙҘ Ā† ûØÿØ. äÙãÏ āñ~ ûØÿØ ûØûø Ā† (ed. Sachau 1870a, 91, lines 6–7)
for μηθ’ ὑπερεψυγμένον, μήθ’ ὑπερτεθερμαϲμένον, ἢ ἐξηραϲμένον, ἢ ὑγραϲμένον ἀμέτρωϲ (i.
p. 372, lines 2–3 K).
62 See (ed. Sachau 1870a, 90, line 21) for τῆϲ κατὰ φύϲιν ϲυϲτάϲεωϲ (i.
p. 371, lines 13–14 K); (ed. Sachau 1870a, 91, line 4) for ῶν ἔξωθεν
περιϲτάϲεων ἁπαϲῶν (i. p. 372, line 1 K).
63 The rest of the sentence (four words) is illegible.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 107

[it], and others cool and purify, such as [those of] roses and grape bloom.64
Those that possess a cooling and purifying power focus the mind and
strengthen the pneuma.
[2.1] We often use fragrant things65 which are applied by means of rags in
case of a certain pain that is going to be in a body. [2.2] Often an pernicious
[mḥabblānā] pain occurs in the brain [mūḥā], whilst it is not present in the
entire body [gūšmā].66 [2.3] The pain may be due to the corruption of the
ambient air: he [the patient] suffers because of a previous bad constitution
[ṭūkkāsā]67 of the air which became pernicious. Or it may be due to the
corruption of unburied bodies that disturbs the air. [2.4] We apply the
fragrant substances, because they are able to contract the brain [mūḥā] in
which pernicious pain occurs, and to expel the vapour of the brain [mūḥā].68
[3.1] ‘There are odours that nourish’. The nourishing odours are those of
barley flour and bread. [3.2] That they nourish can also be illustrated by
a story such as the one that we are going to tell; for our credibility will
not suffer because we tell a story. [3.3] People say that when Democritus
became old, he wanted to depart from the body and not to remain [in it],
because he saw that [his] natural actions had weakened. [3.4] When he
decided to do that, he did not want to use a sword nor a lethal poison.
Rather [he decided] not to feed his body, and therefore did not take any
food. In this way, death would come quickly upon him. [3.5] When the
feast of the realm took place in his town, and people were preparing for
the great celebration, the sisters and relatives of Democritus came to him,
begging him to take some nourishment. They said to him: ‘Eat, and do
not seek to die during the feast, lest we and [other] members of your
household have to mourn you profoundly, whilst the people of the town are
celebrating’. When he heard this, he asks them: ‘How many days will the
feast last, and how long do you ask me to live?’ They replied by saying to
him: ‘Three days’. [3.6] Then Democritus ordered that an oven be brought
to him and that bread be baked [in it] so that he could inhale the odour of
bread. He would be nourished by the odour, and live for three days. For he
did not want to distress the members of his household nor to infringe the
law. [3.7] When the three days were over, the smell ceased, and he died.
[3.8] Others say that Democritus did not inhale the smell of bread, but of

64 Syriac ʾwnntys is a transliteration of the Greek ‘oinánthē (grape bloom)’; it does not
exactly correspond to ‘ἀμπέλων ἕλικα (tendrils of the ivy)’ found in John’s commentary.
65 Syriac hōrmaṯānā (〈 Greek arṓmata) is not an appropriate translation for the Greek
δυϲώδηϲ, found in John’s commentary.
66 This is one of the places where Syriac Epidemics departs considerably from John’s
commentary; see below pp. 110–11 for a discussion of the discrepancies.
67 Corresponding to Greek katástasis.
68 For a detailed interpretation of the mistranslation, see below p. 118.
108 Grigory Kessel

a jar of honey that stood close to him. In this way, he smelled [it] until
the three days had passed; then he died. [3.9] I firmly believe that those
who say that he was inhaling the smell of bread are right. [3.10] Thus this
story [tašʿīṯā] is a demonstration [taḥwīṯā], provided by us after we have
composed an explanation about smelling. Therefore, we say [to sum up]
that some odours increase the psychic pneuma, and [also] other pneumas;
some fortify them; and some are a protection [taḵsīṯa] against pernicious
[4.1] Having said that, let us return to the lemma. He [Hippocrates] says:
‘odours that are variable and oppress’. It is therefore right to examine
odours which oppress and which please. [4.2] As we seek out some of them
and avoid others, we should prefer those that please and avoid those that
oppress. [4.3] Others interpret [the lemma] not like this, but say that it is
necessary to know which odours oppress and [which] please. Sometimes
we should use those that oppress for patients affected by lethargy and
nausea. [4.4] Likewise, with sharp and hot [odours], we can excite and
revive the strength.
[5.1] He [Hippocrates] says ‘to fill’. It means those [odours] that nourish.
[5.2] From here [Hippocrates] is going to demonstrate that odours are
nourishing. The [odours] of bread and barley flour are nourishing, as it
was already said that it is right to examine these odours.
[6] He says ‘being persuaded’. We say that [Hippocrates] said ‘being
persuaded’ instead of ‘suffering (ḥaššīn)’. He used a passive word instead
of an active one, as it is common among Athenians, who produced the
words. They often used the word in this way. Hippocrates used it in this
way here too: instead of saying ‘persuading’, he said ‘being persuaded’.
Therefore, ‘persuading’ odours are those that delight the sick; they are the
pleasant odours.
[7.1] ‘Alterations from everything, how they are’. Some people interpret
‘alterations’ [as follows]: in this place he [Hippocrates] only talked
about nourishment, for it is necessary to examine what the changes of
nourishment are. [7.2] Others [maintain] that the phrase is to be treated
comprehensively and apply ‘alterations’ to everything, both food and air.
They claim that he [Hippocrates] said that it is necessary to examine the
changes in the air: whether a cold mixture [of air] turns into a warm one;
whether a warm one turns into cold one; and whether a moist one turns
into dry, or dry into moist one. [7.3] It is necessary to examine constitutions
[ṭūkkāsē] that change, for instance, from northern to southern and from
southern to northern. For, most of all one ought to investigate the air that
surrounds us: how does its mixture change and how it changes [further].
[7.4] Thereby there are also […].
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 109

This extract from the Syriac Epidemics covers the entire Hippocratic lemma
quoted above. After a short general introduction (S 1), the author breaks up his
discussion of the lemma into smaller units, taking the individual words in their
turn. He includes an examination of the difficult ‘peithómenai’ (H 4), omitted
in John’s commentary. One can argue that the Greek text of the lemma which
underlies the Syriac Epidemics must have been identical to the Hippocratic text
The author begins his interpretation of the lemma with a general introduc-
tion that aims to demonstrate how smells can affect the physical condition. He
develops the explanation by employing the concept of three pneumas (sg. rūḥā),
that is psychic (rūḥā nāp̄ šānā), vital (rūḥā ḥayūṯānā) and natural (rūḥā kyanāyā).
The interplay of these three pneumas affects the human body (S 1.2). The effect
which is produced by a smell, namely increasing, strengthening, cooling and
purifying the pneuma, may vary depending upon the smell’s quality (S 1.2).
Next, the author talks about ‘fragrant’ smells (S 2.1), presumably the ‘pleasant
smells (odmaì térpousai)’ mentioned in H 1. The example of uterine suffocation
(S 2.2–4), however, appears in Galen’s commentary when the latter explains
‘noxious (lypoûsai)’ smells (H 2). Therefore, the two lemmas may perhaps have
been conflated here. Then (S 3.1), the author turns to ‘nourishing’ smells (men-
tioned in H 3), explaining that they are the smells of barley flour and bread. He
tells the story of Democritus (S 3.2–7) who survives a little longer on the pleas-
ant smell of baked bread, as he did not want to die during a holiday. Another
version of the story, favoured by the author, has Democritus surviving on the
smell of honey (S 3.8–9). Finally, the author summarises his main points (S 3.10).
Then (S 4.1), the author returns to the beginning of the Hippocratic lemma (H
1–2). He discusses the reviving and oppressing effects of smells and presents
two points of views on the subject (S 4.2–4). Moving on in the lemma (to H 3),
the author discusses the filling smells in S 5 that he had already treated in S 3.
The next word in the lemma (H 4) poses particular problems and requires
philological tools (S 6): the commentator proposes to emend the middle/passive
participle ‘peithómenai (being persuaded)’ to the active participle ‘peíthousai
(persuading)’. Galen had already reported diverging opinions about this word,
although he did not offer this particular solution (G 4–5). The Syriac Epidemics
proves, however, that the reading peithómenai already existed in the Hippocratic
text by the second half of the fifth century. The author comments on the last
passage from the lemma (H 5) by presenting two possible interpretations (S 7.1–
2) and appears to favour the second one: that Hippocrates talks about changes of
food and air here. Finally (S 7.3), the author mentions changes in the ‘constitu-
tion’ or katástasis.
110 Grigory Kessel

Comparison of the interpretations

The Hippocratic lemma quoted here poses considerable problems for all the
commentators: the language is cryptic and the text perhaps corrupt. Galen
interpreted the lemma as referring to the therapeutic value of smells and
illustrated his points with examples. The later commentators, John and the
author of the Syriac Epidemics, adopted some of them. Most puzzling is the fact
that Galen did not quote nor comment on the last part of the lemma, although
the two later commentators did.
From the extracts quoted above one can easily see that John’s Commentary
on the Epidemics, Book Six, and the Syriac Epidemics often resemble each other.
To put it more precisely, the former consistently agrees with the latter when
the latter diverges from Galen’s text. For instance, the introductory section in
both later commentaries about pneumas (J 1.2; S 1.1–2) are similar, but no such
information is found in Galen. Likewise, both mention the example of uterine
suffocation (J 2.4; S 2.2–4) and the story of Democritus (J 3; S 3).
Moreover, both texts are structurally similar. As we have seen, John’s com-
mentary commences with a general introduction and then progresses to the
subject of H 1–2 without explicitly referring to this part of the lemma. Then,
he considers H 3 and subsequently treats H 2. Then, he narrates the story of
Democritus as an example illustrating H 3. He concludes with a discussion of
H 5. Approximately the same sequence is found in Syriac Epidemics: general in-
troduction, discussion of H 1–2 without direct reference to the lemma, story of
Democritus (illustrating H 3), a return to H 1–2, and finally discussion of H 3–5.
In addition to the similarities, the texts also exhibit some significant diver-
gences. From the beginning, John speaks in the first person singular, whereas
the author of the Syriac Epidemics employs a more neutral plural form, ‘we’.
Similarly, the latter is concerned with more theoretical and didactic issues (S 1,
4, 6, 7), whereas the former provides more cases of a therapeutic nature (J 1.4–6,
2.4). The author of Syriac Epidemics mentions roses and grape bloom as ex-
amples of smells that produce a cooling effect (S 1.2). John mentions the same
ingredients but in the context of real medical practice (J 1.5). But is this John’s
own medical practice, or does he merely report the practice of others? If John’s
commentary draws on a common source, shared with the Syriac Epidemics, as I
shall argue, then the latter appears to be the case.
On two occasions, Syriac Epidemics provides more extensive treatments than
John. The author of Syriac Epidemics gives two possible reasons why uterine
suffocation occurs (S 2.3). John, however, is more concise and limits himself
exclusively to its treatment (J 2.4). The story of Democritus is also presented
differently in the two commentaries. Syriac Epidemics has a longer version. In
John, Democritus is asked to live for four days (J 3.4), whilst in Syriac Epidemics
the period is three days (S 3.5). Both John and Syriac Epidemics mention variants
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 111

in the story (J 3.5–6, S 3.6–8), but they occur in a different order. We find this
story already in earlier Greek sources, but these versions do not shed any light
on the variations found in the two commentaries.69 Moreover, John ponders
the influence of prayer in all of this (J 3.7), something which is absent from the
Syriac Epidemics. Furthermore, whilst the author of Syriac Epidemics offers his
own opinion on both variants (S 3.9), John appears reluctant to do so. Finally in
J 3.8, John refutes the idea that medical knowledge can be taught within a short
period of time, whereas the Syriac Epidemics makes no mention of this.
Strikingly, John suggests that uterine suffocation can be treated by means of a
malodour (J 2.4), whilst the author of Syriac Epidemics argues that it is fragrant
smells which can cause contractions (S 2). Since Galen recalls this case as an ex-
ample of the use of unpleasant smells (G 2), one wonders whether the divergent
account in Syriac Epidemics presents the authentic position of its author or is
attributable to a possible corruption that a scribe or a translator has introduced.
The extracts quoted above thus show that John’s Commentary on Epidem-
ics, Book Six and the Syriac Epidemics often agree. This is more generally the
case throughout the Syriac Epidemics, although space does not permit to adduce
more parallels here. But from this wider comparison, it is clear that John draws
on the underlying Greek source of the Syriac Epidemics.70

Some general observations on the text

Both John’s Commentary on Epidemics, Book Six and the Syriac Epidemics are
in close proximity to the genre of late Alexandrian medical commentaries. For
instance, we find elements of lecture room teaching in these texts: fundamental
concepts such as pneumas are repeated; individual words explained; the
principle of division is generally applied; and earlier commentators are quoted.71
The notion of three pneumas in the introductory part (S 1.1) points specifi-
cally to the Alexandrian tradition. This concept influenced the European scien-
tific tradition profoundly.72 According to Owsei Temkin, Galen did discuss the
issue, but it was canonised later.73 Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq had been thought to be
the first to define it specifically in his Questions on Medicine (Masāʾil fī l-ṭibb),

69 Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosopher’s, bk. ix., ch. 43; and
Athenaeus, Dinner-Table Philosphers, ii.46 e/f; see also Taylor 1999, 54–66.
70 Corroborative evidence for this conclusion is provided below in the section ‘Author.’
71 On this, see Duffy 1984, esp. 22–3 and Pormann 2010.
72 Klier 2002.
73 Temkin 1951, 160.
112 Grigory Kessel

and subsequently it became widespread in mediaeval Islamic medicine.74 Vivian

Nutton, however, noted that the doctrine of three pneumas, presented as facul-
ties, already occurred in the John’s Commentary on Epidemics, Book Six and in
Agnellus of Ravenna’s Commentary on ‘The Sects’. Both authors present a seven-
fold classification of physiology. Nutton stresses the significance of this concept
for the development of Galenism, for if ‘John here represents accurately Greek
lectures at sixth-century Alexandria, then the credit for this logical systematisa-
tion of Galen’s ideas rests with the Greeks, not their later interpreters’.75 Nutton,
however, argues that this is not the case; rather, the sevenfold classification in
which the three pneumas occupy an independent position that was interpolated
into the Latin translation at a later stage under the influence of Ḥunayn’s work.76
But if the Greek original of the Syriac Epidemics was written in the second half
of the fifth century and was a source for John’s commentary, as I have argued,
then 1) the doctrine of three spirits must date back to this period; and 2) John
was not the first to discuss it, but he rather drew on an earlier exegetical tradi-
tion, reflected in the Syriac Epidemics.
The lemma from the Syriac Epidemics discussed above shows that this com-
mentary is a translation of a Greek medical treatise produced in late antique
Alexandria. The aforementioned elements are only some of the many distinctive
features of the Alexandrian commentary tradition that it contains.77 It suffices
to mention one more: the teaching was organised as a special lecture (prâxis),
consisting of a general discussion (theōría) and an explanation of the text (léxis).
Syriac Epidemics follows this pattern, but not consistently. In the case of some
lemmas, the author first provides a general discussion and then turns to indi-
vidual points; this also happens in the lemma under discussion here. At other
times, the author turns strait to the explanation of the text. We also find Greek
terminology used in the Syriac Epidemics. For instance, when commenting on
the beginning of Epidemcis, Book Six, section 8, the author states: ‘Now that we

74 See Ullmann 1970, 62–3. For the edition of the Syriac version of the text, see Wilson/
Dinkha 2010 (a diplomatic edition based on one manuscript). Although the beginning of the
treatise that contains the main principles of the medical science is lost, one can still find
occasional references to the notion of three pneumas in other parts of the text (see above). See
below, footnote 113.
75 Nutton 1991, 514.
76 Nutton 1991, 514. Elsewhere, Nutton expressed his position even more straightforwardly:
‘Thus it was Arabic authors who first wrote about the three spirits ruling the body […]’
(Nutton 2006, 58).
77 Since the first part of the Syriac Epidemics is lost, one can argue only hypothetically
that it contained this characteristics of Late Alexandrian exegetical literature, that is a check-
list of eight preliminary questions (kephálaia) which would be addressed in a given work.
These preliminary questions are present in John’s Commentary on ‘Epidemics’, Book Six. See
Wolska-Conus 1992, esp. 8–12; and the discussion below in Joosse’s and Pormann’s article, on
p. 254.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 113

have provided a general discussion [tēōriyā] about the meaning [reʿyānā] of this
lemma [mēmrā], let us proceed to the words [peṯgāmē] ƈƕ ƈƀƄƉ ƎſĪ ƎƆ ŦŁŤƌ
.ƎƌƢƉĥ ťƌĬ ŧƢƉŤƉĪ ťƍƀƕĿ ƈƕ ťſĿĭĥƦŨĪ ƅſĥ ƎƉ ƎƀƆĬĭ ťƊūƦƘ). ò ’78
Therefore, the Syriac Epidemics reflects the late antique medical tradition
both in approach and in diction. But how faithful was this Syriac version to the
presumed Greek original? As the Greek source is lost, we cannot answer this
question with any degree of certainty. Some noteworthy traits of the Syriac text,
however, suggest that the Greek text underwent at least a minimal editorial
interference. For example, it is not clear how we should qualify the presence of
logical79 and astronomical material,80 which is absent in John’s Commentary on
‘Epidemics’, Book Six: was it present in the Greek original or did the translator
add it?81
To sum up: the Syriac Epidemics is a translation of a Greek medical treatise
written in late antique Alexandria; it bears a strong resemblance to John’s Com-
mentary on ‘Epidemics’, Book Six. The translator may, however, have altered the
original text.


The author of the Greek original underlying the Syriac Epidemics therefore
belonged to the medical milieu of late antique Alexandria. Can we identify him
further? We know of three commentaries on Epidemics, Book Six, written in late
antique Alexandria: 1) by John of Alexandria; 2) by Palladius82; and 3) by Gesius.83
John’s commentary survives entirely in a Latin translation and partially in
Greek.84 Palladius’ commentary, however, has only come down to us in a number
of fragments in the Greek, whereas no traces of Gesius’ work have yet been
78 MS D, fol. 43b. It is worth noting that theōría in the sense of ‘vision, contemplation’ also
features extensively in the corpus attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite; Sergius of Rēšʿaynā
produced the Syriac translation. Subsequently this term became quite popular among later
Syriac authors (Brock 1999).
79 For instance, it can be found in the commentary on the following lemmas: MS D, fols.
77a–b, discussing v. p. 346, line 7 L; MS D, fols. 34b–36a, discussing v. p. 326, lines 8–10 L;
MS D, fol. 39a, discussing v. p. 328, lines 7–9 L.
80 For instance, it can be found in the commentary on the following lemmas: MS D, fols.
87b–88a, discussing v. p. 348, lines 12–15 L; MS D, fol. 66a, discussing v. p. 342, line 4 L.
81 For the author’s interest in astronomical matters, see footnote 93. As for the translator, see
Hugonnard-Roche 1997a.
82 Ihm 2002, 177–9, § 191.
83 Ihm 2002, 122–3, § 99. Two anonymous fragments from commentaries on Epidemics
VI (Roselli 1999, Duffy 1997, 122–5) cannot be compared with Syriac Epidemics because the
corresponding sections of the Syriac texts are not preserved.
84 Ed. Pritchet 1975; Duffy 1997.
114 Grigory Kessel

discovered. A comparison of Syriac Epidemics with the extant commentaries

by John and Palladius demonstrates that this text is not a translation of either
of them. One remaining option is to assess whether it could be a translation
based on Gesius’ commentary. As we cannot compare the Greek text of Gesius
directly with the Syriac Epidemics, we rely on indirect evidence.
In the manuscript tradition, a certain ‘John of Alexandria’ is identified as the
author of the commentaries on Epidemics, Book Six, and Sects for Beginners; this
John probably lived in the sixth or seventh century.85 Some scholars, however,
argued that John, the author of the Commentary on Epidemics, Book Six, drew
on Palladius’ commentary.86 Other scholars suggested that a possible source for
John’s commentary is the Alexandrian iatrosophist Gesius, although they were
unable to provide solid evidence to support this assertion.87
There is one indirect piece of evidence, however, which corroborates this as-
sertion. When John discusses the case of someone succumbing to consumption
because of an outflow of semen, he provides an opinion of ‘the thrice blessed
and great sophist (triseudemon … et maximus sophista)’ who ‘calls consumption
of the body “phthísis” here (ptisicum dicit hic consumptionem corporis)’.88 In the
commentary to the same lemma, the author of the Syriac Epidemics states the

ûÙÄ ¾ùñÍè çâ :¾î˜‡ƒ ¾æÙâ~ ¾Á†ƒ ç⃠uÿؽãÙÐü ûâ½ã߃ ÞØ~ äÙè ¾Á–š ~†
êÙèÿñ êÙÒûùñÍØ Àûøƒ J ¾å… v¾ãüÍÄ úàÒÿâ uĀ†…ƒ ¿½ÙÅè

To put it simply: because of a constant flow of semen, that is, because of

an abundant outflow of matter, the body decays. This is what Hippocrates
calls ‘phthísis’.

This is just one of the many parallels between the Syriac Epidemics and John’s
commentary. It is likely that both John and the author of the Syriac Epidemics
had a common source: Gesius’ commentary; this would explain the similarities,
as the two cannot depend directly on each other.
Moreover, the Syriac Epidemics also refers directly to Gesius, as in the follow-
ing instance90:

85 On the problem of distinguishing between the various Johns, see Garofalo 1999; and
Pormann 2003a.
86 Bräutigam 1908, 89; Irmer 1973, 181.
87 Roselli 1999, 494, n. 8; Duffy 1997, 12.
88 Ed. Pritchet 1975, 451; 150Ba, line 48.
89 MS D, fol. 101a.
90 MS D, fol. 72a; commentary on the lemma v. 344, lines 10–12 L.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 115

çØÌàÝÁƒ †…J ûâ~†

J .¾éò܃ ¾Ù܆ƒƒ ¾æÁÎÁ ¾Á½Ü
K ç؆…J ½ÙÅèK çÙæÁ‡ƒ
K uáÙ܅ ǂ‹… ðØÊØ
¾æÁ‡ áÙàø ç⃠uÀƒ… ÞØ~ƒ ¿šÿå½Á [cis] ÍÅñƒ u‘ÍÓéñÍè†ûÓØ~ ‘ÍÙéÄ ûØûü
š†… ¾Á½Ýâ ÚÅè uÌéò܃.

For it is known that pains often occur at the time of purification of

menses. The iatrosophist Gesius, who is always right, says that he met
such a woman: shortly after the beginning of the menses, she felt severe

One may think that if Gesius is quoted here by name, he can hardly be the un-
derlying source. But this is simply not the case, as the example of Caelius Aure-
lianus shows: he quoted Soranus by name, but probably also simply translated
much of his work. A discussion of this complicated phenomenon, however, lies
beyond the scope of the present article.
Furthermore, we have additional external evidence that Gesius’ commentary
on the Epidemics was translated into Syriac. The underlying writing of two
palimpsest manuscripts appears to preserve a commentary referring to Galen
(Gālīnōs) and Gesius (Gēsyōs). Importantly, both these manuscripts were origi-
nally produced in the eighth or ninth century and reused in Alexandria in the
late eleventh century.91 Moreover, one of them fortunately preserves part of
the title which can be emended seamlessly into ‘Of Gesius. The Sixth [Volume
(fem.) of] Epidemics (o¿ÿØÿØÿü ~[ÚÙâÊÙñ]~ €†š o‘ÍÙèÌă)’.92 Thus, Gesius
probably can be identified as the author of this commentary.
To sum up: Gesius’ commentary probably was the source of the Syriac Epi-
demics, because 1) it shares a lot of material with John of Alexandria’s commen-
tary; 2) Gesius is mentioned in it; and 3) because external evidence suggests that
a Syriac version of Gesius’ Commentary on the ‘Epidemics’ existed.93

91 They are London, British Library, MSS Add. 14490 and Add. 17127; see Wright 1870–72, i.
159–61, ii. 1020–1.
92 London, British Library, MS Add. 17127, fol. 21b; see also Degen 1972, 114, n. 7; Degen
1981, 160; Ihm 2002, 124–5, § 104.
93 A famous Syriac polymath of the thirteenth century, Gregory Bar ʿEbrōyō (more
commonly known by his Latinised name Barhebraeus), provides additional, although oblique,
evidence on the circulation of Gesius’ works in Syriac; see Budge 1932, 57; King 2010, 175, n.
68. Moreover, the eleventh-century East Syriac Christian author ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Ṭayyib (see
Ullmann 1970, 156–7) quoted from Gesius’ commentary on Galen’s Mixtures; Gesius includes
some astronomical material in this quotation, as does the Syriac Epidemics; see Garofalo 2008,
68, n. 7. I am indebted to Ivan Garofalo for this reference.
116 Grigory Kessel


The preceding examination has revealed a number of definitive points about

the Syriac Epidemics. It is likely that the text is a Syriac translation of a late
Alexandrian commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics, Book Six, which was
written by the iatrosophist Gesius. Bearing all these elements in mind, I would
like to propose a possible identification of the text’s translator. For, in my
opinion, the distinctive features of the text suggest only one possible candidate,
namely Sergius of Rēšʿaynā (d. 536).
Sergius of Rēšʿaynā is a well known translator who lived and worked around
the second half of the fifth century to the beginning of the sixth century. He
introduced Aristotelian philosophy into a Syriac milieu94 and translated into
Syriac for the first time key texts of late antiquity such as the works of Galen,
Alexander of Aphrodisias’ On the Principles of the Universe, and the corpus of
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. These translations laid the foundation for the
development of medicine, philosophy and theology.95 Little is known about the
life of Sergius, apart from the fact that he studied philosophy and medicine at
Alexandria some time in the 470s–90s.96 His teachers must have been Ammo-
nius in philosophy and Gesius in medicine.97
The image of Sergius as presented in the extant sources matches with the dis-
tinctive features of the translator of Syriac Epidemics. One of the most notable
among them is the explicit reference to the iatrosophist Gesius, who is regarded
as a great authority. Next, as we shall see, the translation techniques applied
to this text differs considerably from later approaches such as that by Ḥunayn.
Furthermore, the Syriac Epidemics is similar to Sergius’ other medical transla-
tions not only in translation technique but also in vocabulary. As far as I could
check, the botanical terms in the Syriac Epidemics always correspond to those
used in the Syriac translation of Galens’s Powers of Simple Drugs, and Sergius
produced this version.
Some of Syriac Epidemics’ traits allow us to correlate the translation of this
treatise with a particular period of Sergius’ life. From Ḥunayn’s Epistle, which
records Sergius’ translations of Galen, we know that Ḥunayn was very critical
of the quality of Sergius’ translations because they did not correspond to the
standards of his time.98 While evaluating Sergius’ work, Ḥunayn places each
translation under one of three categories which correspond with particular peri-

94 Watt 2010.
95 The authorship of some anonymous translations (for example, Aristotle’s Categories) is
disputed. For an overview of Sergius’ life and works, see Hugonnard-Roche 1997a.
96 On Sergius, see Baumstark 1894, 358–84; and McCollum 2009, 16–26; Fiori 2010, 79–109;
on Sergius in Alexandria, see Greatrex 2011, 368–9; King 2010, 176, n. 73.
97 King 2010, 177, n. 68.
98 Brock 1991, 151–2.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 117

ods of Sergius’ life: a certain text was translated by Sergius 1) before his study in
Alexandria; 2) after his study in Alexandria; 3) at the peak of Sergius’ activity.99
As will be demonstrated below, the Syriac Epidemics reveals that its translator
did not render correctly certain sophisticated medical ideas, whereas in his later
period, Sergius became more experienced and precise, as exemplified by his Syr-
iac version of the Powers of Simple Drugs.100 Since the text contains an explicit
reference to Gesius, Sergius cannot have translated this text before he arrived
in Alexandria, for he only became acquainted with Gesius there. Therefore, Ser-
gius probably translated the Syriac Epidemics either in the course of his stud-
ies in Alexandria (ca. 470–90) or shortly afterwards. Sergius may have chosen
to translate Gesius’ Commentary on Epidemics, Book Six, because he attended
lectures on this Hippocratic treatise, as it was part of the so-called ‘Hippocratic
Canon’, a selection of core curriculum texts presumably used in the amphithea-
tres of Alexandria.101
As I briefly mentioned earlier, we find additions by the translator, namely
Sergius, in the Syriac Epidemics. One could compare these additions with those
present in two other translations by Sergius, that of Galen’s Powers of Simple
Drugs and that of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ On the Principles of the Universe.
Whilst the former is a very accurate translation, the latter had previously been
thought to be an independent treatise by Sergius, but it is now clear that it
is a Syriac adaptation of a Greek text.102 Daniel King argued that Sergius fol-
lowed Alexander’s treatise closely but also added to the text and changed it in
order to make it more acceptable and comprehensible to a Christian audience.103
Therefore, since Sergius’ approach was not uniform, we must establish as pre-
cisely as possible the extent of his editorial interference as regards his transla-
tion of Gesius’ commentary. My preliminary study suggests that although there
must be a certain level of interference, the Syriac Epidemics as a whole should
be considered a translation of Gesius’ commentary rather than a treatise of

99 See, for instance, Bergsträsser 1925, 7, 12.

100 Unfortunately, Ḥunayn does not evaluate the quality of this translation of Sergius.
101 See Weiser 1989; Strohmaier 1991b; and Overwien 2005.
102 Miller 1994.
103 King 2010.
104 Sergius mostly translated medical texts; see Hugonnard-Roche 1997a, 123–5; but he also
produced an extant commentary on Aristotle’s Categories; see Hugonnard-Roche 1997b.
118 Grigory Kessel

Quality of the translation

Therefore, the Syriac Epidemics is not an original Syriac composition but rather
a translation of a Greek text. Apart from its similarity to the commentary of
John’s Commentary on the Epidemics, Book Six, the grammatical nature of the
text also reveals that there was an underlying Greek text. I will mention only
one of these grammatical points: that pertaining to the quality of the translation.
The translator often provided quite inaccurate renderings. For instance, in the
example discussed above, the word meštaḥlapīn (‘variable’, ‘being changed’; S
1.1) is a somewhat strange translation for the Greek word ‘pleasant (térpousai)’.
Was the translator influenced here by the word ‘changes (metabolaí)’, which
occurs in the same lemma and which he translates with the cognate ‘šūḥlāpē
(changes)’ (S 7.1)? This would suggest that the translator misunderstood his text
rather than that there was a textual variant in the Greek text.105
Moreover, the vocabulary used in the section on uterine suffocation (S 2) sug-
gests that the translator was not able to convey accurately the meaning of the
Greek original. Thus, quite unexpectedly, one finds (S 2.2, 2.4) mūḥā (‘brain /
yolk’) as the rendering for chórion. Also, in the final passage (S 2.4), the under-
lying Greek text must have been ‘to expel the retained [chorion] (ἐκκρίνῃ τὸ
ἐπεχόμενον)’ which we find in John’s commentary (J 2.4). Yet, Sergius trans-
lated this as ‘to secret the vapour of the brain (wa-la-mpāwšešū l-ʿeṭrā ḏ-mūḥā)’,
which is by no means a felicitous rendering. These weaknesses in Sergius’
translation may at least in part be explained by the complexity of the underly-
ing Greek medical text. In fact, Sergius gained great proficiency in Greek106, and
produced more accurate versions later in his career. For instance, when translat-
ing Galen’s Powers of Simple Drugs, he rendered the Greek ‘chórion (afterbirth)’
consistently as ‘šlīṯā (afterbirth)’.107
In the Syriac Epidemics, as in Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidem-
ics’, the Aphorisms are frequently quoted. Because Ḥunayn’s Syriac translation
of this text is extant, it is possible to compare the quotations of the Aphorisms in
Syriac Epidemics, that is, the version produced by Sergius, with Ḥunayn’s ver-
sion. The following aphorism occurs in both versions108:

ἢν δὲ βόρειον ᾖ, βῆχεϲ, φάρυγγεϲ, κοιλίαι ϲκληραί.

105 Manetti / Roselli 1982, 168 list no variant reading here.

106 Watt 2010, 32 and the literature cited there.
107 MS Add, fol. 47a, line 4, corresponding to xii. p. 52, line 1 K; MS Add, fol. 68a, line 26,
corresponding to xii. p. 58, line 17 K; MS Add, fol. 48a, line 11, corresponding to xii. p. 130,
line 2 K.
108 Aphorisms 3.5; translation based on that by ed. Jones 1959, 123.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 119

If there is a north wind, then [there are] coughs, sore throats, and

Sergius translated this as follows109:

K ¿ÿèăÜ ¿šûÅÄ €½Ü āïü†

North wind – coughs, pain of the throat, constipation

And Ḥunayn renders it thus110:

K ¿ÿèăÜ .¾ÝÏ
K .ç؆…
K āïüK .¿†…š ¿ÿÙÙÁûÄ çØÊå~

In case of the northern wind, coughs, palates, constipation occur.

Although the two translations are quite similar and the differences between
them are almost impossible to convey in English, both passages reveal ap-
proaches that are characteristic to Sergius and Ḥunayn. The Greek adjective
‘bóreion (northern)’ designates the ‘northern wind’ here. Sergius renders the
term through a Syriac cognate noun ‘garbyā (northern wind)’. Ḥunayn’s ver-
sion, however, is more precise, for he provides a calque by using the correspond-
ing adjective ‘garbyāyāṯā (northern)’.111 Ḥunayn retains the Greek expression
‘ḕn dé (if)’—using the etymologically cognate endēn—, and the verb ‘êi (there
is)’—by using ‘tehwē (there is)’. Therefore, the opening words of Ḥunayn’s
translation are more easily understood that those in Sergius’ version, which
lacks both conjunction and verb.
Both versions also provide identical words for ‘bêches (coughs)’, namely
šʿālē, and ‘koilíai sklēraí (constipation)’, namely karsāṯā qašyāṯā. The render-
ing of ‘phárynges ([sore] throats)’ differs in the two translations. Sergius made
the translation easier to understand by resorting to explicitation: he translated
the simple word ‘throats’ as ‘pain of the throat (kēḇ gaḡārṯā)’. Ḥunayn, on the
other hand, produced another loan translation by employing the noun ‘palate
(ḥekkā)’. Ḥunayn, however, customarily used this word to render Greek ‘throat
The example provided above also supplies material for comparison. In the
general introduction (S 1.1), three kinds of pneumas are mentioned, psychic
(rūḥā nāp̄ šānā), vital (ḥayūṯānā), and natural (kyanāyā). In the Syriac version
of the Questions on Medicine (Al-Masāʾil fī l-ṭibb), one comes across these same

109 Fol. 19b.

110 Ed. Pognon 1903, 10.
111 The same form also is employed in the Syriac version of Ḥunayn’s Questions on Medicine
for Students (ed. Wilson / Dinkha 2010, 408, line 12).
112 See ed. Budge 1913, 177, line 23.
120 Grigory Kessel

terms, but they are rendered as rūḥā nāp̄ šānāyā and ḥayūṯānāyā.113 In other
words, the author employed the same same suffix -āyā, which Ḥunayn used
to produce a literal translation of ‘northern (bóreion)’ in the case of the Apho-
risms. Similarly, the name Hippokrátēs is translitterated in Syriac Epidemics as
YWPQRṬYS, whereas in Ḥunayn’s Questions on Medicine and the translations of
Aphorisms, we find the more literal ʾYPPWQRʾṬYS.114 A similar transliteration is
found in Sergius’ translation of the Powers of Simple Drugs: ʾYPQṬRYS.115
In sum, the traits of both translations correspond to what we know about Ser-
gius’ and Ḥunayn’s translation techniques. Thus, one can detect the followings
elements in the above examples. Sergius adds or omits words, phrases, and even
whole sentences.116 Sergius also mixes elements belonging to an earlier stage of
freer Syriac translations with the elements typically associated with the later
seventh century. Ḥunayn follows closely the grammatical categories and builds
the appropriate Syriac form by adding the suffix –āyā.

Despite a complete absence of external indications such as title, author, or date,
the study of the text of Syriac Epidemics allows us to reach positive conclusions
about its author and translator:
1. The Syriac Epidemics is a lemmatic commentary on the Hippocratic Epidem-
ics, Book Six.
2. The text of the unique manuscript (MS D) is damaged and in its present state
covers the commentary on lemmas v. p. 316, line 3–p. 356, line 15 L.
3. In its original form, the commentary most likely covered the entire text of
Epidemics, Book Six.
4. The present Syriac text is a translation of a commentary on Epidemics, Book
Six, by the Alexandrian iatrosophist Gesius (second half of the fifth century).
5. The translator may have adapted, and added to, the original text of Gesius,
but to what extent is yet to be determined.
6. The translator appears to be Sergius of Rēšʿaynā (d. 536).
7. The commentary of Gesius was one of the sources of John of Alexandria’s
Commentary on Epidemics, Book Six.
The Syriac Epidemics is significant in two ways. Firstly, it is a unique witness
of an otherwise lost Greek medical commentary that was composed by the

113 Ed. Wilson / Dinkha 2010, 356, lines 5–7.

114 Ed. Wilson / Dinkha 2010, 304, line 11; ed. Pognon 1903, 3.
115 Ed. Merx 1885, 263, line 3.
116 McCollum forthcoming. For the translation technique applied to the Corpus Dionysiacum,
which probably reflect a later period of Sergius’ translation activity, see Fiori 2010, 118–34.
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 121

iatrosophist Gesius in late antique Alexandria. As such, it stands as an important

document for the history of the Alexandrian medical tradition and for the output
of Gesius in particular.117 Secondly, the Syriac Epidemics also is an important
witness to the development of medicine in the Syriac milieu, and especially
during its formative period.
Undoubtedly, this discovery of a Syriac translation of Gesius’ Commentary
on the Epidemics, Book Six, is important for classical studies as well as for the
history of medicine. Being a notable authority of his time, Gesius certainly com-
posed a number of medical treatises, mostly in the form of commentaries on
Galenic texts.118 By a quirk of fate, the fame of Gesius is reflected both in a few
Christian lampoons which malign his trust in the rational science of medicine
and in a few reverent references in the works of later Alexandrian scholars.119
Until today, none of his works seem to have survived.120 Therefore, the discov-
ery of an original treatise of Gesius makes it possible, for the first time, to ana-
lyse the doctrine of this late fifth-century Alexandrian iatrosophist.
The example provided in the present study clearly demonstrates the out-
standing importance of the Syriac Epidemics for the study of the history of the
Hippocratic Epidemics, Book Six. Since the manuscript of Syriac Epidemics was
written before AD 705, it is the oldest, indirect manuscript witness to Hippoc-
rates’ Epidemics, Book Six.121 In our discussion of one lemma, we have seen that
the Syriac Epidemics preserves the Greek lemma quite faithfully. Moreover, the
author attempted to solve a textual problem, namely the presence of the some-
what inappropriate passive form ‘peithómenai (being persuaded)’.
Because the Syriac version of Gesius’ commentary is based on Galen’s com-
mentary, it is an important early witness to the text of Galen’s Commentary on
Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’, Book Six, for it indirectly represents the form of the text
at the end of the fifth century. Where the Greek text is missing, that is from part
six onwards, one can use the Syriac Epidemics to improve the text of the Arabic
translation, produced by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq.122 Moreover, the Syriac Epidemics
also offers indirect evidence for the text of John’s Commentary on the ‘Epidem-
ics’, Book Six, as the two share a common source. As the example discussed
above shows, John often drew on previous material, presumably Gesius’ com-
mentary, even where he went beyond Galen. Further study of this interdepend-

117 See Pormann 2010.

118 Ihm 2001, 122–5, § 98–104.
119 Watts 2009.
120 It was, however, suggested that the Latin commentaries attributed to Agnellus of Ravenna
might be in fact heavily based on Gesius or may be mere translations of Gesius’ own treatises
(Nutton 1991, Palmieri 1989 and 1993).
121 The oldest manuscript of Epidemics, Book Six, is dated to the tenth century; see Manetti /
Roselli 1982, xxv–xxvii.
122 On this, see Degen 1979 and 1986.
122 Grigory Kessel

ence could yield interesting results about the identity of this mysterious John
of Alexandria. Finally, the Syriac Epidemics contains many quotations from a
variety of medical, philosophical, logical, and astronomical sources, which also
appear to be present in John’s commentary.123 This topic, too, deserves further
investigation, as it can shed light on how later authors used earlier authorities.
If my conclusion is correct and the translation is by Sergius of Rēšʿaynā, then
Syriac Epidemics provides us with Sergius’ most extensive extant contribution
to the field of medicine, for presently, only three shorter texts from Sergius
survive.124 The Syriac Epidemics can also be used not only to study Sergius’
translation technique but also to compare it with that of Ḥunayn. Since Syriac
Epidemics contains a number of quotations from Aphorisms, these quotations
may be juxtaposed with Ḥunayn’s extant Syriac translation of the Aphorisms,
as we have done above for one example.125 Moreover, Syriac Epidemics can play
an instrumental role in the diachronical study of Sergius’ translation activity.
With the exception of the much debated Book of Medicine, which apparently
is a compilation, the Syriac Epidemics has the merit of being the largest extant
medical text in Syriac.126 Therefore, Syriac Epidemics may provide important ev-
idence for the formation of medical and pharmacological terminology in Syriac.
One might endeavour to trace its influence in later, especially Eastern, Syriac
texts because it could have been one of the textbooks in the East Syriac school
Whereas the impact of late antique Alexandrian, especially Aristotelian, phi-
losophy has been acknowledged by recent scholarship,128 there have been few
attempts to trace and analyse the influence of Alexandrian medicine on the
Syriac tradition.129 In the Syriac Epidemics, one finds direct testimony that both

123 It is worth noting in passing that Syriac Epidemics is remarkable for its great number
of quotations from Aphorisms (see above, note 108). One wonders if this frequency is due to
the Gesius’ personal interest in this Hippocratic text, for there is evidence that he wrote a
commentary on this text (Ihm 2001, 122, §98).
124 On the Power of Simple Medicines (Books 6–8), The Art of Medicine (chapters 23–4, 28–31),
The Properties of Foodstuffs (chapters 58–61); see Hugonnard-Roche 1997, 123–5. In addition,
there exists a commentary on Book Three of Critical Days, which is predominantly of
astronomical content, as well as a recently discovered Judeo-Arabic version of the introduction
to Galen’s Commentary on the Hippocratic On the Power of Foodstuffs (Bos / Langermann 2009).
125 See pp. 118–19.
126 On surveys of medical literature in Syriac, see Degen 1972, Gignoux 2001, Habbi 2001.
127 See Becker 2006.
128 Daiber 2001. The influence of Neoplatonic philosophy was by no means limited to
philosophical and theological texts. For its repercussions on one hagiographic text, see Walker
2004. See also Becker 2006, 126–54, for a speech addressing the incoming class at the school of
129 For instance, see the recently discovered Judeo-Arabic version of Sergius of Rēšʿaynā’s
introduction to Galen’s Commentary on Hippocration Foodstuffs, which was composed
The Syriac Epidemics and the Problem of Its Identification 123

Western and Eastern Syrians were aware of the heritage of late Alexandrian
The significance of Syriac Epidemics should by no means be measured solely
in terms of the evidence it provides for other subjects such as classics, Arabic
studies, or history of medicine. It is of intrinsic importance to Syriac studies, as
the manuscript documents the process of the expansion of the classical tradition
into the realm of Persia and its later reception and development in Islamic civili-
sation. Although Syriac Epidemics is a Syriac translation of an Alexandrian med-
ical commentary which was produced by the West Syriac translator Sergius of
Rēšʿaynā, the text is preserved in an East Syriac codex which was copied around
the year 700 for a patron who resided in the Persian province Ḫūzistān.131 Thus,
this text provides a unique possibility to observe the transfer and circulation
of medical knowledge from Alexandria to Persia, that is from the late antique
Neoplatonic school to the East Syriac schools, which would initiate the Greek-
Arabic translation movement.132 This transfer is usually taken for granted or
reconstructed from its impact. The Syriac Epidemics offers primary evidence for
this process. Through it, we can see Syriac science in the making.

following the list of eight preliminaries that were standard in the Alexandrian exegetical
tradition (Bos/Langermann 2009).
130 I am planning to demonstrate elsewhere the influence of Alexandrian medicine upon the
East Syriac tradition, as exemplified by a treatise of Šemʿōn d-Ṭaibūṯēh (end of the seventh
131 On medicine in Ḫūzistān, and particularly at Gondēšāpūr, see Pormann/Savage-Smith
2007, 20–1; Dols 1987, 377.
132 Angeletti 1990, Touwaide 2010.
124 Grigory Kessel
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 125

Galen, Epidemics, Book One:

Text, Transmission, Translation
Uwe Vagelpohl

The Greek edition

When, several years before the beginning of World War 1, Ernst Wenkebach
undertook to edit the Greek text of Galen’s commentary on Hippocrates’
Epidemics, he was well aware of the enormity of his task.1 According to his
own admission several years later, his plan to re-edit Galen’s commentary on
the basis of the flawed Greek manuscript tradition alone had been foolish, the
more so since he had known early on about the ‘unprecedented corruptness of
the text’.2
Previous editions of Galen’s works, from the Aldine editio princeps published
between 1516 and 1526 to the most recent, issued in 1828–9 as part of Karl Gott-
lob Kühn’s edition of Galen’s Opera omnia, relied on the same set of Greek man-
uscripts.3 Wenkebach reported that the manuscripts used to edit the Epidemics
suffered from numerous defects, including the loss of entire books of the work.
Two substantial issues stood out: firstly, none of the manuscripts predated the
fourteenth century and, in addition, all of them depended on the same arche-
type, probably also from the fourteenth century. For Book 1, Wenkebach listed
six manuscripts, none older than the fifteenth century, most of which were also
available to the first editors. Secondly, there was no independent transmission
to supplement or correct the extant Greek text.4 In addition, in the process of
producing the editio princeps, the Hippocratic lemmas in Galen’s commentary
had been contaminated by the independently transmitted Hippocratic text.5

1 Unless specified otherwise, references to the Epidemics in this article refer exclusively to
Galen’s commentary, not the Hippocratic source text he commented on.
2 ‘[F]ast beispiellose Verderbtheit des Textes’; Wenkebach 1918, 48.
3 Kühn 1821–33, vols. xvii/a–b.
4 Cf. Wenkebach 1927, 3–5 and 1934, ix.
5 Cf. Wenkebach 1927, 28–36. The Hippocratic lemmas, often present only in abbreviated
form in the main manuscript of Galen’s commentary used by the editors, were supplied from
a manuscript of Hippocratic works; cf. Potter 1998, 246–7. Potter also demonstrated that the
two volumes of Aldus’ Hippocratis Opera omnia and volume 5 of the works of Galen, which
contained his commentary on the Epidemics, were published within days of each other in
126 Uwe Vagelpohl

Successive generations of scholars had introduced the occasional textual im-

provement; others, however, had filled substantial gaps in the Greek text with
whole chapters and books of their own invention.6 These and other shortcom-
ings of the Greek text led Wenkebach to pronounce the Aldine edition and all
others based on it ‘unreadable’.7
At the time he wrote these words, Wenkebach and his colleague Franz Pfaff
were in the process of comparing the Greek text with a short sample taken from
a manuscript of the Arabic translation donated by the Escorial.8 After securing
a complete set of reproductions a few years later, Wenkebach’s hopes about the
quality and importance of the Arabic witness produced by the famous transla-
tor Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq were decisively confirmed: it preserved a more or less
complete and also much older version of the commentary than the extant Greek
The apparatus of the Greek edition illustrates the extensive use Wenkebach
made of Pfaff’s German version of the Arabic translation. It indicates that he
considered it at least as reliable as his best Greek manuscripts, if not more so.
Occasionally, faced with textual loss and damage through scribal errors and
misunderstandings, Wenkebach relied solely on Pfaff to fill gaps in the Greek
text. Especially in the badly preserved sections of the mostly lost prooemium
of Book 1, Wenkebach cautiously reconstructed passages of the Greek text by
re-translating Pfaff’s German into Greek and inserting the material into the
skeleton provided by the fragmentary Greek text.10 Obviously flawed Greek
passages were sometimes ‘assimilated’ to the Arabic translation with the help of
a small number of targeted conjectures and additions.11 Again in the prooemium
to Book 1, Wenkebach cited Ḥunayn’s text to justify substantial additions and
quotations, e.g. from Book 2 of the commentary and other texts.12 On one occa-
sion, a lacuna that had already disfigured the Greek exemplar had grown even
longer in the extant Greek manuscripts but could be partially filled on the basis
April 1526 (258) and that the texts assembled in these volumes were prepared in a similar
fashion and from similar sources (250–1).
6 E.g. Book 2 (cf. Wenkebach 1917) and the lost prooemium to Book 1 (cf. Wenkebach 1918).
7 ‘[U]nlesbar’; Wenkebach 1927, 3.
8 Cf. Wenkebach 1918, 3, n. 2. For his comparison, Wenkebach relied not on the Arabic
text but Pfaff’s and Max Simon’s German translation. Simon had originally been assigned to
edit and translate the Arabic version of the commentary. After his untimely death, Pfaff was
commissioned by the Prussian Academy of Sciences to complete the project. He had intended
to edit the Arabic text alongside the German translation; however, the financial resources of
the Academy of Sciences did not allow for the costly printing of the Arabic (cf. Wenkebach
1934, xxxii–xxxiii).
9 Cf. Wenkebach 1925, 5 and 1934, xxi–xxii.
10 Cf. Wenkebach 1918.
11 E.g. p. 11, lines 1–10 W with Wenkebach 1918, 29.
12 Cf. p. 8, lines 13–17 and 20–1 W with Wenkebach 1918, 13–14; and p. 69, lines 3–4 W with
Diller 1937, 269.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 127

of the Arabic translation.13 Where the Arabic text suggested substantial gaps in
the Greek that could not be reconstructed with the help of parallels elsewhere,
Wenkebach supplied Pfaff’s German translation in the apparatus, as he did in
the case of lacunae explicitly indicated in the Greek manuscripts.14
Not all of his interventions, however, were as dramatic: most of the time, i.e. on
almost every single page, Wenkebach simply noted readings suggested by Pfaff’s
German text and weighed them against the evidence of his Greek manuscripts.
The Arabic version frequently served to support conjectures. Distinguishing
between valid variants and additions introduced by the Arabic translator was
not always unproblematic. Wenkebach knew well about Ḥunayn’s tendency to
expand his text with glosses, explicitations and explanations, but his reviewers
spotted a number of other additions that still made it into the edition.15
Finally, Wenkebach also used Ḥunayn’s translation to identify inauthentic
material. In two cases, the Arabic version of the prooemium lacked additional
quotations from Hippocratic writings transmitted by the Greek manuscript tra-
dition. Wenkebach ascribed these quotations to a later Byzantine interpolator
and cited their absence in the Arabic text as evidence for its insertion into a
manuscript younger than those Ḥunayn worked with.16
The crucial role of the Arabic translation for reconstituting the Greek of Book
1 of the Epidemics suggests that in his attempt to produce a faithful representa-
tion of the Greek original behind his defective manuscript sources, Wenkebach’s
version at times resembled a hybrid confected from the results of four separate
stages of translation and interpretation spanning more than ten centuries. As
reported in Ḥunayn’s Epistle (Risāla), a summary of the translation history of
Galenic texts Ḥunayn and his associates worked on, the first step consisted of a
translation from Greek into Syriac of Book 1, produced in the early ninth cen-
tury by ʾAyyūb al-Ruhāwī / Job of Edessa.17 ʾAyyūb frequently appears in the
Epistle as a translator from Greek into Syriac; Ḥunayn noted that he corrected
several of his translations and he criticised ʾAyyūb on a number of occasions.18
Mostly, however, he just mentioned his translation without comment. The sec-
ond step, also reported in the Epistle, consisted of the translation of ʾAyyūb’s

13 P. 66, lines 9–10 W; cf. Diller 1937, 269.

14 Cf. p. 9, line 5 W.
15 For examples of explicitations that did not enter the Greek text, cf. Wenkebach 1918, 6 ad
p. 5, line 16 W and 8 ad p. 6, line 14 W. Some of the expansions that remained in Wenkebach’s
text were listed by Diller 1937, 267–8 and Alexanderson 1967, 122 ad p. 27, line 5 W; 124 ad
p. 73, line 27 W; 129 ad Epid. III, 37, line 23; 136 ad Epid. VI, 51, line 11.
16 Cf. Wenkebach 1918, 19–20, 21–2 and p. 9, lines 5–15, 20–4 W.
17 Bergsträsser 1925, 41, line 21 (Arabic); 34 (German).
18 Cf. Bergsträsser 1925, 20, line 7; 21, line 5; 24, line 7; 34, line 6; 40, line 7 (Arabic); 16, 19,
27, 32–3 (German).
128 Uwe Vagelpohl

Syriac text of Book 1 into Arabic, produced by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq himself.19 In-
terestingly, Epidemics Book 1 is one of only a handful of ʾAyyūb’s translations
which, according to the Epistle, Ḥunayn used to prepare an Arabic translation.
In his account in the Epistle, Ḥunayn then informs us that he himself collated
the Greek text of Book 2 and translated it first into Syriac, then into Arabic.20
Without mentioning Book 3, Ḥunayn reports that ʾAyyūb also translated Book
6 into Syriac and that, after some time, Ḥunayn produced an Arabic version of
this book—without, however, specifying the language or version he translated
from.21 More than a millenium later, we reach the third step: Max Simon and,
after his death, Franz Pfaff produced a translation of the Arabic Epidemics into
German. Their source for Book 1 was the same unique manuscript we have
today. Finally, Wenkebach used Pfaff’s translation, which he took to be faithful
replica of Ḥunayn’s Arabic version, to check and supplement his Greek manu-
script sources.
Clearly, the Greek edition of the Epidemics has many fathers, not just Hippoc-
rates, Galen and Ḥunayn. Galen’s discussion of textual variants and scribal mis-
takes and Ḥunayn’s ‘corrections’ of the defective textual transmission of Galen
illustrate that not even Hippocrates or Galen themselves were speaking with
one voice.22 Drawn from several sources, parts of the Greek text of Book 1 are
a construct based both on the defective Greek manuscripts and the Arabic text.
With Wenkebach’s edition, the circle of translation from Greek, the language
of origin, seems to close: from Greek to Syriac to Arabic to German and finally
back to Greek.
The complexities of the Greek edition are compounded by factors Wenkebach
could not have been aware of. As we now know, his trust in Pfaff’s German

19 Ḥunayn’s ambiguous phrasing ‘ʾAyyūb translated them (sc. the three parts of Book 1) ...
and I translated them (naqalahā ʾAyyūb ... wa-naqaltuhā)’ (Bergsträsser 1925, 41, lines 19–20
[Arabic]; 34 [German]) suggests that he may have re-translated the Greek text into Arabic
instead of ʾAyyūb’s Syriac version. A translation from the Syriac, however, seems more likely;
in his Epistle, Ḥunayn did not miss a chance to highlight his achievements and would in all
likelihood have made it sufficiently clear if he had discarded ʾAyyūb’s text and started from
20 As Pormann 2008a, 255 explains, the passage in question as it appears in the Epistle
was the result of an interpolation that aimed at including information about the otherwise
unmentioned Book 3 of the Epidemics. The version of the Epistle entry appended to Ḥunayn’s
translation does not contain the interpolation and only speaks of Book 2.
21 Bergsträsser 1925, 42, lines 6–7, 13–15 (Arabic); 34 (German).
22 Examples for Galen’s examination of variants at p. 35, line 30–6, line 6 W (cf. i.1.107 V);
p. 43, lines 22–9 W (cf. i.1.144 V); p. 98, line 20–99, line 8 (cf. i.2.219 V). Some of Ḥunayn’s
critical notes on Galen’s text can be found in Book 2.1 of the Epidemics: ii.1.111 HV (cf. p. 182,
lines 9–16 Pf) and ii.1.130 HV (cf. p. 187, line 39–188, line 4 Pf; cf. also Pormann 2008a, 256);
also in Book 2.6: ii.6.22 HV (cf. p. 361, line 44–362, line 30 Pf) and in Book 6.2: MS E2, fol. 55a,
line 16–fol. 55b, line 16.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 129

translation of Ḥunayn’s Arabic was not always well-placed.23 For one, Pfaff did
not know of some important manuscript sources available today. For his trans-
lation of Books 1 and 2 of Galen’s commentary, he relied on two manuscripts:24
E1 (for Books 1–3) and P1 (for Books 2 and those parts of Book 6 that were lost
in Greek); also, he claimed that there were no ‘material variants’ between E1
and P1. As we now know, this claim is incorrect.25 The most significant of the
additional sources for Book 2 Pfaff was unaware of is manuscript M, from which
P1 was copied;26 another partial copy of Book 2 covering parts 3–6, manuscript
A1, came to light recently in Istanbul.27 Also, he was not aware of P2, a manu-
script that contains only the Hippocratic lemmas from Book 1 extracted from
the commentary.28 Its readings are frequently better and closer to the Greek
than those of E1. Additions in the margin of E1 and a comparison of E1 with the
often more complete and reliable second main manuscript source for Book 2, M,
suggests that we have to assume a certain amount of textual loss in the Arabic
version of Book 1 and a certain degree of unreliability of E1, our only witness
for it. A number of superior readings of the Hippocratic lemmas we find in P2
also indicates that E1 may be of lesser quality than this manuscript or their
potentially shared archetype. For the Hippocratic lemmas, we can now also con-
sult A2, a manuscript that contains the commentary on the entire Hippocratic
Epidemics by the thirteenth-century physician Ibn al-Nafīs.29 Additional mate-
rial from both the lemmas and Galen’s commentary on Book 2 was preserved
in a collection of often verbatim extracts from the translation compiled by the
eleventh-century Cairene philosopher and physician Ibn Riḍwān.
These observations should not distract us from the fact that Wenkebach’s
edition, given the textual resources at his disposal, was a major achievement.
There are even examples of omissions in Ḥunayn’s translation that can be iden-
tified and filled on the basis of Wenkebach’s Greek text.30 At the same time,
the Epidemics strongly confirms the importance of the Arabic tradition for the
reconstruction of this text and large sections of Greek medical literature more
generally, a fact Wenkebach and also his predecessors were clearly aware of and

23 Cf. Strohmaier 1981, 189.

24 With the exception of A1, A2, P1 and P2, the sigla used below are those introduced by
Pormann 2008a, 251–2. They refer to the following manuscripts: Istanbul, Suleymaniye,
Ayasofya 3592 (A1); Istanbul, Suleymaniye, Ayasofya 3642 (A2); Cambridge, University
Library, Cantab. Dd.12.1 (C); Madrid, Escorial, árabe 804 (E1); Madrid, Escorial, árabe 805 (E2);
Milan, Ambrosiana, B 135 sup. (M); Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, arabe 2846 (P1); and Paris,
Bibliothèque nationale, arabe 6734 (P2).
25 ‘[S]achliche Varianten’, Wenkebach 1934, xxxii; cf. Pormann 2008a, 263, 267.
26 Wenkebach 1934, xx; cf. Pormann 2008a, 263.
27 See above, pp. 15–22.
28 Cf. the description in Degen 1986, 271.
29 Cf. Bachmann 1971.
30 E.g. p. 143, line 19 W.
130 Uwe Vagelpohl

that still applies to most of the Greek medical texts that survive in both their
original language and in an Arabic translation.31

The Epidemics in Arabic: a methodological excursus

Apart from its importance for the reconstruction of its Greek source text, the
Arabic translation of Galen’s Epidemics became a major source and inspiration
for the study of medicine in the Islamic world. Practicing physicians were
particularly attracted by its thorough and detailed case notes. Eagerly read
and commented on, the text and the diverse medical literature it gave rise to
illustrates its widespread use in both theoretical and practical, clinical contexts.32
At the same time, the Arabic Epidemics represents one of the milestones
of the Greek-Arabic and Syriac-Arabic translation movement of the eighth
to tenth century, during which a substantial part of the Greek philosophical,
scientific and medical literature became available to Arabic-speaking schol-
ars. Here, we are not concerned with the motivations and historical circum-
stances that occasioned this massive wave of translation activities.33 For a full
understanding of this text, its significance and its terminological and methodo-
logical profile, however, we need to situate it in the context of the translation
Unfortunately, literary evidence to contextualise and date Arabic transla-
tions is often limited or non-existent and for many translations, authorship and
dating have remained uncertain.34 Reconstructing the history of Greek-Arabic
translation and determining the linkages between texts and the impact they had
on each other and on associated original writings is and always will be a very
delicate task. The existence of Ḥunayn’s Epistle has proven very helpful, but it
still leaves many gaps: his information is sometimes vague and, by Ḥunayn’s
own admission, most likely incomplete.35 Another, more reliable source for rel-
evant information are the translations themselves, i.e. their terminology, stylis-
tic features36 and (whenever available) annotations and marginalia transmitted
alongside the texts.

31 Wenkebach 1934, xxii, quoting Mewaldt et al. 1914, xiv.

32 Cf. Pormann 2008a, 248 and 268–71; see Hallum, below, pp. 185–210.
33 Still the best introduction to the translation movement, its historical background, scope
and methods: Gutas 1998.
34 Ascriptions given in manuscripts and secondary sources such as the bio-bibliographical
literature have also frequently proven to be unreliable; cf. Endress 1992, 5–6.
35 Cf. the introduction to his Epistle: Bergsträsser 1925, 1 (Arabic); 1 (German).
36 Cf. Pormann 2004, 131–2.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 131

The systematic study of linguistic characteristics of translations and their

correspondence with source texts, a staple of many philologies and also at the
centre of methodological discussions in the field of translation studies, is firmly
established among Graeco-Arabists.37 While there is considerable consensus
about the analytical tools for studying source texts and translations, their prac-
tical application often exposes the limits to which this kind of evidence can be
stretched. Without outside confirmation from secondary sources, e.g. remarks
in contemporary writings that securely tie a text to an author, how much lin-
guistic evidence is suffient to establish date and authorship? How large a body
of texts do we need in a comparative study for our findings to become con-
clusive? In a medieval setting in which scribes and scholars, at least in some
fields, did not put as much emphasis on verbatim transmission as their modern
counterparts and held different views on authenticity and authorship, how do
we factor in the possibility of intentional modifications and inandvertent textual
changes over time?38 The translation scenarios commonly investigated in trans-
lation studies involve translation from and into modern languages. They do not
normally deal with the challenges outlined above. The study of Greek-Arabic
translations therefore requires methodological adjustments that could be use-
fully applied to any translation situation of the past in which contemporary ac-
tors operated on different concepts of translation and where information about
individual texts and translators is scarce.39
I would argue that before linguistic information drawn from such translations
can be used to its full potential in Greek-Arabic studies, two requirements need
to be met: firstly, we need to establish a comparative baseline, one or several
texts reliably dated and ascribed on the basis of internal and external evidence
that can serve as starting points from which to explore undated and anonymous
translations. Secondly, we need to establish a set of translation ‘metrics’, i.e.
linguistic features (including terminology, phraseology and stylistic character-
istics) that can be investigated in parallel in each individual specimen of a set
of translations. The application of these metrics should, however, be flexible
enough to allow for the specific styles and terminologies of fields such as math-
ematics and astronomy.
The Arabic translation of Galen’s commentary on the Epidemics brings us
as close to such a baseline in medical literature as we are likely to get. The
text is substantial enough to provide a large amount of data on terminology
and translation techniques. In addition, for a number of reasons, its dating and

37 For a short sketch of recent disputes in translation studies between more empirically and
linguistically oriented approaches and those influenced by cultural studies and textual theory,
cf. Olohan 2004, 5–8.
38 Cf. Vagelpohl 2010a.
39 The complications introduced by varying concepts of translation have been studied e.g.
for medieval translations from Latin into vernacular languages, cf. Evans 1994 and Pratt 1991.
132 Uwe Vagelpohl

ascription are reasonably secure: all relevant biographical and bibliographical

sources unanimously credit Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq with a translation of this text; as
we have seen above, he himself attested to his Arabic translation, based on the
Syriac version by Job of Edessa; also, all extant manuscripts of this text name
him as the author of the translation; and, finally, the translation contains a set
of notes introduced by ‘Ḥunayn said (qāla Ḥunayn)’ in which he discussed in
the first person translation issues and medical problems he encountered while
working with the text.40
The second requirement, a set of agreed-upon translation ‘metrics’ that can
be applied to a wide range of translations irrespective of age, translator and
contents, remains to be met in full. There are already numerous outstanding ex-
amples of translation analyses that study a large number of translation features.
So far, however, there has not been a comprehensive effort to pool the findings
of these studies (as pointed out by Oliver Overwien in his contribution to this
volume), caused no doubt in part by the issue of comparability between individ-
ual studies—a comparability only to be achieved by compiling an agreed-upon
catalogue of translation metrics for diachronic and synchronic comparison of a
wide variety of texts.

Translating by numbers: toward a quantitative analysis

of the Epidemics
Notwithstanding the traditional notion that translation necessarily has to be a
derivative activity based on another, ‘original’ text that remains epistemologically
and literarily superior, the act of translation has much in common with the
creation of an ‘original’ piece of writing. Just like any other written text,
translations are informed by numerous terminological and stylistic decisions
that cannot always be explained as a mechanic substitution of word for word
and syntactic structure for syntactic structure. The further the remove (e.g.
historical, cultural, linguistical) between ‘original’ text and translation, the more
creative the task of the translator and the more complex the connection between
corresponding words and sentences can become. Comparing translations
of the same source text into another language, even those produced in close
geographical and chronological proximity, reveals the substantial influence of
personal technique and style on the finished product.41
This ‘presence’ of the translator leaves individual traces, conscious or un-
conscious choices in wording and style of each translation. Recognising a sub-
40 For an edition and analysis of all of the notes and a comparison with those appearing in
other translations, especially pseudo-Aristotle’s Physiognomics, cf. Vagelpohl 2011.
41 Baker 2000, 244 maintains that ‘it is as impossible to produce a stretch of language in a
totally impersonal way as it is to handle an object without leaving one’s fingerprints on it’.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 133

set of such characteristic markers is the most important aim of the study of
translation metrics mentioned above: they are crucial for spotting the work
of individual translators or closely collaborating groups of translators such as
the so-called Ḥunayn ‘school’ or the slightly earlier Kindī circle.42 The nature
of such markers, however, is not limited to the kind of terminological and sty-
listic features captured by an analysis of translation metrics, they comprise a
wide variety of phenomena: on one end of the scale, they include the choice
of source texts to translate, e.g. specialisations in particular fields such as
medicine or mathematics; a distinct attitude to the source text and the task of
translating documented in individual translations, marginal notes or secondary
writings; strategies such as the existence or absence of annotations and in-text
glossing; and, on the other end, stylistic characteristics such as a preference for
certain conjunctions over others, a recurring set of technical terms or marked
tendencies to use specific syntactic constructions. The set of markers associ-
ated with a specific translator or group of translators can be termed his / their
translational ‘thumbprint’.43
Not all of these markers lend themselves equally well to analysis and not all
of them can be unambiguously linked to just one individual or group. Ascrip-
tions and datings based on anecdotal evidence or small collections of markers,
while not necessarily incorrect, remain open to conflicting interpretations. This
is where the aforementioned set of translation metrics comes into play: testing
for a substantial number of metrics across translations allows us to discover and
substantially refine the translational ‘thumbprint’ of a text. Before we follow this
thought any further, let us review some of the translational features or mark-
ers of the text at hand, Ḥunayn’s Arabic Epidemics. The data and comparative
evidence introduced below will illustrate some of the issues I have raised above
and confirm the need for methodological adjustments that can help us improve
our understanding of the Greek-Arabic translation movement and other, similar
translation episodes.

42 For attempts to isolate stylistic and terminological features typical for these two groups,
cf. e.g. Strohmaier 1970, 26–32 on Ḥunayn and his associates and Endress 1997 on the Kindī
circle, a group of translators who produced the texts used by the philosopher al-Kindī (d. 870).
Their translations date from around 817 to 870 (cf. Endress 1997, 43). On the somewhat
problematic notion of the Ḥunayn ‘school’, cf. Vagelpohl 2010a, 252–3.
43 Cf. Baker 2000, 245.
134 Uwe Vagelpohl

1. Particles

One of the more prominent features of ancient Greek is the the ubiquity of
so-called ‘connecting particles’, mostly single-syllable words that establish
connections between equal grammatical and textual elements (e.g. words,
phrases or clauses) and also express subtle nuances of tone and emphasis.44
These shifts in emphasis help establish underlying logical relations between
these elements.45
While individual instances of connecting particles often fulfil functions that
can be replicated with Arabic connectors, the Greek system of connecting parti-
cles as a whole differs substantially from its Arabic-language counterpart. Am-
biguities in meaning and function of Greek particles meant that they could be
translated or paraphrased with a variety of Arabic expressions. As we will see
below, translators’ actual choices depended to a large degree on their stylistic
preferences. In addition, the frequency of such particles provides a relatively
large amount of data. In all probability, textual revisions by later readers and
copyists were less likely to influence the overall numerical distribution of these
Arabic equivalents. For these reasons, the translation of Greek particles seems
well suited to become part of a translation’s ‘thumbprint’.
Among the most frequently occurring Greek particles in Book 1 of Galen’s
Epidemics (and almost all other translated texts) are μέν (203 occurrences), δέ
(470), γάρ (115) and οὖν (80), either separately or in combination (e.g. μέν—δέ or
γὰρ οὖν). Let us look at them one by one.
The particle μέν can occur alone or, more frequently, as part of a μέν—δέ
construction. In both cases, it is mostly left untranslated in Arabic or replaced
with the neutral connector wa (17 of 31 isolated occurrences, 94 of 111 occur-
rences in μέν—δέ constructions). Of the remaining translations, only combina-
tions of ʾammā—fa (6 times for isolated μέν, 4 for μέν in μέν—δέ constructions)
and isolated fa (6 times for isolated μέν, 2 for μέν in μέν—δέ constructions)
appear with any frequency. The remaining occurrences are translated with
a variety of Arabic expressions. For isolated μέν, we encounter one instance
each of fa-ʾinnahū and wa-ʾinna-mā, for μέν as part of a μέν—δέ construc-
tion, we find (wa-)ʾinna-mā (5) and one instance each of li-ʾanna, wa-ʾammā,
wa-ʾammā li-ʾanna, ʾimmā, ṯumma and wa-qad. We observe the same pat-
tern for combinations and compounds with μέν. The combination μὲν οὖν
is left untranslated 14 times out of 30; fa follows with 7 occurrences, wa-/
fa-qad with 6 and fa-ʾammā—fa with 3. The compound μέντοι remains un-
translated 6 times out of 17, followed by ʾillā ʾanna(hū) (3), fa-ʾammā—fa (3)

44 Cf. Denniston 1954, xliii–xlv.

45 Cf. Denniston 1954, xxxix.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 135

and one case each of fa, ṯumma, fa-ʾammā—fa-ʾinna-mā, wa-maʿa hāḏā and
In the case of the particle δέ, the proportion of untranslated instances is also
prominent but somewhat lower. Unlike μέν, the majority of instances of δέ oc-
cur in isolation (323) rather than as part of a μέν—δέ construction (124). Of the
former, 171 instances remain untranslated compared to 75 of the latter. Isolated
δέ is also frequently translated as wa-/fa-ʾammā—fa (47 of 323), wa-qad (24),
ṯumma (18), fa (17) and fa-lammā (14). Less prominent are ʾillā ʾannahū/hā (9),
wa-ʾammā (7), wa-lammā (5), wa-/fa-ʾinna-mā (4) and (wa-)matā (3). The final
four instances of isolated δέ are covered by single occurrences of wa-ʾammā li-
ʾannahū, ṯumma ʾannahumā, lākinna and fa-iḏan. As part of a μέν—δέ construc-
tion, the second-most frequent translation of δέ is ʾillā ʾannahū/hā (12 of 75),
followed by wa-/fa-ʾammā—fa (11), fa (7), wa-/fa-ʾinna-mā (6) and ṯumma (5).
The remaining translations are lākinnahū/hā (3), wa-/fa-ʾammā (2), fa-lammā
(2) and wa-ʾimmā (1).47 The expression δὲ καί also remains mostly untranslated
(7 of 16) or is variously rendered as fa (3), wa-ʾammā—fa and wa-qad (2 each),
wa-ʾammā and ʾayḍan (1 each). Both instances of δὲ οὖν are untranslated.
Whereas the translator apparently regarded the semantic content of many in-
stances of μέν or δέ as negligible, he puts at least some emphasis on occurrences
of γάρ and οὖν. His preferred translation for γάρ is wa-ḏālika ʾanna(hū/hā) (28
of 105), followed by 21 instances of non-translation. Similarly prominent are fa-
ʾinnahū (14), li-ʾanna(hū/hā) (13) and fa (12). Further down the list, we find wa-/
fa-qad (6) and various combinations of wa-ḏālika, e.g. wa-ḏālika li-ʾanna(hū/hā)
(3), wa-ḏālika kāna li-ʾanna (1), wa-ḏālika kānat bi-ḥasb (1), wa-ḏālika huwa (1).
The series of translations concludes with isolated instances of wa-huwa ʾanna
(2), wa-li-ḏālika (1), and wa-ʾinna-mā (1). The explanatory character of γάρ is
stressed even more in the collocations μὲν γάρ and γὰρ οὖν. The former occurs
9 times and is translated with wa-ḏālika anna(hū) (6), fa (2) and li-ʾanna (1); the
only instance of the latter appears as wa-mimmā tadullu-ka.
Finally, of the 47 isolated occurrences of οὖν, 25 are translated with fa and
9 left untranslated. Less prominent are al-ʾān (4), wa-/fa-qad (4), wa-ḏālika
ʾanna(hū), wa-/fa-lammā (2) and min ḏālika ʾanna (1).
The following table shows the most frequent translations of each of the particles
discussed above in isolation (i.e. not combined with other particles). Instances of
μέν and δέ inside μέν—δέ constructions are listed separately (the counted item
is italicised):

46 Although semantically different from the other instances of μέν discussed above, the
same holds for the combination ὁ μέν—ὁ δέ: the first part remains untranslated (2 out of 5),
the remaining instances are translated with three different Arabic equivalents (ʾaḥaduhumā;
wa-qawluhū; baʿḍuhum).
47 Instances of δέ in ὁ μέν—ὁ δέ structures are left untranslated (2 of 5) or are translated as
wa-ʾammā l-ṭarīq al-ʾāḫar, wa-ʾammā qawluhū and wa-baʿḍuhum.
136 Uwe Vagelpohl

μέν (31) μέν—δέ (111) δέ (323) μέν—δέ (124) γάρ (105) οὖν (47)
-0- 17 (55%) 95 (86%) 195 (60%) 75 (60%) 23 (22%) 12 (26%)
fa 6 (19%) 2 (2%) 17 (5%) 7 (6%) 22 (21%) 26 (55%)
ʾammā—fa 6 (19%) 4 (4%) 45 (14%) 11 (9%)
ʾinna-mā 1 (3%) 5 (5%) 4 (1%) 6 (5%) 1 (1%)
ṯumma 1 (1%) 18 (6%) 5 (4%) 2 (4%)
lammā 19 (6%) 2 (2%) 2 (4%)
ʾillā ʾannahū/hā 9 (3%) 12 (10%)
ʾammā 1 (1%) 7 (2%) 2 (2%)
lākinnahū/hā 1 (0%) 3 (2%)
ḏālika ʾannahū/ 28 (27%) 2 (4%)

ʾinnahū/hā 1 (3%) 14 (13%)
li-ʾannahū/hā 1 (1%) 13 (12%)
al-ʾān 4 (9%)

Table 1: The translation of Greek particles in Book 1 of the Arabic Epidemics.

Simply counting instances of various Arabic translations for Greek particles as

I have done above is an admittedly primitive procedure. Lumping together all
occurrences of a particle could be seen as glossing over the large variety of roles
each of them can play, especially isolated δέ and γάρ. Indeed, a comprehensive
analysis of the treatment of particles by the Arabic translator would probably
require us to determine the exact function of each instance separately and to
produce a separate breakdown of the respective Arabic translations of each of
these functions. In addition, it requires us to assume that the Syriac intermediary
Ḥunayn worked with either consistently reproduced Galen’s characteristic use
of Greek particles or that Ḥunayn relied on his Greek manuscripts more than on
ʾAyyūb’s Syriac translation. We will discuss this problem in more detail later on.
But we can already glean some interesting information from this data. For
one, my rough tabulation shows that the translator was perfectly aware of the
diversity of uses and meanings of particles: in accordance with the context, he
modulated his response between non-translation on one end of the range to Ar-
abic particles that strongly emphasise a particular function on the other end. In
fact, the translations especially of the semantically more flexible particles seem
a good match for specific functions of these particles, e.g. li-ʾanna and wa-ḏālika
ʾanna for the causal and explanatory functions of γάρ, non-translation and fa
for its progressive and perhaps also assentient functions.48 In explanatory and
didactic texts such as the Epidemics, the main role of the particle μέν consists
in emphasising or affirming an idea or, in conjunction with δέ, to introduce the

48 Cf. Denniston 1954, 58, 81, 86.

Galen, Epidemics, Book One 137

first in a list of balanced or contrasted items.49 Neither of these meanings has

to be made explicit in written Arabic, explaining the large number of cases in
which μέν was left untranslated.50 For most of the remaining cases, the translator
switched between fa, ʾammā—fa and ʾinna-mā, all of which impart emphasis or
signal a transition to a next step or new item. Compared with the relatively lim-
ited number and semantic scope of translations for μέν, the particle δέ required
a slightly wider range of translations to accommodate a wider range of possible
meanings: from mere connection and coordination to affirmation and even con-
trast.51 Again, non-translation is the most frequent strategy we encounter, but
some of the translations clearly reflect semantically stronger notes of emphasis
and coordination (e.g. ʾammā—fa and ṯumma) or opposition (e.g. ʾillā ʾannahū/
hā). In the case of the particle οὖν, we notice that the proportion of untranslated
instances resembles that of γάρ, suggesting that the translator considered it to
be a similarly strong marker for emphasis and temporal or logical progression.52
In addition to the preferred rendering fa, which reproduces both temporal and
logical shifts, the translator introduced a small number of other equivalents that
stress one or the other of these meanings, e.g. al-ʾān and ṯumma for indicating
temporal progression and ḏālika ʾannahū/hā for a logical relationship.
In spite of the apparent variety of Arabic equivalents for particular parti-
cles, the numerical distribution of such translations suggests that the transla-
tor strove for consistency: in identifying and reproducing the exact semantic
content of potentially ambiguous words, he relied on a limited number of terms
from a range of possible Arabic equivalents. This means that we should also be
able to determine further stylistic preferences of the translator by looking at the
particular Arabic choices this and other translators made to replicate certain
functions of a Greek particle.
To put the data from Book 1 of Galen’s Epidemics into perspective, let us take
a look at a similar data set extracted from a translation from an earlier stage
of the translation movement: the Arabic version of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, most
likely produced in the first half of the ninth century in close chronological and
perhaps geographic proximity to the Kindī circle.53 Its style and terminology,
while already remarkably sophisticated, cannot compete with the consistency
and diligence we encounter in translations produced by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq or
one of his associates. Do these differences also include the translator’s handling
of Greek particles?

49 The ‘emphatic’ and ‘preparatory’ functions, cf. Denniston 1954, 359, 369.
50 Cf. Gutas 2010, 98. On this and the following page, he also outlines other possible reasons
for the conscious omission of words from Greek source texts in Arabic translations.
51 The ‘continuative’ and ‘adversative’ functions, cf. Denniston 1954, 162, 165.
52 Cf. Denniston 1954, 425–6.
53 Cf. Vagelpohl 2008, 180, 205–8. The sample text comprises a little less than the first half of
Book 3 of the Rhetoric (1403b6–12a16; Lyons 1982, 171, line 1–204, line 3).
138 Uwe Vagelpohl

μέν (43) δέ (197) γάρ (116) οὖν (10)

-0- 24 (56%) 93 (47%) 29 (25%) 2 (20%)
fa 4 (9%) 17 (9%) 28 (24%) 3 (30%)
ʾammā—fa 4 (9%) 59 (30%) 3 (3%) 1 (10%)
ʾinna-mā 1 (0%) 3 (1%) 1 (1%)
ṯumma 3 (7%) 4 (2%) 2 (2%)
ʾillā ʾannahū/hā
ʾammā 2 (1%) 1 (10%)
lākinnahū/hā 5 (2%) 1 (1%)
ḏālika ʾannahū/hā 3 (3%)
ʾinnahū/hā 6 (14%) 8 (4%) 32 (27%) 2 (20%)
li-ʾannahū/hā 17 (14%)
al-ʾān 1 (10%)

Table 2: The Arabic translation of Greek particles in Aristotle’s Rhetoric.

In spite of the limited size of the sample, certain tendencies stand out. With
few exceptions, the base stock of Arabic translations for Greek particles seems
to remain stable, but their relative proportions differs, sometimes significantly.
Among other phenomena, we notice a smaller share of untranslated particles,
especially μέν and δέ. The translator of the Rhetoric tends to explicitate the em-
phasis imparted by particles, e.g. by more frequently rendering δέ as ʾammā—fa
instead of leaving it untranslated. Also, he displays a marked preference for the
Arabic particle ʾinna with suffixed pronouns for all of the Greek particles we
are studying, especially μέν and γάρ; Ḥunayn only uses it with some frequency
to translate γάρ. At the same time, we find considerably less instances of Ara-
bic particles strongly emphasising the causal function of γάρ, e.g. li-ʾanna or
Ḥunayn’s preferred translation ḏālika ʾannahū/hā. This suggests that, at least
for γάρ, the translator of the Rhetoric was more likely to pick less explicit equiv-
alents such as ʾinna, downplaying any strong causal connotation individual in-
stances of γάρ may have expressed. This does not necessarily indicate that he
generally understated the semantic import of stronger particles, but it at least
demonstrates that he operated with a somewhat different set of Arabic particles.
For example, Ḥunayn is more partial to ʾillā ʾanna with suffixed pronouns to
render adversative δέ than lākinnahū/hā. We do not find any instances of ʾillā
ʾanna in the sample of the Rhetoric we analysed. Instead, its translator uses the
expression ġayra ʾanna which does not occur in the Epidemics.
These findings suggest that the individual treatment of Greek particles in
translation should be included among the markers that constitute a translator’s
stylistic ‘thumbprint’. There is of course more to a translator’s technique than
style. Of at least equal weight is the terminology of a translation. As many
scholars have pointed out, however, especially some of the prominent technical
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 139

terms we encounter in extant manuscripts may not reflect the terminological

choices of the original translator but be the result of revisions by readers and
scribes in the course of textual transmission who sometimes either misread the
manuscript or were tempted to ‘update’ a seemingly obsolete text with the help
of technical terms en vogue at the time.54 This means that a handful of conspicu-
ous terms have little evidentiary value unless confirmed by additional evidence
drawn from other stylistic features or reliable external sources.

2. Compounds

Let us now turn to a phenomenon that straddles the border between terminol-
ogy and style: the translation of Greek compounds. Given the morphological
system of Arabic and Semitic languages in general, there was no straightfor-
ward and uniform technique to replicate combined terms made up from two or
more words or those created with affixes. Rather, translators used a variety of
methods to convey the meaning of such terms. One prominent and frequently
encountered class of Greek compounds are negations with the negative prefix
α, so-called ‘alpha privative’. The very variety of Arabic options to express such
terms also gave individual translators the opportunity to make stylistic choices,
both unconsciously and deliberately.
The options available to Arabic translators can be grouped together as fol-
lows: firstly, they can convey the meaning of a negated term with an Arabic
word denoting the direct opposite or the lack or scarcity of the negated con-
cept. This technique obviates the need for a particle or other marker indicating
negation. Secondly, they can use Arabic negative particles, e.g. lā or laysa, in
conjunction with verbs, nouns and adjectives. Thirdly, instead of negative par-
ticles, they can combine the same verbs, nouns and adjectives with other words
that denote the absence or deficiency of the negated concept, e.g. ġayr (unlike),
ʿadam (absence) or qilla (deficiency). The first of these shows up so frequently
that it will be traced separately.55
A search for negative terms with alpha privative in Book 1 of Galen’s Epi-
demics brings up 78 distinct or unique terms (not counting repetitions). These
were translated with 309 unique Arabic equivalents from the groups described
above.56 Of these, 182 (59%) consist of opposites. Among terms generated with
Arabic negative particles, the second-biggest share (61 or 20%), we find the fol-

54 Cf. e.g. Kruk 1979, 23.

55 Cf. the slightly different classification of Arabic translations for the negative prefix and a
discussion of translators’ treatment of additional varieties of Greek compounds in Pormann
2004, 239–45.
56 In doublets (or hendiadyoin), i.e. translations of Greek terms with more than one Arabic
term, each item of the doublet is counted separately.
140 Uwe Vagelpohl

lowing constructions: lā with a verb (26 or 8%), absolute negations (7 or 2%) or a

participle (1 or 1%), adding up to 34 (11%); lam with a verb, especially prominent
for forms of ἄπεπτοϲ and ἀπεψία (15 or 5%); and laysa (12 or 4%), either with a
verb (7 or 2%), an adjective or participle predeced by the preposition bi (2 or 1%),
other prepositions in conjunction with adjectives or participles (5 or 1%), and in
one case with an adjective without preposition (less than 1%). Paraphrases with
ġayr in conjunction with nouns, adjectives or participles account for 41 cases
or 13%; they tend to cluster around the terms ἄκαιροϲ, ἄκριτοϲ, ἄπεπτοϲ and
ἄχρουϲ. Finally, we find 17 paraphrases (5.5%) with other terms such as ʿadam
(3 or 1%), qilla (3 or 1%), ḫilāf (difference; 2 or 1%) and ʾibṭāʾ (delay; 2 or 1%) and
one instance each of ʾaqall (less), buṭlān (invalidity), mumtaniʿ (prevented), qalīl
(little), ḏahāb (departure), iḫtilāf (difference) and istimsāk (adherence).
To provide some context for this data, I have compiled statistics for several
groups of texts from different stages of the Greek-Arabic translation move-
ment based on the glossaries of printed editions. The first group consists of
ten Hippocratic and Galenic texts assigned to Ḥunayn or one of his associates.57
Comparing Galen’s Epidemics to this set of texts helps to determine how typical
the translation of the Epidemics is in the context of medical translations pro-
duced in Ḥunayn’s workshop.
In this first group of texts, we find 172 negative terms with 355 translations.
While less prominent, translation with opposites is again the most frequent
choice (150 or 42%). Arabic negative particles appear 92 times (26%). Among
them, lā takes the largest share (67 or 19%), used in conjunction with verbs (31
or 8%), absolute negations (31 or 8%), with preceding bi and a noun (7 or 2%) and
with participles (3 or 1%). Negations with lam and a verb occur less frequently
(14 or 4%), as does the negative particle laysa (11 or 3%), either with a noun or
participle preceded by the preposition bi (6 or 1.5%) or with another preposition
with a noun or participle (5 or 1.5%). Paraphrases with terms other than ġayr,
e.g. ʿadīm (lacking; 13 or 4%), ʿadam (8 or 2%), qilla (7 or 2%), ʾaqall (5 or 1%),
qalīl (3 or 1%) etc. account for 68 translations (19%), paraphrases with ġayr for
another 41 (11%).
The second group of texts consists of five non-medical works translated by ei-
ther Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq or one of his associates. With this step, the comparative
pool is extended to cover non-medical translations; this allows to check whether
some or all of the phenomena identified in the previous step were typical only
of medical texts or applied to all of the translations from Ḥunayn’s workshop
regardless of subject matter.
These mostly philosophical works included 116 negative terms with 203
translations. Of these, 63 were covered by opposites (31%) and 57 (28%) by Ara-
bic negative particles, i.e. lā (51 or 25%: 28 times/14% in absolute negation, 16/8%

57 The sets of texts and editions I used are listed in the Appendix.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 141

with verbs, 5/2% with adjectives or participles and 2/1% as bi-lā with a noun),
laysa (4 or 2%: 2 cases of adjectives or participles with the preoposition bi, 2
cases without) and lam with verbs (2 or 1%). Also prominent are paraphrases
with ġayr (53 or 26%) and with terms other than ġayr (30 or 15%, e.g. 7 exam-
ples/3% of ḫurūǧ (departure), 4/2% of ʿadīm, 3/1.5% each of ʿadam and qalīl, 2/1%
of qilla etc.)
Finally, I examined a third group of non-medical texts from the Kindī cir-
cle. In this step, the results of the synchronic textual comparisons are put into
diachronic perspective to determine possible developments in terminology and
translation methodology across time.
This final sample contains 91 negative terms with 229 translations. The distri-
bution differs somewhat from that of the other groups: by far the most frequent
translation option we encounter is negations (109 or 48%), among them lā (73 or
32%, 45 times/20% with verbs, 18 times/8% in absolute negation, 7 times/3% with
a participle or noun and 3 times/1% as bi-lā with a noun), laysa (30 or 13%, i.e.
16 times/7% followed by bi with an adjective or participle, 6/3% without, 4/2% in
conjunction with lahū and a noun, 3/1% with verbs etc.) and lam (6 or 3%). Op-
posites (61 or 27%) follow in second place, paraphrases with ġayr (32 or 14%) in
third. The remainder consists mainly of paraphrases with terms other than ġayr
(27 or 11%), among them ʿadam (8/3.5%), ʿadīm and qilla (each 4/2%), ʾaqall and
radāʾa (badness; each 2/1%) etc.
The following table gives an impression of the differences between Book 1 of
the Epidemics and the three groups of sampled texts (only the more important
translation options are listed):

Epidemics Ḥunayn workshop Kindī circle

medical non-medical non-medical
negative/translation 78/309 172/355 116/203 91/229
opposite 182 (59%) 150 (42%) 63 (31%) 61 (27%)
negation, including 61 (20%) 92 (26%) 57 (28%) 109 (48%)
—lā+verb 26 (8%) 31 (8%) 16 (8%) 45 (20%)
—absolute negation 7 (2%) 31 (8%) 28 (14%) 18 (8%)
—laysa 12 (4%) 11 (3%) 4 (2%) 30 (13%)
—lam 15 (5%) 14 (4%) 2 (1%) 6 (3%)
paraphrase, including 58 (18.5%) 109 (30%) 83 (41%) 59 (25%)
—ġayr 41 (13%) 41 (11%) 53 (26%) 32 (14%)
—≠ġayr 17 (5.5%) 68 (19%) 30 (15%) 27 (11%)

Table 3: Arabic translations of the negative prefix α.

Some qualifications apply to the numbers presented above: unlike the compre-
hensive data compiled from Epidemics Book 1, the information about the other
texts is drawn not from a thorough analysis of each of them, but from their
142 Uwe Vagelpohl

respective glossaries. Some of these are selective, others more comprehensive;

some offer contextual information, others do not; only a few of them include
quantitative data, i.e. the number of occurrences of individual translations com-
pared to others; most, however, do not. Hence, the data is necessarily inconsist-
ent and we can only pinpoint the most obvious tendencies and draw relatively
general conclusions.
A look at the numbers illustrates these problems. On the negative side, the
differences in translating the negative prefix are already very pronounced be-
tween texts allegedly produced by the same person or group of translators. The
data from the two sets of texts from Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq and his associates offers
a very uneven picture, e.g. insofar as the quota of each of the translation options
listed in the table above varies widely between these groups of texts and the Epi-
demics. The data from Epidemics Book 1 does not seem to match closely either
the medical nor the non-medical set. In some columns, the Epidemics seem to be
more similar to the translations of the Kindī circle than those produced by the
same translator or his associates.
On the positive side, the table shows that some translation options do indeed
seem to be suited as markers for a specific group of translators or stage of the
translation movement. For example, the later translations show a clear preference
for the ‘translation’ of the negative prefix, i.e. for opposites over negations with
lā or laysa. The percentage of negations with the negative particle lā seems to
drop considerably over time. The use of laysa, especially in conjunction with the
preposition bi, also falls off quickly after the earlier stage of the translation move-
ment. Composites of ġayr in combination with nouns, adjectives or participles
remain prominent and even increase in importance between the older and the
more recent translations. In addition, the latter experiment with a much wider
range of paraphrastic structures; in addition to ġayr, we find a variety of qualify-
ing nouns, adjectives and particles to bring out the negative sense of the negative
Even on the basis of our imperfect data set, we notice stylistic tendencies
and differences in the translation of the negative prefix between the Epidemics
and the translations associated with Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq on the one hand and
the slightly older texts produced by the Kindī circle. These findings are still
in need of further confirmation, but they already suggest that the handling of
compounds, including those with alpha privative, should form part of the trans-
lation ‘thumbprint’ we seek to establish.
The assumption that certain features of translated texts, e.g. their termino-
logical consistency (defined as little variety and consistent application of terms),
correlate with periodisations of the translation movement, i.e. that the consist-
ent application of a limited set of Arabic translations for Greek terms is the
hallmark of ‘better’ (and chronologically later) translations is highly problem-
atic, not just because some ‘late’ translations display the same range of alleged
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 143

defects earlier translations suffer from.58 My impression so far is that it is at

least very difficult to establish a direct link between terminological variation
and consistency on the one hand and the age and authorship of a translation on
the other.59 In our review of translations of alpha privative, the mere number
of different renderings by itself (expressed as the average ratio of Greek terms
to Arabic translations) does not seem to be associated with the date or author
of a translation: for the Epidemics, we arrive at a ratio of almost 1:4 (78:309);
the medical translations of Ḥunayn and his collaborators have a ratio of about
1:2 (172:355), the non-medical translations 1:1.75 (116:203); and the Kindī circle
translations exhibit a term:translation ration of ca. 1:2.5 (91:229). The evolution
of translation methods apparently does not necessarily limit the terminological
choices of translators.60

Improving on Galen: Ḥunayn’s translational approach

Quantitative data can help us establish stylistic and terminological linkages

between texts and between a text and its translator. With the right tools, we
may even be able to overcome the shortcomings of this and similar quantitative
analyses outlined above. This is something that I will return to later on.
Knowing what happened on the page, however, does not necessarily tell us why
it happened; the criteria for a successful translation and the distinction between
translation on the one hand and other genres such as paraphrase, summary and
commentary remained fluid throughout the history of translation.61 Tracking
the outcome of sometimes unconscious stylistic and terminological decisions
therefore gives us only an incomplete picture of Ḥunayn’s approach and his
thought about translation and the role of the translator.
Besides his Epistle, Ḥunayn left us with a number of notes and remarks trans-
mitted alongside some of his translations.62 Among them, the Epidemics stand

58 Frequently noted in this context is the (in some respects admittedly extreme) example
of ʾAbū Bišr Mattā’s tenth-century translations of Aristotle’s Poetics and Posterior Analytics;
cf. Zimmermann 1981, lxxvi. Since ʾAbū Bišr’s problem may have been philosophical rather
than translational competence, these texts could also be seen as outliers that do not invalidate
the developmental narrative.
59 Cf. Vagelpohl 2008, 166, 172, 179–80.
60 For a thorough critique of and alternative to the ‘chronological paradigm’ of translation
history that postulates several stages of methodological improvement over time, cf. Gutas
1998, 141–50. The author proposes a different model based on ‘clusters’ of translators or
translations centred around specific personalities or subjects.
61 Cf. St-Pierre 1990, 255 and Vagelpohl 2010a, 245–6.
62 For a survey of his relevant statements in the Epistle and the concept of translation they
suggest, cf. Vagelpohl 2010a, 248–53.
144 Uwe Vagelpohl

out: Books 1–3 and 6 contain the most and also most extensive of such notes.63
In length, they range from a few lines to several pages. Their contents also
vary widely: Ḥunayn added amplifications and explanatory notes on medical
issues, explained terminology (including etymological remarks) and provided
background information, commented on philological issues such as gaps and
apparent contradictions in the text and justified omissions. In addition to not-
ing gaps, Ḥunayn occasionally attempted to fill them on the basis of additional
sources, parallel Galenic texts or simply the principles he derived from Galen’s
writings.64 The image that emerges from the Epistle and these notes is that of
a translator whose loyalty lay first and foremost with his readers. Rather than
produce a mirror image of his source text replicating as many of its linguistic
and terminological features as possible, Ḥunayn emphasised transmitting its
ideas and concepts.65 From the Epistle, we know that many of the sponsors com-
missioning translations were, like Ḥunayn, practising physicians. They did not
pay the substantial rates accomplished translators such as Ḥunayn commanded66
for philological accurracy, but for theoretical and practical medical knowledge
they could put to use in their own work. This explains not just the many ex-
planatory notes that appear under Ḥunayn’s own name in the translation, but
also his many unmarked and less conspicuous interventions, e.g. short glosses
based on his own knowledge or parallel Galenic texts, repetitions, expliciations,
terse explanations scattered throughout the text and the occasionally ‘modern-
ised’ terminology (see Overwien in this volume).
Ḥunayn’s unmarked interventions could also become relatively lengthy. Ga-
len occasionally referred to whole clauses or previously discussed points by
pronouns. In Arabic, these could result in confusion and we sometimes encoun-
ter expansions to make explicit what Galen was talking about. Some examples:
in his discussion of the location of cities and the attendant weather conditions,
Ḥunayn added the clause ‘when its ordinary condition of the air arose, during
which it is extremely hot and wet (ɼ̑Ǎ̈́Ǩͫāć Ǩʥͫā LJ́ʉ͎ ɷʉˬ͇ ŴǨ͎Αā ǽͲLJ͇ ƛLJ̤ ƹāǍ́ˬͫ Ȉ̓ṳ̈̌ LJ˳ͫ)’
to gloss the Greek ‘for this reason (διὰ τοῦτο)’.67 To remind his readers of the
current topic and to make the relation between it (coarseness [τραχύτηϲ] of the
voice) and the drying out of the vocal apparatus explicit, Ḥunayn inserts the re-
minder ‘as we explained, its coarseness is the result of dryness (ƦǍ˜̒ LJ́͵ćĔ ɼ͵Ǎʷʦͫāć
ȫʒʉͫā ɬͲ LJ˶ˬ͘ LJ˳͛)’ before returning to Galen’s explanation about dryness: ‘dryness

63 A small number of the notes have previously appeared in print, cf. Degen 1979, 81–2, 90.
On the contents and importance of the notes, cf. Vagelpohl 2011.
64 ‘I added comments I thought corresponded to Galen’s procedure in his commentary and
what belongs to it (ɷ̑ ɡˀʓ̈ LJͲć ɷͫ ƱǨʉʶˏ̒ ǽ͎ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ȇ΀ǛͲ ɡ͛LJʷ̈ ƦΑā Ȉ˶˶ͅ LJͲ Ǩʉʶˏʓͫā ɬͲ ɷʉͫΒā Ȉˏ̀Αā)’ (ii.1.130
HV, cf. p. 188, lines 1–4 Pf).
65 Cf. Gutas 1998, 140–1 and Overwien in this volume.
66 Cf. Gutas 1998, 138–9.
67 Book i.1.67 V; cf. p. 23, line 21 W.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 145

alone combines with both mixtures (μόνη δ ἡ ξηρότηϲ ἀμφοτέραιϲ ταῖϲ κράϲεϲι
ϲυνέρχεται)’.68 In one of his case descriptions, Ḥunayn elaborated on Hippoc-
rates’ terse expression ‘he grew cold all around (περιέψυκτο)’ with ‘the chill
affected his extremities and the surface of his body (ɷ͵ǚ̑ Ǩ΀LJͅć ɷ͎āǨ̈́Αā ǽ͎ ĔǨ̑ ɷ̑LJ̿Αā)’.69
Another interesting example illustrates the tendency of Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq and
his associates to remove or tone down references to polytheism to accommo-
date the religious sensibilities of their audience. He explained a reference to the
Greek name ‘Atlas (τῷ Ἄτλαντι)’ with ‘the angel the poets claim (ǚ͘ ķǛͫā ɑˬ˳ͫā
ƹāǨˈʷͫā ɨ͇ǩ̈)’: the titan Atlas becomes an ‘angel’.70
It should be noted, however, that some of the apparent discrepancies between
the Greek and Arabic versions could also be the result of Greek text loss rather
than Arabic expansion. Discussing the tenets of Quintus and the Empiricists,
the Arabic text appends the clause ‘on the basis of which they determine the
required treatment; this is analogy (ɼ͵ĢLJ˙˳ͫā Ǎ΀ć ɡ̣LJˈ̈ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ LJͲ ȅˬ͇ LJ́̑ ƦǍͫǚʓʶ̈ ǽʓͫā)’
to the term ‘syndromes (ἃϲ ϲυνδρομὰϲ)’.71 This may be yet another explanatory
addition by Ḥunayn, but the reference to ‘analogy (muqārana)’ could also sug-
gest that this remark was part of the source text Ḥunayn translated from and
that, according to Galen, the empiricists regarded the collection of symptoms
Hippocrates links with seasonal weather conditions as syndromes, analogous to
their own definition of the term. There is also no Greek equivalent in Wenke-
bach’s edition for the Arabic clause ‘at the very beginning of the study of medi-
cine, before I practised it or observed anyone else practising it (ƛćΑā ǽ͎ ɑͫĕ ƦLJ͛ć
ɷʤͫLJˈ̈ Ǩʉ͈ Ǩˁ̤Αā ćΑā ΈLJʈʉ̶ ɷ˶Ͳ șͫLJ͇Αā ƦΑā ɡʒ͘ ȇ˅ͫā ɨˬˈ̒ ƹāǚʓ̑ā)’, which forms part of a paragraph
in which Galen explains the importance of the maxim that physicians should
help the patient or at least not harm him.72 In the following passage, Galen
recollects instances of malpractice he used to see during his very first years of
attending other physicians. This sentence seems too personal and specific to
have been Ḥunayn’s invention; on the other hand, he could have added it from
a parallel source without notifying his readers.
Less frequently, the Arabic text is shorter than its Greek counterpart. Apart
from instances of gaps caused by loss or damage (e.g. two folia from MS E1),
a certain number of omissions were intentional.73 On the Greek side, several
Hippocratic quotations in the prooemium that do not appear in the Arabic ver-

68 Book i.2.206 V; cf. p. 95, lines 5–6 W.

69 Book i.3.93 V; cf. p. 134, line 1 W.
70 Book i.3.18 V; cf. p. 107, line 28 W. On the translation of polytheistic material into Arabic,
cf. Strohmaier 1968, 131 and his contribution to this volume (below, p. 179).
71 Book i.1.45 V; cf. p. 17, lines 9–10 W.
72 Book i.2.137 V; cf. p. 76, line 6 W.
73 Other apparent gaps in the Arabic text preserved in E1 were recorded in the margin by the
copyist who produced MS M, David Colville (cf. Pormann 2008a, 265–7). This suggests that
some of the other lacunae (e.g. p. 133, lines 7–8 W) may also be due to a scribal error.
146 Uwe Vagelpohl

sion may have been the work of later interpolators manipulating the Greek
text.74 Although, as we can see in this and other translations, Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq
strove for comprehensiveness, we have his own testimony for cases in which he
consciously omitted material he regarded as irrelevant, overly difficult to trans-
late or of little interest to his audience.75
The evidence from the Epidemics and Ḥunayn’s Epistle demonstrates that
Ḥunayn’s understanding of the task of the translator hardly agrees with mod-
ern notions of translational accuracy. In a way, it goes beyond the remit of a
translator according to our own understanding and frequently approaches that
of a commentator. The fluidity of boundaries between genres such as transla-
tion, paraphrase and commentary we observe in this and other translations does
not just affect translation from Greek into Syriac and Arabic, it is a common
characteristic of medieval translation as a whole.76 In addition to comparing
Arabic translations with each other and their Syriac and Greek source texts, we
urgently need to widen our perspective and take advantage of current scholar-
ship on medieval translation into and out of Latin and the vernacular languages
of Western Europe and between Arabic and Latin.77
The flexibility of Ḥunayn’s approach is, as we have seen in the first part of
this article, also one of the factors that complicated the task of editing the Greek
text. Wenkebach’s reliance on the Arabic translation to navigate the shallows of
the Greek textual tradition often led him to incorporate Ḥunayn’s glosses into
the Greek text or athetise material he erroneously ascribed to Ḥunayn. When
comparing Greek with Arabic, we may sometimes be dealing with one and the
same text in different guises. The vagaries of textual transmission (in both lan-
guages) and Ḥunayn’s pragmatic attitude need to be taken into account when
analysing and comparing the Greek and Arabic Epidemics. What looks like in-
consistency, inaccuracy or mistranslation may be an editorial mishap, scribal
error or even further proof for Ḥunayn’s versatility.
Finally, an additional factor that may or may not have a bearing on our as-
sessment of the relationship between the Greek and Arabic Epidemics: the Syr-
iac translation. In his Epistle, Ḥunayn wrote that ʾAyyūb translated some parts
(i.e. Books 1 and 6) of the Epidemics into Syriac and that he (Ḥunayn) then
translated the text into Arabic. In the case of Books 1 and 6, his report does not

74 Wenkebach 1918, 16–22 suspects this to be the case for p. 9, lines 6–14 W; p. 9, lines 20–3
W; and p. 9, line 30–10, line 6 W.
75 E.g. p. 11, line 23–12, line 2 W; p. 12, lines 8–15 W; p. 28, lines 28–30 W; p. 47, lines 5–6
W; p. 113, lines 5–11 W. On this phenomenon and its occurrence in other texts, cf. also Gutas
2010, 99.
76 Cf. Ellis 1989, 7.
77 To give but two examples, cf. the fascinating comparative work on changing theories of
translation in the Arabic-Latin and Latin-vernacular translation traditions published in Fidora
2009 and the essays collected in Speer and Wegener 2006.
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 147

reveal whether Ḥunayn translated from Greek or from ʾAyyūb’s Syriac version;
he may only have used the latter in the process of collating his Greek source
text. For Book 2, ʾAyyūb seems to have played no role, Ḥunayn affirms that he
himself produced both a Syriac and an Arabic version. Book 3 is not mentioned
at all.78 As it stands, the secondary literature leaves us unable to determine the
influence of ʾAyyūb’s (or someone else’s) Syriac version of Galen’s Epidemics
Unfortunately, we also cannot rely on primary texts to answer this question:
a large majority of Syriac intermediary translations did not survive. This is also
the case for the Epidemics, although, as Grigori Kessel reports in his contribu-
tion to this volume, we may have parts of a commentary that is at least closely
related to Galen’s.79 Without any textual evidence, we need to keep in mind that
any characteristic we now ascribe to Ḥunayn or another Arabic translator or
classify as a stylistic peculiarity or misunderstanding of the Arabic version may
ultimately go back to the Syriac intermediary.
For a comprehensive assessment of the role of Syriac translators, we also
ultimately need to extend the study of Greek-Arabic translations both in terms
of subject matter and translation history and include the rich parallel tradition
of translations of Greek Christian texts into Syriac and Arabic,80 overcoming a
tendency artificially to exclude non-scientific and philosophical material. The
translators, while not always the same people, were likely trained in the same
institutions or in institutions which followed the same scholarly tradition.81


The Arabic translation of the Epidemics has already rendered invaluable

services to the editor of the extant Greek parts of this pivotal Galenic work. It
can, and will, do the same for historians of the transmission of antique medical
thought to the Islamic world and beyond and students of the Greek-Arabic
translation movement and the wider field of medieval translation. Thanks to
its extensiveness, its translational sophistication and its annotations, it could
provide an ideal starting point for comparative studies, not least because it is

78 Cf. my discussion in the first part of this paper.

79 This commentary covers a section of Book 6; cf. e.g. Degen 1981, 151, no. 74. Galen must
have been an important source for the text, as was the commentary of John of Alexandria, to
which we find numerous similarities.
80 Documented e.g. in Graf 1944.
81 For a discussion of the often close link between Greek-Syriac translations in subjects
as different as (Christian) theology on the one hand and logic and medicine on the other,
cf. Vagelpohl 2010b, 138–9 with references.
148 Uwe Vagelpohl

one of the few translations we can, on the basis of a wide range of internal and
external evidence, tie with some confidence to a particular translator, Ḥunayn
ibn ʾIsḥāq.
Starting from the assumption that we need to establish an agreed-upon set of
translation characteristics that can serve to provide data for further compara-
tive work, we have tested two such potential markers and gathered interesting
data on the translation of the Epidemics, including a tentative comparison to a
variety of translations from different stages of the translation movement.
We have also identified a number of factors that complicate an assessment of
this translation, e.g. the partial dependency of the Greek text on its Arabic coun-
terpart and the impact this could have on a comparison between the two. Others
apply not just to the Epidemics but to numerous translations from Greek. Two
of them seem particularly important: firstly, the potential influence of Syriac
intermediaries on the finished Arabic product which, in the absence of extant
Syriac versions, remains hard to measure. Secondly, the divergences between
our understanding of the task of the translator and contemporary thought
about translation. These two factors complicate the application of criteria such
as ‘consistency’ on the terminology and style of this and other translations and
have a direct bearing on identifying what we may regard as translation prob-
lems or mistranslations. Fortunately, the text of the Arabic Epidemics and its
annotations yield an enormous amount of information on Ḥunayn’s approach.
Much work, however, remains to be done, not just on Arabic translations,
but also on the wider context of medieval translation and its theoretical under-
pinnings. Also, as pointed out before, there has been little effort so far to pool
the findings of previous work on individual texts and translation analyses. Too
much valuable information still exists in isolation, scattered across a wide va-
riety of text editions and studies. Another, equally urgent task is of course the
edition and, where possible, translation of the enormous amount of unedited
The most promising strategy to solve the problems outlined above or at least
mitigate their impact and at the same time to take care of the issues raised by
the uneven quality of the data, small sample size and comparative basis of this
and other translation analyses is to operate on larger samples of texts: analy-
ses of individual texts may furnish data about the terminology and translation
methods that may perhaps be generalised to apply to an individual translator or
at most a closely collaborating circle such as that of Ḥunayn. To draw a more
comprehensive, diachronic picture of translation trends, however, we need a
much larger textual base.
We are in the fortunate position to have available a full set of tools and meth-
odologies for analysis and comparison of source and target texts that has been
applied to a wide variety of translation scenarios: corpus linguistics and cor-
Galen, Epidemics, Book One 149

pus-based translation studies.82 The creation of a digital corpus of Greek-Arabic

translations and its thorough terminological and stylistic examination would al-
low us to put the study of Greek-Arabic literature on a whole new footing, e.g.
by compiling a ‘translation grammar’ to assist in reading, editing and translat-
ing Greek-Arabic translations. By aiding in the compilation of comprehensive
terminological and phraseological information connected to specific translators,
groups or eras, corpus analysis could become an invaluable tool for the study of
translation history: it would help identify authors of anonymous translations or
assign them to particular personal and chronological translation contexts (e.g.
the Ḥunayn ‘workshop’ or the Kindī circle). In addition, it would facilitate re-
search into the reception of these translations and the traces they left in Arabic
literature as a whole. Powerful and efficient search mechanisms could identify
quotations from and references to translations and establish relationships and
dependencies based on the transmission of this material across a wide variety
of Arabic texts.
A number of required computer programs and electronic texts needed to
establish corpus-based translation analyses in Greek-Arabic studies are now
becoming available. At this point, for instance, there are applications that auto-
mate the process of correlating texts and translations by matching correspond-
ing sentences or even phrases and individual words of a text with those of one
or more translations and presenting them side by side; also, applications that
carry out morphilogical analyses of Greek and Arabic terms and generate lists
and statistical information about terminological and stylistic characteristics of
texts. Finally, a project to digitise a substantial sample of Greek texts and Ara-
bic translations is under way, supported by the Mellon foundation and hosted
jointly by Harvard and Tufts. The aim of this project is to make these texts, both
Greek and Arabic, freely available online and to provide a set of easy-to-use
tools for analysis and comparison.
Only with large-scale comparative analyses of Greek-Arabic translations will
we be able to establish a historical translation grammar for Greek-Arabic trans-
lations. This, in turn, will provide a reliable foundation for re-constructing the
history and influence of the translation movement. This is also where the in-
terests of classical scholars and Graeco-Arabists meet: anything that helps us
improve and refine our knowledge about individual translations and the history
and influence of the Greek-Arabic translation movement will in the end also
benefit those reconstructing and editing the Greek writings they are based on.

82 Cf. Baker 1993 and Tymoczko 1998.

150 Uwe Vagelpohl


Group 1: Medical translations by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq or his associates

1. Galen: Anatomical Procedures (De anatomicis administrationibus) V–IX (ed.
Garofalo 1986–2000, vol. 2)
2. —: Containing Causes (De causis contentivis, ed. Lyons 1969)
3. —: Regimen in Acute Diseases in Accordance with the Theories of Hippocrates
(De diaeta in morbis acutis secundum Hippocratem, ed. Lyons 1969)
4. —: The Parts of the Art of Medicine (De partibus artis medicativae, ed. Lyons
5. —: Distinctions in Homogeneous Parts (De partium homoeomerium differentia,
ed. Strohmaier 1970)
6. —: Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Surgery’ (In Hippocratis De officina medici,
ed. Lyons 1963)
7. —: The Faculties of the Soul Follow the Mixtures of the Body (Quod animi vir-
tutes corporis temperamenta sequantur, ed. Biesterfeldt 1973)
8. —: The Best Doctor is also a Philosopher (Quod optimus medicus sit etiam phi-
losophus, ed. Bachmann 1966)
9. —: Hippocrates: Airs, Waters, Places (De aere aquis locis, ed. Mattock and Ly-
ons 1969)
10. —: Regimen in Acute Diseases (De diaeta acutorum, ed. Lyons 1966)
11. —: The Nature of Man (De natura hominis, ed. Mattock and Lyons 1968a)
12. —: In the Surgery (De officina medici, ed. Mattock and Lyons 1968b)

Group 2: Non-medical texts translated by associates of Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq

13. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics (Ethica Nicomachea, ed. Dunlop et al. 2005)
14. pseudo-Aristotle: Physical Problems (Problemata physica, ed. Filius 1999)
15. —: Physiognomics (Physiognomonica, ed. Ghersetti 1999)
16. —: Themistius: paraphrase of On the Soul (De anima, ed. Lyons 1973)
17. —: Theophrastus: Metaphysics (Metaphysica, ed. Gutas 2010)

Group 3: Non-medical texts translated by members of the Kindī circle

18. —: Aristotle: Generation of Animals (De generatione animalium, ed. Drossaart
Lulofs et al. 1971)
19. —: Parts of Animals (De partibus animalium, ed. Kruk 1979)
20. —: Proclus: Elements of Theology (Institutio theologica, ed. Endress 1973)
The Art of the Translator 151

The Art of the Translator, or:

How did Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq and his School Translate?
Oliver Overwien1

To state this right from the start: Ḥunayn did not have a school; this term only is
employed here as an allusion to the well-known study by Gotthelf Bergsträsser,
to which I shall return shortly. It would be more appropriate to talk about a
group or circle of translators. But who belongs to this group? Naturally, Ḥunayn
ibn ʾIsḥāq belongs but also his son ʾIsḥāq ibn Ḥunayn, as well as his nephew
Ḥubayš ibn al-Ḥasan al-ʾAʿsam. Moreover, ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā is associated with this
group and a certain Mūsā ibn Ḫālid, of whose works nothing has come down
to us.2 Likewise, ʿĪsā ibn ʿAlī is mentioned as a pupil of Ḥunayn, and finally the
physician ʾAbū ʿUṯmān Saʿīd ibn Yaʿqūb al-Dimašqī appeared in his entourage.
This group was established to satisfy the demand for Greek scientific texts in
the ninth century, for the political class, certain professions such as physicians,
and wealthy private individuals all requested Arabic translations of these texts.3
This growing demand led to a shortage of translators. Since those who com-
missioned these translations paid handsomely for them, the translation busi-
ness became extremely profitable. This led, however, to increased competition
among the translators. In order to survive in this environment, the translators
had to work very hard and achieve a certain professional standard. Firstly, they
required extensive linguistic abilities. For instance, we know that in his youth,
Ḥunayn travelled to Constantinople for a number of years in order to perfect
his knowledge of Greek.4 In addition to linguistic abilities, the translators also
needed thorough knowledge of their textsʼ subject matters. It was not sufficient
as in the previous generations simply to comprehend the Greek original on a
linguistic level and to render it into Arabic. Rather, it had become customary
for the translators to be experts in the subjects as well. Ḥunayn, for instance,
who focussed on translating the writings of Hippocrates and Galen, was him-

1 I would like to thank Peter E. Pormann for translating this article into English. Moreover,
I am grateful to him and Uwe Vagelpohl for their various comments and corrections.
2 See Meyerhof 1926, 708–10. Later Arabic sources also mention al-ʾAḥwal and al-ʾAzraq,
who worked as scribes in this circle; see Rashed 2006, 173.
3 See Gutas 1998 and Rashed 2006.
4 See Strohmaier 1980 and Strohmaier 1991, 166–7.
152 Oliver Overwien

self a practising physician.5 When Ḥunayn received a commission to trans-

late a certain text, he sometimes travelled extensively in order to obtain Greek
manuscripts. For example, he searched for Galen’s work Demonstration in the
whole of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, but only found it in Damas-
Exhaustive knowledge about the languages and subjects involved as well as
the willingness to make great efforts in the search for manuscripts were just the
beginning. When the texts were available, the translators needed to be quick,
efficient and organised. As for the majority of Galenʼs works, Ḥunayn was able
to draw on the earlier renderings of his predecessors. Even though he generally
criticised them severely, they undoubtedly accelerated his work. These earlier
translations facilitated Ḥunaynʼs understanding of the original and sometimes
provided convenient turns of phrase which he could employ in his own transla-
tion. In the case of the treatise Anatomy of Erasistratus, Ḥunayn only had access
to a defective Greek manuscript, which made his task quite laborious. If he had
had an earlier translation at his disposal, his task would have been much easier.7
But even when Ḥunayn worked swiftly and efficiently, sometimes he could not
finish his translations because the amount of texts to translate was too large.
Ḥunayn recounts on a number of occasions that he was unable to complete the
commissioned translations, so he had to leave them unfinished or pass them on
to others.8 What would have been more obvious than to form a group, in order
to specialise? Some translators focussed on philosophical texts and others on
medical ones; some translated from Greek and others from Syriac.
But did this professionalisation have an effect on the translations? In other
words, did the translators as a group follow the same criteria and adopt the same
principles in their philological work in order to facilitate their task and to dis-
tinguish themselves from others in the quality of their products, which would
please their potential patrons? And indeed, Ḥunayn does tell us in his Epistle
(Risāla) that his translations of Galen established certain theoretical guidelines
for the translation process. He recounts that Ḥubayš also aimed to emulate his
‘method of translation (ṭarīq fī l-tarǧama).9 What was this method? To answer
this question is a pressing problem for scholarship in this area, although we
only have begun to broach it.
Previous scholars primarily endeavoured to define the particular style of
members of this group. These scholars mostly did so when they edited Arabic
translations of Greek texts. In this context, they investigated individual features
of the style and language of the translated text; for instance, they established that

5 See Rashed 2006, 170–73.

6 See ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 47, lines 14–17 (Arabic text).
7 See ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 22, lines 4–8 (Arabic text) and Brock 1991, 141.
8 See ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 25, lines 19–20 and 35, line 13 (Arabic text).
9 See ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 15, line 9 (Arabic text).
The Art of the Translator 153

Ḥunayn’s group often resorted to rendering one word in the source text with
two synonymous words in the target text—a phenomenon known as hendiadys.
These individual insights are, of course, important, as they provide a certain
impression of the linguistic peculiarities of translators such as Ḥubayš who had
a ‘preference for pleonasms’ or displayed an ‘inconsistency in his language’.10
But these scholars did not give a detailed description of how the translators
worked—and, of course, this was not the aim of their investigations.11 Moreover,
the Greek and Arabic Lexicon, edited by Gerhard Endress and Dimitri Gutas,
and Manfred Ullmann’s Dictionary of the Greek-Arabic Translations of the Ninth
Century in three volumes both present the vocabulary employed in the Graeco-
Arabic translations in a comparative perspective, which facilitates the task of
attributing the various translations to the translators who produced them.12 If
one were to compile the results on vocabulary and style which are found in pre-
vious editions of Graeco-Arabic translations and take into consideration the in-
formation which is available in these two dictionaries, it now should be possible
to distinguish much more clearly than before the lexicographical and stylistic
features that the individual translators belonging to Ḥunayn’s group displayed.
One could use the results of this compilation to distinguish between the vari-
ous members of the group. Ḥunayn already hinted at the individual abilities of
his colleagues when he characterised Ḥubayš as talented, but not very careful,
whereas ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā belonged to the few who were capable of maintaining
Ḥunayn’s high standards.13 In 1913, Gotthelf Bergsträsser attempted to do this
for the first time.14 He mainly aimed at differentiating between Ḥunayn and
Ḥubayš on the basis of linguistic differences. He proceeded very methodically,
but his study falls short owing to a number of methodological mistakes. His
textual sample was clearly too small, which is apparent from the size of his
study, comprising only 81 pages. Moreover, in each case, he compiled this sam-
ple only on the basis of one or two manuscripts; this, of course, was because
only very few Graeco-Arabic translations were available in critical editions. Yet,
one should note that some of the linguistic features that he described may be
due to the scribe and not the translator; by collating additional manuscripts, one
could exclude this possibility. Furthermore, he did not consider how the Syriac
intermediary translations influenced Ḥunayn, who often used them to produce
his Arabic versions. For, Bergsträsser lists many characteristics that could be

10 The quotations are taken from Biesterfeldt 1973, 19.

11 For Ḥunayn, see for example, Bachmann 1966, 9–11; for Ḥubayš, see Meyerhof / Schacht
1931, 4–6 and Biesterfeldt 1973, 16–28; Al-Dubayan 2000, 65–93 discusses the Arabic version
of Galen’s On the Anatomy of the Nerves extensively, and compares the particular style of its
translator, al-Dimašqī, with that of Ḥunayn and Ḥubayš.
12 Endress / Gutas 1992– and Ullmann 2002, 2006, 2007.
13 See ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 15, lines 9–10 and 35, line 13 (Arabic text).
14 Bergsträsser 1913.
154 Oliver Overwien

a feature of the intermediary Syriac translation and not the Arabic translator.
Finally, if one takes into account that Bergsträsser’s explanations are sometimes
quite unsystematic, one can easily understand why, at least, the scholarship of
the last decades paid hardly any attention to his results.15
In 1970, Gotthard Strohmaier demonstrated with his edition of Galen’s Dis-
tinctions in Homogeneous Parts that it is possible to arrive at tangible results in
this area. He was able to describe some salient differences between the transla-
tions of Ḥubayš and ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā in their renderings of technical terms.16
To determine the translational characteristics of this group, one also should
compare them with the works of other translators. John Mattock did this in 1989
by examining a short passage of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, which was rendered
into Arabic many times, as is well known.17 Mattock aimed at comparing an
earlier translator, ʾUsṭāṯ, with a later one, ʾIsḥāq ibn Ḥunayn.18 He investigated
individual passages, sometimes in great detail, but apart from the rather trite
conclusion that ʾIsḥāq was the better translator, he did not exploit his results so
as to determine a possible difference in their methodology. Somewhat more pro-
ductive is Manfred Ullmann’s discussion about the Arabic versions of Galen’s
Capacities and Mixtures of Simple Drugs. He compared an older version by al-
Biṭrīq with the more recent one by Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq and found that the latter
is superior linguistically than the former.19
Uwe Vagelpohl proceeded differently. He collected the remarks that Ḥunayn
made in his translations of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ and
the Physiognomics, which is attributed to Aristotle, about his translation tech-
nique.20 One can divide them—in a somewhat simplified manner—into the fol-
lowing categories:
1. Sometimes Ḥunayn encountered gaps in the Greek original. He filled in
these gaps by supplying relevant information based on his own knowledge
and in the spirit of the Greek source.21
15 See ed. Strohmaier 1970, 26.
16 See ed. Strohmaier 1970, 29–30.
17 Mattock 1989.
18 See also now Ullmann 2011, 440.
19 Ullmann 2002, 41–8. Pormann (forthcoming a) comes to a similar conclusion.
20 See Vagelpohl 2011. I would like to thank the author for sharing his article with me before
its publication.
21 Ḥunayn also reports this procedure in his translation of Galen’s Medical Names where he
says (ed. Meyerhof / Schacht 1931, 17, line 30–18, line 4 of the Arabic):
ƦΑā ɷˈͲ ǽ˶˶˜˳̈ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫ Ģāǚ˙Ͳ Ⱥ˙ʶͫāć ΑLJ˅ʦͫā ɬͲ LJ́ʉ͎ ƦLJ͛ ǽ͵LJ̈Ǩʶͫā ȅͫΒā ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ Ȉ˳̣Ǩ̒ LJ́˶Ͳ ǽʓͫā ɼʉ͵LJ͵Ǎʉͫā ɼʦʶ˶ͫā ƦΑā ҙҏΒā
ȫ͵LJ͎Ǎ˅̵ĢΑā ƢҨҞ͛ LJͲΑLJ͎ ĿǨ̥Αҙҏā ɷʒʓ͛ ɬͲ ɷʉ͵LJˈͲ ɡ̣ Ȉ͎Ǩ͇ć ɼʉ͵LJ͵ǍʉͫLJ̑ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƢҨҞ͛ ɨ͎́ łĔǍˈ̒ć ȈˏͫΑā ǚ͘ ǽ˶͵Αā ҙҏǍͫ LJ́ʉ͵LJˈͲ ȵˬ̥Αā
ɨͫ ɷ̒ΑāǨ͘ LJ˳ͫ ǽ˶͵Αā Ǎ΀ć Ǩ̥ΐā ȇʒ̵ LJˁ̈Αā ɷ͛Ǩ̒ ȅͫΒā ǽ͵LJ͇Ĕć. ɷʓ͛Ǩ̒ć ɷˀʉˬʦ̒ ǽˬ͇ ɡ́ʶ̈ ɨͫ ȇʒʶͫā āǛ́ˬ͎ ƱĔǍˈ̒Αā ɨˬͲ ɷˏͫΐā ɨͫ ǽ˶͵ΒLJ͎
.ɷ˶Ͳ Ƚˏ͵Αā Ǎ΀ LJͲ ȅͫΒā ƱLJ˅ʦ̒Αāć ɷ̑ ǽʶˏ͵ ɡˉ̶Αā ҙҏ ƦΑā Ȉ̈ΑāĢć ɷʉ͵LJˈͲ ǽ͎ ɷˬˀ̤ ǚ͘ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ łụ̈̌ć LJͲ ȅˬ͇ ɡˁ͎ ȅ˶ˈͲ ɷʉ͎ ụ̈̌Αā
The Greek manuscript from which I translated this work into Syriac, however, contains such
a large number of mistakes and errors that I could not have understood the meaning of the
text, had I not been so familiar with and accustomed to Galen’s Greek speech and acquainted
The Art of the Translator 155

2 Ḥunayn used parallels from other texts in order to even out contradictions
or correct mistakes in his source text; these texts could either be verbatim
parallels or correspond with the content of the doubtful passage. We shall
see below that the use of parallels will also be important in other respects for
this group of translators.
3. Ḥunayn omitted certain passages in the Greek original when he thought
that he would not be able to render them satisfactorily or that they did not
provide any benefit to the reader.
4. Ḥunayn added at times substantial explanations of terms which were dif-
ficult to understand.
These points show that the text of the Greek original was not sacrosanct to
Ḥunayn. On the contrary, he sometimes dealt with it quite independently,
and his prime concern was the reader. For example, he offered explanations
of issues in the original that the readers would not know because he did not
want to confront them with contradictions or burden them with unnecessary
textual material. These remarks obviously need to be taken into consideration
when we judge the variant readings which his translations offer. One should
ask how often Ḥunayn supplemented the text or omitted certain passages
without providing any indication of doing this. Also, it would be useful to learn
more about the principles which Ḥunayn followed while translating. Ḥunayn’s
methodological discussions circle around the four axes outlined above; however,
it is also clear that these discussions do not cover the whole spectrum of his
activity as a translator. In other words, Ḥunayn’s remarks in these two versions
only offer us a vignette on the work of his group.
Gotthard Strohmaier broaches another important aspect in the present volume,
namely how Ḥunayn and his collaborators adapted the ancient concepts for reli-
gious motives. For instance, they changed the names of the gods, as polytheism
was apparently unacceptable for the monotheistic Christian translators. And yet,
this strict religious attitude is surprising, as we we find it also in other translations,
but not in all of them.22 This phenomenon has not yet been explained sufficiently.
This short overview cannot claim to be comprehensive. Yet, it should show
that we are still a long way from a complete appreciation of the working meth-
ods which this group of translators employed. What principles did they follow?
What tools did they use? What linguistic abilities did they possess? How do
the members of this group of translators differ from each other and from those

with most of his ideas from his other works. But I am not familiar with the language of
Aristophanes, nor am I accustomed to it. I could therefore not understand the quotation easily
so that I omitted it. I had an additional reason for omitting it: when I read it, I found no idea
that went beyond what Galen had already said elsewhere. Hence, I thought that I should not
occupy myself with it any further, but rather proceed to more useful matters.
22 One can remark in passing that Christian adaptations of ancient Greek texts can also be
found among Greek scribes; see West 1973, 18.
156 Oliver Overwien

outside the group? How did they become so successful? These are all questions
which still need answering. Owing to the current state of research in this area
as well as the subject itself, it is not possible here to treat this issue comprehen-
sively. On the contrary, only certain individual aspects can come under scrutiny
here; they all appear under the heading ‘contextual translation’. By this I mean
those renderings which are not only influenced by the source text but also by
its context. The word ‘context’ can denote different things: the medical and
scientific context, the Galenic context, and a parallel text as context. As this
volume deals specifically with translations of works by Hippocrates and Galen,
especially those produced by Ḥunayn, his nephew Ḥubayš, and ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā,
I shall focus on them.

The medical and scientific context

It is well known that Ḥunayn practised medicine. He also made certain Greek
texts available in translation to his colleagues and thereby advanced medical
research considerably. For this reason, he necessarily partook in the scientific
discourse of his time. This background appears at times in his translations, as
the following phrase from the Hippocratic work Regimen in Acute Diseases,
chapter 22, shows. The Greek original runs as follows:23

ἀλλ’ ἢν μὲν ϲημαίνῃ ἡ ὀδύνη ἐϲ κληῗδα […], τάμνειν χρὴ τὴν ἐν τῷ ἀγκῶνι
φλέβα τὴν εἴϲω.

Should, however, the pain show signs of extending to the collar-bone […],
you must open the inner vein at the elbow.

The important expression here is the ‘inner vein at the elbow’. In humans, this
vein runs through the lower and upper arm and is called ‘basilic vein’ in modern
medicine. Let us now look at the Arabic version of this passage:24

.Ɏʉˬ̵LJʒͫā ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā ƈǨˈͫā ǚˀˏ̒ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ ǚ˙͎ … ƴǍ͘Ǩʓͫā ȅͫΒā Ƚ̣Ǎͫā Ⱦˬ̑ ȅʓͲć

When the pain reaches the collar bone …, then you should cut the so-called
basilic vein.
23 The Greek text is based on ed. Helmreich 1914, 168, line 27–169, line 1, the English
translation is taken from ed. Jones 1923, 81.
24 Text and translation are taken from ed. Lyons 1966, 14, line 11 (text); and 14, lines 9–12
The Art of the Translator 157

It is remarkable that the modern medical term ‘basilic vein’ is already found in
the Arabic version: ‘al-ʿirq al-musammā l-bāsilīq (the so-called basilic vein)’.
This begs the question of its origin. Could this be the invention of the Ara-
bic translator?25 Certainly not. The term bāsilīq clearly goes back to the Greek
‘basilikós (royal)’. Moreover we already find the Greek source of the technical
term ʿirq bāsilīq, namely ‘phlèps basilikḗ (basilic vein)’ in certain post-Galenic
sources.26 But the question remains: how did this term end up in the Arabic
text. A competent Greek copyist could well have introduced this term phlèps
basilikḗ into Ḥunayn’s source. This possibility cannot, of course, be excluded,
but it is more likely that Ḥunayn himself rendered the expression ‘the inner
vein at the elbow (ἡ ἐν τῷ ἀγκῶνι φλὲψ ἡ εἴϲω)’ as ‘al-ʿirq al-musammā l-bāsilīq
(the so-called basilic vein)’; in other words, he employed the current and usual
terminology of his time. For this vein had already been called ‘royal’ in other
translations which his group produced, such as the Anatomical Procedures. Fur-
thermore, Ḥunayn practised medicine, as we have said above, and had a number
of caliphs as his patients. One would expect that he was well versed in the cur-
rent terminology.

The Galenic context

It is obvious that translators occasionally take the context of the whole work
into account. The following discussing will show that the translations produced
in Ḥunayn’s circle are no exception to this rule. These translators rendered
translations of Galenic texts for decades. In this process, they obviously acquired
considerable knowledge. They sometimes incorporated this knowledge into
the texts which they would translated, as the following passage from Galen’s
Distinctions in Symptoms shows:27

ὀνομάζω δὲ τὴν μὲν διὰ φάρυγγοϲ ὁλκήν […] τοῦ πέριξ ἀέροϲ ἀναπνοήν

I call the drawing in of outside air through the throat ‘respiration (anapnoḗ)’.

Ḥubayš translated this passage as follows:

25 This was, for example, the opinion of Simon 1906, ii. 269.
26 The patristic author Athanasius of Alexandria uses the expression phlèps basilikḗ in his
Book of Definitions (ed. Migne 1857–66, xxviii, col. 553, lines 24, 26) and On Body and Soul (ed.
Migne 1857–66, xxviii, col. 1433, line 35, 37). Temkin 1961 already suspected that this term was
not of Greek origin.
27 Book v, ch. 3 (ed. Gundert 2009, 246, lines 12–14); for the Arabic text which is still
unpublished, see Overwien 2009b, 139.
158 Oliver Overwien

.ɷͫ Ģǚˀͫā ŁāǛʓ̣LJ̑ ɼ̇Ǩͫā ɼʒˀ͘ć ƴǨʤ˶ʥͫā ɬͲ ƹāǍ́ͫā ƛḀ̌Ĕ «ȫˏ˶̒» ǽͫǍ˙̑ ǽ˶͇Αā
When saying ‘respiration (tanaffus)’, I mean the entering of air through the
throat and windpipe as the thorax draws it in.

The Arabic translation contains additional information about the windpipe

(qaṣabat al-riʾa) and thorax (ṣadr). This raises the question of where these addi-
tions came from.
Galen notes repeatedly in his writings that respiration (anapnoḗ) results from
the activity of the chest; moreover, in his Opinions of Hippocrates and Plato, he
adds that during respiration air is sucked in through the windpipe:28

ὁ θώραξ διαϲτελλόμενοϲ ἕλκει διὰ τῆϲ τραχείαϲ ἀρτηρίαϲ ἀναγκαίωϲ εἰϲ

τὸ ϲτόμαὸντ ἔξωθεν ἀέρα.

The thorax as it expands draws necessarily through the trachea the outside
air into its mouth.

By adding the two terms ‘thorax’ and ‘windpipe’ to the passage quoted above,
the translator clearly wished to utilise his own knowledge of Galen in order to
supplement the statements by the physician from Pergamum. These additions
give the reader a more complete picture of respiration.29
I would like to introduce another example of this phenomenon, which will
demonstrate that modern editors should consider the Galenic context. The
example comes from the first book of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Epidemicsʼ and runs in the Greek original:30

ὅταν δὲ εἰϲ τὰ ϲτερεὰ μόρια τοῦ ϲώματοϲ ἀφικνῆται, […]

When it [the bile] reaches the solid parts of the body […]

The Arabic translation of Ḥunayn, however, has the following text:

[…] ɼʉˬ̿Αҙҏā Ʀǚʒͫā ƹLJˁ͇Αā ȅͫΒā ĢāǨ˳ͫā ɑͫĕ ĢLJ̿ ȅʓͲć

When this bile arrives at the elementary [al-ʾaṣlīya] parts of the body […]

28 Book 8, ch. 6; text and translation are taken from De Lacy 2005, 528, lines 26–8 and 529,
lines 30–1.
29 For the translation of thṓrax with ṣadr and artēría tracheîa with qaṣabat al-riʾa, see
Ullmann 2002, 136, 302 and Ullmann 2007, 174; see also Overwien 2009b, 139.
30 The Greek text is taken from ed. Wenkebach 1934, 89, lines 1–2.
The Art of the Translator 159

It is surprising that ‘stereós (solid)’ is rendered by ‘ʾaṣlī (elemental)’ here. At

first, one might suspect that this is due to the negligence of the Arab scribe,
who could have confused ‘ṣulb (hard)’ with ‘ʾaṣlī (elemental)’. Such a mistake
could easily be explained from a palaeographical point of view. Yet, in two other
places of the Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, we find this translational
pair stereós—ʾaṣlī, and also in other works by Galen such as Containing Causes.31
All these cases can hardly be explained by a mistake on the Arab scribeʼs part.
Here again, it is worthwhile to look at the Galenic context. According to Galen,
the body consists, in addition to pneumas and humours, of solid parts, by which
he meant for instance, the arteries, sinews, or bones. Sometimes, Galen defines
these solid parts as in his work Natural Capacities:32

καλεῖται δ’ οὕτω τὰ ϲτερεὰ μόρια τοῦ ϲώματοϲ, ἀρτηρίαι καὶ φλέβεϲ καὶ
νεῦρα καὶ ὀϲτᾶ καὶ χόνδροι καὶ ὑμένεϲ καὶ ϲύνδεϲμοι καὶ οἱ χιτῶνεϲ ἅπα-
ντεϲ, οὓϲ ϲτοιχειώδειϲ τε καὶ ὁμοιομερεῖϲ καὶ ἁπλοῦϲ ὀλίγον ἔμπροϲθεν

The solid parts of the body [tà stereà mória toû sṓmatos] are called thus,
namely all the arteries, veins, sinews, bones, cartilage, tissues, ligaments,
and membranes. A little earlier, we called them ‘elemental [stoicheiṓdeis]’
‘homoeomerous’ and ‘simple’.33

Here, one finds that the solid parts of the body are called ‘elemental (stoicheiṓdēs)’,
and this was probably the model for ʾaṣlī. In other words, such a definition was
undoubtedly the reason why Ḥunayn understood the ‘solid’ parts of the body
as ‘elemental’. It is difficult to say to what extent this translation, which was in-
fluenced by the Galenic context, was helpful or more easily understandable for
Muḥammad ibn Mūsā who commissioned it. Perhaps this alternative terminol-

31 Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ i: p. 74, line 22 W, i.2.128 V; p. 101, line 27 W,

i.2.229 V; Contentaining Causes: ed. Lyons 1969, 58, line 2. In the latter case, we can be certain
that the lost Greek had the form stereós since the translation by Nicolaus of Reggio has
‘solidorum’ (see ed. Lyons 1969, 135, line 29).
32 Book i, ch. 7 (ed. Κühn 1821–33, ii.16, lines 11–15).
33 See also, Galen, Art of Medicine chapter 16: ‘The solid [part] of the body, those that are
really solid and primary’ (τὰ ϲτερεὰ τοῦ ϲώματοϲ, τὰ ὄντωϲ ϲτερεὰ καὶ πρῶτα), ed. Boudon
2000, 324, lines 5–6. Galen probably equates the solid parts of the body with the primary ones
because he conceives of the solid parts as being in principle identical with the homoeomerous
ones. Conversely, Galen describes the homoeomerous parts of the body as elemental and
primary, for example, in Matters of Health vi, ch. 2: ‘the elemental (stoicheiṓdē) and primary
parts of the body, called “homoeomerous” by Aristotle (τὰ ϲτοιχειώδη τε καὶ πρῶτα τοῦ
ϲώματοϲ μόρια, καλούμενα δ’ ὑπ’ Ἀριϲτοτέλουϲ ὁμοιομερῆ)’, ed. Koch 1923, 169, line 10–11.
160 Oliver Overwien

ogy for the solid parts of the bodies had simply become dominant.34 In any case,
these examples show that one should always consider the working methods
and intentions of the translators when editing and analysing Arabic versions of
Greek texts.
It may be more surprising, at least at first glance, that this Galenic con-
text also played a significant role in the translation of Hippocratic works. For,
most Hippocratic writings were not translated on the basis of independent
Hippocratic manuscripts but from the lemmas in the Galenic commentaries on
these texts. In other words, the Hippocratic writings in Arabic only represent
a compilation of individual lemmas from Galen’s commentaries on the vari-
ous Hippocratic works. Therefore, the translators always had access to Galen’s
explanations when rendering their Hippocratic texts. They used these explana-
tions and sometimes incorporated them into their translation when this seemed
helpful. We can produce an example of this procedure from the second book of
the Epidemics:35

… οἷον τῇ Τημένεω ἀδελφιδῇ ἐκ νούϲου ἰϲχυρῆϲ ἐϲ δάκτυλον ἀπεϲτήριξεν.

… as with Tēmenēs’ niece: from a strong disease it settled in her toe.

ɡˁˏͫā ƛLJͲ 37ĕΒā LJ́̑LJ̿Αā ķǛͫā ǚ̈ǚʷͫā ŰǨ˳ͫā LJ́ʒ˙͇Αā ǽʓͫā 36ťǍʉ͵LJͲLJ̒ Ȉ̥Αā Ȉ˶ʒͫ ŰǨ͇ LJͲ ɑͫĕ ɬͲ
.Ȉ̒LJ˳͎ LJ΀ĔćLJˈ͎ ŰǨ˳ͫā ƛǍʒ˙ͫ ɼˬ˳ʓʥͲ Ƚʒ̿ Βҙҏā ɬ˜̒ ɨˬ͎ LJ́ˈ̑LJ̿Αā ɬͲ Ƚʒ̿Βā ȅͫΒā

For instance what happened to Tēmenēs’ niece, who suffered from the
severe disease that struck her because the excess drifted [māla l-faḍl] to
one of her digits and the digit was unable to receive the disease so she
relapsed and died.

The text talks about an apóstasis (apestḗrixen) that formed in the finger of
Tēmenēs’ niece. The concept of apóstasis was central for Hippocratic physi-

34 One also should note that in the Arabic versions of the Aristotelian Physical Problems,
which is attributed to Ḥunayn, the parts of the body are referred to as ‘elemental’ (ed. Filius
1999, 46, lines 17–18):

.ɼʉˬ̿Αҙҏā ƹLJˁ͇Αҙҏā ǽ΀ć ζȇˬ̿ Ǩ΀Ạ̌ć ζǽ̤ćĢ Ǩ΀Ạ̌ć ζȇ̈́Ģ Ǩ΀Ạ̌ ɬͲ :ƹLJʉ̶Αā ɼ̓ҨҞ̓ ɬͲ ȇ͛ǨͲ Ʀǚʒͫā ƦΑҙҏ
For the body is composed of three things: of a moist substance, a spiritual substance, and a
hard substance; the last is the elemental parts [of the body; al-ʾaʿḍāʾ al-ʾaṣlīya].
35 The Greek text is taken from Littréʼs edition (v. 78, lines 9–10 L); see ed. Smith 1994, 25 for
the English translation. The Arabic text and its English translation are from ii.1.89 HV.
36 ťǍʉ͵LJͲLJ̒] M: ťćāLJ̐LJͲ E1, A2.
37 ĕΒā] E1: Ʀā M, A2.
The Art of the Translator 161

cians, although its exact meaning is uncertain. Hippocratic physicians generally

took it to denote the shift of disease matter or a humour from one part of the
body to another; this influenced the progression of the disease. This shift often
resulted in the patient being saved, but sometimes it appeared merely to be part
of the development of the disease. When we look at Galen’s explanation of this
lemma in his Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, we see that it was not
clear to him of what exactly this apóstasis in the finger consisted:38

ɬͲ Ƚ̀ǍͲ ȅˀ͘Αā ȅͫΒā ƛLJͲ ǚ͘ LJ́ʉ͎ ɡˁˏͫā ƦLJ͛ć […] LJ́ˈ̑LJ̿Αā ɬͲ Ƚʒ̿Βā ȅͫΒā ŰǨ˳ͫā ƴĔLJͲ Ȉˈ͎ǚ͵LJ͎ […]
[…] LJ́ʉͫΒā Ȉˈ͎ǚ͵ā ǽʓͫā ŴҨҞ̥Αҙҏā ƛǍʒ˙ͫ ɼˬ˳ʓʥͲ ɬ˜̒ ɨͫ […] Ƚʒ̿ Βҙҏā ƦΑҙҏ […] Ʀǚʒͫā ɡ͎LJ̵Αā

[…] and the matter of the disease was pushed towards one of her digits
[…] The excess in her drifted [māla l-faḍlu] towards the furthest place […]
since the toe […] was not able to receive the humours pushed towards it

Galen talks in this passage first about the ‘disease matter (māddat al-maraḍ)’,
then about an ‘excess (al-faḍl)’ and finally about ‘humours (al-ʾaḫlāṭ)’. When we
consider how the Arab translator rendered the word ‘it settled (apestḗrixen)’ as
‘the excess drifted (māla l-faḍlu)’, we notice that he did not have a clear concept
of the apóstasis but simply adopted the second explanation by Galen. One could
find many more examples of this process, namely that the translator took a
phrase from the Galenic commentary and used it to render the Hippocratic lem-
ma.39 How exactly this process took place remains to be investigated. Perhaps
the translators read the lemma in question together with Galen’s explanation
first, then considered whether they should rephrase it in light of Galen’s ex-
planations and finally proceeded to translate it. Alternatively, they may have
produced a preliminary translation of the lemma first and then revised it on the
basis of Galen’s explanations.

38 Book ii.1.91 HV.

39 See Overwien 2010, 64–6 and my forthcoming CMG edition of Hippocrates’ On Humours.
162 Oliver Overwien

Parallel texts as contexts

Parallel texts are texts that occur in nearly identical form in different works. The
Hippocratic works are particularly replete with them.40 When the translators
encountered a parallel text which they already had translated in the context
of a different work, they did not translate it afresh but rather used their earlier
rendering. This procedure can be illustrated quite well with parallel texts from
the Hippocratic works Aphorisms and Humours.
Let us begin with a passage occurring in Humours, chapter 6, and Aphorisms,
section 1, number 22, in which the Greek source text is identical and the Ara-
bic target texts are extremely similar, although the Arabic versions were pro-
duced by different translators, namely ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā in the case of Humours and
Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq in the case of Aphorisms. The Greek runs as follows in both

πέπονα φαρμακεύειν καὶ κινέειν, μὴ ὠμὰ μήδ ἐν ἀρχῇϲιν, ἢν μὴ ὀργᾷ. τὰ

δὲ πολλὰ οὐκ ὀργᾷ.

Purge and move cooked [humours], but not raw [ones], nor at the onset,
when they are not in virulent motion. They are mostly not in virulent

Likewise, the Arabic translations are nearly identical; the slight variations are
indicated in the footnotes:42

ҨҞ͎ ŰǨ˳ͫā ƛćΑā ǽ͎ć LJʉ͵ 43ƢāĔ LJͲ LJͲΑLJ͎ ŰǨ˳ͫā șˁ˶̈ ƦΑā ǚˈ̑ ɑ̈Ǩʥʓͫāć ƹāćǚͫā ɡ˳ˈʓʶ̈ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈ LJ˳͵Βā
45.ΈLJʤ̇LJ΀ ŰǨ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ĔLJ˜̈ ȫʉͫ ǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩʔ͛Αā ǽ͎ć 44ΈLJʤ̇LJ΀ ŰǨ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ҙҏΒā ɑͫĕ ɡ˳ˈʓʶ̈ ƦΑā ǽˉʒ˶̈

40 On the phenomenon of parallel texts, see Langholf 1977, Roselli 1989 and Overwien
41 As I said above, the Hippocratic texts which the translators had at their disposal are not
based on Hippocratic manuscripts but on the lemmas of Galen’s commentary. For this reason,
I take the Greek text of the Aphorisms from Galen’s commentary in the old edition by Kühn
(xvii/b. p. 441, lines 1–2 K). Unfortunately, we do not know which Hippocratic text that Galen
read for Humours, as his commentary on it is lost in the Greek tradition. But the text of the
Aphorisms quoted here is identical to that contained in the edition of Humours by Littré (v.
p. 484, lines 15–16 L).
42 The Arabic texts are taken from ed. Mattock 1971, 13, line 1–5, and ed. Tytler 1832, 8, lines
43 ƢāĔ] in the Aphorisms, there is ŰǨ˳ͫā after ƢāĔ.
44 LJʤ̇LJ΀] in Humours; Aphorisms: LJ̣LJʉ́Ͳ.
45 Ǩʔ͛Αā ǽ͎ć … ΈLJʤ̇LJ΀] in Humours; Aphorisms: ΈLJ̣LJʉ́Ͳ ŰǨ˳ͫā ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩʔ͛Αā ǽ͎ ĔLJ˜̈ ȫʉͫć.
The Art of the Translator 163

One only ought to use remedies and induce movement after the disease has
ripened. As long as it remains raw, however, and at the onset of the disease,
one only ought to use this when the disease is virulent [hāʾiǧ / mihyāǧ]. For
the most part, the disease is hardly ever [laysa yakādu] virulent.

It is striking here that the translators modified the text in ways that are not
warranted by the Greek source. For instance, they begin with ‘ʾinnamā (only)’,
the Greek ‘ouk orgâi (are not in virulent motion)’ is qualified in both cases by
‘hardly ever [laysa yakādu]’ without any apparent reason, and the adjective
‘ōmá (raw)’ is preceded by ‘mā dāma (as long as it remains)’. It is hard to imag-
ine that these features in the translations appeared independently. Rather, the
translations undoubtedly depend on each other.
It is strange, however, that this process which we have just observed in the
previous example is not replicated in another place where we have parallel texts
in Humours, chapter 7, and Aphorisms, section 4, numbers 31–3. In this case, in
the Arabic versions, not only does the syntax differ but occasionally, a different
terminology is employed. Let us look at the following concrete example, namely
aphorism 32, where the Greek text is as follows:

ὁκόϲοιϲι δὲ ἀνιϲταμένοιϲιν ἐκ τῶν νούϲων, ἤν τι πονήϲῃ, ἐνταῦθα

ἀποϲτάϲιεϲ γίνονται

In those who recover from disease, if something hurts, abscesses [apóstasies]

occur there.

The Arabic version renders this thus46:

œāǨ Ό̥ Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ɷ̑ Ńṳ̈̌ ɷ͵ǚ̑ ɬͲ Ƚ̀ǍͲ ɷ˶Ͳ ɡ˜͎ ŰǨͲ ɬͲ ɡʷʓ͵ā ɬͲ

If one recovers from a disease, and then some place of his body becomes
weak [kalla], an abscess [ḫurāǧ] occurs in this place.

The Greek in Humours is similar:47

οἷϲι δὲ ἀνιϲταμένοιϲιν ἐκ τῶν νούϲων, αὐτίκα δὲ χερϲὶ ἢ ποϲὶ πονήϲαϲιν,

ἐν τούτοιϲιν ἀφίϲταται.

46 The Greek text is taken from xvii/b. p. 699, lines 9–10 K and the Arabic text from ed. Tytler
1832, 33, lines 7–8.
47 The Greek text is taken from v. p. 488, lines 2–4 L.
164 Oliver Overwien

In those who recover from disease, but hurt again in their hands or feet,
abscesses occur [aphístatai].

The Arabic version contains a lacuna:48

〈[…]〉, ƱǛ΀ ȅͫΒLJ͎ ɨ́̀āǨͲΑā ɬͲ ɨ̣́ćǨ̥ ǚ˶͇ ɨ́ˬ̣ĢΑāć ɨ́̈ǚ̈Αā ƦǍʒˈʓ̈ ɬ̈Ǜͫā

Those who suffer fatigue in their hands and feet, when they emerge from
the disease, [suffer from eruptions]49 in these parts.

In this case, unlike the previous one, the Greek source texts differ in part, but
even when we look at the identical phrases, we find significant differences in
the Arabic versions. In the Aphorisms, the phrase ‘in those who recover from
disease (ἀνιϲταμένοιϲι ἐκ τῶν νούϲων)’ is translated as ‘if one recovers from
a disease (mani ntušila min maraḍin)’, whereas in Humours, it is rendered as
‘when they come out of diseases (ʿinda ḫurūǧihim min ʾamrāḍihim)’. Moreover,
the subordinate clause ‘if something hurts (ἤν τι πονήϲῃ)’ in the Aphorisms or
the corresponding participle construction ‘hurting (πονήϲαϲιν)’ in Humours is
translated by the verb ‘kalla (to be weak)’ in the Aphorisms, but with the verb
‘taʿaba (to be tired)’ in Humours. Therefore, the two versions differ substantially
in this case. Why is this so? As we have already said, the translations of most
Hippocratic texts were not based on manuscripts containing the Greek origi-
nals but on the lemmas contained in the Galenic commentaries. Therefore, the
translator could have drawn on the information which was given in these com-
mentaries when translating the Hippocratic works. Let us now look look at the
Galenic commentary on the Aphorisms. We find that Galen refers in his com-
mentary on Aphorisms, section 1, numbers 19–23 to the parallels in Humours,
but not in his commentary on Aphorisms, section 4, numbers 31–3. In this way,
Galen drew the attention of Ḥunayn and ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā to these parallel texts
in Humours, chapter six, and consequently they took these references into con-
sideration when rendering these texts. But they did not know that Humours,
chapter seven, also contained a parallel to Aphorisms section 4, numbers 31–3,
because Galen did not say so in his commentary. For this reason, Ḥunayn and
ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā translated the two texts separately into Arabic, which resulted in
two different versions.
It is not difficult to guess why the translators drew on the parallel texts: they
were thus able to lighten their workload and achieve a certain stylistic unity,
something which undoubtedly pleased those who commissioned the transla-

48 Ed. Mattock 1971, 17, lines 3–4.

49 The words ‘suffer from eruptions’ were obviously omitted by an Arab scribe.
The Art of the Translator 165

tions.50 This procedure could, however, lead to mistakes, as we shall see from
the next example. The example concerns a parallel text which occurrs in both
Humours, chapter twenty, and the Epidemics, book six. Firstly, let us look at the
Greek texts. In Humours, we find the following short phrase:51

ὅϲα πέφυκεν ἐπιφαινόμενα ῥύεϲθαι, τούτων προγενόμενα κωλύματα

The things that, when they occur afterwards, naturally protect [against
diseases], prevent these when they occur beforehand.

In the Epidemics, the parallel text runs as follows:52

ϲκῆψιϲ μὲν ἐφ οἷϲι γενόμενα ῥύεται, τούτων προγενόμενα κωλύει

Skêpsis [?] cures conditions on which it supervenes, prevent them when it


One of the problems with the Greek text of the Epidemics is that the sense of
skêpsis still remains elusive.
The Arabic versions also differ. In Humours, we have:53

.LJ́̓ćṳ̈̌ ɬͲ Ȉˈ˶Ͳ Ȉ̓ǚʥ͎ ȈͲǚ˙̒ āĕΒā ȵˬʦʓͫā LJ́̑ ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā ƴǨ̥ΑLJ̑ łǨ́ͅ āĕΒā LJ́͵ΑLJ̶ ɬͲ ǽʓͫā ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā

The things that naturally bring release when they appear afterwards,
prevent their (the illnessesʼ) occurrence, when they appear beforehand.

And in Epidemics:54

LJ́̓ćṳ̈̌ ɬͲ Ȉˈ˶Ͳ Ȉ̓ǚʥ͎ ȈͲǚ˙̒ āĕΒā LJ́˶Ͳ ȵˬʦʓͫā LJ́̑ ƦǍ˜ʉ͎ ɡˬˈͫā 55ǚˈ̑ Ńǚʥ̈ ķǛͫā ȵˉ˳ͫā

50 One should note as well that translations belonging to Ḥunayn’s circle also used parallel
texts when translating Syriac versions. For instance, when ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā translated Ḥunayn’s
Questions on the Epidemics from the original Syriac into Arabic, he drew heavily on the Arabic
version of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, as it contained many parallels; see
Pormann 2008a, 261–2.
51 The Greek text is based on my own collation of the Greek manuscripts (cf. v. p. 500, lines
12–13 L).
52 The Greek text is taken from ed. Wenkebach 1956, 184, lines 3–4; I have modified slightly
the English translation by ed. Smith 1994, 245.
53 The Arabic text and the English translation are taken from ed. Mattock 1971, 35, lines 2–3.
54 MS E2, fol. 69b, lines 4–5.
55 Reading baʿda instead of the fīhi in MS E2.
166 Oliver Overwien

When the gripes that occur after the diseases and then alleviate them
appear beforehand, they prevent that they occur.

The passage from the Arabic version of the Epidemics clearly contains a gram-
matical error. The subject at the beginning of the phrase, ‘al-maġaṣu (gripes)’,
is masculine singular. The verbs and the pronouns that refer to it, such as bihā,
minhā, taqaddamat, ḥadaṯat, manaʿat, and ḥudūṯihā, are all, nevertheless, in the
feminine singular. Moreover, in Ibn al-Nafīs’ Commentary on the ‘Epidemics’,
the lemma has ‘disease (maraḍ)’ instead of ‘gripes (maġaṣ)’.56 Given the dif-
ficulty of the Greek skêpsis, it is perhaps more likely that the original had the
former reading rather than the latter. Be that as it may, both words are mascu-
line and cannot account for the discrepancy with the following female singular
pronouns. But, the following explanation may provide a solution. As in the case
of the Aphorisms and Humours, the translator rendered the Epidemics not on the
basis of a Greek manuscript containing the Hippocratic text but on the basis of
the lemmas in the Galenic commentary. He learned from this commentary that
Humours contained a parallel text.57 Therefore, he drew on this parallel from
Humours when translating this passage. He changed, however, the subject by
replacing ‘al-ʾašyāʾu (the things)’, which corresponds to ὅϲα, with ‘al-maġaṣu’,
which corresponds to ϲκῆψιϲ, whilst retaining the original phrasing from Hu-
mours for the rest of the quotation. The translator did not notice that al-ʾašyāʾu
is a so-called broken plural that requires verbs and pronouns in the feminine
singular, whereas al-maġaṣu is a masculine singular that would require verbs
and pronouns in the masculine singular. Therefore, the resulting sentence is
grammatically incorrect.58 It is well known that Ḥunayn translated the Epidem-
ics, but we have to state that he did not always work carefully.
I did not merely adduce this example to show the negative aspects of this
procedure. If my explanation is correct and the mistake in the Arabic version of
the Epidemics is due to a misappropriation of a parallel text in Humours, then we
must conclude that Humours was translated into Arabic before the Epidemics, or
at least Book Six of this text.
Ḥunayn and his circle of translators generally strove to render their source
text faithfully, but they did not imitate it slavishly, as did some medieval Latin
translators. There were various reasons why they would deliberately depart
from the source text. On the one hand, it was impossible to reproduce the Greek
original literally since the resulting Syriac or Arabic version had to be compre-
hensible to the reader. This balancing act between the Greek source text and the

56 Ed. Mattock 1971, 35, note 1.

57 See for example, ed. Wenkebach 1956, 185, lines 11–13.
58 Ed. Mattock 1971, v–vi, explains this error in this way.
The Art of the Translator 167

target text, in this case in Syriac, posed some difficulties for Ḥunayn, as he tells
us in his Epistle in the entry on the Galenic work Fullness59:

Ⱦˬ̑Αā Ǎ΀ć ζƢҨҞ˜ͫā ɬͲ ɼ˳̣Ǩʓͫā ǽ͎ ɷˬ˳ˈʓ̵Αā ƦΑā ǽ̒ĔLJ͇ ɬͲ LJͲ Ǎʥ͵ ȅˬ͇ ŷǍʷʓʦʒͫ ȇ̈Ǩ͘ Ǜ˶Ͳ ɷʓ˳̣Ǩ̒ ǚ͘ć
.ɼʉ͵LJ̈Ǩʶͫā ƈǍ˙ʥͫ ǚΊ ˈ̒ Ǩʉ͈ ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJ͵Ǎʉͫā ɬͲ ɷ̑Ǩ͘Αāć ɷˬʥ͎Αāć ķǚ˶͇ ƢҨҞ˜ͫā

I recently translated this for Buḫtīšūʿ in the manner that I usually adopt
when translating, namely what I think is the most elegant and expressive
language, and closest to the Greek, without, however, violating the laws of

Moreover, the translators deliberately omitted certain words in the source text,
something that we can observe particularly in the case of particles. This phe-
nomenon occurs too often for it to be explained as happenstance or being due
to a corrupt source text. It remains to be seen to what extent the translators fol-
lowed a systematic approach here.60 Apart from linguistic reasons, the original
may also have been changed because of its content. For instance, in Galen’s
work Distinctions in Symptoms, the translator silently corrected a logically in-
correct sequence of arguments.61 The translations that are based on context,
which we have discussed above, also have been edited for content. We have seen
that the translators took the scientific context of their time into consideration,
notably by employing contemporary medical terminology. They did so, because
the texts were addressed both to physicians and partly also to laypeople. The
translators would have become the laughing stocks if they had preserved the
terminology of their centuries-old source texts. Moreover, they aimed at being
easily comprehensible and instructive by supplementing certain passages with
the help of the context in which the source text is situated. We have seen that
they interpreted certain ambiguous phrasing in the Hippocratic Epidemics with
the help of Galen’s explanations. For example, they supplemented the concise
exposition of respiration in Galen’s Distinctions in Symptoms with information
from other works so that the reader would receive a comprehensive account of
the question at hand.
All these different aspects confirm the impression which Ḥunayn gives in his
methodological musings about himself and his work. When he encountered a

59 Ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 30, line 22–31, line 1 (Arabic text).

60 See Overwien 2009b, 132–3 and Overwien 2010, 61–2. Gutas 2010, 98–9 notes that such
omissions could be due to the fact that the translators regarded such words as superfluous.
This may be true some of the time, but it does not apply to all cases, since words that are
important to the overall sense are sometimes omitted.
61 See Overwien 2009b, 134.
168 Oliver Overwien

gap in the second book of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, he

subsequently filled it in, as he explains:62

āǛ΀ ƱLJʒ̶Αā Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ǽ͎ ƱǍʥ͵ Ǎʥ˶̈ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ȉ̈ΑāĢ LJͲ ȇʶʥ̑ ǽʶˏ͵ ǚ˶͇ ɬͲ ȵ˙͵ LJͲ ƢLJ˳ʓʓ̵ā Ȉˏˬ˜ʓ͎
ɷʒʓ͛ ɬͲ ɷ˶͇ LJ́̒Ǜ̥Αā ǽʓͫā ƛǍ̿Αҙҏā ȅˬ͇ć ƢҨҞ˜ͫā

I took it upon myself to fill the gap in accordance with what I thought was
Galen’s method in commenting on similar lemmas and according to the
principles I took from his writings.

Sometimes he wanted to save the reader from the burden of superfluous mat-
ter, as in the case of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Six,
where he omitted the sayings of various Greek authorities:63

Ɏʶ͵ć LJ́ʉ͎ Ɏʶ˶ͫā ȅˬ͇ ƛǚ̈ ǚ͘ ƹLJͲǚ˙ͫā ɬͲ LJ˳΀Ǩʉ͈ć ƦǍ̈́ҨҞ͎Αāć ťćǨʉͲćΑā ɡ̈ćLJ͘Αā ɬͲ ɡ̈ćLJ͘Αā ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ȵʓ͘ā
ǽ͎ LJ́̑ Ƚˏʓ˶̈ ҙҏ ɷ͵Αҙҏ LJ́ʓ˳̣Ǩ̒ Ȉ͛Ǩʓ͎ .ɬʶʥ̒ Ǩ̇LJˆ͵ ɼʉ̑Ǩˈͫā ǽ͎ ɷͫ ȫʉͫ ζɷͫ ɨ̇ҨҞͲ Ǎ΀ LJͲ Ǩʉ͈ ȅˬ͇ ƹǽʷͫā
.LJ́̈ Ƚˏʓ˶̈ ćΑā ɬʶʥʓʶ̈ ƦΑā ɬ͇ ҨҞˁ͎ ɨ́ˏ̒ ҙҏ Ȉ͵LJ͛ ĕΒā ζɼʉ̑Ǩˈͫā

Then, Galen related sayings by Homer, Plato and others of the ancients
in which he indicates that the [grammatical] congruence betweem them
is inappropriate. In Arabic, there are no suitable equivalents for it. I have
therefore not translated them into Arabic; they have no useful purpose in
Arabic, because they are incomprehensible, let alone pleasant or useful.

All these considerations admit only one conclusion: Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq focussed
primarily on the reader of his translation in the process of producing them.64
The reader was supposed to not only read the translations but also understand
them on the levels of both language and content.
Other remarks that Ḥunayn makes in his Epistle about his translations of
Galen confirm this focus on the reader. He states that his rendering of Galen’s
Bones for Beginners should be as comprehensible as possible because the pa-
tron who paid for it wanted it thus. When he translated Galen’s work Voice, he
adapted the level according to the intelligence of the person who commissioned
it. Additionally, he took the linguistic preferences of his patron into considera-

62 MS E1, fol. 51a, lines 24–5; text and translation are taken from ii.1.111 HV.
63 MS E2, fol. 145a, lines 17–20; for the text and translation, cf. Vagelpohl 2011, Appendix,
no. 15.
64 See also Brock 1991, 142.
The Art of the Translator 169

tion when rendering Galen’s Fullness.65 Here, we can see how Ḥunayn’s group
conceived of the Galenic text and how they envisioned the conservation and
transmission of the Greek originals. Although they endeavoured to collect mul-
tiple manuscripts of a single text in order to constitute a good working text
and carefully considered the quality of their source text, they did not intend to
preserve verbatim the ‘archetype’ which they reconstructed in this way. Rather,
they aimed at expanding their base text for the purpose of usefulness, instruc-
tion, and perhaps also reading pleasure, at least as much as the Greek source
would allow. Thus, one can understand why the translations which Ḥunayn’s
group produced met with so much success. For, we should not forget that those
who commissioned them paid highly for them and were therefore entitled to
received works of commensurate quality.
We could only establish the translational characteristics of Ḥunayn’s circle
on the basis of a few textual examples. Therefore, this paper is only an attempt
at describing the working methods of this group of translators. By taking addi-
tional evidence from this circle of translators into consideration, one may mod-
ify the results somewhat and perhaps put them into a different light. And one
could, of course, adduce examples for other aspects of their translational proce-
dures; to name but two, there is the development of technical terminology and
the use of dictionaries. In this way, many other characteristics would emerge
other than the qualifications ‘engaged’, ‘organised effectively’, or ‘focussed on
the reader’. Perhaps, it would be possible to situate this group in the long line
of antique, medieval, and early modern translation movements and thereby de-
termine its relationship to them. But even if we cannot yet give a comprehen-
sive view, the present investigations still produces useful results, even if they
are limited. There are enough scholars who would benefit from them. Classical
philologists are better able to judge the value of the Syriac and Arabic transla-
tions, Graeco-Arabists can receive important help with their edition of such
translations; and Arabists can obtain an important piece of the puzzle about the
intellectual life of the ninth century.

65 See ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 8, lines 9–11; 24, lines 18–9; 31, lines 1–2 (Arabic text).
170 Oliver Overwien
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 171

Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian:

Specific Transformations in the Commentaries on
Airs, Waters, Places and the Epidemics
Gotthard Strohmaier

The Arabic translations from Greek that Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq and his pupils pro-
duced are generally characterised by philological accuracy and a thorough un-
derstanding of the text. He collected as many Greek manuscripts as possible in
his private library and collated them in order to establish an improved Greek
text by inserting his corrections into one of the manuscripts.1 But at times, he de-
viated from his philological standards when religious matters were involved and
altered the text to such an extent that it is difficult to guess what Galen actually
said, when the original is lost. This might come as a surprise, for contemporary
Byzantine scribes and copyists did not tamper with Greek texts in order to con-
ceal the pagan expressions of their authors. The contemporary Muslim writer
al-Ǧāḥiẓ accuses Ḥunayn and his fellow Christian translators of falsifying the
texts in order to bring them into line with their religion.2 Al-Ǧāḥiẓ should have
added that these alterations also made the texts more adapted to Islam. Owing
to the ‘scientific’ context of these texts, the religious utterances which had to be
modified or even falsified occur only rarely. Until now, only a small number of
texts translated from Greek into Arabic are available where both the source and
the target texts survive. With these texts, one can compare them so as to get a
better insight into the particular methods of the Christian translators, and how
they coped with the difficulties posed by the pagan character of the texts.
There may be different reasons why the Eastern Christians eliminated pagan
references from their translations. Were they concerned about Muslim suspi-
cions that they might introduce pagan beliefs under the cover of Greek science?
A similar cautiousness can be observed in translations from Pehlevi into Ara-
bic.3 Or were they afraid that their fellow Christians would take offence? One
can already observe this phenomenon in Syriac translations which were pro-
duced for Christian audiences. Furthermore, we must take into account that the
clients of these various Syriac or Arabic translations may have had different ex-
1 Strohmaier 1994, 2005 (reprinted in Strohmaier 2003, 97); see also Overwien’s article in
this volume.
2 Finkel 1926, 17 (translation in Finkel 1927, 327).
3 Henning 1956, 76.
172 Gotthard Strohmaier

pectations and been more or less sensitive about pagan references in the transla-
tions. Ḥunayn also had to comply with the literary taste of his various clients.
In his Epistle (Risāla) about the Syriac and Arabic translations of Galen, he tells
of one incident when a Syrian client urged him to adopt a more prolix style,
although he himself usually endeavoured to be as concise as possible.4 Or was
a rivalry with the Ḥarrānian Sabians at the origin of this phenomenon? These
Sabians had gained a certain prominence (riyāsa) in Baghdad at the caliph’s
court and some such as Ḥunayn’s colleague Ṯābit ibn Qurra loudly claimed that
their paganism was identical with that of the old Greeks, the true founders of
civilisation.5 The Christians certainly had no interest in supporting these claims
by providing the Sabians with new arguments.
The reasons just listed are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps, Ḥunayn also
thought that his favoured author Galen did express some truth in a more hidden
way which might be brought to light by an allegorical interpretation, a method
which was employed when commenting on difficult passages in the Old Testa-
ment. Ḥunayn illustrates this use of allegorical interpretation in his translation
of a passage from a commentary on the Hippocratic Oath, the fragments of
which were collected by Franz Rosenthal.6 Galen’s authorship is currently under
dispute, but Ḥunayn, who had the full text before him, did, at any rate, believe
in its authenticity.7 He states in his Epistle that he translated it into Syriac and
added explanations to difficult passages.8 In the commentary, Galen alludes to
the old myth that Zeus killed Asclepius with a lightning bolt because the lat-
ter had dared to raise a man from the dead when immortality was reserved
exclusively for the Olympians. Ḥunayn first translated the text into Syriac and
originally prepared his notes, which appear in the Arabic version, for his fellow
Christians. Consider the following passage from his translation of Galen’s com-
ƱǨͲΑā ɬͲ ĢǍ́ʷ˳ͫā ɬͲć .ɎʥͫLJ̑ ҙҏ łLJ͎āǨʦͫLJ̑ Ɏʉˬ̒ LJ˳͵Βā ɷ́ͫΑLJ̒ ǽ͎ ɼ̑Ǎʓ˜Ͳ LJ΀ǚʤ͵ ǽʓͫā ɡ̈ćLJ͘Αҙҏā ƦΑā ɑͫĕć
ǽ˶͇ ɬ˳Ͳ LJ˳́́ʒ̶Αā ɬͲ Ǩ̇LJ̵ć ȫˬ͘ĢΒāć ȫ̵Ǎ͵Ǎ̈ĕ ǽ͎ ƛLJ˙̈ LJ˳͛ ζĢLJ͵ ɬͲ ĔǍ˳͇ ǽ͎ ɼ˜̇ҨҞ˳ͫā ȅͫΒā Ƚ͎Ģ ɷ͵Αā
āǛ΀ ɷ́ʒ̶Αā ɬͲ Ǩ̇LJ̵ć ťǍʉʒʉˬ˙̵ΑLJ̑ ɡˈ͎ ȅͫLJˈ̒ć ƋĢLJʒ̒ ɷˬͫā ƦΑā ƛLJ˙̈ ɼˬ˳ʤͫLJ̑ć .ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ǚ́ʓ̣āć ťLJ˶ͫā Ƚˏ˶̑
łǍ˳ͫā ɡʒ˙̈ ҙҏ ķǛͫā Ʊƹḳ̌ ɑͫĕ ǚˈ̑ ŁǛʓʤ̈ ɨ̓ ζĢLJ˶ͫLJ̑ ɷ˶Ͳ ǽ̀ĢΑҙҏā Ȉʉ˳ͫā ƹǩʤͫā ǽ˶ˏ̈ LJ˳ʉ͛ ζɡˈˏͫā
.ƹLJ˳ʶͫā ȅͫΒā ɷʶˏ͵ Ƚ͎Ǩ̈ć

4 Ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 30, lines 22–31, line 2.

5 Green 1992, 114.
6 Ed. Rosenthal 1956, 67 (reprinted in Rosenthal 1991, item iii, 67).
7 Strohmaier 2004, 152–3.
8 Ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 40, lines 2–4.
9 Ed. Müller 1882, 18, lines 19–23; translation (with slight modifications) by Rosenthal
1956, 67 (reprinted in Rosenthal 1991, item iii, 67).
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 173

The written accounts that we find about his [sc. Asclepius’] deification are
more like idle talk than the truth. It is a well known fact that he was raised
to the angels in a column of fire. The same is also said about Dionysus
and Heracles and similar men who worked zealously for the benefit of
mankind. In general, God, blessed and exalted, is said to have done this
with Asclepius and all the others like him in order to destroy his mortal
earthly part through fire and, afterwards, attract his immortal part and
raise his soul to heaven.

Similarly, Galen did not refrain from such mythological deliberations in his Ex-
hortation to Study the Arts. There, he remarks in passing that Asclepius and
Dionysus were either first mortal men and then became gods, or were gods
from the very beginning.10 Therefore, Galen may well have authored the passage
above, but it is also possible that Ḥunayn made some additions or alterations. In
a note on this passage, Ḥunayn states:11
ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏā ƦΑā ƛǍ˙̈ ɷ͵Αā ɑͫĕć ȅͫLJˈ̒ć ƋĢLJʒ̒ ɷˬͫLJ̑ ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏā ɷʒʷ̒ ƦǍ˜̈ Ʉʉ͛ ɬʉʒ̈ Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣
ɬ̈ģć «ǽ̀ĢΑҙҏā Ȉʉ˳ͫā Ʊƹḳ̌» LJ́̑ ǚ̈Ǩ̈ ǽʓͫā ǽ΀ć LJ́˶͇ ƋLJʶͲ Βҙҏāć Ǩʒˀͫā ĢLJ˶ͫLJ̑ ɼʉ͵LJ˳ʶʤͫā ɷ̒āǍ̶́ ĔLJ̑Αā āĕΒā
ƦLJ͛ «ƹLJ˳ʶͫā ȅͫΒā ŷLJˏ̒Ģҙҏā» LJ́̑ ǚ̈Ǩ̈ ǽʓͫā ǽ΀ć ɡ̇LJˁˏͫLJ̑ łāǍ́ʷͫā ƱǛ΀ ɬͲ ǽˏ˶ͫā ǚˈ̑ ɼ˙̈́LJ˶ͫā ɷʶˏ͵
ȅͫLJˈ̒ć ƋĢLJʒ̒ ɷˬͫLJ̑ LJ́ʉʒ̶

Galen explains here how man can become more similar to God, blessed
and exalted. He says that when a human being annihilates his bodily
desires—this is what he means by ‘his mortal earthly part’—through the
fire of endurance and abstention, and adorns his rational soul, after driving
it away from those desires, with virtues—this is what he means by ‘being
raised to heaven’—, he becomes similar to God, blessed and exalted.12

Let us further investigate how Ḥunayn approached pagan references in his

translations by looking at two Galenic commentaries on Hippocratic works.
For the first, on Airs, Waters, Places, I am currently preparing an edition of the
Arabic version for the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, as the Greek original is
lost; the Arabic translation is preserved in a unique manuscript.13 The other is
Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, which survives only partly in
Greek but in its entirety in Arabic. In the edition of the Corpus Medicorum Grae-

10 Ch. 9, § 2; ed. Barigazzi 1991, 132, lines 18–19.

11 Ed. Müller 1882, 18, lines 23–7; I partly follow the translation by Rosenthal 1956, 67
(reprinted in Rosenthal 1991, item iii, 67).
12 About the affinities with Nestorian theology, see Strohmaier 2002, 262–4 (reprinted in
Strohmaier 2007, 147–8).
13 This is Cairo, Dār al-kutub, MS Ṭalʿat ṭibb 550, henceforth MS C, of which Sezgin 2001
produced a facsimile; see also Sezgin 1972, 36–7 and 123–4.
174 Gotthard Strohmaier

corum, the editor of this text, Ernst August Wenkebach, filled in lacunae in the
Greek with a German translation prepared by Franz Pfaff on the basis of Max
Simonʼs earlier draft.14
The following examples will illustrate how Ḥunayn and his translators devi-
ated from the pagan references in the original. As such examples only rarely
occur in these scientific texts, we will turn to Artemidorus’ Dreambook, where
the gods and godesses play understandably a greater role.15 But here Ḥunayn’s
authorship of the translation has remained controversial. Manfred Ullmann
vigorously denied that Ḥunayn translated this text, arguing that it uses a ter-
minology that differs from that found in other translations by Ḥunayn.16 The
question must be left open, as there always exists the possibility that he ren-
dered it into Syriac, and someone else then translated the Syriac version into
Arabic.17 The translator may not have been necessarily one of Ḥunayn’s pupils,
and this could explain the different terminology. Furthermore, this translator
may not have put his own name on the translation out of modesty, as was often
the case. In the Epistle on the translations of Galen, Ḥunayn lists fifty-seven
Arabic versions made directly from the Greek but also another fifty seven made
from a Syriac intermediary.18 Although we cannot extrapolate from this ratio
how often Ḥunayn produced Syriac intermediaries for non-medical texts, the
possibility that he translated Artemidorusʼ work into Syriac still exists. Even as
late as in the twelfth century, new Arabic translations were made on the basis of
Ḥunayn’s Syriac, as was the case with the two versions of Dioscorides made by
ʾAbū Sālim al-Malaṭῑ and Mihrān ibn Manṣūr.19
A rather simple method adopted by the translator to conceal the paganism
of ancient authors was the replacement of the old gods and goddesses by the
one God of the Christian or Muslim faith. Fairly early on in the Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Ḥunayn translates the Greek sentence ‘they often send
to the gods to enquire about treatment (πέμπουϲί γε πολλάκιϲ εἰϲ θεοὺϲ περὶ
τῆϲ ἰάϲεωϲ αὐτῶν πυνθανόμενοι)’ as ‘they often take refuge in God [Allāh] for
their recovery (ɷˬͫā ȅͫΒā ɷ˶Ͳ ɨ́̇LJˏ̶ ǽ͎ āǨʉʔ͛ Ʀćnjʤˬ̈)’.20 Parallels of the same kind exist
in the translations of Anatomical Procedures, The Affected Parts, the Synopsis of

14 Wenkebach / Pfaff 1934; Wenkebach / Pfaff 1956; see Vagelpohl’s article on the vagaries
of transmission and rediscovery in this volume.
15 Fahd 1964; see Strohmaier 1968, 131–3 (reprinted in Strohmaier 1996, 231–3); Schmitt
1970, 223–6.
16 Ullmann 1971, 204–11.
17 For a mistranslation caused by the double meaning of a Syriac term, see Strohmaier 1968,
130, note 11 (reprinted in Strohmaier 1996, 230, note 11).
18 Strohmaier 1994, 2009–10 (reprinted in Strohmaier 2003, 100).
19 Ullmann 2009, 339–56.
20 Book i.1.23 V; p. 9, line 29 W.
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 175

Plato’s Timaeus, and the Dreambook of Artemidorus.21 In Anatomical Procedures,

the translator rendered the word ‘ἐπόμνυμι τοὺϲ θεοὺϲ πάνταϲ (I swear by all
the gods)’ as ‘I honestly swear by God [Allāh] (āǚ́ʓʤͲ ɷˬͫLJ̑ ɨʶ͘Αā)’.22 In Medical
Experience, where the Greek original is lost, a similar Greek expression must
underlie the exclamation ‘and we call upon God (ɷˬͫā ȅͫΒā ȉʉˉʓʶ͵ ɬʥ͵ć).23 Even such
simple expressions as ‘yes, by Zeus (νὴ Δία)’, ‘by Zeus (μὰ Δία)’ or ‘by the gods
(μὰ τοὺϲ θεούϲ)’ were rendered as ‘I swear by God (ɷˬͫLJ̑ ɨʶ͘Αā),24 or through less
solemn expressions such as ‘by my life (ķǨ˳ˈͫ)’ in the commentary on Airs, Wa-
ters, Places.25
In Anatomical Procedures, the translator encountered the phrase ‘someone
sacrifices a cock to the gods (ἀλεκτρυόνα γοῦν τιϲ θύων θεοῖϲ)’. As the trans-
lator could hardly talk about sacrificing a cock to God, he turned the phrase
somewhat differently, saying ‘that a man sometimes sacrifices a cock in order
to draw nearer to God (ɷˬͫā ȅͫΒā ɷ̑ ŁǨ˙ʓ̈ LJ˜̈Ĕ łLJ͘ćΑҙҏā ȶˈ̑ ǽ͎ Ț̑ĕ ҨҞ̣Ģ ƦΑā)ʼ.26 In his
commentary on Airs, Waters, Places, Galen says that some people believe that
epilepsy is caused by ‘a divine wrath’. Here the Greek wording ‘ἐκ θείου χόλου
(through divine wrath)’, which is preserved in a scholion to Oribasius,27 is quite
naturally rendered as ‘by the wrath of God, praised and exalted (ƋĢLJʒ̒ ɷˬͫā ȇˁ͈ ɬͲ
ȅͫLJˈ̒ć)’.28 But here as in many other texts, one has to ask whether the doxology
‘praised and exalted’, which is quite common in Arabic manuscripts, was added
by the Christian translator or a later scribe; if the latter, then we should mark it
as an addition by putting it in square brackets in our editions. In the Arabic ver-
sion of Difference of Homoeomerous Parts, we observe that the doxology ‘exalted
and great (ɡ̣ć ȅͫLJˈ̒)’ was added only in one of the two existing manuscripts.29
The commentary on Airs, Waters, Places contains more such doxologies such as
‘blessed and exalted (ȅͫLJˈ̒ć ƋĢLJʒ̒)’30 or ‘mighty and great (ɡ̣ć ǩ͇)’31.
More doubtful are other typical Arabic expressions. When Galen speaks of
the physician’s success with the right therapy, we find that the following con-

21 Ed. Garofalo 1986, xxiii; ed. Garofalo 1995, 29; Kraus / Walzer 1951, xxv; Strohmaier 1968,
131, note 3 (reprinted in Strohmaier 1996, 231, n. 3).
22 Ed. Garofalo 2000, 445, line 29 (Greek) = 444, line 25 (Arabic).
23 Galen, Medical Experience, ch. 12, § 1 (ed. Walzer 1944, 25, line 1 [text], p. 104 [translation]).
24 Galen, Medical Experience, ch. 15, § 4 (ed. Walzer 1944, 34, line 14 [text], p. 112 [translation];
Distinctions in Homogeneous Parts (ed. Strohmaier 1970, 56, line 11).
25 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 2, line 10, corresponding to MS C, fol. 28b, line 10; 3, line 21; MS C,
fol. 29b, line 21; 65, line 10; MS C, fol. 60a, line 10.
26 Ed. Garofalo 2000, 449, line 7 (Greek), 448, line 6 (Arabic).
27 Ed. Raeder 1933, 148 in the apparatus.
28 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 18, line 1; MS C, fol. 36b, line 1.
29 Ch. 3, § 5: Strohmaier 1970, 56, line 11.
30 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 41, lines 19–20; MS C, fol. 48a, lines 19–20.
31 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 41, line 18; MS C, fol. 48a, line 18; Sezgin 2001, 63, lines 2–3; MS C,
fol. 59a, lines 2–3.
176 Gotthard Strohmaier

ditional clause has been added ‘if God, the exalted, wills it, as he grants success
(Ɏʉ͎Ǎʓͫā ɷ̑ć ȅͫLJˈ̒ ɷˬͫā ƹLJ̶ ƦΒā)’32; or ‘with the permission of God, mighty and great, as
he accomplishes the treatment (œҨҞˈͫā ƢLJ˜̤Βā ɑͫĕć ɡ̣ć ǩ͇ ɷˬͫā ƦĕΒLJ̑)’33; or simply ‘with
God’s permission (ɷˬͫā ƦĕΒLJ̑)’34. This is a reminder of the same formula used in the
Koran, when Jesus is authorised by God to heal the sick (Sura 3: 49; 5: 110).
Very doubtful, indeed, are two other common phrases that appear totally
senseless within the context, and which cannot be attributed either to Galen or
to competent translator. At the beginning of the fourth book of his Commentary
on Air, Waters, Places, Galen talked about completing the whole commentary,
but the sentence ends with a ‘God knows (ɨˬ͇Αā ɷˬͫā)’, although the reader can eas-
ily see that Galen completed it.35 In another passage, Galen promises further to
discuss the disease called kédmata, and this is again followed by ‘God willing
(ɷˬͫā ƹLJ̶ ƦΒā)’.36 All this leads us to the conclusion that the doxologies, too, at least
in this text, should be regarded as later additions, although it cannot totally be
excluded that Ḥubaysh, who translated Ḥunayn’s Syriac into Arabic, might al-
ready have added them in order to please the Muslim client.
The translation of the Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ belongs to
those texts where such pious reservations appear less conspicuous. In some
of his notes, Ḥunayn speaks of his hope to find more Greek manuscripts, and
there, the addition of ‘God willing (ɷˬͫā ƹLJ̶ ƦΒā)’ makes good sense for a Christian.37
In another case, when Galen himself uses the words ‘to speak with God as wit-
ness (ϲὺν θεῷ δ’ εἰπεῖν)’ when boasting of his success in predicting the course of
an illness, the translation ‘with God granting success (ɷˬͫā Ɏʉ͎Ǎʓ̑)’ is not quite exact
but surely is Ḥunayn’s own rendering.38 One other addition remains suspect in
the following sentence39:

καὶ ϲὺ τοίνυν, ἐὰν ἀϲκήϲῃϲ ϲαυτὸν ἐν τοῖϲ εἰρημένοιϲ περὶ κρίϲεωϲ,

Ἱπποκράτουϲ τε καὶ τῆϲ τέχνηϲ ἄξιοϲ ἔϲῃ.

Now if you train yourself in what I have just said on crisis, then you will be
worthy of both Hippocrates and the art [of medicine].
ƦĕΒLJ̑ Ǩʉˀʓ̵ ɑ͵ΒLJ͎ ζłLJ͵āǨʥʒͫā ǨͲΑā ɬͲ ɷʓˏ̿ć LJ˳ʉ͎ ɑʶˏ͵ Ȉʉ̀Ģ ƦΒā ζǽʒ̒LJ˜ͫ ĶĢLJ˙ͫā LJ́̈Αā ζLJˁ̈Αā Ȉ͵Αāć
ɷʓ͇LJ˶̿ć ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ȅͫΒā ȇʶ˶̒ ƦΑā LJ́ˈͲ Ɏʥʓʶ̒ ƛLJ̤ ȅͫΒā ɷˬͫā

32 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 150, line 1; MS C, fol. 102b, line 1.

33 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 63, lines 2–3; MS C, fol. 59a, lines 2–3.
34 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 4, line 21; MS C, fol. 29b, line 21; and 64, line 18; MS C fol. 59b, line 18.
35 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 97, line 12; MS C, fol. 76a, line 12.
36 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 127, line 14; MS C, fol. 91a, line 14.
37 Book ii.5.2 HV and ii.6.123 HV.
38 Book i.3.76 V; p. 125, line 27 W.
39 Book i.3.77 V; p. 125, lines 28–9 W.
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 177

If you agree with what I described about crises, you, the reader of my book,
will also, God willing [bi-ʾiḏni llāhi], come to a point when you deserve to
be associated with Hippocrates and his art.

As the typical Arabic expression ‘God willing’ is missing in the Greek, it prob-
ably is an addition.
Ḥunayn often translated the same Greek word in a number of different ways.
This versatility clearly appears his treatment of Asclepius, who could be re-
garded either as a god or as a human being, and the ancestor of the medical
art. In Medical Substances of Dioscurides, translated by ʾIṣṭifān ibn Basῑl, the
collection of hellebore was accompanied by prayers to Apollon and Asclepius
(εὐχόμενοι Ἀπόλλωνι καὶ Ἀϲκληπιῷ). Here, the solution was simple: the trans-
lator has supplied ‘they pray to God (ɷˬͫ ƦǍˬˀ̈)’.40
In Anatomical Procedures, Galen mentioned the Pergamene Zeus Asclepius;
when translating this reference, Ḥunayn takes into consideration that Asclepius
is related to health and writes: ‘God who restores health (ɼʥˀˬͫ ǚʉˈ˳ͫā ɷˬͫā)’.41 In My
Own Opinions Galen mentions him only as the god who is revered in Pergamum
and who has healed him from an illness, without calling him by name42:

Ὁ δὲ παρ’ ἐμοὶ τιμώμενοϲ ἐν Περγάμῳ θεὸϲ ἐπ’ ἄλλων τε πολλῶν τὴν ἑαυ-
τοῦ δύναμιν καὶ πρόνοιαν ἐνεδείξατο ἐμέ τε θεραπεύϲαϲ ποτέ.

The god, who is honoured at my place in Pergamum, demonstrated his

providential power on many other occasions and he also once treated me.

The Arabic translation is lost but can be reconstructed with the help of one He-
brew and one Latin version which were made independently from one another.
In these translations, we find that Asclepius simply is replaced by God.43 But
in Medical Experience, he is called ‘the old authority of our grandfathers’ days
(LJ͵Ĕāụ̈̌Αā ǚ͇́ ȅˬ͇ ƦLJ͛ ķǛͫā ɨ̈ǚ˙ͫā ɼͫLJʔ˳ͫā)’. The Greek is missing, but the corresponding
expression probably was ‘The ancestral god (ὁ πατρῷοϲ θεόϲ)’. Here, Ḥunayn
adds a note:44

40 Bk. iv, ch. 162, § 4 (ed. Dubler / Terés 1952–7, ii. 361, line 11; ed. Wellmann 1958, 308, lines
41 Ed. Garofalo 1986, 11, line 18 (Greek); 12, lines 15–16 (Arabic).
42 Ch. 2 (ed. Boudon-Millot / Pietrobelli 2005, 173, lines 4–6).
43 Ch. 2, § 2 (ed. Nutton 1999, 58, line 9 [Hebrew]; 58, line 8 [Latin]).
44 Ch. 30, § 7 (ed. Walzer 1944, 80, lines 12–13 [Arabic]; p. 152 [translation]).
178 Gotthard Strohmaier

.ȅˁͲ LJ˳ʉ͎ LJ͵LJʶ͵Βā ƦLJ͛ ɷ͵Αҙҏ ζLJ΀ҙҏΒā LJˁ̈Αā ƱLJ˳̵ LJ˳̑Ģć .ɼͫLJʔͲ ƱLJ˳̵ LJ˳͵Βāć .ťǍʉʒʉˬ˙̵Αā āǛ́̑ ǽ˶ˈ̈ :ɬʉ˶̤ ƛLJ͘

Ḥunayn says: He means Asclepius45 and calls him ‘authority [maṯāla]’, and
sometimes also calls him a god [ʾilāh], because46 he was deified after having
been a human being in the past.

Another example is the introductory invocation of the gods in the Hippocratic


Ὄμνυμι Ἀπόλλωνα ἰητρόν καὶ Ἀϲκληπιὸν καὶ Ὑγείαν καὶ Πανάκειαν καὶ
θεοὺϲ πάνταϲ τε καὶ πάϲαϲ …

I swear by Apollo Physician, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea and by

all the gods and goddesses …

This is translated as47:

ɨʶ͘Αāć œҨҞ͇ ɡ͛ć ƹLJˏʷͫā ɎͫLJʦ̑ć ťǍʉʒʉˬ˙̵ΑLJ̑ ɨʶ͘Αāć ɼʥˀͫā ȇ΀āćć łǍ˳ͫāć ƴLJʉʥͫā ŁĢ ɷˬͫLJ̑ ɨʶ͘Αā ǽ͵Βā
LJˈʉ˳̣ ƹLJʶ˶ͫāć ƛLJ̣Ǩͫā ɬͲ ɷˬͫā ƹLJʉͫćΑLJ̑

I swear by God, the lord of life and death who grants health, and I swear by
Asclepius and by him who creates health and every therapy and I swear by
God’s saints, both males and females.

Asclepius appears under his name, whereas all the other deities have lost their
identity. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Ḥunayn has retained both Asclepiusʼ
name and even his divine character in his translation of the Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ. We read about the ‘inspiration [waḥy] that Asclepius
sent in a dream or whilst [the receiver] is awake (ƢLJ˶˳ͫā ǽ͎ ťǍʒʉˬ˙̵Αā … ȅ̤ćΑā ǽ̤Ǎ̑
ɼˆ˙ʉͫā ǽ͎ ćΑā)’.48 In other examples, where temples of various deities such as Hera,
Artemis, Aphrodite, Heracles and Dionysus are mentioned in order to describe
the localities of the patients, the translator preserved the deitiesʼ names since
there was no direct relationship between them and human beings.49
We have already seen that Ḥunayn translated Galen’s Commentary on the
Hippocratic Oath, where the author talks about how man can become more simi-

45 The ‘Asclepiades’ in the manuscript is probably only a scribal error.

46 ʾilāhan li-annahū corr. Levi Della Vida: al-dallāla MS.
47 Ed. Dunlop 1979, 77, lines 1610–11; see also Pormann / Savage-Smith 2007, 33.
48 Book ii.4.4 HV (cf. p. 311, lines 38–9 Pf).
49 Book i.3.144 V, p. 151, line 10 W; and ii.2.92–4 HV (cf. p. 233, line 9–p. 234, line 1 Pf).
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 179

lar to god; in this context, the angels replace the gods and goddesses.50 Other
examples are found in Character Traits51, in the Synopsis of Plato’s Timaeus52,
and in an Arabic fragment of Proclus’ commentary on Plato’s Timaeus53. In the
Dreambook of Artemidorus, this procedure to replace gods and goddess with an-
gels sometimes led to strange consequence.54 For example, ‘Common Aphrodite
(Ἀφροδίτη πάνδημοϲ)’, the female goddess representing the vulgar kind of love,
appears here as ‘the angel called Aphrodite, ruler of the peoples (ɷͫ ƛLJ˙̈ ķǛͫā ɑˬ˳ͫā
ɨͲΑҙҏā ȇ̤LJ̿ ǽ˅̈ĔćǨ͎Αā)’; the Greek pándēmos literally means ‘of all the people’ which
probably led to this literal translation ṣāḥib al-ʾumam.55
Against this background, one or two passages in the Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ can now be read correctly. Galen twice relates the case
of a mentally disturbed man who fears that Atlas may no longer be able to bear
the vault of the heaven, so that it would crash on the earth. The phrase ‘if At-
las were to decide no longer to carry the sky because he is tired (εἰ δόξειε τῷ
Ἄτλαντι κάμνοντι μηκέτι βαϲτάζειν τὸν οὐρανόν)’ is rendered as56:

ȫˬ̈́Αā ɷ͵Ǎ˳ʶ̈ć ƹLJ˳ʶͫā ɡ˳ʥ̈ ɷ͵Αā ƹāǨˈʷͫā ɨ͇ǩ̈ ǚ͘ ķǛͫā ɑˬ˳ͫā ĿǨ̑ ƦΒā ŰǨˈ̈ ķǛͫā LJͲ Ǩˆ˶̈ć Ǩ˜ˏʓ̈

he thinks and ponders what happens when the angel [al-malak] who the
poets claim carries the heaven and call Atlas becomes exhausted.

It is clear that ‘al-malak (the angel)’ must be vocalised in this way and not as ‘al-
malik (the king)’, as Franz Pfaff did in his German translation of the same story
in the sixth book of Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, which is preserved
only in Arabic.57
The Christian standpoint of the translator also is present in other less con-
spicuous modifications. In The Best Doctor is also a Philosopher, Galen praises
medicine as ‘a philanthropic art (τέχνη φιλάνθρωποϲ)’; by ‘philanthropicʼ, he
refers to human kindness. Ḥunayn translated this phrase as ‘the art that God had
bestowed on mankind out of his mercy (ɼ˳̤Ǩͫā ɬͲ ɷʉˬ͇ ɷˬͫā LJ́ˬˈ̣ LJͲ ȅˬ͇ ɼ͇LJ˶ˀͫā ƱǛ΀)’.58
Furthermore, there are other statements where it is difficult to discern whether
they originate with the Christian translator or rather some Muslim scribe. In

50 See above, p. 178.

51 Ed. Kraus 1937, 40–1 (translation by Walzer 1963, 166).
52 Ed. Kraus / Walzer 1951, xxiv–v.
53 Translation by Franz Pfaff in Schmutte 1941, 57.
54 Strohmaier 1968, 137–40 (reprinted in Strohmaier 1996, 237–40).
55 Ed. Strohmaier 1968, 139 (reprinted in Strohmaier 1996, 239).
56 Book i.3.18; p. 107, lines 28–9 W.
57 P. 487, lines 9–10 W.
58 Ch. 2 (ed. Bachmann 1965, 18, line 51; ed. Müller 1891, 3, lines 19–20; i. p. 56, line 11 K).
180 Gotthard Strohmaier

the Commentary on Airs, Waters, Places, Galen deals with the Hippocratic ex-
pression ‘to get old before the appropriate time (προγηράϲκειν τοῦ χρόνου τοῦ
ἱκνευμένου)’59; Galen ponders what the ‘appropriate timeʼ might be. He says
that according to the opinion of the physicians, only the elderly die a natural
death, whereas the young die by accident, owing to the air, food, or something
similar. In the following passage of this text, there are interesting differences be-
tween the Arabic and the Hebrew versions. The Hebrew version was produced
by the famous Jewish translator Šelōmō ha-Meʾati and is earlier than the Cairo
manuscript which contains the Arabic translation. The Arabic version has the
following text60:

ɷˬͫā Ǩ̈ǚ˙ʓ̑ ǽˈʉʒ̈́ łǍͲ Ǎ΀ ɼˬ͇ Ǩʉ͈ ɬͲ ɬ̇LJ˜ͫā łǍ˳ͫā ƦΑā ƦǍ˳͇ǩ̈ ɨ́͵ΒLJ͎ .ɑͫĕ Ǩʉˉ͎ ƹLJ˳˜ʥͫā ķΑāĢ LJͲΑāć
ƦǍ˜̒ LJ˳͵Βā LJ́ˬ͛ ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā ƦΒLJ͎ .ȅͫLJˈ̒ć ƋĢLJʒ̒ ɎͫLJʦͫā Ǩʉ̑ǚʓ̑ ɷ͵Ǎ˜͎ LJˁ̈Αā łLJ͎ΐҙҏLJ̑ ɬ̇LJ˜ͫā łǍ˳ͫāć .ɡ̣ć ǩ͇
ȅͫLJˈ̒ć ƋĢLJʒ̒ ɷˬʒ͘ ɬͲ.

The philosophers’ opinion is different, since they claim that the death that
occurs without cause is natural through the decision of God, mighty and
great [bi-taqdīri llāhi ʿazza wa-ǧalla]. Also, the death that occurs owing
to damage is due to the providence of the creator, blessed and exalted [bi-
tadbīri l-ḫāliqi tabāraka wa-taʿālā], for all things are caused by him, blessed
and exalted.

In the Hebrew version61:

‫ואמנם סברת החכמים הנה היא זולת זה כי הם יחשבו שהמות ההווה מבלי סיבה הוא מות‬
‫טבעי ביכולת השם וההווה מהפגעים גם כן אמנם יהיה מהנהגת הבורה ושהדברים כולם‬
‫יהיו מפני העליונים‬

In the Hebrew version, the doxologies ‘mighty and great’ etc. are missing; this
omission may be due to the Hebrew translator. Yet, whilst the Arabic reads ‘all
things are caused by him, blessed and exalted [min qibalihī tabāraka wa-taʿālā]’,
the Hebrew has: ‘all things are due to superior beings [mip-penei hā-ʿelyōnōṯ]’.
The Hebrew version surely was nearer to Galen’s own opinions, which were
tolerated by Ḥunayn but intolerable for some later reader or scribe. Galen prob-
ably stated that according to the philosophers, death due to old age and likewise
death caused by some illness or accident are both natural, for all things are ruled
by the heavenly beings. The original Arabic must have had something like ‘the

59 Ch. 7, § 6 (ed. Diller 1999, 36, line 20; ed. Jouanna 1996, 201).
60 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 41; MS C, fol. 48a, lines 18–19.
61 Ed. Wasserstein 1982, lines 303–5.
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 181

heavenly movements (al-ḥarakāt as-samāwῑya), that is, the movement of the

planets, sun, and moon. For a few lines earlier, we read:62

ɼ̈ćLJ˳ʶͫā łLJ͛Ǩʥͫā ɡʒ͘ ɬͲ ƴĔćǚʥͲ ƴLJʉ̤ ț̇LJʷ˳ͫā ɬͲ țʉ̶ ɡ˜ͫ ƦΑā ɨˬˈ͵ ƦΑā LJ˶ͫ ǽˉʒ˶̈ :ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƛLJ͘
LJ́ͫ ƋǨʥ˳ͫā LJ́˙ͫLJ̥ ɡʒ͘ ɬͲ łLJ͛Ǩʥͫā ɑˬ̒ ɡʒ͘ć.

Galen says: We should know that every old man has a life span determined
by the heavenly movements, and, before these movements, by the will of
their creator, who has set them in motion.

Here the translator, or a later scribe was content to keep the ‘heavenly move-
ments’, and only added a theological qualification. A few lines later, however, in
the Arabic translation, ‘heavenly movements’ is deleted. A Muslim was surely
responsible for this deletion, for the Hebrew version has retained this expres-
We must not expect too much consistency either from the translator or from
the later scribes. In Critical Days, Galen underlines how the sun and the moon,
according to their position in the zodiac, exert their influence on sublunar proc-
esses, which include the course of diseases. He concedes that the other planets
of the old world system are also responsible for this particular process, though
to a lesser degree.64
A striking example of the translators’ dexterity is found in My Own Opinions.
Ḥunayn translated this treatise into Syriac and his pupil ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā rendered
the Syriac version into Arabic; Ḥunayn’s son ʾIsḥāq ibn Ḥunayn then checked
it.65 In this treatise, Galen speaks at the end of his life about his religious con-
victions and the reason why he still is inclined, despite his innate scepticism, to
believe in the existence and the power of the gods. He refers to the marvellous
structure of the animal body and the help he had received from Asclepius dur-
ing an illness. Ḥunayn has transformed Asclepius here into the one God of his
faith.66 Galen continues with another personal experience that he had on high

κατὰ θάλατταν δὲ Διοϲκούρων ἔχω πεῖραν οὐ μόνον τῆϲ προνοίαϲ ἀλλὰ

καὶ τῆϲ δυνάμεωϲ.

62 Ed. Sezgin 2001, 41, line 11; MS C, fol. 48a, line 11.
63 Ed. Wasserstein 1982, line 298.
64 Bk. iii, ch. 2 (ix. p. 901, line 18–p. 902, line 2 K) and bk. iii, ch. 6 (ix. p. 911, line 14–p. 913,
line 16 K); about Galen’s contradictory statements about astrology see Gundel 1966, 289–90.
65 Ed. Bergsträsser 1925, 46, line 23–47, line 3.
66 Ch. 2 (ed. Boudon-Millot / Pietrobelli 2005, 173, lines 1–6; ed. Nutton 1999, 58–9).
67 Ch. 2 (ed. Boudon-Millot / Pietrobelli 2005, 173, lines 6–8).
182 Gotthard Strohmaier

On sea, I experienced not only the providence but also the power of the

In this passage, the translator found himself caught in a dilemma. He could not
adduce the Dioscuri, the two sons of Zeus, as further proof for the power of the
Almighty. He evades the difficulty by paraphrasing what Galen must have seen
on his sea travels; however, the Greek text gives no hint whatsoever about the
actions of the Dioscuri. The translator knew, nevertheless, what Galen meant
when he referred to the appearance of the Dioscuri. It was the weather phe-
nomenon later called St Elmo’s fire, described by the Encyclopaedia Britannica
as ‘the glow accompanying the brushlike discharges of atmospheric electricity
that usually appears as a tip of light on the extremities of such pointed objects
as church towers or the masts of ships during stormy weather.’ It was taken as
a promise of an immediate salvation from shipwreck.68 Those who reached the
shore, like Galen, could testify to this, whereas the drowned had, of course, no
chance to tell a different tale.
The Arabic translation of My Own Opinions is lost, but its content can be
recovered by the Latin and Hebrew versions which were made independently
from each other69:

Et quod uidetur in mari liberatione illorum qui sunt propinqui pati

naufragium per signa que uident et firmiter credunt liberari, et significat
significatione manifesta uirtutem mirabilem et hoc expertus sum egoipse.

‫ומה שיראה בים מהצלת היורדים בו באניות אחר שחשבו להשבר ולשקוע בים באות אשר‬
‫יראו אותו ויבטחו ויושעו יורה ראיה ברורה על כח נפלא‬

The salvation that appears at sea for those who go out in ships and who,
after having thought that they would suffer shipwreck and drown in the
sea, see a sign and firmly trust that they will be saved clearly shows a
wonderful power.

The phrase which we read in Latin ‘and, indeed, I experienced it myself (et hoc
expertus sum egoipse)’ is missing, but it corresponds to ‘I have experience (ἔχω
πεῖραν)’ in the original Greek and therefore must have existed in the lost Arabic
version. On the basis of these two translations, before the Greek original was
published, it was almost impossible to guess what Galen actually had intended
to say.70
68 Kraus 1957, 1131.
69 Ch. 2 (ed. Nutton 1999, 58b, lines 11–16); the following translations are based on Nutton
1999, 59b, lines 15–23.
70 See the commentary in Nutton 1999, 139–40.
Galen the Pagan and Ḥunayn the Christian 183

A similar vagueness of expression, which Ḥunayn may have rendered to

avoid displeasing his readers, is found in the translation of Commentary on
Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, Book Two, which is preserved only in Arabic. Galen
first tells us how his contemporary Lucian of Samosata played with the anti-
quarian spirit of the so-called second sophistic by forging a philosophical tract
in the name of Heraclitus. Then, an unnamed expert began to compose a com-
mentary on it, until it was revealed that the tract was a fake.71 The passage is
especially valuable as we have no further testimony about the famous satirist’s
biography from a contemporaneous author. But, the unknown philosopher was
not the only victim of Lucian’s jokes. After this story, Galen adds another brief
story that consists only of one sentence72:
LJ΀ǍͫćΑLJʓ͎ 73ɬ̈Ǎʥ˶ͫā ɬͲ ƢǍ͘ ȅͫΒā LJ́˳̵Ģć ȅ˶ˈͲ LJ́ʓʥ̒ ȫʉͫ ǽ̤Ǎͫā œǨʦͲ LJ̣́Ǩ̥Αā ɡ̈ćLJ͘Αā ťǍ͵LJʉ͘Ǎͫ ɡˈʓ͎āć
LJ́̑ āǍʥˁʓ͎LJ͎ LJ΀ćǨʶ͎ć

Lucian faked also meaningless words, which he pronounced in the manner

of divine inspiration [al-waḥy], and wrote them down for people of the two
ways [qawm min al-naḥwayn] who interpreted and explained them and so
were exposed by them.

The enigmatic statement has occasioned many conjectures, including my own,

which I now deem to be altogether unnecessary.74 The word ‘the two ways (al-
naḥwayn)’ appears especially mysterious. As in the Escorial manuscript, the
ending -īyīn (ɬʉʉƼ) is sometimes written carelessly and is equated with -ayn (ɬʉƼ)75,
Franz Pfaff understood the whole sentence as follows76:

Dieser Lukian machte auch für sich grammatische Bemerkungen, die

sinnlos waren, und übergab sie einigen Grammatikern, diese erklärten und
erläuterten sie und machten sich dadurch lächerlich.

This Lucian also produced grammatical remarks that made no sense and
handed them to some grammarians; they explained and expounded them,
and thus became ridiculous.

71 Book ii.6.145 HV (cf. p. 402, lines 31–9 Pf).

72 Book ii.6.145 HV; p. 402, lines 39–42 W.
73 ɬ̈Ǎʥʐͫā E1: ɬ̈Ǎʥ˶ͫā M: ɮʐ̏Ǎʥʐͫā A1.
74 Strohmaier 1976, 118 (reprinted in Strohmaier 1996, 89).
75 The newly found manuscript A1 deviates from manuscripts E1 and M by presenting the
ending with two undotted hooks (see above, n. 73), which should be read as -īyīn. I take this to
be an attempt by a scribe to correct the seemingly meaningless reading -ayn, just as Pfaff did
centuries later.
76 P. 402, lines 39–42 Pf.
184 Gotthard Strohmaier

But, waḥy in the language of the time always means ‘divine inspirationʼ and has
nothing to do with grammar. Moreover, it is also difficult to imagine grammar-
ians being in need of a divine inspiration.77 Lucian made ‘remarks that made
no sense that he uttered in the way of divine inspiration (ʾaḫraǧahā maḫraǧa
l-waḥyi)’ and wrote them down afterwards (rasamahā). In his report on Alexan-
der of Abonuteichos, Lucian describes how this pagan prophet pretended to re-
ceive such revelations and produced them while emitting foam from his mouth.78
The reading al-naḥwayni makes sense when we take into account Ḥunayn’s
intimate knowledge of the Bible. He is credited with an Arabic version of the
Septuagint and was surely familiar with the Greek New Testament.79
The Arabic naḥw corresponds exactly with the Greek hodós, which means
both in a real and in a metaphorical sense ‘direction, a way, a path to followʼ. In
Arabic, it additionally acquired the notion of grammar and the way to master
the language80, which meaning cannot, of course, be present here. The Greek
hodós, on the other hand, has another special meaning in the language of the
New Testament. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read how Saint Paul tried to
‘track down people of the Way (ἐάν τιναϲ εὕρῃ τῆϲ ὁδοῦ ὄνταϲ)’ (Acts 9, 1–2)
before his conversion. Afterwards, he spoke before a Jewish audience about his
former life: he was zealously protective of the ancestral law and therefore per-
secuted this ‘Way’ until death (ταύτην τὴν ὁδὸν ἐδίωξα ἄχρι θανάτου) (Acts 22,
3–4). The expression ‘the Way (hē hodós)’ is used here without further qualifica-
tion to denote the Christian way of life; we also find this usage elsewhere in the
Acts and in early Christian literature.81 It is therefore plausible that the ‘people
of the two ways’ in Ḥunayn’s rendering were the Christians and the Jews. In his
Distinctions in Pulse, Galen called them ‘those [hailing] from Moses and Christ
(οἱ ἀπὸ Μωϋϲοῦ καὶ Χριϲτοῦ).82 This phrase may also be the underlying Greek
here. The phenomenon of speaking in tongues was not altogether extinct by the
end of the second century, nor was it unknown in the Jewish community.83 At
this time, it had a strong revival in the movement of the Montanists, a millenar-
ian and ascetic Christian heresy.84 It is understandable that Ḥunayn felt obliged
to veil the mockery, and as in the case of the Dioscuri, he resorted to a vague
paraphrase that did not, however, totally falsify what Galen had said.

77 Wensinck / Rippin 2000, 53–6.

78 Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet, chs. 12–13.
79 Ed. de Goeje 1894, 112 (translation by Carra de Vaux 1896, 159).
80 Troupeau 1992, 913–15.
81 Acts 19: 9.23 and 24: 14.22; see Bauer 1988, 1125.
82 Distinctions in Pulse bk. 3, ch. 3 (viii. p. 657, line 1 K); about Galen’s general attitude
towards Jews and Christians, see Strohmaier 2006, 140–56.
83 Dautzenberg 1979, 225–46; for a fuller discussion of the historical context, see Strohmaier
2012 (forthcoming).
84 Brüggemann 2011.

The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on

Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ
Bink Hallum

The Epidemics and Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ fascinated

Islamic physicians throughout the medieval period. During the four centuries
between the mid-ninth and mid-twelfth centuries, no fewer than fifteen Ara-
bic-speaking, mostly medical authors wrote texts which were devoted to, or
mentioned, the Epidemics. But these authors approached the Hippocratic and
Galenic texts from a number of different angles and with varying aims. Galen
himself clearly saw much value in the Epidemics, even in those sections that he
considered to be unedited notebooks which contained spurious material, and
he composed a commentary on this text which is longer than any of his other
Hippocratic commentaries. The Epidemics lacks a coherent order, and the apho-
risms and case notes it contains are often worded obscurely, so Galen’s com-
mentary is a necessary key to understanding these texts.1 But his commentary
is unmanageably long and follows the Hippocratic text lemmatically, thus mir-
roring its often apparently random order of subjects. Even with Galen’s key
to the text, it would have been extremely difficult for students to navigate the
material contained within it and to extract, and benefit from, what was useful.
This problem was clearly felt by the Arabic readers of this text and, as we shall
see, a number of them took steps to rectify it. But the majority of Arabic authors
who dealt with the Epidemics did not write commentaries on it or try to digest it
for readers who wanted to approach the text as a whole. Rather, they extracted
nuggets of information from the Hippocratic and Galenic texts to fit a given
subject. In this paper, I will survey the Arabic literature on the Epidemics and
explore the reasons why Islamic medical authors wanted to deal with this text,
how they approached it and what use they made of it.
It should be noted from the outset that, as is commonly the case with
Hippocratic works in Arabic, the Epidemics was known only from Galen’s com-
mentary and was not transmitted independently.2 For this reason, whenever the

1 See Alessi, above, pp. 71–90.

2 An apparent exception to this rule is found in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS arabe 6734,
fols. 1a–19a, which contains Epidemics, Book One. Closer inspection, however, reveals that
this Arabic text is none other than the Hippocratic lemmata culled from Ḥunayn’s translation
186 Bink Hallum

Epidemics is mentioned below in the context of its Arabic reception, reference is

in fact being made to Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’.

The Arabic translation and its initial reception

1) Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq (d. ca. 873)

The reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ in the Arabic

speaking world begins properly with Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq’s production of the
first Arabic translation. In Ḥunayn’s famous Epistle (Risāla),3 in which he
lists and describes his translations of Galenic texts, Ḥunayn tells us that he
based his translation on a number of Greek manuscripts as well as an earlier
Syriac translation by Job of Edessa (d. ca. 835). Furthermore, he tells us that
his translation was commissioned by ʾAbū Ǧaʿfar Muḥamad ibn Mūsā (d. 873).
But Ḥunayn did not simply translate Galen’s Commentary and leave it at that.
He clearly considered the varied materials in this text to be of great value and
produced a number of shorter works in which he set out extracts from the
Epidemics in a form that was more readily digestible by medical students.
The scientific bibliographer Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa (d. 1270) presents a list of 112
separate works attributed to Ḥunayn other than his translations.4 This list con-
tains four works concerning the Epidemics:

(a) Fruits of the Nineteen Extant Parts of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocrates’

Epidemics in the Form of Questions and Answers (Ṯimār al-tisʿ ʿašra maqāla
al-mawǧūda min tafsīr Ǧālīnūs li-kitāb ʾIbīḏīmīyā li-ʾAbuqrāṭ ʿalā ṭarīq al-
masʾala wa-l-ǧawāb)5
The text of Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa has ‘seventeen (al-sabʿ ʿašra)’ instead of ‘nineteen
(al-tisʿ ʿašra)’, but we can say with confidence that this is due to a simple and
commonly encountered scribal error: Ƚʒʶͫā (al-sabʿ) for Ƚʶʓͫā (al-tisʿ), which are
almost indistinguishable when unpointed. This title must refer to ‘nineteen
extant parts’, for although Galen only wrote commentaries on four of the six
books of the Epidemics, namely Books One, Two, Three, and Six, we know from
Ḥunayn’s Epistle (Risāla) as well as from the extant manuscripts of his translation

of Galen’s Commentary and thus not a truly independant transmission of the Epidemics. See
also Overwien 2005.
3 See Bergsträsser 1925, p. 21, line 18–p. 22, line 19 (text), pp. 34–35 (tr.); Bergsträsser 1932,
28–29; and Pormann 2008a, 251–7.
4 ʿUyūn al-ʾanbāʾ, ed. Müller 1882, i. 197, line 24–200, line 27; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 150,
line 13–158, line 2.
5 ʿUyūn al-ʾanbāʾ, ed. Müller 1882, i. 199, lines 10–11; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 153, lines 14–15.
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 187

that Galen divided his commentary into twenty parts. Of these twenty parts,
Ḥunayn was unable to find either a Greek manuscript or a Syriac translation of
the fifth part of the commentary on Book Two, leaving a total of nineteen extant
parts of the commentary.6
A copy of this text may be preserved in a manuscript in the library of the Uni-
versity of Mumbai under the title The Fruits of Hippocrates’ Book on Epidemics
(Ṯamarāt Kitāb Buqrāṭ fī l-ʾamrāḍ al-wāfida), but I have not been able to view
this manuscript and to confirm its identification.7 The text may not be the Fruits
(Ṯimār) of Ḥunayn, but another treatise on the Epidemics by the physician Ibn
al-Ṭayyib (d. 1043), who also composed a number of commentaries on the works
of Hippocrates and Galen, as well as on Ḥunayn’s summaries of them, which
he called Fruits (both Ṯimār8 and Ṯamarāt9). Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Commentary on the
Epidemics is mentioned by Sezgin, who says that it was catalogued by Sbath in
Aleppo in the nineteenth century.10 Unfortunately, I have not been able to track
this manuscript down either in Sbath’s catalogue or in the libraries of Aleppo,
so the relationships between Ḥunayn’s Fruits, Ibn Ṭayyib’s Fruits and the Fruits
in the University of Mumbai manuscript remain an unresolved question for the
time being.

(b) Aphorisms Drawn from the Epidemics (Fuṣūl istaḫraǧahā min kitāb
This text is lost, but the famous physician Muḥammad ibn Zakariyā al-Rāzī
(d. ca 932) cites it twice in his Comprehensive Book on Medicine (al-Kitāb al-
Ḥāwī fī l-ṭibb, xix. 139, lines 5–14 and p. 144, line 8). In the second passage, he
specifically states that he is quoting from the Aphorisms of the Epidemics by
Ḥunayn (Fuṣūl ʾIbīḏīmīyā ʿamal Ḥunayn) and not from another work with a
similar title.

(c) Questions on Urine Extracted from Hippocrates’ Epidemics (Masāʾil fī l-bawl

intazaʿahā min kitāb ʾIbīḏīmīyā li-ʾAbuqrāṭ)12
Again, al-Rāzī cites this text in the Comprehensive Book (xvii. p. 250, lines 11–13)
where he calls it the Questions on Urine from the Epidemics (Masāʾil fī l-bawl min
ʾIbīḏīmīyā li-Ḥunayn), again specifying Ḥunayn as the author.
6 See Pormann 2008a, 257.
7 Mumbai, University Library, MS 313. See Bryson 2000, 344, citing Sezgin 1970, 35, but
no such reference is found on that page nor is this text found in Sezgin’s index of titles in
that volume. This manuscript is not listed in printed catalogue of Manuscripts held by the
University of Mumbai (Sarfarāz 1935).
8 See Sezgin 1970, 82, 90–91, 95–96 and 146–8.
9 See Ullmann 1972, 157 and Sezgin 1970, 41.
10 Sezgin 1970, 35, citing Sbath 1928, vol. i, p. 24, no. 154.
11 ʿUyūn al-ʾanbāʾ, ed. Müller 1882, i. 199, line 16; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 154, line 1.
12 ʿUyūn al-ʾanbāʾ, ed. Müller 1882, i. 199, lines 20–21; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 154, line 10.
188 Bink Hallum

(d) Summaries of the Contents of the First, Second and Third Books of
Hippocrates’ Epidemics in the Form of Questions and Answers (Ǧawāmiʿ maʿānī13
l-maqāla al-ʾūlā wa-l-ṯānīya wa-l-ṯāliṯa min kitāb ʾIbīḏīmīyā li-ʾAbuqrāṭ ʿalā
ṭarīq al-masʾala wa-l-ǧawāb)14
Ḥunayn tells us in his Risāla that he wrote an abridgement of Galen’s Commentary
on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ in Syriac and that a certain ʿĪsā ibn Yaḥyā, a pupil
of Ḥunayn’s, then translated this summary into Arabic.15 What is somewhat
surprising here is that Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa states that this summary covered
only Books One, Two, and Three of the Epidemics, while Ḥunayn appears to
make it clear in his Risāla that his summary covered all four books of Galen’s
Commentary, that is the commentaries to Books One, Two, Three, and Six. That
Ḥunayn did, in fact, write a summary of the commentary on Book Six is shown
by the fact that his summaries of the entire commentary on Book Two and of
Parts 6, 7 and 8 of the commentary on Book Six are extant.16 Thus, it seems that
either Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa was mistaken about the scope of Ḥunayn’s Summaries
of the Epidemics or that our text of Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa is corrupt at this point.
Of these four texts by Ḥunayn that deal with the Epidemics and are men-
tioned by Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa, three appear to have been composed in questions-
and-answer format. This was a didactic strategy that had become popular in
late antiquity. The tradition was carried on in the Arabic-speaking world, and
the format was clearly favoured by Ḥunayn.17 Nineteen of the works attributed
to him by Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa are specifically said to be in question-and-answer
format (ŁāǍʤͫāć ɼͫΑLJʶ˳ͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ ȅˬ͇) or else are known to be so from the extant texts
themselves, while a further three are simply called ‘Questions’ (Masāʾil).18 The

13 The editions of the ʿUyūn al-ʾanbāʾ by both Müller and al-Naǧǧār have ǽ͎ LJͲ instead of ǽ͵LJˈͲ
but ǽ͵LJˈͲ is found in the unique manuscript of part of this text (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana,
MS B 135 sup., fols 119a–131b in which the text bears the title ǽ͵LJˈͲ ȽͲāẠ̌ … ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā Ǩʉʶˏ̒
ŁāǍʤͫāć ɼˬʈʶ˳ͫā ɡʉʒ̵ ȅˬ͇ LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ͎Βā ŁLJʓ͛), the wording of Ḥunayn’s Risāla regarding these summaries
implies this title (‘I abridged their contents by way of question and answer’ [ȅˬ͇ LJ́ʉ͵LJˈͲ łǨˀʓ̥ā
ŁāǍʤͫāć ɼͫΑLJʶ˳ͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́; Pormann 2008a, 257 and 260]), and cf. Ḥunayn’s Ǧawāmīʿ maʿānī l-ḫams
al-maqālāt al-ʾūlā min Kitāb Ǧālīnūs fī quwat al-ʾadwiya al-mufrada al-mansūqa ʿalā ṭarīq
al-masʾala wa-l-ǧawāb (Istanbul, Nuruosmaniye, MS 3555; Sezgin 1970, 253-54) and the less
similarly titled Maʿānī staḫraǧahā Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq min kutub Buqrāṭ wa-Ǧālīnūs fī l-bawl
ʿalā ṭarīq al-masʾala wa-l-ǧawāb (Tehran, MS, Millī 1142; Sezgin 1970, 253), which Ibn ʾAbī
ʾUṣaybiʿa calls the Kitāb fī l-bawl ‘excerpted from the words of Hippocrates and Galen (œǨʦʓʶͲ
ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ć ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƢҨҞ͛ ɬͲ)’ (ed. Müller 1882, i. 199, lines 24–5; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 154, line 17).
14 ʿUyūn al-ʾanbāʾ, ed. Müller 1882, ii. 200, lines 21–22; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 157, line 15.
15 See above, n. 3.
16 Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS B 135 sup., fols. 119a–131b (Book Two) and fols.
133a–144b (Book Six). See Löfgren and Traini 1975–95, i. 67; Pormann 2008a, 259–63.
17 See Pormann 2010, 431–3.
18 (a) The Book of Questions, that is, the Introduction to the Art of Medicine (Kitāb al-Masāʾil
wa-huwa l-mudḫal ʾilā ṣināʿat al-ṭibb) (ed. Müller 1882, i. 197, line 24; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii.
150, line 14), which is a recension of Hunayn’s Introduction (Mudḫal) in question-and-answer
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 189

fact that Ḥunayn went to the trouble to write four treatises based on the Epi-
demics indicates the importance he attached to this text, and the fact that he
abridged the text three times in question-and-answer format shows that he con-
sidered the Epidemics to be of great use to students, although its contents were
difficult to navigate in its original form. Of Ḥunayn’s four texts on the Epidem-
ics, the only one that is not in question-and-answer format is the Aphorisms
Drawn from the Epidemics. Because it was written in the form of aphorisms
extracted presumably for their usefulness, it too can be assumed to have been
composed to fulfil a didactic function. Thus, we can say that all of Ḥunayn’s
works concerning the Epidemics were written to give students access to the text
of the Epidemics in an abridged and digested format for ease of memorisation.
So, from the beginning of its reception, Arabic-speaking authors took steps to
condense and systematise the Epidemics to make it more accessible to its would-
be readers.

2) ʿAlī ibn Sahl Rabbān al-Ṭabarī (fl. ca 850) and ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿAlī al-Ruhāwī (fl.

(a) Paradise of Wisdom concerning Medicine (Firdaws al-ḥikma fī l-ṭibb)

The first Arabic author to draw on the Epidemics after its translator seems to
have been the physician ʿAlī ibn Sahl Rabban al-Ṭabarī, who was one of al-Rāzī’s
teachers at Rayy and was also active in Baghdad. In his Paradise of Wisdom, he
relates the following story19:

ŁǨ˜ͫā ƱǛ̥Αāć ɷ˙ˬ̤ ǽ͎ Ȉˬ̥Ĕ ǚ͘ ɼΈ ʉ̤ ƦΑā ĿǨ̈ Ǎ΀ć ɷʒʓ͵ā Έ ҨҞ̣Ģ ƦΑā LJ˶ˉˬ̑ ǚ˙͎ ɨ́ʉ̒ΑLJ̒ć ɨ́ˬʉ΋ ̤΍ LJͲΑLJ͎ [1]
ɑͫĕ ɡʒ˙̈ ɨˬ͎ ɷ˳͎ ҙҏć ƹǽ̶ ɷ˶˅̑ ɡ̥ǚ̈ ɨͫ ɷ͵Αā ɷ˳ˬ͇Αāć ɷ˶˅̑ ọ̈̄ć ɷʉͫΒā Ǩˆ͵ć ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƱLJ̒Αāć [2] ɨˉͫāć
ǚ͘» ƛLJ͘ć [4] .Ƚ̣Ģć ȫΊ ʉ͛ ǽ͎ LJ́ˬ˳̤ć ɼΈ ʉ̤ ȇˬ̈́ć ɷ˶͇ œǨ̥ ζŁǨ˅ˁ̈ć ɑͫĕ ɡʒ˙̈ ҙҏ ƱΐāĢ LJ˳ˬ͎ [3] .ɷ˶Ͳ
[6] .Ị̏Ǩ̥ āĕΒā ɼʉʥͫā ĿǨ̈ ҨҞʈͫ ɷʉ˶ʉ͇ ȇˀˈ̈ ƦΑā ǚˈ̑ ΑLJʉ˙ʓ̈ ƦΑā ƱǨͲΑāć [5] ΈLJʈʉ̶ ƱLJ˙̵ć «ƹǽ˙ͫā ƹāćǚ̑ ɑʓʈ̣
ȅͫΒā ɡ̣Ǩͫā Ǩˆ͵ LJ˳ˬ͎ [7] .«ɑ͎Ạ̌ ɬͲ ɼʉʥͫā Ị̏Ǩ̥ ǚ˙͎ Ʀΐҙҏā łǍʤ͵» ƛLJ͘ć Ȉʷ˅ͫā ǽ͎ ɼʉʥͫā ɡ̵ĢΑā
.ɷ͵LJ˜Ͳ ƈLJ͎Αā ɼʉʥͫā

[1] As for their [sc. the physicians’] stratagems and tricks, I have heard that
a man awoke, thinking a snake had entered his throat, so he was seized by
anxiety and distress. [2] Galen came to him, examined him, felt his belly

format; (b) Questions on Urine (Masāʾil fī l-bawl) (ed. Müller 1882, i. 199, lines 20–21; ed. al-
Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 154, line 10); (c) Questions Extracted from the Four Books on Logic (Masāʾil
istaḫraǧahā min kutub al-manṭiq al-ʾarbaʿa) (ed. Müller 1882, i. 199, lines 22–3; ed. al-Naǧǧār
2001, ii. 154, line 13); (d) Book on Arabic Questions (Kitāb fī l-Masāʾil al-ʿarabīya) (ed. Müller
1882, i. 199, lines 29; ed. al-Naǧǧār 2001, ii. 155, line 5).
19 Ed. Siddiqi 1928, 537, line 22–538, line 5.
190 Bink Hallum

and informed him that nothing had entered his belly or mouth, but he [sc.
the man] did not accept this from him. [3] So, when he [sc. Galen] saw that
he did not accept this and was upset, he left him, found a snake, took it up
in a bag and returned. [4] He said ‘I have brought you an emetic medicine’
and he gave him some to drink. [5] He ordered him to vomit after he had
bound his eyes so that he would not see the snake when it came out. [6]
He put the snake in a metal basin (ṭašt) and said ‘You are safe now, for the
snake has come out of your belly.’ [7] When the man saw the snake, he
recovered immediately.

(b) Ethics of the Physician (ʾAdab al-ṭabīb)

Within about twenty years of the composition of the Paradise of Wisdom, this
anecdote was repeated, with some embellishment, by ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿAlī al-Ruhāwī
in his Ethics of the Physician. There, it appeared as an example of the positive use
of a stratagem in a chapter ‘warning against the deceits of quacks who would
call themselves physicians, and the difference between their deceits and medical
stratagems (ɡʉʥͫāć ɨ͇́ǚ̥ ɬʉ̑ ƈǨˏͫāć ȇ˅ͫā ɨ̵LJ̑ ƦǍ˳ʶʓ̈ ɬ̈Ǜͫā ɬʉͫLJʓʥ˳ͫā ŷ΋ǚ Ό̥ ɬͲ Ǩ̈Ǜʥʓͫā ǽ͎
LJ˳ˬ͎ [2] .ɷʉ͎ Țʤ˶̈ ɨˬ͎ ƹāćĔ ɡ˜̑ șͫǍˈ͎ ɼʉ̤ Ƚˬ̑ ǚ͘ ɷ͵Αā ɨ΀Ǎ̒ ΈLJ͵LJʶ͵Βā ƦΑā ȅ˜̤ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƦΑā ɑͫĕć [1]
LJ΀Ģāǚ˙Ͳć ζǽ͵ҨҞˏͫā ƦǍˬͫā Ǎ΀» ƛLJ˙͎ [3] «τɼʉʥͫā ɑˬ̒ ƦǍͫ žǨˈ̒ ɡ΀» ɷͫΑLJ̵ ƱǨʒ̥ ȅˬ͇ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ʉ͘ć
[6] ɼˬʉʥͫā Ʉʉ˅ˬ̑ LJ΀LJˏ̥Αāć [5] ƴĢǍˀͫā ɑˬʓ̑ ɼʉ̤ ɷͫ ĔLJ̿ ɬ˳̑ ɡʉˬˈͫā ɬ͇ ΈāǨ̵ ǨͲΑLJ͎ [4] .«ǽ͵ҨҞˏͫā Ģāǚ˙˳ͫā
ǨͲΑāć [8] žǛ˙ͫā ȽͲ ƴĢǍ͛Ǜ˳ͫā ɼʉʥͫā ŔǨ̵ć žǛ˙̈ Ǜ̥Αā ɬʉ̤ ɷʉ˶ʉ͇ ǚ̶ć [7] ɷ͎Ǜ͘ ƹāćĔ ȶ̈Ǩ˳ͫā ȅ˙̵ć
ƱǛ΀» ƛLJ͘ ȶ̈Ǩ˳ͫā ǽ˶ʉ͇ ɬ͇ ȶ͎ ɬʉʥ͎ [9] .žǛ˙ͫLJ̑ ɼʉʥͫā œćǨʦ̑ Ǩʉ̶LJʒʓͫLJ̑ ɨ́̒āǍ̿Αā Ǎˬˈ̈ ƦΑā Ǩˁ̤ ɬͲ
.ɷ˳΀Ǎ̒ ɬͲ ΈLJͲLJ̒ ΈāƹǨ̑ ĶǨʒ͎ ζɼ̤āǨͫā łụ̈̌ć ǚ͘ć [10] «LJ́˶ʉˈ̑ LJ́ʓˈˬʓ̑ā ǽʓͫā ɼʉʥͫā ǽ΀

[1] Galen relates that a man once imagined that he had swallowed a snake,
and every remedy was used without success. [2] When he found this out,
Galen asked him, ‘Do you know the colour of this snake?’ [3] He replied,
‘It is such a colour, and its length is such a length.’ [4] Then he [that is
Galen] had a hunter find a snake with those specifications. [5] This was
unknown to the patient and was concealed well. [6] Then he gave the
patient a remedy to drink, which caused him to vomit. [7] When he began
to vomit, Galen bound his eyes and dropped the aforementioned snake in
with the vomit. [8] He ordered those present there to raise their voices
at the good news of the snake coming out together with the vomit. [9]
When the patient’s eyes were uncovered, he [that is Galen] said, ‘This is

20 Ed. ʿAsīrī 1992, 273, lines 4–10. The words ɼʉʥͫā œćǨʦ̑ Ǩʉ̶LJʒʓͫLJ̑ ɨ́̒āǍ̿Αā Ǎˬˈ̒ ƦΑā Ǩˁ̤ ɬͲ ǨͲΑāć žǛ˙ͫā ȽͲ
do not appear in ʿAsīrī’s edition, but have been transcribed from Edirne, Selimiye MS 1658 (see
facsimile ed. Sezgin 1985, 209, lines 14–15).
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 191

the very snake which you swallowed.’ Thus, he was relieved and recovered
completely from his delusion.21

The origin of this story is found at the beginning of Galen’s commentary on the
second part of Epidemics, Book Two (ii.2.6 HV):

ɼΈ ʉ̤ Ȉˈˬ̑ ǚ͘ LJ́͵Αā ɬˆ̒ Ȉ͵LJ͛ ƴΊ ΑāǨͲā œҨҞ͇ ȅͫΒā ǽ͇Ĕ ķǛͫā ȇʒ˅ʓ˳ͫā ɡ̣Ǩͫā ɑͫĕ ȵˬʦ̒ Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ āǛ́̑ć
.ɨ΀Ǎʓͫā ɑͫĕ ɬͲ LJ́ˀˬʦ͎ ɼΈ ʓʉͲ ɼΈ ʉ̤ Ǩˈʷ̒ ҙҏ ǽ΀ć ɷʉ͎ łƹLJ͘ ǽʓͫā Ȉʶ˅ͫā ǽ͎ ȅ˙ͫΑā ɨ̓ Έ ΑLJʉ˙Ͳ ƹāćĔ
Έ LJ΀LJ˙ʶ͎

In this way [that is using a common-sense stratagem] the doctor who was
summoned to treat a woman who thought she had swallowed a snake
found the right solution. He gave her an emetic drug to drink, and then,
unbeknownst to her, he threw a dead snake into the metal basin (ṭast) in
which she had vomited, and so he freed her of that delusion.

The simple and brief nature of this anecdote, as reported by Galen, contrasts
with the more fleshed out versions given by al-Ṭabarī and al-Ruhāwī, both of
whom share details that contradict Galen’s version, such as the patient being
male and not female and Galen himself being the physician who performed
the cure rather than merely the transmitter of the anecdote. It seems likely
then that al-Ruhāwī depends upon al-Ṭabarī for this anecdote and certainly not
directly upon Ḥunayn’s translation, but where did al-Ṭabarī get his version?
Since al-Ṭabarī completed the Paradise of Wisdom in 850, around the same time
Ḥunayn was producing his translation of the Epidemics, his version of the anec-
dote could be derived ultimately from Job of Edessa’s Syriac translation and not
from Ḥunayn’s Arabic translation,22 and perhaps al-Ṭabarī is reporting an em-
bellished version of the anecdote that was already current in Syriac literature.
Furthermore, this is just the kind of witty and amusing yet edifying anecdote
that circulated in the gnomologia or books of wisdom literature, and it may be
that al-Ṭabarī was drawing upon works of this genre. On the other hand, the
appearance of the unusual Persian loanword ṭašt / ṭast (‘metal basin’) in both
Ḥunayn Arabic version of Galen’s anecdote and in al-Ṭabarī’s version (§ 6 of the
passage above) suggests al-Ṭabarī’s dependence upon Ḥunayn. However this
may be, the anecdote reported by al-Ṭabarī and al-Ruhāwī is an unusual case in
the Arabic reception of the Epidemics. For, although the Galen’s Commentary
on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ contains a number of interesting anecdotes about
the actions of physicians and patients, these were not generally cited by Arabic

21 Translation Levey 1967, 90 adapted.

22 See Ullmann 1970, 122 who notes al-Ṭabarī’s dependence on Syriac translations rather
than Arabic translations from the school of Ḥunayn.
192 Bink Hallum

medical authors who seem to have appreciated the Commentary on Hippocratesʼ

‘Epidemicsʼ for its exposition of medical theory and examples of diseases and
their progression.23

3) ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿImrān (d. 907)

(a) Treatise on Melancholy (Maqāla fī l-mālīḫūliyā)

Galen’s Commentary on the Epidemics was a fundamental text for the study of
melancholy in the medieval Islamic world. It is thus not surprising to find that
ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿImrān, personal physician at Kairouan to the Aġlabid princes ʾIbrahīm
II (reg. 875–902) and Ziyādat Allāh III (reg. 903–9), included four citations from
Galen’s Commentary in his Treatise on Melancholy (Maqāla fī l-mālīḫūliyā).
In her doctoral thesis, Pauline Koetschet shows that while ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿImrān
was clearly using Ḥunayn’s translation of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Epidemicsʼ, he did not always follow Galen’s interpretation of the Hippocratic
text but rather views the text in the light of Rufus of Ephesus’ treatise On
Melancholy.24 He cites the Epidemics on matters concerning the psychological
and physical causes of melancholy, the connection between melancholy and
epilepsy and the treatment of melancholy.25

4) ʾAbū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyāʾ al-Rāzī (d. ca. 925)

(a) Comprehensive Book on Medicine (Kitāb al-ḥāwī fī l-ṭibb)

It has already been noted in relation to Ḥunayn’s own writings about the
Epidemics that al-Rāzī’s Comprehensive Book on Medicine (al-Kitāb al-ḥāwī fī
l-ṭibb) contains numerous citations of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Epidemicsʼ as well as Ḥunayn’s other writings based on this work. Al-Rāzī
cites not only Ḥunayn’s translation of Galen’s Commentary, but also frequently
specifies that he is citing Ḥunayn’s Summaries of the Epidemics in the form of
Questions and Answers (text 1[d] above), which he calls simply the Questions
on the Epidemics (Masāʾil ʾIbīdīmiyā). Al-Rāzī also specifically cites Ḥunayn’s
Aphorisms Drawn from the Epidemics twice (vi. 183, last line–184, line 5 and xix.

23 For a discussion of stratagems and fraudulent tricks employed by physicians see Pormann
2005, esp. 198 (citing al-Ṭabarī and al-Ruhāwī’s versions of this anecdote).
24 Koetschet 2011; I am indebted to Pauline Koetschet for sharing with me the section on
ʾIsḥāq ibn ʿImrān and the Epidemics from her thesis. Rufus’ treatise, which only survives in
fragments in Greek, Arabic and Latin, has recently been edited by Peter E. Pormann (2008c).
25 Ed. Omrani 2009, 40, lines 5–10 (Arabic text) (cf. p. 280 W; Pormann 2008a, 292–3); ed.
Omrani 2009, 46, lines 1–5, p. 55, line 17–p. 56, line 4 (cf. p. 505 W); and ed. Omrani 2009, 64,
lines 7–12 (cf. p. 346 W).
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 193

139, lines 5–14) and his Questions Concerning Urine Extracted from the Epidemics
once (xvii. 250, lines 11–13). To be more specific, the Comprehensive Book
contains at least 68 discussions of these various Epidemics-related texts, ranging
in length from just a few lines to more than four pages in the Hyderabad edition
and comprising at least 108 separate citations. Forty-eight or just under half
of these citations are specified as coming from Ḥunayn’s summary known as
the Questions on the Epidemics, an indicator of the importance and popularity
of this text even amongst readers who had access to the full text of Ḥunayn’s
translation. The total number of citations of the Epidemics, however, is likely to
increase as research into the Comprehensive Book progresses. The Comprehensive
Book is a huge multivolume work and al-Rāzī is not always careful to specify the
sources of his citations, so certain unattributed citations are likely to prove to be
derived from the Epidemics.
Relating the material cited by al-Rāzī to his source texts is not always easy.
Much like Book Two of the Epidemics, the Comprehensive Book is comprised of
al-Rāzī’s unedited notes that were compiled posthumously and published by his
students. It is possibly for this reason that al-Rāzī is not always careful in each
instance to specify which of Ḥunayn’s Epidemics-related texts he is citing and
from which section of each text his citation comes. In nineteen places, he only
says that his citation comes from the Epidemics, giving no indication of exactly
where the citation derives from,26 and in six places, he only cites the Questions
on the Epidemics, again not indicating the book or part from which the cita-
tion is drawn.27 Elsewhere, he specifically refers to the title, book and part from
which he drew his citation, but the references he gives are wrong and the cited
passage is in fact found at a different place within the text in question.28 Also,
al-Rāzī’s quotations are usually not exact, but rather paraphrases that were per-
haps quoted from memory, as has already been noted by a number of scholars.29
On the basis of a study of the quotations from Paul of Aegina in the Compre-
hensive Book, Peter E. Pormann has concluded that “quotations in the modern
sense appear to be absent from the Ḥāwī [Comprehensive Book]”.30 All of this
makes it difficult, for example, to use al-Rāzī’s numerous citations to improve

26 Vol. iii. 220, lines 2–12; iii. 222, line 4–223, line 2 (twice); iii. 239, line 5–240, line 17;
iii. 242, lines 2–18 (twice); ix. 110, lines 4–14 (cf. Epid. ii.6.96 HV); ix. 166, lines 7–9; ix. 181,
line 16–182, line 11 (twice); x. 140, line 8–141, line 14; xviii. 49, lines 3–8; xviii. 97, line 15–98,
line 10 (twice); xix. 37, line 10–38, line 13; xix. 173, line 4–175, line 3 (twice); xix. 238, ult.–239,
line 7; xix. 316, ult.–317, line 5.
27 Vol. vi. 250, lines 10–18; xiii. 48, lines 1-7; xvi. 147, lines 3-5; xvii. 253, lines 5–8; xvii. 255,
lines 2–4; xix. 144, line 10.
28 For example, iii. 287, line 9–288, line 17 where al-Rāzī claims that the quotation is from
Epidemics 6 when, in fact, it is from ii.3.57 HV.
29 See Weisser 1997; Bryson 2000, 23–73, esp. 36–37 with reference to the Questions on the
Epidemics; Garofalo 2002; Pormann 2004, 60–64 and 91–92 and Pormann 2009a, 106.
30 Pormann 2004, 92.
194 Bink Hallum

the received text of Ḥunayn’s translation of the Commentary on the Epidemics

or of his Questions on the Epidemics. But this is hardly surprising, since al-Rāzī
clearly did not have future editors in mind when he was writing notes for his
own personal use.
The number and extent of these citations make it abundantly clear that al-
Rāzī valued the Epidemics and Galen’s Commentary, as well as Ḥunayn’s various
writings based on these works for the useful medical knowledge they contained.
But al-Rāzī also shows us in the Comprehensive Book that the Epidemics was im-
portant to him because it provided a respected and authoritative model for the
careful and thorough recording of case notes that could be emulated by practis-
ing clinicians. The Comprehensive Book itself contains many of al-Rāzī’s own
case histories, the most important of which is a discrete collection of 33 such
case histories (xvi. pages 189, line 4-208, line 8).31 Al-Rāzī consciously took the
Epidemics as his inspiration and advised his audience to read his case histories
alongside those in the Epidemics and Ḥunayn’s Questions on the Epidemics. Al-
Rāzī prefaced this collection of case histories in the Comprehensive Book with
the following words32:

LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ǽ͎ LJͲć LJʉ˳̈ǚʉ̑Βā ɡ̇LJʶͲ ǽ͎ LJͲ LJ˶́΀ ȅͫΒā ĔǨ̈ [2] .ĢĔāǍ͵ LJ˶ͫ łLJ̈LJ˜̤ć ȅ̀Ǩ˳ͫā ȵˀ͘ ɬͲ ɼˬʔͲΑā [1]
ɼˬʔͲΑҙҏā ƱǛ΀ LJ˶ˈ˳̣ ǚ͘ LJ͵ΒLJ͎ [4] .ɡ̇LJʶ˳ͫā ɬͲ ɼΈ ̿LJ̥ć Έāụ̈̌ ΈLJ˳ʉˆ͇ ΈLJˈˏ͵ LJ́ʉ͎ ƦΒLJ͎ ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ǽ͵āǍʓͫāć ƋLJ̈Βāć [3]
.ɷˬͫā ƹLJ̶ ƦΒā LJ́ʉˬ͇ ȫʉ˙͵ ɨ̓ LJ́ʉͫΒā LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ɡ̇LJʶͲ Ƚ˳ʤ͵ ƦΑā LJ͵ĔĢΑāć LJ˶́΀

[1] Examples of patients’ histories as well as our own accounts and

anecdotes. [2] Here one [should] also cite the case histories contained in
the Questions on the Epidemics and the Epidemics. [3] Beware not to neglect
them, for they are extremely useful, especially those contained in the
Questions [on the Epidemics]. [4] We have already collected these examples
here and [also] wanted to join to them the Questions [on the Epidemics], in
order to compare the latter with the former, God willing.

So, even if al-Rāzī only cites the Epidemics once during the course of these 33
case histories,33 nonetheless he wanted his case histories to be read in the light

31 Scholarly attention was first focussed on this collection of case histories by Meyerhof
32 Vol. xvi. p. 189, lines 4–8; translation by Pormann 2008a, 107.
33 Meyerhof 1935, 352–3 (English), 11–12 (Arabic); Comprehensive Book (Hyderabad edition)
xvi. p. 203, line 7–p. 206, line 2; cf. i.1.88–135 V (p. 28, line 18–p. 45, line 10 W). This discussion
of the Epidemics appears to have become misplaced within the text of the Comprehensive
Book, or perhaps a case history has dropped out of the text before or after it since neither the
case history directly preceding it nor the one following it contains any obvious parallels for
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 195

of the Epidemics. One can also see that al-Rāzī took the case histories in the
Epidemics as a model, as shown by his own candid admissions of failure, as well
as of cases in which patients recovered in spite of not following his advice. For
it is a notable feature of the case histories in the Epidemics that the patients
frequently die in spite of the attentions of the physician.34 More generally, we
can see from the preface to the case histories in the Comprehensive Book that al-
Rāzī believed that the Epidemics and the Questions on the Epidemics were, in his
words, ‘extremely useful (Έāụ̈̌ ΈLJ˳ʉˆ͇ ΈLJˈˏ͵ LJ́ʉ͎ ƦΒLJ͎)’.

(b) Doubts About Galen (Kitāb al-Šukūk ʿalā Ǧālīnūs)

It should not be thought that just because al-Rāzī valued the writings of Galen
and Hippocrates in general and the Epidemics and Galen’s Commentary in
particular that he accepted uncritically the claims he found in their writings.
In his Doubts About Galen, al-Rāzī takes Galen, and sometimes Hippocrates as
well, to task for making claims that are either self-contradictory or contrary to
what he knows to be true from his own clinical experience. In the section of the
Doubts about Galen which deals with ‘His Contradictions Concerning Crises and
Fevers (łLJʉ˳ʥͫā ǽ͎ć ƦāǨʥʒͫā ǨͲΑā ǽ͎ ɷʓˁ͘LJ˶Ͳ)’, al-Rāzī discusses the classifications and
progressions of fevers and their crises. He admits that this is a ‘very controversial
and obscure subject (ƱLJʒʓ̶ҙҏā ǚ̈ǚ̶ žҨҞʓ̥ҙҏā ǚ̈ǚ̶ ǨͲΑҙҏā)’ and concludes that one can
only confirm or deny Galen’s teachings in this area ‘on the basis of his great
experience and long, meticulous attention and study (łǚʓ̶āć ȈͫLJ̈́ć ɷʓ̑Ǩʤ̒ łǨʔ͛ ɬͲ
Ʊǚ˙ˏ̒ć ɷʓ̈LJ˶͇)’.35 Al-Rāzī, therefore, draws heavily on his clinical experience as well
as his reading of Galen and other medical authorities in formulating his Doubts.
It is in this context that al-Rāzī presents his only citation of the Epidemics in the
Doubts About Galen36:

ɬͲ Ǜ̥ΑLJ̈ ǚ͘ ɼ˳̇āǚͫā ȅ˳ʥͫā ƦΒā» [2] ɷ˙˙̤ć ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƱǨʶ͎ć LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ɬͲ ƛćΑҙҏā ǽ͎ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘ ǚ͘ć [1]
ƦǍ˜̈ ǚ͘ āǛ΀ ƦΒāć [3] ƦāǨʥʒͫā Ȉ͘ć ǽ͎ Ģǚʥ˶̈ ɨ̓ 37ɼ̑Ǎˈˀͫāć ƴǚʷͫā ɬͲ LJ́ʓ̈LJ͈ ǽ͎ ƦǍ˜̈ć ƴǍ˙̑ LJ́̇āǚʓ̑ā
.ǚˁͫLJ̑ LJ́ʉ͎ ǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩʉˀ̈ ɡ̑ [5] ĢāćĔΑҙҏā ƛLJ̤ ǽ͎ Ǩˆ˶ͫā āǛ΀ ǽ͎ ǚʶˏ̈ć [4] .«łLJʉ˳ʥͫā ŷāǍ͵Αā Ƚʉ˳̣ ǽ͎

34 For study of the development of the genre of case histories with special reference to
both the Epidemics and al-Rāzī, see Álverez Millán 1999, 2000, and, without reference to the
Epidemics, Álverez Millán 2010. See also Pormann 2008b, 105–8.
35 Ed. ʿAbd al-Ġanī 2005, 165, lines 2–4.
36 Ed. ʿAbd al-Ġanī 2005, 168–9. Al-Rāzī mentions the Epidemics again below (ed. ʿAbd al-
Ġanī 2005, 191, line 12), but he neither quotes the text there nor criticises it, merely saying that
he will conduct further research in that text concerning the benefits of following a diet suited
to one’s temperament.
37 The most recent editor of this text (ed. ʿAbd al-Ġanī 2005) reads Ʉˈˁͫāć instead of ɼ̑Ǎˈˀͫāć,
but the latter should be read as part of the phrase ɼ̑Ǎˈˀͫāć ƴǚʷͫā ɬͲ LJ́ʓ̈LJ͈, all of which translates
the Greek χαλεπώτατον (p. 120, line 26 W).
196 Bink Hallum

[1] At the beginning of the Epidemics, on which Galen commented and

which he edited, Hippocrates has said: [2] ‘Continuous fever sometimes
starts strongly from its onset, is extremely severe and difficult, and then
declines at the time of the crisis. [3] This can occur in all types of fevers’.
[4] He is wrong in this opinion concerning the periods [of the fever]. [5]
Rather, the opposite is the case.

Al-Rāzī quotes only from the Hippocratic lemma, not from Galen’s comments
on it. It is clear that al-Rāzī paraphrased the lemma rather than quoting it ver-
batim, and this typical style of his was noted above with reference to his Com-
prehensive Book:

ɼ˳̇āǚͫā ȅ˳ʥͫā ƦΑā ɑͫĕ ɬͲ [2] ζȇ̇āǍ͵ć ƢLJˆ͵ć ɼ̣́ łLJʉ˳ʥͫā ƱǛ΀ ɬͲ ƴṳ̈̌āć ɡ˜ͫć :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘ [1]
Ȉ͘ć ȽͲć ƦāǨʥʒͫā Ȉ͘ć Ǎʥ͵ LJ́͵Αā ɨ̓ ζɼ̑Ǎˈˀͫāć ƴǚʷͫā ɬͲ LJ́ʓ̈LJ͈ ǽ͎ ƦǍ˜̒ć ƴǍ˙̑ LJ́̇āǚʓ̑ā Ǜ˶Ͳ Ǜ̥ΑLJ̒ ǚ͘
ɼ̈LJ͈ ȇ́ʓˬ̒ć ƢǍ̈ ɡ͛ ǽ͎ ȇˈˀʓʶ̒ć ɨ͘LJˏʓ̒ LJ́͵Αā ɨ̓ ɼ͵Ǎ͎ǚͲ ɼ˶ʉͫ ǽ΀ć łΑāǚʓ̑ā LJ˳̑Ģć [3] ζɄʦ̒ ƦāǨʥʒͫā
ζLJ΀LJ́ʓ˶Ͳ Ȉˉˬʒ͎ LJͲ ƴǚͲ ȅͫΒā Ȉʒˈˀʓ̵āć łǚ̈ǩ̒ ɨ̓ ƹćǚ΀ć ɬʉˬ̑ łΑāǚʓ̑ā LJ˳̑Ģć [4] ζƦāǨʥʒͫā Ǎʥ͵ LJ́̑LJ́ʓͫā
ɡ͛ ǽ͎ ƦǍ˜̈ ǚ͘ ƹLJʉ̶Αҙҏā ƱǛ΀ć .ƦāǨʥʒͫā Ǎʥ͵ć ƦāǨʥʒͫā Ȉ͘ć ȅͫΒā LJ́̑ ɑͫĕ ƢāĔć ȵ˙˶ͫā ǽ͎ łǛ̥Αā ɨ̓
38.ŰǨͲ ɡ͛ć ȅ˳̤

[1] Hippocrates said: Each of these fevers has a specific character, order and
attacks. [2] For instance, non-intermittent fever sometimes starts strongly
from its onset and is extremely severe and difficult, but near the time of the
crisis and during the crisis, it lifts. [3] Sometimes, it starts gently and in a
concealed manner, then intensifies and grows more difficult each day and
flares up most violently around the [time of the] crisis. [4] Sometimes, it
begins gently and mildly, then intensifies and becomes more difficult for
a time and reaches its climax, then begins to wane and continues to do so
until the crisis and near the crisis. [5] These things can occur in every fever
and disease.

Al-Rāzī criticises Hippocrates concerning the matter of the progression of non-

intermittent fever. Contained within this, there is an implicit criticism of Galen,
because in his commentary on this lemma Galen struggled to understand what
Hippocrates meant here. Galen, however, does not dismiss Hippocrates’ claims
about the progression of this fever as false, as does al-Rāzī.

38 Book i.3.57 V (p. 120, line 23–p. 121, line 5 W).

The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 197

(c) On Sexual Intercourse, its Harmful and Beneficial Effects and Treatment
(Kitāb al-Bāh wa-manāfiʿihī wa-maḍārrihī wa-mudāwātihī)
In his treatise On Sexual Intercourse, al-Rāzī devoted the fourth chapter to ‘The
Benefits of Having Sex’ (Fī l-manāfiʿ al-kāʾina fī stiʿmāl al-ǧimāʿ) in which he
cites Galen’s Commentary on the Epidemics vi.5:

Ȉ͵LJ͛ āĕΒā ƱLJʒͫā ɬͲ ĢLJʔ͛ Βҙҏā ƦΒā» [2] :ɼ̵ĔLJʶͫā Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ɬͲ ɼʶͲLJʦͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎ 39LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉʒ̈Βā ŁLJʓ͛ ǽ͎ ƛLJ͘ć [1]
«.ɼʉ˳ˉˬʒͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ɬͲ Ƚˏ˶̈ ɼ̈Ǎ͘ ƴǍ˙ͫā
ɑͫĕć [5] ζΈLJʉ͵LJ̥Ĕ ΈāĢLJʦ̑ Ǩʦʒ̈ ǚ͘ ŴҨҞ̥Αā ɷ͵ǚ̑ ǽ͎ ɬΏ Ͳ΋ Ƚˏ˶̈ ŷLJ˳ʤͫā ƦΒā» [4] :ɷ˶͇ ΈLJˁ̈Αā ɷʉ͎ ɡʉ͘ć [3]
ĿǨ̈ ǚ͘ć [6] ζɼˏ̈Ǩ̤ ƴĔLJ̤ łLJʉ˳̤ LJ́͵LJ˙ʓ̤ā ɬͲ ǚͫǍʓ̈ć ζƦǚʒͫā ǽ͎ łāĢLJʦʒͫā ƱǛ΀ ƦLJ˙ʓ̤ā Ƚ˶˳̈ ɷ͵Αā
ζťǍ́ͫāć ζĢǚˀͫā Ɏʉ̀ć ζɄ̣Ǩͫāć ζĔānjˏͫā ƦLJ˙ˏ̥ łĔćģ ɷʓ͵Ǎʦ̵ć ɷ͇LJ˳ʓ̣ā ƴǨʔ͛ć ȅ˶˳ͫā Ʉ̓LJ˜̒ ƦΑā
œҨҞ͇ ҙҏć ζŷLJ˳ʤͫā Ʀāǚ˙͎ ɬͲ ƹLJʶ˶ͫLJ̑ Ńǚʥ̈ LJ˳͵Βā ƢLJ̤ĢΑҙҏā ƈLJ˶ʓ̥ā ȅ˳ʶ˳ͫā Ƚ̣Ǎͫā ƦΑāć [7] ζƦāĢćǚͫāć
40«.ɷ˶Ͳ Ⱦˬ̑Αā ɷͫ

[1] He [scil. Galen] said in [his Commentary on] the Epidemics, in the
fifth part [maqāla] of the commentary on the sixth [book]: [2] ‘Frequent
sexual intercourse when the power is strong is useful against phlegmatic
[3] There, it is also said about it: [4] ‘Sex is useful for someone in whose
body there are humours which produce a smoke-like vapour. [5] For it [scil.
sex] prevents these vapours from becoming congested in the body, which
would generate acute and acrid fevers. [6] One can observe that when the
semen thickens, and a lot of it accumulates and becomes warm, it increases
the palpitation of the heart, trembling, tightening of the chest, craziness,
and vertigo. [7] Moreover, the pain called “uterine suffocation” occurs in
women only because of the loss of sexual intercourse, and there is no better
remedy for this than it [scil. sex].’42

Al-Rāzī clearly valued the Epidemics and Galen’s Commentary very highly as
is indicated by the great number of quotations from it in his Comprehensive
Book. The Comprehensive Book, however, was merely a set of unedited notes, so
although the quotations are arranged head to toe, as the Comprehensive Book
is, al-Rāzī does little to help the reader gain a better understanding of the text
quoted. What his head to toe arrangement does do is to allow the reader to com-
pare the opinions of various authors concerning a given subject and to see what
clinical observations al-Rāzī has himself made on that subject. In the Doubts
39 For the reading of this word, see Pormann 2007, p. 118, n. 13.
40 Ed. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz / ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd 1999, 161,1-8.
41 See below, pp. 206–7 (Section 12a), for this same passage quoted by al-Tīfāšī.
42 Translation Pormann 2007, 118 [with adaptations].
198 Bink Hallum

about Galen, he criticises Hippocrates’ understanding of non-intermittent fevers

in the Epidemics, and this criticism appears to be based on his own experience.
In On Sexual Intercourse, however, al-Rāzī cites the Epidemics as an authoritative
text with no hint of criticism.

5) Yaʿqūb al-Kaskarī (fl. ca. 920s)

(a) The Compendium (al-Kunnāš)

Yaʿqūb al-Kaskarī, a younger contemporary of al-Rāzī and also a physician
active in the hospitals of Baghdad, cited nine passages from the Epidemics and
from Ḥunayn’s Questions on the Epidemics in his Compendium.43 These citations
have been studied in two recent papers by Peter E. Pormann, who shows that
al-Kaskarī’s citations are more accurate than those by al-Rāzī and also that, like
al-Rāzī, al-Kaskarī drew from his own clinical experience in responding to the
Epidemics material.44 Al-Kaskarī engages with the text critically and clearly had
great respect for its worth since he called it the ‘most glorious of [Hippocrates’]
books (ɷʒʓ͛ ɡ̣Αā)’.45

6) ʿAlī ibn al-ʿAbbās al-Maǧūsī (d. between 982 and 995)

(a) Complete Book of the Medical Art (Kāmil al-ṣināʿa al-ṭibbīya, also called the
Royal Book [al-Kitāb al-Malakī])
In the second half of the tenth century, ʿAlī ibn al-ʿAbbās al-Maǧūsī included
three citations of the Epidemics in his Complete Book of the Medical Art. He
cited brief passages from Epidemics Two and Six concerning melancholy and

43 For more information about this author and his Compendium see Pormann 2003b,
197–205 and Pormann 2009a, 105–6. A facsimile edition of the unique manuscript (Istanbul,
Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3716) of al-Kaskarī’s Compendium was published by
Sezgin 1985. There is also a printed edition, which is of limited use both because it is extremely
rare and also because of its uncritical nature, by al-Šīrī 1994. I am thankful to Peter E. Pormann
for making available to me his draft edition and translation of this text.
44 Pormann 2009a, 131–5 and 2008a, 102–3 deal with three of the citations of the Epidemics in
the Compendium. The remaining six citations are found at Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi,
MS Ayasofya 3716 fol. 136b, line 12–fol. 137a, line 3 (ed. al-Šīrī 1994, 249, line 12–250, line 2);
fol. 155a, lines 8–10 (ed. al-Šīrī 1994, 283, lines 12–21); fol. 155b, lines 1–5 (Epid. vi.5?; ed. al-Šīrī
1994, 284, lines 3–5); fol. 170a, 8–16 (Epid. i?; ed. al-Šīrī 1994, 309, line 22–310, line 6); fol. 180a,
lines 1–6 (ed. al-Šīrī 1994, 328, lines 11–14); and fol. 268b, lines 8–17 (Ḥunayn’s Questions on
Epid. vi [cf. p. 25, lines 4–5 W]; ed. al-Šīrī 1994, 509, lines 1–9).
45 Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3716, fol. 155a, line 16 (ed. al-Šīrī 1994,
283, line 21).
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 199

consumption respectively,46 but he also gives a slightly longer explanation of

the constitution or katástasis with which Epidemics Two begins. This longer
citation is of particular interest because it appears to be the first instance of
an Arabic speaking author writing something like a commentary, albeit a very
short one, on part of the Epidemics. Al-Maǧūsī is talking about the length of the
seasons and their divisions and mixtures, when he comments on a false belief
about spring:

Έ ҙҏǍʒ͘ ŷǨ̵Αā ȇ̈́Ǩͫā ĢLJʥͫā œāǩ˳ͫā ƦΑҙҏ ɑͫǛ͛ ǨͲΑҙҏā ȫʉͫć ȇ̈́Ģ ĢLJ̤ Ƚʉ̑Ǩͫā œāǩͲ ƦΑā ƢΉ Ǎ͘ Ǩ͛ĕ ǚ͘ć [1]
ƦǍ˜̈ LJͲ ɼͫǩ˶˳̑ ȇ̈́Ǩͫā ĢLJʥͫā œāǩ˳ͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā ȅˬ͇ ȇˬ͈ ȅʓͲ ɑͫǛ͛ć [2] ɼʉ̇LJ̑Ǎͫā ŰāǨͲΑ ҨҞͫ ȇˬ̣Αāć ɬˏˈˬͫ
[3] ƦLJ̒Ǎ˳ͫāć ɼʉ̇LJ̑Ǎͫāć ɼʈ̈ĔǨͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ɬͲ ɼʉˏʉˀͫā ĢLJ˅ͲΑҙҏā Ńćṳ̈̌ć ɼʉ̑Ǎ˶ʤͫā ŔLJ̈Ǩͫā ŁǍʒ΀ Ȉ͘ć ǽ͎
[5] ɷͫǍ͘ Ǎ΀ć [4] LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ŁLJʓ͛ ǽ͎ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā Ǩ͛ĕ LJͲ ȅˬ͇ ǽˏʉˀͫā Ǩ˳ʤͫā ɬͲ ƦǍ͵āǨ͘Βā ɼ˶̈ǚ˳̑ Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫLJ͛
LJͲ Ǩʔ͛Αā ƦLJ͛ć [7] ɷˬ͛ Ʉʉˀͫā Ǩ̤ 47ȽͲ ɷʉ͎ ĔẠ̌ ĢLJ˅ͲΑā łƹLJ̣ [6] ƦǍ͵āǨ͘ΒLJ̑ ƦLJ͛ ķǛͫā ǽˏʉˀͫā Ǩ˳ʤͫā»
ɼ́ʉʒ̶ łLJ̥LJˏ͵ œǨʦ̒ ɼ˜̤ ǚͫćć ɬʦ̵ ɬ˙ʓ̤ā āĕΒLJ͎ [9] ǚΉ ̈ǚ̿ ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒ Ǩʉˀ̒ć [8] ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ȽͲ ƦǍ˜̈
ƱǛ΀ ƦΒLJ͎ «ƦǍ͵āǨ͘Βā ɼ˶̈ǚ˳̑» ɷͫǍ͘ LJͲΑLJ͎ [11] .«ΈLJ͘āǨʓ̤ā ƈǨʓʥ̈ ǚˬʤͫā ƦćĔ LJͲ ƦΑā ɨ́ʉͫΒā ɡʉʦʓ͎ [10] ĢLJ˶ͫā ƈǨʥ̑
[13] .ɼʒ̈́Ģ ƴĢLJ̤ ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ɼʉ̤LJ͵ć [12] ΈāǨʉʶ̈ ҙҏΒā ɼʉͫLJ˳ʷͫā ŔLJ̈Ǩͫā LJ́̑ ȇ́̒ ҙҏć ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ɼʉ̤LJ͵ ǽ͎ ɼ˶̈ǚ˳ͫā
ɑͫǛ͎ [14] «ŁǍ˶ʤͫā Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ŔLJ̈Ǩͫā ɬͲ ȇ́̈ LJͲ Ǩʔ͛Αā ƦLJ͛ć ĔẠ̌ ĢLJ˅ͲΑā łƹLJ̣» LJ́͵Βā ɷͫǍ͘ LJͲΑLJ͎
ɬˏˈ̒ ǽ͎ ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā ĿǍ͘Αā œāǩͲ āǛ΀ć [15] .Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ƹāǍ́ͫā ȅˬ͇ ɼ̑Ǎ̈́Ǩͫāć ƴĢāǨʥͫā ŴāǨ͎Βā ȅˬ͇ ɡʉͫĔ
ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒ Ǩʉˀ̒» [17] ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛǍ͘ ɬˏˈͫā ȅˬ͇ ɡʉͫǚͫāć [16] .ɬˏˈͫā LJ́ʉ͎ ɬ˜˳̈ ǽʓͫā ƢLJʶ̣Αҙҏāć ŴҨҞ̥Αҙҏā
ƦLJ͛ Ƚ̀ǍͲ ķΑā ǽ͎ ɬ˙ʓʥͲ Ⱥˬ̥ ɡ͛ ƦΑā ɑͫǛ͎ ɷ˶ˏˈͫ ɷʓ͵Ǎʦ̵ LJͲΑāć [19] .«ɬʦ̵ ɬ˙ʓʥ̒ āĕΒLJ͎ [18] Έāǚ̈ǚ̿
LJͲ ƦΑā» Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ɡʉˬˈͫā ȅͫΒā ɡʉʦ̒ ƦLJ͛ LJͲć [20] ɼ͵Ǎˏˈͫā ȅͫΒā ƛLJʥʓ̵ā ȫˏ˶ʓͫā Ƣǚ͇ āĕΒā Ʀǚʒͫā ɬͲ
49.48Ǩ˳ʤˬͫ Ńǚʥ˳ͫā Ⱥˬʦͫā āǛ΀ ƴĢāǨ̤ ƴǚʷͫ ƦLJ͛ LJ˳͵Βā «ΈLJ͘āǨʓ̤ā ƈǨʓʥ̈ ǚˬʤͫā Ȉʥ̒

[1] Some people say that spring’s mixture is hot and wet, but this is not
the case because the hot and wet mixture is more prone to putrefaction
and conducive to pestilential diseases. [2] It is the same when a hot and
wet mixture predominates the air like the serious, pestilential diseases and
plague that come when southerly winds blow and summer rains occur,
[3] such as the summer carbuncles which occurred in the city of Crannon
according to what Hippocrates said in the Epidemics. [4] This is what he
said: [5] ‘Summer carbuncles which occurred in Crannon; [6] abundant rain
came there with the heat throughout summer. [7] This happened mostly
together with a south wind. [8] Pus develops under the skin. [9] When it is
congested, it becomes hot and generates itching that brings forth blisters

46 Vol. i, p. 333, lines 26–31 (Epid. 2 on melancholy) and p. 158, lines 21–3 (Epid. 6 on
47 ȽͲ] scripsi (cf. ii.1.1 HV): ɬ͇ Bulaq edition.
48 Ǩ˳ʤˬͫ] scripsi (cf. ii.1.14 HV): ȅ˳ʥˬͫ Bulaq edition.
49 Bulaq edition 1877, i. 156, lines 11–25.
200 Bink Hallum

similar to the burning of fire. [10] They imagined that what is under the
skin is burning strongly’. [11] He says ‘in the city of Crannon’ and this
city is in a southern direction in which northerly winds blow only rarely.
[12] A southern direction is hot and wet. [13] Then he said ‘abundant rain
came. Most of the winds that blew at that time were southerly’. [14] This
indicates that, at that time, the weather was excessively hot and wet. [15]
This mixture is the strongest cause of the putrefaction of humours and of
bodies in which putrefaction is possible. [16] Hippocrates’ statements that
[17] ‘Pus develops under the skin. [18] When it is congested, it becomes
hot’ indicate putrefaction. [19] As for the heat caused by its putrefaction,
this occurred because every congested humour, no matter where in the
body it is, becomes putrid when it does not pour out. [20] The fact that the
patient then imagined ‘that what is under the skin is burning strongly’ was
due to the severity of the heat of this humour that caused the carbuncles.

Here, al-Maǧūsī bases his comments only loosely on Galenʼs (ii.1.3–15 HV) and
chooses to focus on the role of putrefaction. He is not composing an entirely
new commentary on this passage which is independent of Galen’s commentary,
but he chooses carefully from the material which Galen presents to construct
a commentary tailored to his present purpose. In paragraphs 5-10, al-Maǧūsī
presents the Hippocratic lemma almost verbatim. This lemma, the first of Epi-
demics Two, is found at ii.1.2 HV. But al-Maǧūsī then picks and chooses just a
few elements of Galen’s commentary to work into his own. His assertion about
Crannon (§11) that ‘this city is in a southern direction in which northerly winds
blow only rarely (ΈāǨʉʶ̈ ҙҏΒā ɼʉͫLJ˳ʷͫā ŔLJ̈Ǩͫā LJ́̑ ȇ́̒ ҙҏć ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ɼʉ̤LJ͵ ǽ͎ ɼ˶̈ǚ˳ͫā ƱǛ΀)’ is drawn
from ii.1.8 HV: ‘Crannon … is a city … in a southern direction (… ɼ˶̈ǚͲ ǽ΀ … ƦǍ͵āǨ͘ć
ŁǍ˶ʤͫā ɼʉ̤LJ͵ ǽ͎).’ The subsequent statement that ‘northerly winds blow in it only
rarely (ΈāǨʉʶ̈ ҙҏΒā ɼʉͫLJ˳ʷͫā ŔLJ̈Ǩͫā LJ́̑ ȇ́̒ ҙҏć)’ is merely a simpler way of saying what Ga-
len said a few lines earlier in ii.1.8 HV: ‘the winds at that time, even if they blew
occasionally, were only southerly (LJ́͵ΒLJ͎ ɬʉ̈LJ̤Αҙҏā ǽ͎ Ȉʒ΀ ƦΒāć Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ŔLJ̈Ǩͫā Ȉ͵LJ͛ ǚ͘
ɼʉ̑Ǎ˶̣ ƦǍ˜̒ Ȉ͵LJ͛ LJ˳͵Βā)’. What al-Maǧūsī says in §§12 and 14 about heat and wetness
and their excessiveness (ŴāǨ͎Βā) in Crannon is a clearer rephrasing of what Galen
says in ii.1.8 HV, namely that Crannon’s position ‘was conducive to the exces-
sive character of this condition (ŴāǨ͎ Βҙҏā ɬͲ ƛLJʥͫā ɑˬ̒ ɷʉˬ͇ Ȉ͵LJ͛ LJͲ Ɏ͎āǍ̒)’; that is to say
its hot winds and heavy rains. The assertion (§15) that ‘This mixture (sc. hot
and wet) is the strongest cause of the putrefaction of humours and of bodies in
which putrefaction is possible (ɬ˜˳̈ ǽʓͫā ƢLJʶ̣Αҙҏāć ŴҨҞ̥Αҙҏā ɬˏˈ̒ ǽ͎ ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā ĿǍ͘Αā œāǩͲ āǛ΀ć
ɬˏˈͫā LJ́ʉ͎)’ is based on ii.1.10 HV: ‘the temperament of the air by which they are
brought about is warm, windless, and is moist. We see with our own eyes that
all bodies putrefy in this state, even if the cause is unknown (Ńṳ̈̌ ķǛͫā ƹāǍ́ͫā œāǩͲ
ȇʒʶͫā ɨˬˈ̈ ɨͫ ƦΒāć ƛLJʥͫā ƱǛ΀ ǚ˶͇ ɬˏˈ̒ ƢLJʶ̣Αҙҏā Ƚʉ˳̣ ƦΑā ΈLJ͵LJʉ͇ ĿǨ͵ ǚ˙͎ LJʒ̈́Ģ ŔLJ̈Ǩˬͫ ΈLJ˳̈ǚ͇ ΈāĢLJ̤ ƦLJ͛ ɷ˶Ͳ
ɑͫĕ ǽ͎)’. The sentence (§20) ‘The fact that the patient then imagined “that what
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 201

is under the skin is burning strongly” was due to the severity of the heat of this
humour that caused the carbuncles (Ȉʥ̒ LJͲ ƦΑā» Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ɡʉˬˈͫā ȅͫΒā ɡʉʦ̈ ƦLJ͛ LJͲć
Ǩ˳ʤˬͫ Ńǚʥ˳ͫā Ⱥˬʦͫā āǛ΀ ƴĢāǨ̤ ƴǚʷͫ ƦLJ͛ LJ˳͵Βā «ΈLJ͘āǨʓ̤ā ƈǨʓʥ̈ ǚˬʤͫā)’ depends upon ii.1.14 HV
‘By saying “when it is congested, it becomes hot”, he indicated the way in which
this cause brings about carbuncles, namely the excessive heat of the humour
predominant in the body (ȇʒʶͫā ɑͫĕ Ńǚʥ̈ LJ́̑ ǽʓͫā ɼ́ʤͫā ȅˬ͇ «ɬʦ̵ ɬ˙ʓ̤ā āĕΒLJ͎» ɷͫǍ˙̑ ƛĔć
Ʀǚʒͫā ǽ͎ ȇͫLJˉͫā Ⱥˬʦͫā ƴĢāǨ̤ ŴāǨ͎Βā Ǎ΀ ɑͫĕć Ǩ˳ʤͫā)’.
In al-Maǧūsī’s adaptation of Galen’s commentary, we can see that he simpli-
fied Galen’s wording and chose only those elements that pertained to his sub-
jects of putrefaction and the hot and wet mixture. Al-Maǧūsī passed over both
Galen’s philological discussions and also his definitions of the terminology used
for such symptoms as carbuncles. But al-Maǧūsī’s also added his own ideas, for
example in §19, that are not based on Galen’s commentary.

7) Ibn al-Ǧazzār (d. ca 1005)

(a) Reliable Support Concerning Simple Drugs (al-Iʿtimād fī l-ʾadwiya al-

ʾAbū Ǧaʿfar ʾAḥmad ibn ʾIbrāhīm, known as Ibn al-Ǧazzār, a physician of
Kairouan, wrote the Reliable Support about Simple Drugs in which he cited a
passage from Epidemics 2 about the use of narcissus bulbs as an emetic.50 This
relatively popular passage was already cited by al-Kaskarī and was later cited
by Maimonides.51

8) ʾAbū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Riḍwān (d. 1061)

(a) Useful Passages (Kitāb al-fawāʾid)

In the second half of the eleventh century, ʾAbū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Riḍwān, the
famous Egyptian physician, became the first Arabic speaking author since
Ḥunayn to write an extensive work specifically concerning the Epidemics. In
his Fawāʾid or Useful Passages, Ibn Riḍwān often cites verbatim, and frequently
provides approximate paraphrases of, a number of Galen’s works, and he very
occasionally offers a few brief comments on them. These are not lemmatic
commentaries, as explanations are kept to a bare minimum, but simply
collections of extracted materials kept, for the most part, in the order in which
they appear in Galen. Ibn Riḍwān appears to have chosen the material which
50 Ed. al-Qašš 1998, 80, line 16–81, line 1.
51 For the citation by al-Kaskarī, see Pormann 2009, 129–30; for Maimonides, see Fuṣūl 14.8,
ed. Bos forthcoming. I am grateful to Gerrit Bos for providing me with materials from the
unpublished portions of his edition of Maimonides’ Aphorisms (Fuṣūl).
202 Bink Hallum

he extracts purely on its merit as information useful to practising physicians or

medical students.
The Useful Passages is preserved in a unique manuscript in Cambridge (Cam-
bridge, University Library, MS Dd. 12.1), and 70 folios (127b–197a) of that manu-
script are devoted to the Epidemics. The manuscript is unfortunately defective
at the beginning, so the general introduction to the text is missing, which may
have explained Ibn Riḍwān’s rationale for, or the criteria he employed in, deal-
ing with Galen’s works in this way. The manuscript is also defective at the end,
so that we cannot be sure of the full extent of the Galenic works he treated. We
can, however, see that Ibn Riḍwān called the sections on individual texts ‘notes’
(taʿālīq) on ‘useful passages’ (fawāʾid) drawn from whichever text he happens
to be dealing with.52 Ibn Riḍwān’s Useful Passages is not a commentary proper,
but is rather like Ḥunayn’s Questions on the Epidemics in that it extracts useful
passages from the text for the most part in the original order in which they
appear. This is extremely useful in helping to establish the text of Ḥunayn’s
translation both because Ibn Riḍwān often cites Ḥunayn’s translation verbatim,
and also because Ibn Riḍwān’s Useful Passages for all four books of the Epidem-
ics that were commented on by Galen are extant, whereas Ḥunayn’s Questions
on Epidemics Books One, Three, and slightly more than the first two thirds of
Book Six are lost. Thus, although Ibn Riḍwān’s Useful Passages adds little to
our knowledge of how Arabic-speaking readers intellectually engaged with the
Epidemics, it is an invaluable resource for editors and critical readers of Arabic
translations of Galenic writings.

(b) Treatise on Achieving Happiness through Medicine (al-Maqāla fī taṭarruq

al-saʿāda bi-l-ṭibb)
In this text, Ibn Riḍwān lists and briefly discusses 55 works attributed to
Hippocrates. The only piece of information he gives specifically about the
Epidemics is the fact that Thessalus and not Hippocrates himself is said to be
responsible for Epidemics, Book Two, a point repeatedly stressed by Galen in his

52 For example, the section on the Epidemics is called ‘ʿAlī ibn Riḍwān’s Notes on Useful
Passages from Hippocrates’ Epidemics [in] Galen’s Commentary (ɬͲ ǚ̇āǍˏͫ ƦāǍ̀Ģ ɬ̑ā ǽˬ͇ ɎʉͫLJˈ̒
ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ŴāǨ˙̑Αҙҏ LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā)’ (Cambridge, University Library, MS Dd. 12.1, fol. 127b, last line).
53 Ed. Dietrich 1982, 21. On Thessalos and his hand in the authorship of Epidemics 2, see
above n. 1.
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 203

9) ʾAbū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mālik al-Murrī al-Ḥāǧǧ al-Ġarnāṭī al-

Ṭiġnarī (fl. ca 1087)

The Book of the Garden’s Blossom and Minds’ Entertainment (Kitāb Zuhrat al-
bustān wa-nuzhat al-aḏhān)

Al-Ṭiġnarī was an agricultural author who was born near, and active in, Gra-
nada.54 He wrote the The Garden’s Blossom and Minds’ Entertainment sometime
between 1107 and 1114, that is to say during the service of the Qāḍī of Granada
ʾAbū Muḥammad ʿAbdallāh ibn Mālik ibn Samaǧūn al-Hilālī through whose
mediation al-Ṭiġnarī presented his work to the Almoravid governor of Granada
ʾAbū l-Ṭāhir Tamīm ibn Yūsuf ibn Tašufīn.55
In the course of a discussion of the properties of sour pomegranate, al-Ṭiġnarī
makes the following reference to the Epidemics56:
Ĕānjˏͫā Ƚ̣ć LJ́̀Ǩˈ̈ ƦLJ͛ ƴΑāǨͲā ƦΑā [3] LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ŁLJʓ͛ ɬͲ ɼʉ͵LJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ǽ͎ [2] ŴāǨ˙̑ ɡ̀LJˏͫā Ǩ͛ĕć [1]
58Ⱥˬ̥ ɡˁ͎ ɬ͇ 57ΈLJ͇Ǜͫ ɷʉ͎ ǚʤ̒ Ȉ͵LJ͛ LJ́͵Αāć [5] ζƴǚˈ˳ͫā ɨ͎ ɼˏ̵ҨҞˏͫā ǚ˶͇ Ǎ΀ ķǛͫā [4] Ǩˉ̿Αҙҏā
Ǎ΀ć [7] .ȶͲLJʥͫā ƦLJͲǨͫā ƹLJ˳̑ Ǩʉˈʷͫā Ɏ̈Ǎ̵ Ǜ̥ΑLJ̒ ҙҏΒā LJ́˶͇ ɬ˜̵ LJ˳͎ [6] .ƴǚˈ˳ͫā łLJ˙ʒ̈́ ǽ͎ ɬ˜ʶʓͲ
.ɷ̿āḀ̌ ṳ̈̌Αā

[1] The esteemed Hippocrates mentioned, [2] in Book Two of the Epidemics,
[3] that a woman suffered pain in her ‘lesser heart’, [4] which according to
the philosophers is the mouth of the stomach. [5] [Moreover, he mentioned]
that she felt a burning in it owing to the superfluous humour settled in the
layers of the stomach. [6] It only abated when she took barley mush with
sour pomegranate water. [7] This is one of its properties.

This passage is based on the lemma at Epidemics ii.1.166 HV:

ƦLJͲǨͫā ƹLJͲ ȽͲ Ǩʉˈʷͫā Ɏ̈Ǎʶ̑ ҙҏΒā ƹǽ̶ LJ́˶͇ ɷ˶˜ʶ̈ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫć LJ΀Ĕānj͎ LJ́ˈ̣Ǎ̈ ƦLJ͛ ƴāΑ ǨͲā :ŴāǨ˙̑āΑ ƛLJ͘
.ƦǍ̈ĢLJ̥ ΑLJʉ˙ʓ̈ ƦLJ͛ LJ˳͛ ΑLJʉ˙ʓ̒ ɬ˜̒ ɨͫć ƢǍʉͫā ǽ͎ ƴΈ ǨͲ ķǛʓˉ̒ ƦΑLJ̑ ǽˏʓ˜̒ Ȉ͵LJ͛ć

Hippocrates said: A woman suffered from pain in her heart. Nothing could
relieve her except barley mush with pomegranate water. Eating once a day
sufficed for her. She did not vomit as Charíōn had vomited.

54 I would like to thank Phoebe Luckyn-Malone, who brought this material to my attention.
Further details on this text will appear in her forthcoming PhD thesis on al-Ṭiġnarī’s botanical
theories and representation of plants in The Garden’s Blossom and the Minds’ Entertainment.
55 García 1988 and Garćía Sánchez 2006, 13–14.
56 Ed. García Sánchez 2006, 156, lines 7–11.
57 ΈLJ͇Ǜͫ] conieci; ΈLJ͈ǚͫ García Sánchez.
58 Ⱥˬ̥] conieci; ǚˬ̣ García Sánchez.
204 Bink Hallum

To this lemma, additional explanatory material has been added from Galen’s
commentary in paragraphs four, five and seven.59 Paragraph four explains that
the ‘heart’ mentioned in the lemma, called the ‘lesser heart’ by al-Ṭiġnarī, is
in fact the ‘mouth of the stomach’. This is not made explicit in Galen’s com-
mentary on the lemma at ii.1.166 HV, where Galen discusses the mouth of the
stomach without mention of the term ‘heart’. Previously, however, at ii.1.26 HV,
Galen has already clarified this terminology by referring to ‘the mouth of the
stomach, which the ancients called the “heart” (ɷ͵Ǎ˳ʶ̈ ƹLJͲǚ˙ͫā ƦLJ͛ ǚ͘ ķǛͫā ƴǚˈ˳ͫā ɨ͎
Ĕānjˏͫā ɨ̵LJ̑)’. Paragraph five adds information about the causes of the condition,
which is based rather loosely on Galen’s comments at the beginning of ii.1.168
HV. Finally, in paragraph seven, al-Ṭiġnarī links the conversation back to his
topic: the properties of the sour pomegranate.
Although, al-Ṭiġnarī cites the Epidemics only once, this is evidence for one
more genre of scientific literature, agricultural texts, in which the Epidemics
was considered a valuable resource. Furthermore, his blending of material from
the Hippocratic lemma, Galen’s commentary on that lemma and Galen’s wider
commentary on the Epidemics shows that al-Ṭiġnarī was relatively familiar with
the text of the Epidemics and was not merely mining it for information relevant
to his own interests.

10) ʾAbū Naṣr ʾAsʿad ibn ʾIlyās ibn al-Muṭrān (d. 1191)

(a) Garden of Physicians (Bustān al-ʾaṭibbāʾ wa-rawḍat al-ʾalibbāʾ)

Ibn al-Muṭrān, a physician active in Baghdad in the latter half of the twelfth
century, included seven brief passages from Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ
‘Epidemicsʼ in his Garden of Physicians. Although these citations are neither
extensive nor numerous, they are notable. This is because Ibn al-Muṭrān refers to
four of his citations according to the consecutive sections of Galen’s Commentary
(that is parts 1–19) rather than by book number followed by part number within
a given book (that is i.1–vi.8).60 This unusual numbering may suggest that Ibn al-
Muṭrān drew his citations from Ḥunayn’s Fruits of the 19 Extant Parts of Galen’s
Commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics rather than directly from Ḥunayn’s
translation of Galen’s commentary itself or from Ḥunayn’s Questions on the

59 Interestingly, paragraphs five and seven, as well as paragraph two, which cites the source
of the passage, are not found in the primary manuscript from which the critical edition has
been prepared.
60 The citations of the Epidemics are found in the facsimile edition by Muḥaqqiq 1989, 13,
line 56; p. 23, lines 5–9; p. 132, lines 7–2 from the bottom (Epid. vi.3); p. 206, line 8–p. 207, lines
7 (Epid. vi.5); p. 222, line 9-p. 223, line 4 (Epid. vi.6); p. 238, last line–p. 239, line 9 (Epid. vi.7);
p. 240, line 7–p. 241, line 3 (Epid. vi.7).
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 205

Epidemics. Of course, until a manuscript containing Ḥunayn’s Fruits comes to

light, there is no way to confirm or deny this suspicion.

11) Mūsā ibn ʿUbayd Allāh ibn Maymūn (Maimonides, 1135–1204)

(a) Medical Aphorisms (Kitāb al-Fuṣūl fī l-ṭibb)

The Arabic-speaking author who preserves the largest number of citations of
Galen’s Commentary on the ‘Epidemics’ is Maimonides, in the largest and most
well-known of his medical works, the Medical Aphorisms.61 This text contains
113 citations of the Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ, so in fact, its
primacy in regard to the number of Epidemics citations which it contains could
well be overtaken by al-Rāzī’s Comprehensive Book, as more such citations are
discovered in that book. The accuracy of the citations in the Medical Aphorisms
is variable, since, as Maimonides says in the his introduction, he sometimes
quotes his texts verbatim, sometimes paraphrases and sometimes condenses
Galen’s ideas and expresses them in his own words, giving references in each
instance for the main source for these ideas.62
Maimonides clearly wrote his Medical Aphorisms for a didactic purpose, and
also, so he tells us, so that he can have easy access to passages mostly from Ga-
len that he finds particularly important and useful.63 To this end, he arranged
nearly 1,500 aphorisms into twenty-five books, each one devoted to a specific
medical topic. Thus, the citations from the Epidemics come arranged by topic
for easy digestion by the student. In this respect, the treatment of the Epidemics
in Maimonides’ Medical Aphorisms is similar to that in al-Rāzī’s Comprehensive
Book, in which materials have for the most part been arranged by their relation
to the various parts of the body from head to toe.
Like al-Rāzī in the Doubts about Galen, but unlike any other Arabic-speaking
author before him as far as I know, Maimonides specifically criticises Galen’s
Commentary on the ‘Epidemics’. He does this in three places in aphorisms 12,
15 and 18 of Book 25, which ‘contains doubts which occurred to me [sc. Mai-
monides] concerning passages in the writings of Galen’ (taštamilu ʿalā šukūkin
ḥadaṯat lī fī mawāḍīʿa min kalāmi Ǧālīnūsa).64 The first and third passages re-

61 See the list of these citations with German translations in Wenkebach, Pfaff 1956, 521–43.
Maimonides’ Medical Aphorisms is in being reedited and translated into English by Gerrit Bos.
To date Books 1–15 have been published (Bos 2004, 2009, 2011), and I am grateful to Professor
Bos for generously making the unpublished sections of his edition available to me.
62 Bos 2004, i. 2–3.
63 Bos 2004, i. 4.
64 Ed. Bos 2004, i. 6.
206 Bink Hallum

fer to internal contradictions in Galen’s commentary,65 but the second refers

to a statement in Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ ii.6 that con-
tradicts general medical opinion. Maimonides’ topical arrangement of the Epi-
demics material represents a major didactic advance in the presentation of this
material, while his criticisms of Galen, while not entirely unique or new in the
Arabic-speaking world, represent a major advance in scholarship.

12) ʾAḥmad ibn Yūsuf Šaraf al-Dīn al-Tīfāšī (1184–1253)

(a) The Old Man’s Return to Youth Concerning Sexual Potency (Ruǧūʿ al-šayḫ
ʾilā ṣibāhi fī l-qūwa ʿalā l-bāh)
Al-Tīfāšī was an Egyptian author active in Tunis, Cairo and Damascus and
was known for his writings on mineralogy and sexology. His treatise on
sexual hygiene called The Old Man’s Return to Youth Concerning Sexual Potency
contains a single citation from the Epidemics in its sixth chapter ‘On the Benefits
of Intercourse’ (Fī ḏikr manāfiʿ al-bāh).66 This citation is identical to the one
presented by al-Rāzī in his treatise On Sexual Intercourse in the fourth chapter
‘On The Benefits of Having Sex’ (Fī ʾl-manāfiʿ al-kāʾina fī stiʿmāl al-ǧimāʿ) and
is probably dependent upon that work.67 The citation as presented by al-Tīfāšī
in the edition of al-Qawīy reads as follows:

.ɼʒ́ˬ˳ͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ɬͲ Ƚˏ˶̈ ɼ̈Ǎ͘ ɷˈͲ ƴǍ˙ͫā Ȉ͵LJ͛ āĕΒā ƱLJʒͫā ɬͲ ĢLJʔ͛ Βҙҏā ƦΒā :68LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā ŁLJʓ͛ ǽ͎ć

In the Epidemics: ‘Frequent sexual intercourse when its (?) power is strong
is useful against inflammatory diseases’.

A comparison with the citation of the same passage in al-Rāzī’s On Sexual In-
tercourse corrects the reading printed by al-Qawīy. Where al-Tīfāšī (al-Qawīy
[ed.]) claims that sex is beneficial against ‘inflammatory diseases’ (ɼʒ́ˬ˳ͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā),
al-Rāzī’s text speaks more sensibly of ‘phlegmatic diseases’ (ɼʉ˳ˉˬʒͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā).69 It is,

65 Between Epidemics 1.1 and 1.2, and between the Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Airs,
Waters, Places’ 2 and Epidemics 4.7 respectively.
66 Ed. al-Qawīy 2001, p. 56, lines 9-10.
67 Ed. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz / ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd 1999, 161, lines 1–2; translated in Pormann 2007, 118.
See above, p. 197 (Section 4c).
68 Al-Qawīy prints LJʒ˳̈Ǩ̑Βā instead of LJʉ˳̈Ǜʉ̑Βā and makes many other mistakes with names of
authors and books (e.g. ɼʉͫΐҙҏā ƹLJˁ͇Αҙҏā for ɼ˳ͫΐҙҏā ƹLJˁ͇Αҙҏā [On the Affected Parts] on page 55, line 6 and
ťǍʉ̵LJ˶̈ĢćΑā for ťǍʉ̵LJʒ̈ĢćΑā [Oribasius] on page 57, line 5).
69 The two words ‘inflammatory’ (ɼʒ́ˬͲ) and ‘phlegmatic’ (ɼʉ˳ˉˬ̑) are palaeographically quite
similar. For al-Rāzī’s text see ed. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz / ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd 1999, page 161, lines 1–2
(printed above, p. 197 [Section 4c]).
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 207

however, questionable whether this error is due to al-Tīfāšī and the text he was
working from or merely to the modern editor of al-Tīfāšī’s text.

13) ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)

(a) Commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics (Tafsīr ʾIbīḏīmiyā li-ʾAbuqrāṭ)

It is perhaps surprising, given the longstanding and widespread interest in
the Epidemics in the Islamic world, that it was not until the second half of the
thirteenth century that ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn Ibn al-Nafīs composes the first Arabic
commentary on the Epidemics.70 Ibn al-Nafīs’ commentary is quite long—200
folios and 192 folios in the two extant manuscripts (Istanbul, Süleymaniye
Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3642 and Cairo, Dār al-Kutub MS, Ṭalʿat ṭibb 583
respectively)—but only slightly more than half as long as Ḥunayn’s translation
of Galen’s commentary, which runs to 377 folios across the two manuscripts that
contain it. The fact that Ibn al-Nafīs’ commentary is shorter than Galen’s should
not come as a great surprise, especially when we note that, in the words of the
biographer al-Ṣafadī (d. 1363), Ibn al-Nafīs ‘loathed Galen’s style and described
it as inability of expression and useless prolixity’ (ɷˏˀ̈ć ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ƢҨҞ͛ ȶˉʒ̈ ƦLJ͛ć
ɡ̇LJ̈́ ɷʓʥ̒ ȫʉͫ ķǛͫā ŁLJ̵́ Βҙҏāć ǽˈͫLJ̑).71 Ibn al-Nafīs’ writing, by contrast, is said to be
concise to the point of obscurity, but he comments in the scholastic style, often
explaining his lemmata word for word and employing repetitive formulae to
introduce his explainations such as ‘his words … mean …’ (qauluhū … yurīdu …)
or simply ‘as for … it is …’ (wa-ʾamma … fa-…).72
An example of Ibn al-Nafīs’ succinctness can be seen in his treatment of the
first lemma of Epidemics 2, a passage already dealt with by al-Maǧūsī,73 concern-
ing the carbuncles that appeared at Crannon. The lemma begins with the word
‘carbuncles’ (ǧamr, sing. ǧamra), so Ibn al-Nafīs begins his commentary with a
definition of this term: ‘A carbuncle is an ulcer: scabby, blackish, inflamed and
blistered around it (LJ́ͫǍ̤ LJ˳ͫ ɼ˅ˏ˶Ͳ ɼʒ́ˬͲ ĔāǍ̵ ȅͫΒā ɼʷ̈Ǩ˜ʷ̥ łāĕ ɼ̤Ǩ͘ ƴǨ˳ʤͫā)’.74 By com-
parison, Galen’s commentary is longwinded75:
Ȉ͵LJ͛ LJ˳̑Ģć ƹāĔǍ̵ ǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩʔ͛Αā ǽ͎ ɼʷ̈Ǩ˜ʷ̥ LJ́ʉˬ͇ć [2] LJ́ʶˏ͵ ƹLJ˙ˬ̒ ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̒ ɼ̤Ǩ͘ ǽ΀ ƴǨ˳ʤͫāć [1]
LJ́˶Ͳ LJ́ʶ˳ˬ̈ ɬͲ ȫʥ̈ ȅʓ̤ ƴǚ̈ǚ̶ ƴĢāǨ̤ LJ́̑ Ⱥʉʥ̒ ǽʓͫā Ƚ̀āǍ˳ͫā ǽ͎ LJ́ˈͲ ƦǍ˜̈ć [3] .ĔLJͲǨͫā ƦǍˬ̑

70 This ignores the supposed eleventh-century commentary by Ibn al-Ṭayyib (see above,
p. 187) since I have not been able to find any trace of this text or to ascertain that it was
indeed a commentary proper. On Ibn al-Nafīs’ commentary, see Bachmann 1971. Regrettably,
Bachmann never published his planned edition of Book One of Ibn al-Nafīs’ commentary.
71 Quoted by Bachmann 1971, 306.
72 Bachmann 1971, 308.
73 See above, pp. 198–302 (section 6a).
74 Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3642, fol. 45b, lines 3–4.
75 Book ii.1.6 HV.
208 Bink Hallum

Ȉʶʉͫ ɼʷ̈Ǩ˜ʷʦͫā ƛǍ̤ ǽʓͫā ΈLJˁ̈Αā Ƚ̀āǍ˳ͫāć [4] ζɼ̤Ǩ˙ͫā ȇ̤LJ̿ LJ́ʶʥ̈ ƦΑā ɬ͇ Έ ҨҞˁ͎ ƴǨʉʔ͛ ƴĢāǨʥ̑
[5] ĔāǍʶͫā ȅͫΒā Έ ҨҞ̇LJͲ ƦǍ˜̈ ɷ˶˜ͫ ǽ͵Ǎ˳ˉˬ͎ ȅ˳ʶ̈ ķǛͫā ĢLJʥͫā ƢĢǍͫā ǽ͎ ƦǍ˜̈ LJ˳͛ ƴǨ˳ʥͫā ɼ͘ĔLJˀ̑
Έ ǚ̈ģΑā ɷʉ͎ ΈLJˁ̈Αā ɼ̑ҨҞˀͫāć

[1] A carbuncle is an ulcer which occurs by itself. [2] On it there is a scab,

mostly black, although it sometimes has the colour of ashes. [3] In the
places surrounding it, it is accompanied by severe heat, so that if someone
touches them, he feels a lot of heat, not to mention that the patient suffering
from the ulcer also feels it. [4] The places, too, around the scab are not truly
red, as in the case of the inflammation [waram ḥārr] called phlegmonḗ, but
rather are blackish. [5] Moreover, it is much harder.

Ibn al-Nafīs condenses the information contained in §§1–4 into an extremely

concise sentence and leaves out the contrast with phlegmonḗ. It is notable that
Ḥunayn began Book Two of his Questions on the Epidemics with a definition of
carbuncles that is based on that given by Galen, but is far less condensed than
that given by Ibn al-Nafīs76:
[3] .ǽ˜ͫ ƦǍ˜̈ ǽʓͫā ɼ̶Ǩ˜ʷʦͫā ɡʔͲ ɼ̶Ǩ˜ʷ̥ LJ́ʉ͎ LJ́ʶˏ͵ ƹLJ˙ˬ̒ ɬͲ ɼ̤Ǩ͘ ǽ΀ [2] τƴǨ˳ʤͫā ǽ΀ LJͲ [1]
Ʊṳ̈̌ć ɡʉˬˈͫā ȫʉͫ LJ́ͫǍ̤ LJ˳ʉ͎ ƴǚ̈ǚ̶ ƴĢāǨ̤ ȽͲ [4] ĔLJͲǨͫā ƦǍˬ̑ Ȉ͵LJ͛ LJ˳̑Ģć ĔǍ̵Αā ǨͲΑҙҏā Ǩʔ͛Αā ǽ͎ LJ́͵Ǎͫ
ƢĢǍͫā ƴǨ˳ʥ͛ ɼˀͫLJʦͫLJ̑ Ȉʶʉͫ ƴǨ˳ʥͫā 〈ƦΒLJ͎ āǛ΀〉 ȽͲć [5] .œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ Ƚ̀Ǎ˳ͫā ȫ˳̈ ɬͲ ɬ˜ͫ LJ́ʶʥ̈
.ķǍͲǚͫā ɼ̑ҨҞ̿ ɬͲ ǚ̈ģΑā ɼ̑ҨҞ̿ ȽͲ [6] ĔāǍ̵ ɡˁ͎ ȅͫΒā ɼˬ̇LJͲ LJ́˶˜ͫ ķǍͲǚͫā

[1] What is a carbuncle? [2] It is an ulcer occurring by itself in which there

is a scab like the scab that comes from cautery. [3] Usually it is black, but
sometimes it is the colour of ashes. [4] It is accompanied by intense heat in
the area around it that can be felt not only by the patient, but also by those
who feel the spot from the outside. [5] Furthermore, the redness is not total
as it is in a bloody swelling, but tending towards an excess of blackness, [6]
and it is harder than a bloody [swelling].

Although like Ḥunayn, Ibn al-Nafīs produced notes on the Epidemics that were
more succinct than Galen’s, he was clearly not dependant upon Ḥunayn’s Ques-
tions on the Epidemics for his commentary. This can be seen by his lack of any
mention here of cautery (kayy; Ḥunayn §2) and his use of the terms inflamed
and blistered (mulahhaba and munaffaṭa), which are found in neither Galen
nor Ḥunayn. But his brevity and concentration on definitions indicates a meth-
odology similar to that of Ḥunayn in the Questions on the Epidemics. However,
being a lemmatic commentary that aims to concisely explain the Hippocratic

76 Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS B135 sup., fol. 119a, lines 3–6; translated following
Pormann 2008a, 283 (adapted).
The Arabic Reception of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ 209

text to readers and neither to extract for them points of wider medical interest
and application nor to expand on the points made by the Hippocratic text, Ibn
al-Nafīs remains closer to the text of the lemma than either Galen and Ḥunayn
do. For example, he omits Galen’s and Ḥunayn’s comparison of carbuncles with
phlegmonḗ or ‘bloody swellings’. Bachmann sums up the relationship between
the two commentaries by pointing out that while Ibn al-Nafīs had clearly read
Galen’s commentary and made use of it in his own, he did not follow Galen
slavishly and introduced his own examples into his commentary that are not
found in Galen’s.77 So, while Ibn al-Nafīs did think and write originally on the
Epidemics, producing a commentary that enabled readers to understand the
Hippocratic text without dealing with much of the extra material introduced by
Galen, his commentary was largely informed by that of Galen. This should not
be surprising since there were no alternative commentaries on the Epidemics
from which he could draw inspiration.

The Arabic version of Galen’s Commentary on the ‘Epidemics’ had an enduring
interest and attracted the attention of at least fifteen authors from the ninth
to the thirteenth centuries, including some of the most brilliant physicians
of the Islamic world. Yet, it appears that shortly after the publication of
Ḥunayn’s translation of Galen’s Commentary, Ḥunayn’s translation and later
texts derived from it were the only access to and perspective on the Epidemics
available in the Arabic-speaking world. No other late antique Greek or Syriac
commentaries on the Epidemics appear to have been translated into Arabic, and
no authors with the possible exception al-Ṭabarī and al-Ruhāwī in the ninth
century seem to have drawn from Syriac sources on the Epidemics. Thus while
Ḥunayn’s translation of Galen’s Commentary on Hippocratesʼ ‘Epidemicsʼ was
undoubtedly highly successful, its very success seems to have had a stultifying
effect both on the translation of commentaries on the Epidemics other than
that of Galen as well as on the production of original Arabic commentaries.
In general, Arabic-speaking authors restricted themselves in dealing with the
Epidemics to extracting aphorisms and information useful for specific topics or
to summarising or systematising the Epidemics material for didactic purposes.
Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq wrote entire didactic works for physicians and medical
students devoted to the Epidemics in the form of aphorisms (1b), summaries (1a
and d), and extracts (1c) on a given topic. His aim was clearly to make both the
obscure Hippocratic text and Galen’s prolix and meandering commentary di-

77 Bachmann 1971, 306–8.

210 Bink Hallum

gestible by those who needed to use the gems of medical learning hidden within
them. This didactic approach to the Epidemics sets Ḥunayn apart from the other
authors who worked with this text, since he dealt with the Epidemics as a whole,
either summarising it in its entirety or searching its entire text for material deal-
ing with a specific subject. ʾAbū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Riḍwān dealt with the whole
of Galen’s Commentary on the ‘Epidemics’ in his Useful Passages (8a), but as
useful as this text is, it is little more than a heavily abridged version of Galen’s
Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Epidemics’ with very little creative input by Ibn
Riḍwān, apart from the decisions concerning which passages to extract. In his
Complete Book of the Medical Art, ʿAlī ibn al-ʿAbbās al-Maǧūsī (6a) wrote notes
on the first lemma of Epidemics 2 that are reminiscent of a commentary, but can
hardly be termed such given their brevity. Unless Ibn al-Ṭayyib’s Commentary
on the Epidemics turns out to be a full, lemmatic commentary, ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn ibn al-
Nafīs Commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics (12a) is the first and only example
of an Arabic commentary on this Hippocratic text. His Commentary, however,
appears to have been written for those who wanted to read and understand the
Hippocratic text itself, rather than for those who wanted to extract from it mate-
rial that would be useful in clinical practice. This latter group of readers was the
intended audience of Ḥunayn’s works on the Epidemics.
Al-Rāzī in his Comprehensive Book on Medicine (4a) and Maimonides in his
Medical Aphorisms (10a) included extracts from the Epidemics arranged accord-
ing to subject alongside extracts from other works. In these works, little effort
is made to preserve or to explain the original context of the material extracted
from the Epidemics, and the aim was clearly not to aid readers of the Hippocratic
text or Galen’s commentary but rather to survey a number of opinions con-
cerning given topics. These authors, al-Rāzī in his Doubts about Galen (4b) and
Maimonides in his Medical Aphorisms, also directly criticised the Epidemics in a
way that was alien to Ḥunayn’s didactic approach, which aimed to simplify the
text for students and not to obscure it with doubts.
Elsewhere, medical authors dipped into the Epidemics for nuggets of informa-
tion on whichever topic they had at hand. This was the most common use to
which the Epidemics was put in medieval Arabic literature. From al-Ṭabarī and
al-Ruhāwī’s (2a and b) anecdote about the stratagem of the cunning physician to
al-Rāzī (4c) and al-Tīfāšī’s (11a) or al-Kaskarī’s (5a) extracts on sex, the eclectic
nature of the Epidemics and Galen’s expansive commentary, combined with the
great value placed on these works not least because they were thought to have
come from the pens of the two greatest physicians of antiquity, continued to
fascinate Islamic medical authors and supply them with material for over four

Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms

in the Arabic Tradition:
The Example of Melancholy1
Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Few secular texts had such an impact on subsequent generations as the

Hippocratic Aphorisms. They influenced not only medical theory and practice,
but also affected popular culture. In the Arabic tradition, we have more than a
dozen commentaries on the Aphorisms from the eleventh to the sixteenth centu-
ries, in addition to the Arabic version of Galen’s commentary, produced by the
famous Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq (d. c. 873). These texts survive in well over a hundred
manuscripts. No other Greek secular text was more commented upon in Ara-
bic than the Aphorisms. The famous Jewish physician Mūsā ibn Maymūn even
reports that school children knew some of the more famous Hippocratic Apho-
risms by heart.2 In other words, the Aphorisms were nearly ubiquitous in the me-
dieval Arabic medical tradition. According to one Arab physician, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf
al-Baġdādī, they constituted the most important Hippocratic text for medical
teaching; therefore, he, like so many others, penned a commentary on them.3
Other commentators echoed his opinion that the Aphorisms lend themselves

1 We would not have been able to write this and the next article without the generous funding
provided by the Wellcome Trust which made this research possible. Moreover, we are indebted
to the following individuals and institutions for their assistance: the director and staff of the
Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul; the director and staff of the Beyazid Devlet Library in Istanbul;
the Netherlands Institute in Turkey (Hollanda Araştirma Enstitüsü), especially its director Dr
Fokke Gerritsen, and its assistant Ms Ayşe Dilsiz; the staff of the Universiteitsbibliotheek
Leiden (especially Dr Arnoud Vrolijk); Dr Emily Cottrell, of Leiden University; the staff of the
ʾAsad National Library in Damascus (especially Mr ʾAḥmad Rāmī al-Ġāzī); the Institut Français
du Proche-Orient, Damascus (especially its director, François Burgat); Monsieur Nabīl of the
Fondation Georges et Mathilde Salem, Aleppo; Professor ʾAḥmad ʿEtmān, Dr ʾĪmān Ḥāmid and
Dr Našwā Ǧumʿa, of Cairo University; Ms Pamela Forde of the Heritage Centre of the Royal
College of Physicians in London; Dr Mohsen Zakeri (Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe Universität,
Frankfurt am Main) for his essential and indispensable mediation in the communication with
the different Iranian libraries; the libraries at the University of Hamburg; and, last, not least,
PEP’s doctoral students Aileen Das and Pauline Koetschet, and our colleagues Bink Hallum
and Uwe Vagelpohl, who all commented on earlier drafts of the articles.
2 Ed. Schliwski 2007, vol. i., p. xx.
3 Rosenthal 1966, 237–40.
212 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

ideally to didactic ends: students should study medicine through the Aphorisms
and the commentaries on them.
Despite their importance and the huge amount of source material that is
available, Arabic commentaries on the Aphorisms have attracted only limited
scholarly attention, or, to speak with Manfred Ullmann4: ‘Despite its great im-
portance, this text [sc., the Arabic version of the Aphorisms] has hardly attracted
any attention in modern scholarship’. Franz Rosenthal undertook a pioneer
study of the Arabic commentaries on the Aphorisms more than half a century
ago.5 In it, he surveyed the tradition by looking at the most famous aphorism,
namely the first one, ‘Life is short, the art is long …’. A very restricted number
of other scholars have discussed certain aspects of this tradition as well, but
they largely focussed on points of detail or mentioned it in passing.6 Moreover,
two Arabic commentaries on the Aphorisms have since been edited.7 Yet, as Ul-
lmann’s recent statement shows, relatively little progress has been made since
Rosenthal published his seminal article in 1966.
The present article aims at helping to rectify this imbalance between the
importance of the Arabic commentaries on the Aphorisms and the paucity of
scholarship on them. Our methodology is partly inspired by Rosenthal’s earlier
article. We pursue three separate, yet related objectives. First, we shall survey
the extremely rich manuscript tradition of these commentaries. Here, we follow
Rosenthal, who also surveyed the manuscript tradition; yet, we also go well
beyond him: where Rosenthal only knew of one or a few manuscripts, we were
able to list a few, and sometimes even a few dozen, more. We were partly able to
do this, because many new catalogues and studies on Islamic medicine appeared
after Rosenthal’s article. The two most important ones were undoubtedly Ull-
mann’s Die Medizin im Islam and Sezgin’s Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums,
volume three.8 Especially the latter contained very rich information about hith-
erto unknown manuscripts. But as it relied also to a large extent on previous
catalogues, we also noticed that not all the information provided there was ac-
curate. We collated the information provided by Ullmann and Sezgin with that
found in other sources quoted throughout this article. We also ordered some
twenty manuscripts as microfilms or pdfs in order to gain access to at least one
manuscript of most of the commentaries. And we visited a large number of li-
braries, notably in Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul to get a clearer picture of what

4 Ullmann 2002, 52: ‘Trotz seiner großen Bedeutung hat dieser Text in der modernen
Forschung kaum Beachtung gefunden’.
5 Rosenthal 1966.
6 Bar-Sela and Hoff 1963; Weisser 1989, 406; Abou Aly 2000; Overwien 2005, 2009;
Strohmaier 2006. See also Biesterfeldt 2007 for the Arabic version of Palladius’ commentary,
which is lost in Greek.
7 Zaydān 1991; Schliwski 2007.
8 Ullmann 1970, 50; Sezgin 1970, 28–32.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 213

manuscripts really existed and what their current shelfmarks are. In the lists of
manuscripts that we provide for all the different commentaries, we have docu-
mented how we verified the information notably provided by Sezgin. Where
possible, we consulted the catalogues from which he drew his information, and
sometimes, as in the case of the catalogue compiled by Ahlwardt, this informa-
tion was so rich and detailed that it allowed us to identify other manuscripts
that we saw. In a few cases, we were unable to verify the information, but we
felt that it would still be useful to quote it here, so that the reader can easily gain
an impression of this rich tradition.
The second objective is to provide more ample information about the working
methods and approaches of the various commentators. We achieve this through
two main strategies. Rosenthal only had access to the text of some commentar-
ies, and could only refer to others on the basis of previous bibliographical stud-
ies. By surveying the manuscripts that we obtained, and notably the prefaces
where the authors discuss their methods, we are able to give first impressions
about commentaries that were only titles for Rosenthal. Furthermore, we de-
cided to concentrate on one aphorism to see how the different commentators
approached their task. Rosenthal had focused on the first aphorism, and this
brought both advantages and disadvantages. Often the commentaries on this
famous first aphorism served as a preface where the authors would explain their
rationale for writing it and their approach. The exceptional character of the
commentaries on the first aphorism also meant, however, that they were hardly
representative of how the authors normally proceeded. Therefore, we modified
Rosenthal’s approach and decided to focus on one aphorism that could illustrate
the commentators’ working methods. Here our choice fell on aphorism vi. 23,
the foundation text of medical melancholy.
Aphorism vi. 23 brings us to the third objective of this article: to trace the
ideas about melancholy in the Arabic commentary tradition on the Aphorisms.
In the Greek original and the Arabic translation, this aphorism runs as follows9:

Ἢν φóβoϲ καὶ δυϲθυμίη πολὺν χρόνον διατελέει, μελαγχολικὸν τὸ


If fear [phóbos] and despondency [dysthymía] last for a long time, then this
is something melancholic [melancholikón].

9 Greek text iv. p. 568, lines 11–12 L. and ed. Jones 1959, 184; Arabic text ed. Tytler 1832,
p. 44, lines 3–2 from the bottom. We retain the reading ‘and (καὶ)’ instead of ‘or (ἢ)’ of some
of the manuscripts, as it is supported by the Arabic tradition.
214 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ

If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last for a long time,
then his [the patient’s] illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].

The two symptoms mentioned here, fear and despondency, retain their char-
acteristic status also in the later Arabic tradition: through them, the physician
is able to distinguish melancholy from other diseases.10 This aphorism is both
enigmatic and easy to understand. Unlike other aphorisms, it has a clear syntac-
tical structure that leaves little doubt how to interpret it. Yet, what the author
meant with the word ‘melancholic [melancholikón]’ is far from clear.
In the late antique and the later Arabic tradition, Galen’s explanation of this
aphorism became particularly important. It runs as follows in Kühn’s edition11:

(1) Ἐὰν μὴ διά τιναϲ φανερὰϲ αἰτίαϲ φοβεῖταί τιϲ ἢ δυϲθυμῇ, (2) φανερῶϲ
ἐϲτι μελαγχολικὰ καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ϲυμπτώματα, (3) καὶ μᾶλλον εἰ τύχῃ κε-
χρονικότα. (4) διὰ μέντοι φανερὰν αἰτίαν ἀρξάμενα, (5) κἄπειτα χρονίζο-
ντα, (6) μὴ λανθανέτω ϲε μελαγχολίαν ἐνδεικνύμενα. (7) καὶ γὰρ καὶ μανία
πολλοῖϲ ἤδη φαίνεται γεγενημένη, (8) διὰ θυμὸν ἢ ὀργὴν ἢ λύπην ἀρξα-
μένη, (9) αὐτοῦ τοῦ ϲώματοϲ δηλονότι πρὸϲ τὸ παθεῖν τὰ παθήματα ταῦτα
κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν ἐκεῖνον ἐπιτηδείωϲ ἔχοντοϲ.

(1) If someone is afraid or despondent without any apparent reason, (2)

then these are clearly melancholic symptoms, (3) especially when they
happen to have lasted a long time. (4) If they begin owing to an apparent
cause, (5) and then last a long time, (6) then it should not escape you that
they indicate melancholy [melancholía]. (7) For in many cases it is clear
that madness [manía] has already occurred, (8) having begun because of
anger [thymós], rage [orgḗ] or sadness, (9) since the body itself is obviously
predisposed to suffer these affections at that time.

In the following, we shall see how the Arabic authors both based their exegesis
of this aphorism on Galen’s commentary, but also how they offered signifi-
cantly new explanations. Before tackling the Arabic commentary tradition on
the Aphorisms, it is useful briefly to consider the Aphorisms in Greek and Syriac.

10 See now Koetschet 2011.

11 xviii/a, p. 35, line 10–p. 36, line 3 K; Kühn’s hypercorrect forms have been corrected.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 215

Hippocratic Aphorisms in Greek and Syriac

The Hippocratic Aphorisms are divided into seven sections (Greek tmḗmata),
containing between 25 (section one) to 87 aphorisms (section seven); however,
the textual transmission of the last two sections is particularly fluid.12 Galen
followed this division into sections in his commentary, and we also find it in
the Arabic version of his commentary. Galen himself defines the genre of the
Aphorisms in the following terms:

τό τε γὰρ ἀφοριϲτικὸν εἶδοϲ τῆϲ διδαϲκαλίαϲ, ὅπερ ἐϲτὶ τὸ διὰ βραχυτά-

των ἅπαντα τὰ τοῦ πράγματοϲ ἰδία περιορίζειν, χρηϲιμώτατον τῷ βουλο-
μένῳ μακρὰν τέχνην διδάξαι ἐν χρόνῳ βραχεῖ·
The genre of the aphorisms is that of didactic [literature]. This means
that it defines all aspects of a concept in the shortest possible way, as it is
extremely useful for anybody who wants to teach the whole medical art in
a short period of time.

Because of its didactic features, the Aphorisms became extremely popular, as

one can easily gauge from the many quotations of this text in later authors.13
Since the Aphorisms enjoyed so much popularity, it comes as no surprise that
many Greek physicians wrote commentaries on them. Unfortunately, the com-
mentaries that date back to the time before Galen, such as that by Rufus of
Ephesus, are now lost.14 We are, however, in the fortunate position to have two
commentaries of late antiquity, namely that by Stephen of Alexandria and Pal-
ladius. Whereas the former survives in Greek15, the latter has come down to us
only in Arabic.16 Both these commentaries reflect the intellectual milieu of late
antiquity, and notably the teaching practices there.17 Both are lemmatic com-
mentaries, meaning that they quote the Hippocratic text, the lemma, and then
explain it. They display certain elements of orality, and appear to have been
taken down whilst the lecturer was dictating, or ‘from his voice (apò phōnês)’.
Stephen’s commentary is quite substantial, whereas that by Palladius, at least
those parts extant in Arabic translation, are significantly shorter. Both Biester-

12 Magdelaine 1994 has investigated the text and tradition of the Hippocratic Aphorisms in
her Paris thesis. Apart from her thesis, the most recent edition of the Greek text remains Jones
13 Anastassiou / Irmer 1997–2006, i. 46–109; ii.1. 56–143; ii.2. 48–105.
14 Anastassiou / Irmer 1997–2006, i. 46–8, list the various exegetes.
15 Ed. Westerink 1985–95; see also Wolska-Conus 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000.
16 Biesterfeldt 2007.
17 Pormann 2010.
216 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

feldt and Ullmann also argued convincingly that the Arabic version of Palladius’
commentary goes back to an older translator, probably al-Biṭrīq.18
The Syriac translation of the Aphorisms survives and has been edited.19 It ap-
pears that Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq produced this version, and it is therefore of para-
mount importance, as it is the only Syriac translation by him that has come
down to us in its entirety.20 The translation of aphorism vi. 23 runs as follows in
the Syriac version21:

ÞØ~ƒƒ ¾ýÏ .¿½ÙÅè ¾æÁ‡ þå~ ÊÙÏ~ ÊÜ ¿Íøš ¾ýòå šÍýÙÁ †~

J ¿ÿàσƒ †Ìå~ .ÆÜ
.†… ¾ÙùÙßÍÝåĀÌâ ¾å…

23. If fear [deḥlṯā] and badness of soul [bīšūṯā d-nafšā] remain, whilst
someone has [it] for a long time, this kind of illness is melancholy.

The expression ‘kaḏ aḥīḏ nāš zaḇnā saggīʾā (whilst someone has [it] for a long
time)’ is somewhat strange. Pognon suggested that we have a textual corruption
here that might have occurred as follows.22 The translator originally had the text
‘πολὺν ἔχουϲα χρόνον διατελέῃ’—attested by some manuscripts. He then ren-
dered this literally as ‘kaḏ aḥīḏā zaḇnā saggīʾā ‘having taken a long time’. This
literal translation then became difficult to comprehend, and an overeager scribe
changed the text to the present form in order to make sense of it.
The exact relationship between this Syriac version of the Aphorisms, prob-
ably produced by Ḥunayn, and Ḥunayn’s Arabic version of Galen’s Commen-
tary on the Aphorisms that includes the Hippocratic lemmas will have to be the
subject of future research. Likewise, although both Biesterfeldt and Ullmann
have offered some analysis of the Arabic version of Palladius’ commentary, a
comprehensive linguistic assessment of it will have to wait until it is edited.23
Let us therefore now turn to the commentaries on the Aphorisms in the Arabic

18 Biesterfeldt 2007, Ullmann 2002, 52–5.

19 Pognon 1903.
20 Degen 1978, Brock 1991.
21 Pognon 1903, 43
22 Pognon 1903, p. 43, n. 2.
23 Hans Hinrich Biesterfeldt is currently preparing such an edition, based on the manuscript
that he discovered some forty years ago; see Ḥaddād, Biesterfeldt 1984, no. 5, pp. 34–36.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 217

The Arabic Version of Galen’s Commentary

In his Epistle (Risāla) about the Arabic translations of Galen, Ḥunayn says the
following about the Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Aphorisms’24:

ƢāĢć .ɼʈ̈ĔĢ ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒ ŁǍ̈Αā ɷ˳̣Ǩ̒ ƦLJ͛ ǚ͘ć .łҙҏLJ˙Ͳ Ƚʒ̵ ǽ͎ ɷˬˈ̣ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ :ƛǍˀˏͫā ŁLJʓ˜ͫ Ǩʉʶˏ̒
ζɼ˳̣ǨʓͫLJ̑ LJ́ʉʒ̶ LJ̤ҨҞ̿Βā ɷʓʥˬ̿Αāć ζǽ͵LJ͵Ǎʉͫā ɷ̑ Ȉˬ̑LJ˙͎ .āĔLJʶ͎ ƱĔāǩ͎ ɷ̤ҨҞ̿Βā ŷǍʷʉʓʦ̑ ɬ̑ ɡ̈Ǩʒ̣
ζǨ̑ǚ˳ͫā ɬ̑LJ̑ žćǨˈ˳ͫā ǚ˳ʥͲ ɬ̑ ǚ˳̤Αā ǽ˶ͫΑLJ̵ ƦLJ͛ ǚ͘ć .ɷ̒ṳ̈̌ ȅˬ͇ ŴāǨ˙̑ ƢҨҞ͛ ȵ͎ ɷʉͫΒā Ȉˏ̀Αāć
ΑāǨ˙̈ ȅʓ̤ ζĿǨ̥Αā ɼͫLJ˙Ͳ ɼ˳̣Ǩʓ̑ Ķǚʓ̑Αā ҙҏΑā ǽͫΒ
Ύ ā Ƣǚ˙̒ ɨ̓ .ɼʉ̑Ǩˈͫā ȅͫΒā ƴṳ̈̌āć ɼͫLJ˙Ͳ ɷ˶Ͳ Ȉ˳̣Ǩʓ͎ .ɷͫ ɷʓ˳̣Ǩ̒
ǚ˳ʥͲ ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ɑˬ̒ ĿΑāĢ LJ˳ˬ͎ .ŁLJʓ˜ͫā ɼ˳̣Ǩ̒ Ȉˈ˅˙͵āć ζɡ̣Ǩͫā ɡ΋ ˉ΍ Ό̶ć .LJ́ʓ˳̣Ǩ̒ Ȉ˶͛ ǽʓͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā ɑˬ̒
.ƱǨ̥ΐā ɬ͇ ɷʓ˳̣Ǩʓ͎ .ŁLJʓ˜ͫā ƢLJ˳ʓʓ̵ā ǽ˶ͫΑLJ̵ ζȅ̵ǍͲ ɬ̑

The commentary on the Book of Aphorisms. He [sc. Galen] composed this

book in seven sections [maqālāt]. ʾAyyūb [ar-Ruhāwī, d. after 832] had
translated it badly. Ǧibrīl ibn Buḫtīšūʿ wanted to improve it, but he only
corrupted it further. Then I collated the Greek with it, and corrected it
in a way that amounted to retranslating it. Then I added the essence of
Hippocrates’ text [faṣṣ kalām Buqrāṭ] on its own. ʾAḥmad ibn Muḥammad,
known as Ibn al-Mudabbir, had asked me to translate it for him. I translated
one section of it into Arabic. Then he asked me not to begin with the
translation of another section before he had read the one that I had
translated. Yet, the man was too busy, and therefore, the translation was
interrupted. When Muḥammad ibn Mūsā saw this section, he asked me to
complete [the translation] of the book. Therefore I translated it completely.

This account shows that Ḥunayn worked on Galen’s commentary at various

times throughout his professional career. Others had rendered it into Arabic be-
fore him, but he first substantially revised their translations, and then translated
it afresh himself, with some time intervening between the initial translation of
one section and the remainder.

This translation survives in some 17 manuscripts:

Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS ṭibb 119
Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS ṭibb 1702m
Deoband, Maktabat Dār al-ʿUlūm, MS ṭibb 58
Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Orientali 41325
Istanbul, Üniversite Kütüphanesi, MS A. 472326
24 Bergsträsser 1925, p. 40, lines 6–14 (no. 88); see also Lamoreaux forthcoming.
25 This is the new shelfmark, and we owe this information to Dott.ssa I. Giovanna Rao; it
was earlier mentioned by Ullmann 1970, 50.
26 Sezgin 1970, 29; according to Şeşen 1984, 7, the number of this manuscript is 4743.
218 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

London, Wellcome Library, MS Arabic 6427

Madrid, Escurial, MS árabe 78928
Madrid, Escurial, MS árabe 79029; E3
Madrid, Escurial, MS árabe 79130; E4
Madrid, Escurial, MS árabe 818, fol. 88–12931
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS 2837 (fonds arabe)32; MS P3
Rampur, Raza Library, MS ṭibb 4033
Teheran, Maǧlis, MS 3561, fols. 1b–37b
Teheran, Maǧlis, MS 627234
Teheran, Maǧlis, MS 8512
Vatican 426 (Arabic in Hebrew characters).

Let us now consider how Ḥunayn rendered the Greek text of the commentary
on aphorism vi. 23, quoted above, into Arabic. Some interesting linguistic fea-
tures appear even in this short sample35:
ɬʉΎ ̑ ɷʉ͎ ǨͲΑҙҏLJ͎ [ϕ] ζǨ΀LJͅ ȇʒ̵ Ǩʉ͈ ɬͲ ȫˏ͵ ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏ̒ 37ƦLJʶ͵ ΒҨҞͫ ŰǨ͇ ȅʓͲ [ϔ] :ȫ˶ʉͫLJ̣ 36ƛLJ˙͎
ȈͫLJ̈́ ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ɑˬ̒ ɬ˜̒ ɨͫ ƦΒāć [ϖ] ζķćāĔǍʶͫā ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ ɬͲ Ǎ΀ LJ˳͵Βā ɑͫĕ ɬͲ ɷͫ ŰǨ͇ LJͲ ƦΑā
[ϙ] ζLJ́ʔʒͫ ƛLJ̈́ć ȈͲāĔ ɨ̓ [Ϙ] ζǨ΀LJͅ 38ɬʉΎ ̑ ȇʒ̵ ɬͲ ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ƱǛ΀ ƹāǚʓ̑ā ƦLJ͛ ȅʓͲć [ϗ] .ɷ̑ ȈͲāĔć
ȅˬ͇ ҨҞˁ͎ ƦǍ˶ʤͫā ťLJ˶ͫā ɬͲ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫ ŰǨˈ̈ ƱāǨ͵ ǚ͘ LJ͵ΒLJ͎ [Ϛ] .39ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā ȅˬ͇ ƛǚ̒ LJ́͵Αā ɑʉˬ͇ ɬΎ ʒ΀Ǜ̈ ҨҞ͎
ɷ͵Αā ɬʉ̑ć [Ϝ] .ɷ͵Ǎ˶̣ ƹāǚʓ̑ā ɑͫĕ ƦǍ˜ʉ͎ ζɷͫ ŰǨˈ̈ ɨ͈ ćΑā Ʀǩ̤ ćΑā Ȼʉ͈ ćΑā ȇˁ͈ ɬͲ [ϛ] 40ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā
.ɡˬˈͫā ɑˬ̒ ƛǍʒ˙ͫ 41āǚˈʓʶͲ LJʈʉ́ʓͲ Ȉ͘Ǎͫā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ Ʀǚʒͫā ƦLJ͛ āĕΒā ɑͫĕ ƦǍ˜̈ LJ˳͵Βā

Galen said: ‘[1] When one suffers from fear [tafazzuʿ] and despondency
[ḫubṯ al-nafs] without any apparent reason, [2] then the matter is
clear: these [symptoms] that have affected him [occurred] by way of
melancholy [min ṭarīqi l-waswāsi l-sawdāwīyi], [3] even if these symptoms

27 Iskandar 1967, 198.

28 Derenbourg-Renaud ii. 2 (1941), pp. 1–2.
29 Derenbourg-Renaud ii. 2 (1941), p. 2.
30 Derenbourg-Renaud ii. 2 (1941), pp. 2–3.
31 Derenbourg-Renaud ii. 2 (1941), p. 29, reports that these folios originally belonged to
MS E3, comprising the commentary on Aphorisms iii. 3–iv. 39.
32 De Slane 1883–95, 511.
33 Sezgin 1970, 29; the signature has changed to 3819, ʿAršī 1963–1977, v. 148–9. An excellent
overview with regard to Indian libraries, catalogues and the present conditions of manuscript
collections in Indian libraries is presented by Khalidi 2002–3.
34 Ḥāʾirī 1965–xix. 248–9.
35 MS P3, fol. 111a, lines 5–13; MS Ε3, fol. 112b, lines 3–10; MS E4, fol. 120a, lines 13–19.
36 ƛLJ˙͎] P3; E3, E4: ƛLJ͘.
37 ƦLJʶ͵ ΒҨҞͫ] P3, E4; E3: ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏ.
38 ɬʉ̑] om. E3, E4.
39 ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā] P3, E3; E4: ķćāĔǍʶͫā ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā.
40 ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā ȅˬ͇ ҨҞˁ͎ ƦǍ˶ʤͫā ťLJ˶ͫā ɬͲ Ǩʉʔ˜ͫ ŰǨˈ̈ ƱāǨ͵ ǚ͘ LJ͵ΒLJ͎] om. P3 ex homoeoteleuto.
41 āǚˈʓʶͲ] om. E4.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 219

have not lasted long and continued in him. [4] When the beginning of
these symptoms is due to a clear and apparent cause, [5] and they then
continue and remain long, [6] it should not pass you by that they indicate
melancholy [al-waswās]. [7] For we may observe that madness [al-ǧunūn]
rather than melancholy [al-waswās] befalls many people [8] because of
anger [ġaḍab], ire [ġayṯ], sadness [ḥuzn], or sorrow [ġamm] that befalls
them. This therefore is the beginning of their madness. [9] It is evident that
this occurs only when the body is prepared and disposed at that time to
accept these diseases [tilka l-ʿilal].

The comparison between the Greek text and the Arabic translation shows cer-
tain characteristics that are typically associated with Ḥunayn and his school,
although it already occurs in earlier translated texts such as Aristotle’s Rhetoric.42
For instance, we find two instances of hendiadys to render a single Greek word.43
The end of § 4, Ḥunayn translates one Greek term, phanerós (‘clear’), through
two Arabic ones, bayyin and ẓāhir, both meaning ‘clear’, ‘apparent’. In § 5, the
Greek verb chronízein (‘to last long’) is again rendered through two verbs in
Arabic: dāma wa-ṭāla labṯuhū (‘to continue and remain long’).44 Likewise, the
Greek phrase epitēdeíōs échein (‘being predisposed’) in § 9 is rendered in Arabic
as kāna mutahayyiʾan mustaʿiddan (‘to be prepared and disposed’). But there is
one very significant difference between the Greek source as printed by Kühn
and the Arabic translation: in § 3, the Greek source text has an affirmative state-
ment, whereas the Arabic target text is negated. The source text says that fear
and despondency without cause indicate melancholy, especially if they last for
a long time, whereas the target text states that they indicate melancholy, even
if they do not last for a long period of time. Although one statement is nega-
tive and the other positive, they do not contradict each other. Therefore, we
might have here an instance where Ḥunayn consciously chose to modify the
emphasis in his translation, although one cannot exclude a possible corruption
in the Greek source text or the Syriac intermediary translation. Be that as it
may, it seems that the subsequent Arabic commentary tradition generally fol-
lowed Ḥunayn and did not question his translation, although we know that in
his Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Prognostic’, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf sometimes compared
Ḥunayn’s rendering to an older one.45 Ḥunayn’s version, however, remained
largely unchallenged in case of aphorism vi. 23, as we shall see.

42 Pormann 2004, 249, 257–8; Vagelpohl 2008, 147; Vagelpohl 2009, 546.
43 On this phenomenon, see Pormann 2004a, 257–8; see also Overwien pp. 151–69 and
Vagelpohl, pp. 125–50 in this volume.
44 For the periphrastic expression ṭāla labṯuhū, see WKAS, ii. 104b, line 40–105a, line 23.
45 Rosenthal 1966, 230; for ʿAbd al-Laṭīf, see below, pp. 231–4.
220 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Early Commentaries

ʾAbū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Zakarīyāʾ ar-Rāzī (d. 925) probably wrote a
commentary on the Aphorisms.46 Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa lists it among ar-Rāzī’s
writings47, although al-Bīrūnī only mentions an abridgment of such a commentary
in his bibliography of ar-Rāzī.48 Moreover, Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa also lists a work by
ʾAbū Sahl Saʿīd ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Nīlī (d. 1029) that is entitled ‘Abridgment of
Galen’s Commentary on the Aphorisms with anecdotes [nukat] from ar-Rāzī’s
Commentary (ķģāǨͫā ŔǨ̶ ɬͲ Ȉ˜͵ ȽͲ ƛǍˀˏͫā ŁLJʓ˜ͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ŔǨ̶ ȵʉʦˬ̒)’; al-Nīlī’s work,
unfortunately, has not come down to us, nor does any manuscript of either
ar-Rāzī’s commentary or his abridgment survive. Yet, Rosenthal discovered
a number of quotations attributed to ar-Rāzī in later commentaries on the
Aphorisms by Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq and Ibn al-Quff.49 These quotations show ar-Rāzī
as someone who clearly criticised Galen and came to his own interpretation of
the aphorism in question (i. 1). Therefore, Rosenthal speculated whether these
quotations were perhaps taken from ar-Rāzī book Doubts about Galen (al-Šukūk
ʿalā Ǧālīnūs), which had not yet been edited when Rosenthal wrote his article.50
We can, however, answer this question in the negative now: although ar-Rāzī
comments on some thirty aphorisms in this work, he does not touch upon the
very first one here.51 A systematic exploration of all the Arabic commentaries on
the Aphorisms will probably yield more quotations which will allow us to form a
better idea about the nature and scope of this commentary by ar-Rāzī.
In his catalogue of private libraries in Syria, Paul Sbath listed a commentary
on the Aphorisms by ʾAbū l-Faraǧ ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Ṭayyib (d. 1043).52 Ibn al-
Ṭayyib is well known as commentator on the so-called Sixteen Books of Ga-
len, that is, Galenic works that were popular for teaching medicine both in
late antique Alexandria and later in Baghdad.53 But he also had an interest in
Hippocratic commentaries, as ‘he also wrote many commentaries on the books

46 See the earlier discussion by Rosenthal 1966, 231–2.

47 Ed. Müller 1889, i. 320, line 15: ‘Commentary on Galen’s book on the Aphorisms of
Hippocrates (ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛǍˀˏͫ ťǍ˶ʉͫLJ̣ ŁLJʓ͛ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ŁLJʓ͛)’.
48 Ed. Kraus 1936, p. 16, no. 112 : ‘His abridgment of Hippocrates’ Aphorisms (ƛǍˀˏͫ ɷˀʉʦˬ̒
49 Rosenthal 1966, 234–5.
50 Rosenthal 1966, 231.
51 See Strohmaier 1998, 282–5. Two editions of ar-Rāzī’s interesting text now exist (Muḥaqqiq
1993; ʿAbd al-Ġanī 2005), although they are both somewhat unsatisfactory. Ar-Rāzī also
discusses the first aphorism in his Letter to One of His Students (Risāla ʾilā baʿḍ talāmīḏatihī);
see Pormann 2008b, 99–100.
52 Sbath 1938, i. p. 24, no. 153.
53 See Ullmann, 1970, 156–7; on the sixteen books and medical teaching, see Pormann 2010
with further literature.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 221

of Hippocrates (ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ȇʓ͛ ɬͲ ƴǨʉʔ͛ LJʒʓ͛ LJˁ̈Αā ŔǨ̶ć)’, as Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa put it.54 The
latter also lists a Commentary on the Aphorisms (ŴāǨ˙̑Αҙҏ ƛǍˀˏͫā ŁLJʓ͛ Ǩʉʶˏ̒) among
Ibn al-Tayyib’s books.55 As many of the manuscripts listed in Sbath’s 1938 Fihris
have remained untraceable, nothing more can be said about this commentary
at this stage.

Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq (d. after 1068)

The first commentary on the Aphorisms that was originally written in Arabic
and has come down to us is that by Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq, simply entitled Commentary
on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms (Šarḥ Fuṣūl Buqrāṭ). The author’s association with
Hippocrates was so great, that he was sometimes labeled as ‘the second
Hippocrates (Buqrāṭ al-ṯānī)’. He hailed from the city of Nīšāpūr in the Persian-
speaking East, and may have been a student of the famous Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna,
d. 1037).56 Not only is his commentary the oldest to have survived, but it is also
the one preserved in most manuscripts.
There exist at least two versions of Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq’s commentary in the
manuscript tradition. The first is divided according to the seven sections in the
Hippocratic original that Galen also followed; in other words, the commentary
consists of seven books (maqālas). This is the arrangement that occurs in most
of the manuscripts, at least of those that have been sufficiently catalogued or
that we have inspected ourselves. The commentary, however, was also organised
according to topics and divided into twenty chapters [ʾabwāb, sg. bāb]. We find
this arrangement in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS Ahlwardt 6223 and Deoband,
Maktabat Dār al-ʿUlūm, ṭibb 61. The aphorisms no longer follow the same order
as in the Greek original, but are grouped together according to subject.57 The
book begins with a chapter on ‘what he [sc. Hippocrates] said at the beginning
of his book and the general principles (ɼʉˬ˜ͫā ƢLJ˜̤Αҙҏāć ŁLJʓ˜ͫā Ģǚ̿ ǽ͎ ƛLJ͘ LJ˳ʉ͎)’. This
chapter only comprises eight aphorisms, and other chapters are equally brief:
chapter 17 ‘On milk’ only consists of a single aphorism, and others only of a few
(e.g., ch. 6 ‘On the types of surgery’; ch. 16 ‘On the diet of the reconvalescent’).
Another feature distinguishes this group of manuscripts from the first one. In
the former, each aphorism is introduced by the word ‘aphorism (faṣl)’, whereas
in the latter, we find the formula ‘Hippocrates said (qāla Buqrāṭ)’. In both cases,

54 Ed. Müller 1888–9, i. 239, lines 8–7 from the bottom.

55 Ed. Müller 1888–9, i. 240, last line.
56 Lutz Richter-Bernburg, article: ‘Ebn Abī Ṣādeq, Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. ʿAlī b.
Aḥmad NAYŠĀBŪRĪ’, in: E. Yarshater (ed.): Encyclopaedia Iranica 7, 663.
57 Ahlwardt 1893, p. 496, gives the list of the twenty chapters.
222 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

however, the commentary by Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq is preceded by the word ‘the com-
mentary (al-tafsīr)’.
We know of some forty manuscripts containing this commentary. It has to
be said, though, that some of the information below, especially when we have
not been able to see the manuscripts and therefore rely on fairly old catalogue
entries, is liable to correction. The manuscripts are the following:
Aleppo, Fondation Salem, MS Ar. 45458
Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, MS Maktabat Baladīyat al-ʾIskandarīya
3740 ǧīm ṭibb59
Algiers, Fagnan 1743–460
Baghdad, al-Matḥaf al-ʿIrāqī, MS 52461
Beirut, American University, Jafet ASC MS 610:B93fA:c.1
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS Ahlwardt 622362
Bursa, Haraççioğlu, MS 1150
Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS ṭibb 48063
Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS ṭibb 1121
Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.13.4264
Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, MS 315265
Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, MS 695666; MS DA1
Deoband, Maktabat Dār al-ʿUlūm, ṭibb 6167
Dublin, Chester Beatty, MS Ar. 380268; MS CB1
Harvard, Houghton Library, MS Arab. SM 427269
Istanbul, Hekimoğlu Camii, MS 574 (fols. 1-87a)70
Istanbul, Laleli Camii, MS 1632

58 Sánchez 2008, 253. Previously mentioned in Sbath 1928–34, vol. iii, p. 96, no. 1289.
59 Zaydān 1996, p. 275, no. 281.
60 Fagnan 1893, pp. 486–7 (nos. 1743–4).
61 ʿAwwād 1959, p. 36, no. 38.
62 Ahlwardt 1893, 495–6.
63 A copy of this manuscript is available in Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, microfilm no. 836;
see the online catalogue at for further details
[accessed on 1 June 2011].
64 Palmer 1870, 91–2.
65 See also Ḥamārneh 1969, 436–7. The commentary is found on pp. 146–305. Book One
begins on p. 146; Book Three on p. 225; Book Four on p. 260; between pp. 276 (discussing iv.
14) and 277, there is a significant gap of more than three books; on p. 277 the ink changes and
the text is in the second half of Book Seven. A modern copy of this manuscript, originally kept
in the Ẓāhirīya, is also available in Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, 4751; see below p. 261.
66 This is a former Ẓāhirīya manuscript 212; see the online catalogue.
67 A microfilm of this manuscript is also available at Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, microfilm
no. 1315; see the online catalogue for further information.
68 Arberry 1955–64, iv. 16.
69 This manuscript is now available online at
70 This and all the other Istanbul manuscripts are listed in Şeşen 1984, 8.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 223

Istanbul, Nuruosmaniye Kütüphanesi, MS 3527

Istanbul, Nuruosmaniye Kütüphanesi, MS 3528
Istanbul, Topkapi Saray, Emanet, MS 1825 [kept in: Ağalar Camii] (fols. 21b–148)
Istanbul, Üniversite Kütüphanesi, MS Arabic 4218
Istanbul, Veliyeddin Efendi, MS 2508
Istanbul, Hasan Hüsnü Paşa, MS 1369
Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek Or. 1341 Voorhoeve71
London, British Library, MS Or. 582072
Madrid, Escurial, MS árabe 87773
Oxford, Bodleian Library MS, Thurston 197774
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS 2838 (fonds arabe)75; MS P4
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS 2839 (fonds arabe)
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS 2840 (fonds arabe)
Princeton, Islamic Manuscripts, MS Garrett 192B76
Tashkent, Akademija Nauk Uzbekskoj SSSR 3139
Teheran, Maǧlis, MS 529177
Teheran, Sanā, MS 36078
Teheran, Dānišgāh, MS 993 (fols. 1–227)79
Teheran, Sipahsālār, MS 834080
Teheran, Malik National Library, MS 252381
Teheran, Malik National Library, MS 4420
Teheran, Malik National Library, MS 6049
Washington, Library of Congress, MS call number R126.H6 A844 1300z ARA-

Let us now consider the entry on aphorism vi. 23 in order to glean some more
insight into the way Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq worked83:

71 See Voorhoeve 1980, 85.

72 Hamarneh 1975, p. 4, no. 4.
73 Derenbourg-Renaud ii. 2 (1941), p. 89.
74 Savage-Smith 2011.
75 This and the next two Paris manuscripts are listed in Slane 1883–95, 511–12.
76 See Hitti 1938, pp. 343–4 (no. 1096).
77 Munzawī 1969, 212–13.
78 Dānišpažhūh / ʾAnwārī 1979, i. 186.
79 Munzawī et al. 1951–, iii. 772.
80 Dānišpažhūh / Munzawī 1977, v. 215.
81 This and the next two manuscripts are described in ʾAfšār Sīstānī / Dānišpažūh 1973–96,
82 See the online catalogue entry at [accessed 5 July 2011]; a
pdf of the manuscript is available for download there.
83 MS P4, fol. 131b, lines 8–16; MS CB1, fol. 176b, line 7–fol. 177a, line 1; MS DA1, p. 247,
line 6 from the bottom–p. 248, line 4.
224 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑ ƛLJ͘
Ǎ΀ 86LJ́˶Ͳ 85ɨ́˳ˈ̒ ǽʓͫā ƦāΑ ҙҏΒā ζɼ˶˶ˏʓͲ ƴǨʉʔ͛ 84LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJ˳ͫā ŁLJʥ̿Αҙҏ ụ̈̌Ǎ̒ ǽʓͫā ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā :Ǩʉʶˏʓͫā
ŸLJͲǚͫā ȅˬ͇ ȇˬ͈ āĕΒā ķćāĔǍʶͫā ĢLJʦʒͫā 89ćΑā ƹāĔǍʶͫā 88Ⱥˬ̥ ƦΑā ɑͫĕć .ɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć ŷǩˏʓͫā 87ǽ˶͇Αā ƦāǛ΀
ƢāĔ ȅʓ˳͎ .Ʀǩʥͫāć žǍʦͫā ɬͲ ɼ˳ˬˆͫā ǽ͎ ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏā ķǨʓˈ̈ LJͲ ɷʒ̤LJ̿ ķǨʓˈʉ͎ ζǽ͵LJʶˏ˶ͫā ŔćǨͫā ɨˬͅΑā
Ǩ̥ΐā ŰǨͲ ǽ͎ 90ćΑā ɼͫLJʥͲ ҙҏ ķćāĔǍʶͫā ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā ǽ͎ Ƚ͘āć ɷʒ̤LJˀ͎ ȇʒ̵ ɷͫ žǨˈ̈ ȫʉͫć ŰĢLJˈͫā āǛ΀
.91ĔǍ̵Αҙҏā Ɏ́ʒͫāć ŁǨʤͫāć ƹLJ̑Ǎ˙ͫāć ǚˬʤͫā LJ́ʉ͎ Ǩʷ˙ʓ̈ ǽʓͫā ɼˬˈͫāć ƦLJ̈́Ǩʶͫā ćΑā ƢāǛʤͫLJ͛

Hippocrates said: If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last

for a long time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].

The explanation [al-tafsīr]: the symptoms that people suffering from

melancholy [ʾaṣḥāb al-mālinḫūliyā] have are many and variegated. But
there are two [symptoms] that generally affect them, namely fear [al-
tafazzuʿ] and depression [al-kaʾāba]. For when the humour black [bile] or a
melancholic vapour [al-buḫār al-sawdāwī] dominates the brain, it darkens
the psychic pneuma [ar-rūḥ al-nafsānī], so that the patient is affected by
the fear [al-ḫawf] and sadness [al-ḥuzn] that occur when one is in the dark.
If this symptom persists, whilst one does not know any cause for it, then the
patient is necessarily suffering from melancholy [al-waswās al-sawdāwī],
or from another disease such as leprosy [al-ǧuḏām], cancer [al-saraṭān],
the disease during which the skin flakes off [al-ʿilla allatī yataqaššaru fīhā
l-ǧildu]92, tetter [al-qūbāʾ], mange [al-ǧarab], or black leprosy [al-bahaq

Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq begins his commentary by paraphrasing the main idea of the
aphorism: that fear and despondency are general symptoms of melancholy. But
it is here already that the first subtle change occurs that will be influential in
the subsequent tradition: the ‘fear (al-tafazzuʿ) and ‘despondency (ḫubṯ al-nafs)’
of the aphorism are turned into ‘fear (al-tafazzuʿ) and ‘depression (al- kaʾāba)’.
In other words, the somewhat awkward ḫubṯ al-nafs, a calque for dysthymía, is

84 LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJ˳ͫā ŁLJʥ̿Αҙҏ ụ̈̌Ǎ̒ ǽʓͫā ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā] om. CB1.

85 ɨ́˳ˈ̒ ǽʓͫā ƦΑā ҙҏΒā ζɼ˶˶ˏʓͲ] is repeated in LC1.
86 LJ́˶Ͳ] P4, DA1; CB1: āǛ΀.
87 After ǽ˶͇Αā, we find in LC1: ƦāǛ΀ Ǎ΀ āǛ΀ ɬͲ ɨ́˳ˈ̈ ɨ́ˏ̈ ǽʓͫā, which appears to be a corrupt
88 Ⱥˬ̥] P4, CB1; DA1: Ⱥˬʦͫā.
89 ćΑā] P4; CB1, DA1: ć.
90 ćΑā] P4, DA1; CB1: ć.
91 ĔǍ̵Αҙҏā Ɏ́ʒͫāć ŁǨʤͫāć ƹLJ̑Ǎ˙ͫāć ǚˬʤͫā LJ́ʉ͎ Ǩʷ˙ʓ̈ ǽʓͫā ɼˬˈͫāć] P4; CB1, DA1: ŁǨʤͫā ćΑā ǚˬʤͫā LJ́ʉ͎ Ǩʷ˙ʓ̈ ǽʓͫā ɼˬˈͫā ćΑā
ĔǍ̵Αҙҏā Ɏ́ʒͫā ćΑā.
92 This is a synonym for leprosy; see WGAÜ under λέπρα and λεπρόϲ.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 225

replaced by a simple Arabic noun.93 Then Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq links the feeling to a
physiological process: a dark vapour rises in the body and darkens the psychic
pneuma. Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq compares the fear that one feels in a dark place to the
fear resulting from the darkness of the vapour in the brain. This idea goes back
to Galen’s work The Affected Parts, where he discusses melancholy in Book
Three, chapters nine and ten.94 There, Galen compares the fear felt in the dark-
ness (skótos, ẓulma) by children and others to that caused by the darkness of
the black bile in the brain.95 We also find a similar idea already in ʾIsḥāq ibn
ʾImrān’s treatise On Melancholy96, and we will encounter it again in other later

Al-Sinǧārī (fl. 12th cent. ?)

Two works by an author called al-Sinǧārī (or al-Sanǧarī in some of the sources)
and related to the Hippocratic Aphorisms have generally been confused.97 The
first is the Arrangement of the Aphorisms (Tartīb Fuṣūl Buqrāṭ), attributed to
one ʾAbū l-Ḥasan (or Ḥusayn) Ṭāhir ibn ʾIbrāhīm ibn Muḥammad ibn Ṭāhir
al-Sinǧārī.98 The second is a lemmatic commentary entitled Making It Easy to
Arrive at an Explanation of Hippocrates’ ‘Aphorisms’ (Kitāb Taysīr al-wuṣūl ʾilā
tafsīr al-fuṣūl li-ʾAbuqrāṭ) by one ʿAlī ibn ʾAbī Ṭāhir al-ṭabīb al-Sinǧārī. The
forms of the name would suggest that the two authors are the same, and this
seems likely. The only external evidence that we have for this author is a short
entry in Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa’s Sources of Information on the Classes of Physicians.99
Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa remarks that al-Šayḫ ʾAbū al-Huṣayn Ṭāhir ibn ʾIbrāhīm ibn
Muḥammad Ṭāhir al-Sanǧarī was a competent physician who wrote: 1) The
Explanation of the Method of Treatment (Kitāb al-ʾĪḍāḥ minhāǧ maḥaǧǧat al-
ʿilāǧ) for the judge ʾAbū l-Faḍl Muḥammad ibn Ḥammūǧa100; 2) a Commentary on
Urine and Pulse (Kitāb Šarḥ al-Bawl wa-l-nabaḍ); and 3) a Division of Hippocrates’
Book of Aphorisms (Taqsīm kitāb al-Fuṣūl li-ʾAbuqrāṭ). As the entry on al-
Sanǧarī occurs after that of Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq (d. after 1068) and before that of Faḫr
al-Dīn ar-Rāzī (d. 1209), al-Sanǧarī has generally been dated to the early twelfth
93 See Ullmann, WKAS, i. 11b, lines 34–42 (under kaʾāba).
94 Philip J van der Eijk, Peter E Pormann, ‘Appendix 1: Greek Text, and Arabic and English:
Translations of Galen’s On the Affected Parts iii. 9–10’, in Pormann 2008a, 265–87.
95 Vol. iii. 191 ed. Kühn; van der Eijk, Pormann 2008, 284–5.
96 Omrani 2009, p. 45, lines 6 from the bottom–last (Arabic text); p. 57 (French translation).
97 See Emilie Savage-Smith 2011, no. 4.
98 Dietrich 1966, pp. 236–7, no. 121 lists the author as al-Šaǧarī, but this is clearly a based on
a scribal error.
99 Ed. Müller, ii. p. 23, lines 3–6.
100 This text is extant in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS 6338 Ahlwardt; see Ahlwardt 1893, 585.
226 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

century. The question of his lifetime will have to remain open for the time being,
until the works attributed to him have come under investigation. There is now
also the problem of how to relate the two works on the Aphorisms attributed to
al-Sinǧārī, the Arrangement and the lemmatic commentary, to the third work
quoted by Ibn ʾAbī ʾUṣaybiʿa, the Division. It is perfectly possible that Ibn ʾAbī
ʾUṣaybiʿa conflated the two works into one, giving it a slightly different title.
The first, the Arrangement of the Aphorisms, survives in a number of manu-
scripts; moreover, one Oxford manuscript preserves a fragment that is just one
folio long:
Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, MS Maktabat Baladīyat al-ʾIskanda-
rīya, MS 4796 bāʾ ṭibb101
Istanbul, Ragip Paşa Kütüphanesi MS 1482 (fols. 164–79)102
Istanbul, Veliyeddin Efendi, MS 2474
Istanbul, Üniversite Kütüphanesi, MS A. 4265 (fols. 1b–26b)
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Şehid Ali Paşa, MS 2095 (fols. 1a–36a)
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Thurston 10, fol. 168103.
In this text, al-Sinǧārī rearranges the Aphorisms according to topics; it does not
really constitute a commentary as such.
The lemmatic commentary by ʿAlī ibn ʾAbī Ṭāhir al-ṭabīb (i.e., ‘the physician’)
al-Sinǧārī is called Making It Easy to Arrive at an Explanation of Hippocrates’
Aphorisms (Kitāb Taysīr al-wuṣūl ʾilā tafsīr al-fuṣūl li-ʾAbuqrāṭ). In the preface,
the author states that he wrote it for the library of the ruler, and does so in
modulated and florid prose104:

ĢǍˀ˶˳ͫā ǚ̈nj˳ͫā ǚ΀LJʤͫā ƛĔLJˈͫā ɨͫLJˈͫā Ǩˏˆ˳ͫā ɑˬ˳ͫā ɑͫLJ˳ͫā ɨˆˈ˳ͫā ƦLJ˅ˬʶͫā LJ͵ҙҏǍͲ ɼ͵āǩ̥ ɷ̑ ȈͲǚ̥ć
ɬʉ˳ͫLJˈͫā ǽ͎ ƛǚˈͫā ǽʉʥͲ ɬʉ̈́ҨҞʶͫāć ƋǍˬ˳ͫā ǚʉ̵ ɬʉ˳ˬʶ˳ͫāć ƢҨҞ̵ Βҙҏā ŃLJʉ͈ ɬ̈ǚͫāć Ɏʥͫāć LJʉ͵ǚͫā Ǩʦ͎
[…] ƱǨˀ͵ ɷˬͫā ǩ͇Αā ŁǨˉͫāć ƈǨʷͫā ƹāǨͲΑā ɑˬͲ ǽͫLJˈ˳ͫā [Ȓ] ɡˁ͎ ɬʉ˳ͫLJˆͫā ɬͲ ƢǍˬˆ˳ͫā Ʉˀ˶Ͳ

With it [his commentary on the Aphorisms] I served the library [ḫizāna]

of our master, the ruler, the great, the possessor and king, the victorious
and wise, the just and energetic, receiver of [divine] support and triumph,
the glory of the world, truth and religion, the succour of Muslims, the lord
of kings and rulers, the reviver of justice in the universe, the dispenser of
justice to those who suffered injustice from the iniquitous, the highly pious,
the king of princes in East and West—may god strengthen his victory […]

101 Zaydān 1996, pp. 291–2, no. 319.

102 This and the next three Istanbul manuscripts are briefly described in Şeşen 1984, 10–11.
103 See Savage-Smith 2011, no. 4.
104 MS AFS1, fol. 2a, lines 10–14.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 227

This long eulogy is preserved only in the first of the three extant manuscripts,
which are:
Aleppo, Fondation Salem, MS Ar. 1037105; MS AFS1
Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, MS 4722106
London, Wellcome Library, MS Or. 43107; MS LWL1.
The scribe of the London manuscript, however, significantly shortened this
eulogy, by simply calling the library ‘the supreme library of the master, ruler,
possessor, king, glory and the victorious (ɼʉ˜ˬ˳ͫā ɼʉ˜ͫLJ˳ͫā ɼʉ͵LJ˅ˬʶͫā ɼ̈ǍͫǍ˳ͫā ɼʉͫLJˈͫā ɼ͵āǩʦͫā
ɼ̈Ǩˏˆ˳ͫā ɼ̈Ǩʦˏͫā)’108. Of which ruler and which library is al-Sinǧārī talking here? The
answer to this question would help with providing some context to his writing.
Sbath dated the Aleppo manuscript to the fourteenth century, and if he is
right, then this could provide a date before which the author must have been
active.109 Unfortunately, however, there is little to corroborate his dating, as the
manuscript itself is undated, the script is nasḫ, and the paper does not have any
watermarks. Sbath’s dating of the manuscript sometimes appears to have been
misunderstood as a dating of the text itself. We have, however, another date
before which al-Sanǧarī’s commentary must have been written: al-Kilānī spe-
cifically takes it as his model for his own commentary, written in the middle of
the fourteenth century.110
The author of the lemmatic commentary provides some more information
about his approach and outlook in the preface. He says that quite a few earlier
authors had commented on the Aphorisms, ‘but that they pursued the path of
rhetoric and brevity (al-ʾīǧāz), and treaded the way of strangeness and wonder-
ment (al-ʾiʿǧāz) (ģLJʤ͇ Βҙҏāć ȇ̈Ǩˉʓͫā ș́͵ āǍ˜ˬ̵ć ģLJʤ̈ Βҙҏāć ɼ͈ҨҞʒͫā Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ ɷʉ͎ āǍʒ͛Ģ ɨ́͵Αā ҙҏΒā).’ His own
purpose is to make the art of medicine understandable to the students of his day.
These students, however, need teachers able to employ ‘ruses (ḥiyal)’ to explain
medicine. The Book of Aphorisms is the key medical text. Al-Sinǧārī even says
that it occupies an analogous place to the most important part in the body; ‘no,
but it is even like the soul (nafs), with which no precious stone (ǧawhar nafīs)
can be compared (ȫʉˏ͵ Ǩ΀Ạ̌ LJ́ʉͫΒā ťLJ˙̈ ҙҏ ȫˏ˶ͫLJ͛ ɷ˶Ͳ Ǎ΀ ɡ̑ ҙҏ)’. His aim then is to ex-
plain clearly the meaning of the aphorisms for students of medicine. In doing so,
al-Sinǧarī followed previous authorities more than his own intellect, as he says,
and invites his readers to correct any mistakes that they may find.
105 Sánchez 2008, p. 131, no. 235.
106 This manuscripts only comprises the beginning of the fifth book (maqāla) on fol. 1b, then
has a lacuna of a folio; then again between folios 2 and 3, there is a lacuna of a number of
folios; the remaining folios contain roughly the second half of book five. The manuscript
had previously been catalogued as anonymous, but we were able to identify the text through
comparison with the other two manuscripts. See now the updated online catalogue.
107 Iskandar 1967, 202-03.
108 MS LWL1, fol. 6a, lines 3–4.
109 Sbath 1928–34, vol. ii, pp. 147–8, no. 1289.
110 See below pp. 242–3.
228 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Al-Sinǧārī’s method can again be illustrated by looking at the explanation of

aphorism vi. 23. It runs as follows111:

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘

ȽͲ ɷ˶Ͳ ƦLJ͛ LJͲć ρɨˬ̵Αā Ǎ͎́ ζɑʥ̀ ȽͲ ɡ˙ˈͫā ŴҨҞʓ̥ā ɬͲ ƦLJ͛ LJͲ»:ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘ ǚ͘ [1] :ŔĢLJʷͫā ƛLJ͘
ƴǨ˜ˏͫā ƹǍ̵ć ŷǩˏʓͫā :ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ɬͲ ɷʒ̤LJˀͫ ŰǨˈ̈ ķćāĔǍʶͫā ŰǨ˳ͫāć [2] «.āǨ˅̥ ǚ̶Αā Ǎ͎́ ζƦǩ̤ć ɨ΀
ŰāǨͲΑҙҏāć [3] .ɼ˳ˬˆͫā ǽ͎ ƱLJ˶˜̵ Ƣćǚ̈ ɬ˳ͫ ȫ͵Αҙҏā Ƣǚ͇ć ŦLJʥʉʓ̵ҙҏā ɬͲ ŰǨˈ̈ LJ˳͛ ζȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć
.LJ́˶͇ ƴĢĔLJˀͫā ŰāǨ͇ΑҙҏLJ̑ ƦǍ˜̈ LJ́̑LJʒ̵Αā ȅˬ͇ ƛҙҏǚʓ̵ҙҏā

Hippocrates said: If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last

for a long time, then [fa-ʾinna]112 his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].
The commentator [al-šāriḥ] says: [1] Hippocrates said: ‘The confusion of
the mind that is accompanied by laughter is safer [ʾaslam], whereas that
accompanied by concern [hamm] and sadness [ḥuzn] is more dangerous
[ʾašadd ḫaṭaran]’.113 [2] Melancholy [al-waswās al-sawdāwī] occurs to the
patient because of occurrences [al-ʾaʿrāḍ]: fear [al-tafazzuʿ], bad thought
[sūʾ al-fikra] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs], as it is caused by desolation
[al-istīḥāš] and lack of social intercourse [ʿadam al-ʾuns] in the case of
someone who remains for long in the dark. [3] The causes of diseases are
indicated by occurrences that result from them.

Al-Sinǧārī first relates the present aphorism to another one, which would allow
the physician to differentiate between milder and more severe cases of mental
confusion on the basis of the mood of the patient. Then he subtly adds ‘bad
thought’ to one of the things causing melancholy. This idea refers to the famous
notion of scholarly melancholy: too much thinking leads to melancholy.114 Fi-
nally, al-Sinǧārī takes up the idea of darkness, already found in Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq;
he links it to the feeling of despondency, without, however, comparing the feel-
ing of sitting alone in darkness to certain processes in the brain as Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq
had done.

111 MS AFS1, fol. 106b, lines 3–8; MS LWL1, fol. 64b, lines 7–10. In the latter manuscript,
there is a lacuna of roughly one folio after the words ‘ŰǨˈ̈ ķćāĔǍʶͫā ŰǨ˳ͫāć’.
112 fa-ʾinna ʿillatahū is a minor variant of the fa-ʿillatuhū found in the edition of the Arabic
Aphorisms, the Arabic version of Galen’s commentary, and most other commentaries.
113 Aph. vi. 53: ‘Αἱ παραφροϲύναι αἱ μὲν μετὰ γέλωτοϲ γινόμεναι, ἀϲφαλέϲτεραι· αἱ δὲ μετὰ
ϲπουδῆϲ, ἐπιϲφαλέϲτεραι.’
114 On this, see Pormann 2008a, FF 33–6, and pp. 289–92; Pormann forthcoming.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 229

Ibn Bāǧǧa (Avempace, fl. 12th cent.)

Ibn Bāǧǧa, the celebrated thinker from Muslim Spain, is mostly known for his
philosophical works, which had a great impact on the Latin Middle Ages. But
he also wrote a commentary on the Aphorisms. A substantial fragment of it
survives in one manuscript.115 This manuscript had previously been part of the
Staatsbibliothek Berlin (MS Ahlwardt 5060).116 It is now kept in the Jagiellonian
Library (Biblioteka Jagiellońska) in Krakow.117 The fragment appears on fols.
83b–90a and comprises the preface and the commentary on the first aphorism
(i. 1).118 From this entry, it would appear that the commentary was lemmatic, and
that, not unexpectedly, Ibn Bāǧǧa was interested in the philosophical aspects
of this text. He discussed questions of medical epistemology in the entry, and
generally explored the relationship between experience (taǧriba) and analogical
reasoning (qiyās).

Mūsā ibn ʿUbaid Allāh al-Qurṭubī (Maimonides, d. 1204)

Mūsā ibn ʿUbaid Allāh al-Qurṭubī, known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn (Maimonides),
was probably the most important Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages.119 He
also wrote important medical works. Among them is not only his own book
of Aphorisms120, but also a Commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Aphorisms’, extant in
a few Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic manuscripts.121 Carsten Schliwski edited the
text and translated it into German in his Ph.D. thesis, and he and Gerrit Bos are
currently preparing an edition and English translation of this commentary for
Bos’ series The Medical Works of Moses Maimonides.122
Mūsā ibn Maymūn’s commentary is by far the shortest of those extant today
in their entirety. Because of the author’s preeminence, it also has attracted the
greatest amount of scholarly interest.123 Mūsā ibn Maymūn states in his preface

115 See Forcada 2011, who edited the fragment in this article and discusses its epistemological
116 Ahlwardt 1892, 396–9.
117 We would like to thank Joanna Jaskowiec of the Manuscript Department for this
information (email 4 March 2010).
118 At least according to the current foliation; Ahlwardt catalogued this part of the manuscript
as appearing on fols. 85b–90b (his no. 5).
119 Accessible introductions are Davidson 2005 and Kraemer 2008.
120 Bos 2004, 2007, 2010.
121 On the manuscript tradition, see see Savage-Smith 2011: no. 5; Schliwski 2007, i. xxx–
122 Schliwski 2007.
123 Already in 1963, Bar-Sela and Hoff devoted an article to it.
230 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

that he endeavoured to adhere to brevity (ʾīǧāz), and that he mostly followed

Galen’s aims and objectives, ‘except for some aphorisms where I am going to
mention with attribution to myself what happened to me (mā waqaʿa lī).’124 But
there are also many aphorisms for which Mūsā ibn Maymūn’s commentary is
limited to a remark that ‘this is clear (hāḏā bayyinun)’.
We can discern Mūsā ibn Maymūn’s dependence on Galen also in his entry
on aphorism vi. 23125:

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ

Ɏ̈Ǩ̈́ ɬͲ ɑͫĕ ȇʒʶ͎ ζǨ΀LJͅ ȇʒ̵ Ǩʉ͈ ɬͲ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏ̒ ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏ ŰǨ͇ ȅʓͲ :Ǩʶˏ˳ͫā ƛLJ͘
Ǩ΀LJͅ ȇʒ̵ ɬͲ ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ƱǛ΀ ƹāǚʓ̑ā ƦLJ͛ ȅʓͲć .ɼ˳̇āĔ ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ɑˬ̒ ɬ˜̒ ɨͫ ƦΒāć ζķćāĔǍʶͫā ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā
.ķćāĔǍʶͫā ťāǍ̵Ǎͫā ȅˬ͇ ƛǚ̈ ɷͲāćǚ͎ ζLJ́ʔʒͫ ƢāĔć ȈͫLJ̈́ ɨ̓ ζƦǩ̤ ćΑā Ȼʉ͈ ćΑā ȇˁ͈ ɡʔͲ

If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last for a long time,
then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].
The commentator [al-mufassir] says: when fear [tafazzuʿ] and despondency
[ḫubṯ al-nafs] occur without any apparent reason, then the cause of this is
by way of melancholy [min ṭarīqi l-waswāsi l-sawdāwīyi], even if these
symptoms are not constant. When these symptoms begin owing to an
apparent cause such as anger [ġaḍab], ire [ġayẓ], or sadness [ḥuzn], and
they then continue and remain long, then the fact that it lasts indicates
melancholy [al-waswās al-sawdāwī].

In fact, Maimonides’ commentary is limited here to summarising Galen’s main

points in the first part of his commentary on this aphorism (§§ 1–6), but omits
the information in the second part (§§ 7–9). He does not add any new informa-
tion. For the topic of melancholy, this seems somewhat surprising, since Mūsā
ibn Maymūn had a unique experience in this area: he treated the sultan al-ʾAfḍal
for this condition; and he addressed an epistle to him in which he advises the
sultan on the correct treatment.126 A near contemporary of Mūsā ibn Maymūn,
ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī, displays far greater originality.

124 Ed. Schliwski 2007, ii. p. 7, line 5.

125 Ed. Schliwski 2007, ii. 133 (slightly altered).
126 Koetschet 2006–7; Pormann 2008a, 185–187.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 231

ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī (d. 1231)

ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī excelled in both medicine and philosophy. In the former
domain, he called for a return to the sources of Hippocrates’ and Galen’s writings,
although one should not think that this antiquarianism made him an uncritical
or uninnovative thinker.127 He notably claimed that the two most important texts
for clinical medicine were the Hippocratic Aphorisms and Prognostics, and he
wrote commentaries on both these works.128 His commentary on the Aphorisms
survives in six manuscripts129:
Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, MS Ar 5458 (fols. 1b–112a)130; MS CB2
Hyderabad, OMLRI (Osmania University Campus) [formerly: ʾĀṣafīya], II,
926 ṭibb 204
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Yazma eser Kütüphanesi, MS Köprülü-Fazil Ahmet
Paşa 885131
Patna (Bankipore), Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, cat. IV, p. 88,
No. 60132
Qom, Grand Ayatollah Marʿaši Naǧafī Public Library, MS 6617133
Teheran, Dānišgāh, MS 834134
Before commencing his commentary, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf, in a long preface, insists on
the importance of writing a commentary, and criticises in rather strong terms
the prevalent mode of teaching and the defective knowledge possessed by his
contemporaries. At the end of the introduction, he discusses the eight subjects
which he calls the eight ‘headings (ruʾūs)’ or preliminary points, which he feels
are useful to an author: goal [ġaraḍ], benefit [manfaʿa], analogy [nisba], rank
[martaba], method of teaching [naḥw al-taʿlīm], parts of the book [ʾaǧzāʾ al-
kitāb], title [ʿunwān], and author [wāḍiʿ]. He will later repeat these eight points
in the much shorter preface of his commentary on the Hippocratic Prognostic.135
ʿAbd al-Laṭīf quotes each aphorism and then explains it. He gives its general
meaning, then its application, and finally provides an explanation of linguistic
difficulties. Sometimes, he discusses the connection of one aphorism with another.
Rosenthal praised ʿAbd al-Laṭīf’s commentary as a work of great originality, but

127 Joosse, Pormann 2010.

128 For the latter treatise, see our article in this volume on pp. 251–83. There, we also offer a
more detailed discussion of ʿAbd al-Laṭīf.
129 ʿAwwād 1959, p. 36, no. 39, records an anonymous manuscript, namely Baghdad, al-
Matḥaf al-ʿIrāqī, MS 1244, and speculates whether it contains the commentary by ʿAbd al-Laṭīf
130 Arberry 1955–64, vii. 134.
131 This manuscript has been described briefly in Şeşen 1984, 8.
132 ʾAḥmad / Nadwī 1910, pp. 88–94, no. 60.
133 Ḥusaynī Aškiwarī 1994, xvii. 187–8.
134 Munzawī 1951–, iv. 775–7.
135 See below, pp. 262–3.
232 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

also noted that, unlike most of his successors, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf hardly referred to
earlier commentators (with perhaps the exception of Galen) and avoided using
multiple interpretations of the aphorisms. Instead, he preferred to present a
single and unified interpretation whenever this was possible.136 Rosenthal wrote
his article in the 1960s and had only one manuscript at his disposal, namely
the Istanbul one. He concluded that ʿAbd al-Laṭīf’s ‘singlemindedness’ had
prevented the work from becoming popular. But the list of manuscripts above
shows that the commentary must have circulated quite widely, as it survives
in so many manuscripts. Moreover, later commentators such as Ibn al-Nafīs
and Ibn al-Quff used ʿAbd al-Laṭīf’s commentary. It therefore did not remain as
obscure and without influence as Rosenthal thought. It does appear, however, to
be based largely on theoretical considerations and shows no demonstrable signs
of any form of practical medical experience.137
ʿAbd al-Laṭīf only provides a relatively short commentary on aphorism vi. 23.
And yet, he does introduce a new element, which, unsurprisingly, is of a rather
theoretical nature138:

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑ ƛLJ͘
.ɨ˜ʥʓʶ̈ ɨͫ ķćāĔǍ̵ ťāǍ̵ć ɷ͵ā ɬʉΎ ʒ͎ ζĶĔLJ̑ ȇʒ̵ ɷͫ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫć LJ͵LJͲģ ɑͫĕ ƢāĔ āĕΒā :Ʉʉ˅ˬͫā ǚʒ͇ ƛLJ͘
Ƣǚ̈ ɨͫ [Ł Ϝϛ] ɷ͵Αҙҏ ζķćāĔǍ̵ Ǎ͎́ ζƢāĔ ɨ̓ ζɨ͈ ćΑā ɨ΀ ćΑā Ȼʉ͈ ćΑā ȇˁˉ͛ ĶĔLJ̑ ȇʒʶ̑ ŰǨ͇ ƦΒā āǛ͛ć
ƦǍ˶ʤͫā ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā ƱǛ΀ ɡʔͲ ɬ͇ ŰǨˈ̈ LJͲ Ǩʉʔ˜͎ .ĶĔLJʒͫā ȇʒʶͫā ɷ͛Ǩ̤ LJ˳͵Βāć ζɷ̓ćǚʥͫ ǚˈʓʶͲ Ʀǚʒͫāć ҙҏΒā
.āĔāǚˈʓ̵ā Ȉ͎ĔLJ̿ āĕΒā ζɼ˙ʉ˙ʥͫLJ̑

Hippocrates said: ‘If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last
for a long time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].’
ʿAbd al-Laṭīf [al-Baġdādī] says: ‘If this lasts for a time, without having an
initial cause [sabab bādiʾ]’, then it clearly is melancholy [waswās sawdāwī]
that has not [yet] become firmly established. It is similar if it occurs owing
to an initial cause such as anger [ġaḍab], ire [ġayẓ], concern [hamm], or
sorrow [ġamm], and then persists. Then he [the patient] is melancholic
[sawdāwī], for it only persists when the body is predisposed to it [sc.
melancholy] to occur. The initial cause only moves it. True madness [al-
ǧunūn bi-l-ḥaqīqati] is often brought about by these causes when they
coincide with a predisposition.

Thus, like Galen and other commentators, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf divides long-lasting fear
and despondency that occur without any apparent cause, and that are due to a

136 Rosenthal 1966, 230–31, 237–40.

137 Joosse 2011.
138 MS CB2, fol. 94a, line 4 from the bottom–fol. 94b, line 2.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 233

visible cause; in both cases, we have instances of melancholy. Yet, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf
talks about an ‘initial cause (sabab bādiʾ)’, corresponding to the Greek notion
of ‘antecedent cause (αἴτιον προκαταρκτικόν)’. Galen developed this notion,
drawing on Stoic logic.139 But this idea also entered the late antique curriculum.
The Alexandrian Summary to On the Sects for Beginners gives a definition of
‘initial causes’: ‘Some causes come to the body from the outside, and are called
“initial causes” like a blow or a bite (LJ́ͫ ƛLJ˙̈ć œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ Ʀǚʒͫā ȅˬ͇ ĔΌ Ǩ΍ ̈΋ LJͲ LJ́˶Ͳ ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏāć
ɼʷ́˶ͫāć ɼ̑Ǩˁͫā ɼͫǩ˶˳̑ ɼ̇ĔLJʒͫā ŁLJʒ̵Αҙҏā).’ And the so-called Viennese tables cite other exam-
ples for antecedent causes, including ‘cold, burning, fatigue, drunkenness, and
plague (ψῦχοϲ ἔγκαυϲιϲ κόποϲ μέθη λοιμόϲ)’140. In other words, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf
applies the popular Galenic system of three causes—antecedent, precedent, and
containing—to our aphorism. Anger [ġaḍab], ire [ġayẓ], concern [hamm], or
sorrow [ġamm]—nearly the same causes as mentioned by Galen141—become the
initial causes that can lead to fear and despondency, and thus indicate melan-
choly when they last for a long time. Finally, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf picks up on Galen’s
link between melancholy and madness. As with other commentators, ʿAbd al-
Laṭīf’s main reference remains Galen.

Ibn al-Nafīs (1213–88)

Ibn al-Nafīs gained fame not only in medicine, but also as a Šāfiʿī theologian
and jurisconsult. He studied and worked in a hospital environment in Syria
and Egypt. He authored a number of commentaries, notably on the Hippocratic
On the Nature of Man and the Aphorisms. The latter survives in some 30
manuscripts. Yūsuf Zaydān edited it on the basis of five manuscripts.142 Savage-
Smith, however, noted that the text in this edition is significantly different from
that in the two Oxford manuscripts.143 As one of these manuscripts (Pococke
294) was copied thirty years before the author’s death, and therefore constitutes
an important witness, it seems desirable to reedit this text on the basis of a
wider selection of manuscripts; therefore, we provide a list of the manuscripts
Aligarh, Maulana Azad Library [Subḥānallāh Or. Library], MS 610
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS Ahlwardt 6224144

139 See Hankinson 1998, with further literature.

140 Gundert 1998, p. 132, n. 127.
141 Galen has ‘anger [ġaḍab], ire [ġayṯ], sadness [ḥuzn], or sorrow [ġamm]’, so that ‘concern
(hamm)’ replaces ‘sadness (ḥuzn)’.
142 Zaydān 1991.
143 Savage-Smith 2011, no. 6.
144 Ahlwardt 1893, 496–7.
234 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS 565 ṭibb145; MS C1

Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS 1848 ṭibb
Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS 40519 G/565
Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS 366 ṭibb
Gotha, Landesbibliothek, 1897–8146
Hyderabad, OMLRI (Osmania University Campus) [formerly: ʾĀṣafīya], II,
926, ṭibb 15
Hyderabad, OMLRI (Osmania University Campus) [formerly: ʾĀṣafīya], II,
934, ṭibb 21
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3554 (fols. 35b–137b)147
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3644 (fols. 1–109b)
Istanbul, Ragip Paşa Kütüphanesi, MS 1482 (fols. 81–163)
Istanbul, Köprülü 967 (697 AH)
Istanbul, Topkapi Saray, Sultan Ahmet III [kept in: Ağalar Camii], 1941
(fols. 34a–71a)
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Şehid Ali Paşa, MS 2046 (fols. 1–94)
Istanbul, Veliyeddin Efendi, MS 2509
Istanbul, Carah Paşa, MS 243 (fols. 1a–128b)
Istanbul, Haci Mahmut, MS 554
Kabul, Kitābḫāna-i Riyāsat-i Maṭbūʿāt, MS Arabic 144148
London, British Library MS Or. 5914149
London, British Library, MS Or. 6419150
Madrid, Escurial, MS árabe 792151
Manisa, Kitapsaray, MS 1814152
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Pocock 294153
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS 2843 (fonds arabe)154
Patna (Bankipore), Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library, cat. IV, p. 94, No.
Qom, Library of the Markaz ʾIḥyāʾ al-Turāṯ al-ʾIslāmī, MS 2580156

145 A microfilm of this manuscript is kept at Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, microfilm no. 750.
146 Nos. 1897–8; cf. Pertsch 1859–93, iii. 444–5.
147 This and the other Istanbul manuscripts are listed in Şeşen 1984, 9–10.
148 De Beaurecueil 1956, p. 94, no. 33. Obviously, this department no longer exists in the same
form as in 1955 when de Beaurecueil undertook his voyage to Kabul and Herat; the present
whereabouts of this collection and this particular manuscript are unknown to us.
149 Hamarneh 1975, pp. 4-5, no. 6.
150 Hamarneh 1975, p. 4, no. 5.
151 Derenbourg-Renaud ii. 2 (1941), p. 3.
152 Şeşen 1984, 9; Dietrich, 1966, 21.
153 Savage-Smith 2011, no. 6.
154 Slane 1883–95, 512.
155 ʾAḥmad, Nadwī, 1910, pp. 94–5 (nos. 61–2).
156 Ḥusaynī Aškiwarī 2003–4, vii. 70.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 235

Qom, Grand Ayatollah Marʿaši Naǧafī Public Library, MS 4685157

Teheran, Maǧlis, MS 6149158 (pp. 208–403)
Teheran, Maǧlis, MS 6197159 (pp. 6–143)
Teheran, Malik National Library, MS 4467160
Teheran, Malik National Library, MS 6650

Like Mūsā ibn Maymūn, Ibn al-Nafīs sometimes limits his comments to a brief
statement that a certain aphorism is clear and does not require further. This is
also the case with aphorism vi. 23, where Ibn al-Nafīs simply states161:
.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑ ƛLJ͘
.Ǩ΀LJͅ ɷ˙ʉ˙ʥ̒ć ɡˀˏͫā āǛ΀ ȅ˶ˈͲ

Hippocrates said: ‘If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last
for a long time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].’
The meaning of this aphorism and how to apply it is clear.

Ibn al-Quff (1233–86)

Ibn al-Quff, a Christian physician who studied with Ibn al-Nafīs, spent most of
his life in Syria. He wrote on surgery, but also composed a popular commentary
on the Aphorisms. It is by far the longest commentary, yet despite its length, it
survives in some twenty manuscripts:
Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandria, MS al-Maktaba al-Baladīya 3352 ǧīm
Algiers, Fagnan 1745, fols. 33–205163

157 Ḥusaynī Aškiwarī 1994, xii. 272–3.

158 Ḥāʾirī, xix. 137.
159 Ḥāʾirī, xix. 185.
160 This and the next manuscript are described in ʾAfšār Sīstānī / Dānišpažūh 1973–96, 420–
161 Ed. Zaydān 1988, 443; this is also the reading in MS C1 [without foliation].
162 According to the catalogue entry by Zaydān 1996, p. 61, no. 19 (there is also a colour
reproduction of two facing pages in the unnumbered section between pp. 24 and 25), this
manuscript is signed by the author who has listened to it being read out and approved of it.
The manuscript was writen in AD 1284, shortly before Ibn al-Quff’s death. A microfilm of this
manuscript is available in Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, microfilm no. 830. The manuscript
only contains Ibn Quff’s commentary on the first three sections of the Aphorisms; this is
evident from the colophon which states: ‘End of the third section [maqāla] (ɼʔͫLJʔͫā ɼͫLJ˙˳ͫā Ȉ˳̒)’.
163 Fagnan, 1893, no. 1745, 487; the manuscript comprises sections four to seven.
236 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Beirut, Bibliothèque Orientale de l’Université Saint-Joseph, MS 280164

Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, ṭibb 4m165
Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, ṭibb 1732; this is a modern copy of the previous item
Gotha, Landesbibliothek, 1894–6166
Hyderabad, OMLRI (Osmania University Campus) [formerly: Āṣafīya], II,
926, ṭibb 70
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Yeni Camii 919167; MS I1168
Istanbul, Üniversite Kütüphanesi, MS Arabic 3261
London, British Library, MS Or. 1348 Suppl.169; MS BL1
London, Royal College of Physicians, MS Tritton 2170
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS 2842 (fonds arabe)171; MS P3
Tavşanli-Kütahya, Zeytinoğlu Ilçe Halk Kütüphanesi, MS 421: 3721172
Tavşanli-Kütahya, Zeytinoğlu Ilçe Halk Kütüphanesi, MS 422: 2685
Tunis, University of Tunis, MS 2853–5 [formerly: Zaytūna]173
Tunis, ʾAḥmadīya, 7–10 [formerly: 5321–4]

Rosenthal described Ibn al-Quff’s commentary as lengthy and argumentative.174

He often quotes previous authorities, especially Galen, but also Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq
and later Arabic commentators, and engages with their interpretation. Nor does
he shy away from criticising his predecessors or rejecting their points of view.
In organising his long entries, Ibn al-Quff employs the principle of division. In
each case, there are a number of ‘topics for investigation (mabāḥiṯ)’, with which

164 See Hamarneh 1974, 153; Cheikho 1922, 403–4.

165 On this manuscript: Hamarneh, 1974, 153, especially footnote 80.
166 Pertsch 1859–93, iii. 443–4.
167 A microfilm of this manuscript is available in Damascus, Maktabat al-ʾAsad, microfilm
no. 802. This and the other Istanbul manuscripts are listed in Şeşen 1984, 9. At the end of this
manuscript [no foliation], we read:

ɼ̈Ǩʤ΀ ɼ̇LJ˳ʓ̵ć ɬʉ͵LJ˳̓ć Ŀṳ̈̌Βā ɼ˶̵ ƢǨʥ˳ͫā ɡ́ʓʶͲ ƋĢLJʒ˳ͫā ŔǨʷͫā āǛ΀ ɬͲ ŸāǨˏͫā Ɏ͎āć ɷʉˬ͇ ɷˬͫā ɼ˳̤Ģ ŔĢLJʷͫā ƛLJ͘
.ɼ̈Ǩʤ΀ ɼ̇LJ˳ˈʒ̵ć ɬʉ̓ҨҞ̓ ɼ˶̵ ƦLJʒˈ̶ Ǩ̶́ Ǩʷ͇ ȉͫLJ̓ ɼ͛ĢLJʒ˳ͫā ɼʦʶ˶ͫā ƱǛ΀ ɬͲ ŸāǨˏͫā Ɏ͎āćć ܸ
The commentator—God’s mercy be upon him—said: ‘The [date of] the completion of this
blessed commentary corresponds to the beginning of Muḥarram, AH 681.’ The completion
of this blessed copy corresponds to 13 Šaʿbān, AH 730.
168 Another manuscript belonging to the Şehid Ali Paşa collection appears to be kept in the
Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, although we were unable to get its shelfmark.
169 Rieu 1894, p. 545–6, no. 804.
170 Tritton 1951, 182.
171 Slane 1883–95, 512.
172 Ihsanoğlu 1995, p. 58, no. 89.
173 Further info on the Tunis manuscripts of Ibn al-Quff’s commentary can be found in
Hamarneh, 1974, 154.
174 Rosenthal 1966, 242; cf. also Hamarneh, 1974, 149-164.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 237

he deals one after the next. This feature also appears in the entry on aphorism
vi. 23, where he deals with three topics175:

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑ ƛLJ͘

.ɼ̓ҨҞ̓ ȉ̤LJʒͲ LJ˶́΀ ŔǨʷͫā
Ǩ͛ĕ ɬ˳ˁʓ̈ ƛćΑҙҏā ɡˀˏͫā Ʀ ΒҨҞ͎ ƛćΑҙҏā LJͲΑā .LJˁ̈Αā ɑͫĕ ɡʒ͘ LJ˳̑ć ɷˬʒ͘ LJ˳̑ ɡˀˏͫā āǛ́ͫ ɼˬˀͫā ǽ͎ ƛćΑҙҏā
ƴĔLJͲ LJ́ʒʒ̵ ɼͫLJ̤ Ǩ͛ĕ ɬ˳ˁʓ̈ ɑͫĕ Ʀ ΒҨҞ͎ ǽ͵LJʔͫā LJͲΑāć .ɑͫĕ ɬ˳ˁʓ̈ āǛ΀ć ζɷʉͫLJ͇Αā ɬͲ Ʀǚʒˬͫ ɼˬ̿LJ̤ ɼͫLJ̤
.ɡˀˏͫā āǛ΀ ɑͫǛ͛ć ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵
LJ˳΀ć ζƦLJ̀Ǩ͇ LJ́˳ˈ̈ ķǛͫā ƦΑā Ǩʉ͈ ζāụ̈̌ ƴǨʉʔ͛ ƹāĔǍʶͫā ŁLJʥ̿ҙҏ ụ̈̌Ǎ̒ ǽʓͫā ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ǽ͵LJʔͫā ȉʥʒͫā
176 Α
LJ́͵Ǎͫ 177ɼ̈ćāĔǍʶͫā ƴĔLJ˳ͫā ƦΑā ɑͫĕ ǽ͎ ɼˬˈͫāć .ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ LJ́̑ ĔāǨ˳ͫā ζɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć ŷǩˏʓͫā :LJ˶́΀ ƦāĢǍ͛Ǜ˳ͫā
ɼ̣́ ȅͫΒā ĢLJʦʒͫā ɑͫĕ LJ́˶Ͳ Ƚˏ̒Ģā łǨʦ̑ āĕΒāć .LJ́ʉ͎ ƴĢāǨʥͫā ɡ˳ˈͫ łǨʦ̑ Ʀǚʒͫā ǽ͎ łǨʔ͛ 178āĕΒLJ͎ .ĔǍ̵Αā
ζɷ˳ˬˆ̈ć ŔćǨͫā Ģǚ˜̈ ɑͫĕ ǚ˶͇ć .ĔǍ̵Αā ƦǍ˜ʉ͎ ζLJ́˶Ͳ ƹḳ̌ ɷ͵Αҙҏ LJ́͵Ǎˬ͛ ɷ͵Ǎͫ ƴĔLJ˳ͫā ĢLJʦ̑ć .ŸLJͲǚͫāć ȇˬ˙ͫā
ɬ˳ͫ ɡˀʥ̈ ɑͫĕ ǚ˶͇ć .ƴǚ̈ǚʷͫā ɼ˳ˬˆͫā ǽ͎ ǚˈ͘ āĕΒā ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏā ƛLJʥ͛ ƴĢǍˀͫā ƱǛ΀ ǽ͎ ɷͫLJ̤ ƦǍ˜̈ć
ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ƱǛ΀ łĢLJ̿ 179ɑͫǛͫć .ȇʒ̵ ҨҞ̑ ɨˉͫāć ɨ́ͫāć ɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć Ʀǩʥͫāć ɼʷ̤Ǎͫā ĢLJʦʒͫā āǛ΀ ɷʉˬ͇ ȅͫǍʓ̵ā
.ƹāĔǍʶͫā ǽ͎ Ƚ͘āć LJ́ʒ̤LJˀ͎ ζœĢLJ̥ ɬͲ ȇʒ̵ LJ́ͫ ɬ˜̈ ɨͫć ζƦLJʶ͵ΒLJ̑ łǨ́ͅ ȅʓͲ
ȅˬ͇ ŰǨ˳ͫāć ɼˬˈͫā ɼˆˏͫ Ɏˬ˅̈ LJͲ āǨʉʔ͛ ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƦΑā ɨˬ͇ ǚ͘ ɷ͵Αҙҏ ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷ̒ĔLJͲ ķΑā «ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷʓˬˈ͎» ɷͫǍ͘ć
ɼʉ̀Ǩ˳ͫā 180ƴĔLJ˳ͫā.
ƦΑā ɬͲ Ǩʉ̥ ŁāǨʷͫā ɬͲ Ʀǚʒͫā Α ҨҞ˳̒ ƦΑҙҏ» ɷͫǍ͘ ŔǨ̶ LJ͵Ǩ͛ĕ ȉʉ̤ Ƣǚ˙̒ LJ˳ʉ͎ Ȉ͎Ǩ͇ ǚ͘ :ȉͫLJʔͫā ȉʥʒͫā
ĔǨ̈ LJ˳ͫ ƛǍʒ˙ͫā 181LJ́ͫ Ǽʉ΀ ǽ΀ ȉʉ̤ ɬͲ ǽ͵āǍʉʥͫā ŔćǨͫā ƦΑLJ̑ ŁLJʓ˜ͫā āǛ΀ ɼʉ͵LJ̓ ǽ͎ «ƢLJˈ˅ͫā ɬͲ ƱΑ ҨҞ˳̒
ƱǛ΀ ƦΑā ɑ̶ ҙҏć .182ƴLJʉʥͫā ĢLJ̓ΐā ƛǍʒ˙ͫ ɼʉ͵ǚʒͫā ŔāćĢΑҙҏā ǚˈ̒ ƦΑā LJ́͵ΑLJ̶ ɼʉ͵āǍʉʥͫā ƴǍ˙ͫā ƦΑā ɨˬ͇ ǚ͘ ɷ͵Αҙҏ ζɷʉˬ͇
Ĕāǚˈʓ̵ҙҏā ƦΒā ɡʉ͘ ɑͫǛͫć .LJ́ʉˬ͇ ɼ̇ĢLJ̈́ ĢǍͲΑ ҨҞ͎ Ĕāǚˈʓ̵ҙҏā LJͲΑāć Ⱥ˙͎ ƛǍʒ͘ LJ́ͫ ŔćǨͫLJ͎ .183ƴLJʉʥͫā ĢLJ̓ΐā ɬͲ
łāǚˈͲ ƦǍ˜̒ ƦΑā ȇʤʉ͎ ζŔǨˏˬͫ łāǚˈ˳ͫā Ȉ˳ˬ͇ ǚ͘ć .ɬʉˬ̑LJ˙ʓ˳ͫā ṳ̈̌ ȅͫΒā ťLJʉ˙ͫLJ̑ ƴǍ˙ͫā ƛLJ˳˜ʓ̵ā Ǎ΀
Ȼˬˉͫāć ɼ͘Ǩͫā ɬʉ̑ LJ́ͲāǍ͘ ƛāǚʓ͇āć ŔćǨͫā Ģāǚ˙Ͳ Ǩ͎Ǎ̒ Ȉ͎Ǩ͇ LJͲ ȅˬ͇ ŔǨˏͫā łāǚˈͲć .ɑͫǛͫ ɼˬ̑LJ˙Ͳ ɨˉͫā
LJ́ͲāǍ͘ ƴĢćǚ͛ć ǽ͵āǍʉʥͫā ŔćǨͫā ɼˬ͘ ǽ΀ć ζɑͫĕ łҨҞ̑LJ˙Ͳ ɷʉ͎ Ƚ˳ʓ̣ā ǚ͘ 185ķćāĔǍʶͫāć .184LJ́ʓʉ͵āĢǍ͵ć
Ȉ͵LJ͛ ȅʓͲ LJ́͵Αҙҏ ζLJ́ʉˬ͇ LJ͎Ḁ̌ ɬ̈́LJʒͫā ǽ͎ LJ́˜ʶ˳̒ć LJ́̑ ɼˈʉʒ˅ͫā ɡʥ˶̒ Ģāǚ˙˳ͫā ɼˬ͘ ȇʒʶʒ͎ .LJ́ʓ˳ˬͅć
175 MS P3, fol. 325a, line 8 from the bottom–fol. 325b, line 2 from the bottom; I1 [no folation]
b, line 7–a, line 4 from the bottom; MS BL1, fol. 160a, line 4 from bottom–fol. 160b, line 18
(this manuscript contains a lot of errors and omissions, and its readings are therefore not
quoted and reported here systematically).
176 ƹāĔǍʶͫā] om. P3.
177 in cod.: ɼ̈ćāĔǍʶͫā ƴĔLJ˳ͫā {ɼˬ˳ͫā ƦΑā}.
178 āĕΒLJ͎] I1, BL1; P3: ƦΒLJ͎.
179 ɑͫǛͫć] P3; I1: ɑͫĕć.
180 ƴĔLJ˳ͫā] I1, BL1; P3: ɼ̈ĔLJ˳ͫā.
181 LJ́ͫ Ǽʉ΀ ǽ΀] I1, BL1; P3: LJ́̑ Ǽʉ΀.
182 ƴLJʉʥͫā] P3, BL1; I1: ƴĢāǨʥͫā.
183 ƴLJʉʥͫā] P3, BL1; I1: ƴĢāǨʥͫā.
184 LJ́ʓʉ͵āĢǍ͵ć] coni. (recte?); P3: LJ́ʓ̈āĢǍ͵ć; I1: LJ́͵āĢǍ͵ (without dots).
185 ķćāĔǍʶͫāć] I1, BL1; P3: ƹāĔǍʶͫāć.
238 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

LJ˳͛ ɑͫĕć ζΑāǚʒ˳ͫā ǚ˶͇ ɬ̈́LJʒͫā ǽ͎ LJ́ʓ˜ʶͲ ɑͫǛ̑ Ʉ̒ ɨͫ ȅʓͲć .ɬ̈́LJʒͫāć Ǩ΀LJˆͫā Ǩʉ̑ǚʓ̑ Ʉ̒ ɨͫ ɑͫǛ͛
ζĿǍ˙ͫā Ⱥʶʒ˶̒ ɨͫ Ǩ΀LJˆͫā ɼ̣́ ȅͫΒā ŔāćĢΑҙҏā Ⱥʶʒ˶̒ ɨͫ ȅʓͲć .ƦǍͫćǩ́˳ͫāć ț̈LJʷ˳ͫāć ƦǍ́͘LJ˶ͫā ɷʉˬ͇ Ǎ΀
ɑͫĕ ȽͲ ŔāćĢΑҙҏā Ȉ͵LJ͛ ƦΒLJ͎ .ɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć ɨˉͫā ɡ̑ Ȉ͎Ǩ͇ LJͲ ȅˬ͇ ŔǨˏͫā ɡˀʥ̈ ɨˬ͎ .ŔāćĢΑҙҏā ɼͫǍ˳ʥͲ LJ́͵Αҙҏ
LJͲΑā .ǚ˙ʥͫā Ǎ΀ć ζȈ̑LJ̓ ȇˁ͈ ɑͫĕ ɬͲ ɡˀ̤ ζǨ΀LJˆͫā ǽ͎ ŴLJʶʒ͵ҙҏLJ̑ ǽˏ̒ LJ́͵Αā ȉʉʥ̑ ζĢāǚ˙˳ͫā ƴǨʉʔ͛
ҙҏ Ȼˬˉͫā ȇʒʶ̑ć .ƴĔLJ˳ͫā Ȼˬˉˬ͎ łLJʒʔͫā LJͲΑāć .ɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć ɨˉˬͫ LJ΀Ĕāǚˈʓ̵ҙҏć ƴǚʥͫā ȅͫΒā ƴĔLJ˳ͫā ɡʉ˳ˬ͎ ȇˁˉͫā
Ʀǩʥͫāć ɨˉͫā ɡˀʥʉ͎ ζɬ̈́LJʒͫā ɼ̣́ ȅͫΒā ȈͫLJͲ ŷćLJ˅̒ ɨͫ ȅʓͲć .Ʉʉ˅ˬͫā ŷāǍ˅̒ LJ˳͛ ɼ͛Ǩʥͫā ǽ͎ ŷćLJ˅̒
ĢǍͲΑҙҏā ƱǛ΀ Ȉˈ˳ʓ̣ā LJ˳ͫć .œĢLJʦͫā ǽ͎ ɼ˳ˬˆͫā ƛLJ̤ ɷʉˬ͇ Ǎ΀ LJ˳͛ ȫˏ˶ͫā Ȭ̤Ǎ̒ LJ́ʓ˳ˬͅ ȇʒʶ̑ć .ɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć
ɬͲ ŔǨˏ̈ ɷ͵ΒLJ͎ .žҨҞʦͫLJ̑ ɷͫLJ̤ ƦLJ͛ ɬͲ žҨҞʦ̑ āụ̈̌ ķǍ͘ ŔǨˏ˳ͫ ҙҏΒā ŔǨˏ̈ ҙҏ ĢLJ̿ ķćāĔǍʶͫā ǽ͎ ɼ̓ҨҞʔͫā
.ɨˬ͇Αā ɷˬͫāć ɼʥˀͫā Ȼˏ̤ ǽ͎ ƱLJ͵Ǩ͛ĕ LJͲ ɷ̑Ǩ̶ ǽ͎ [τ] ȅ͇āĢ āĕΒā ζǨ˳ʦͫā ŁĢLJ̶ ɷʉˬ͇ Ǎ΀ LJ˳͛ ŔǨˏͲ ȅ͵ĔΑā
ɡ̥āĔ ɬͲ ɷͫLJ˙ʓ͵ā LJͲΑāć ζĔǍ˳ʥ˳̑ ȫʉͫ ɡ̥āĔ ȅͫΒā œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ ƴǨ˳ʥͫā ȅ͇ǚ̈ ķǛͫā ƢĢǍͫā ƛLJ˙ʓ͵ā» :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘
«.ĔǍ˳ʥͲ œĢLJ̥ ȅͫΒā

Hippocrates said: ‘If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last
for a long time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].’
Here, the explanation [al-šarḥ] consists of three topics [mabāḥiṯ].
The first concerns the connection of this aphorism with what came before
it, and again what came before that. As regards the first, the first aphorism186
contains a discussion of the state that affects the body from the top.187 This
contains that.188 The second189 contains the discussion of a state that is
caused by melancholic [disease] matter [mādda sawdāwīya].190 This is
similar to this aphorism.191
The second topic concerns the fact that the symptoms [al-ʾaʿrāḍ] that the
patients have are extremely numerous, but that two symptoms are common
to them, namely the two mentioned here: fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and depression
[al-kaʾāba], meaning despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs]. The reason [al-ʿilla] for
this is that the melancholic matter [al-mādda al-sawdāwīya] has a black

186 That is, that directly preceding, vi. 22: ‘Those ruptures in the back which spread down
to the elbows are removed by venesection (Ὁκόϲα ῥήγματα ἐκ τοῦ νώτου ἐϲ τοὺϲ ἀγκῶναϲ
καταβαίνει, φλεβοτομίη λύει).’ tr. Francis Adams.
187 In other words, melancholy affects the body from the top [the brain], and this is also the
case for aphorism vi. 22, where ruptures spread from the top of the back to the elbows, that is,
a lower part of the body.
188 That is, the present aphorism vi. 23 contains the feature of something spreading from the
189 That is, aphorism vi. 21: ‘In maniacal affections, if varices or hemorrhoids come on, they
remove the mania (Τοῖϲι μαινομένοιϲι κιρϲῶν ἢ αἱμορροΐδων ἐπιγινομένων μανίηϲ λύϲιϲ).’ tr.
Francis Adams.
190 That is, madness, mentioned in aphorism vi. 21, is caused by melancholic disease matter,
as is melancholy itself.
191 Again, vi. 23 is similar to vi. 21 in that melancholic disease matter is present in both.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 239

colour. If a lot of it [the melancholic matter] is present in the body, it turns

into vapour because of the effect of the heat [contained] in it. When it
turns into vapour, this vapour [buḫār] rises up from it in the direction of
the heart and brain. The vapour of the [disease] matter has a colour similar
to that of it [the disease matter itself], since it [the vapour] is part of it [the
disease matter]; it therefore is black. During this [process]192, it [the vapour]
renders the pneuma [ar-rūḥ] turbid and dark. Its condition in this form
is like that of someone sitting in extreme darkness. During this [process]
someone overpowered by this vapour is affected by forlornness [al-waḥša],
sadness [al-ḥuzn], depression [al-kaʾāba], concern [al-hamm], or sorrow
[al-ġamm] without cause [sabab]. Therefore, when these symptoms appear
in someone whilst they do not have an external cause, then the patient
suffering from them has been affected by black [bile; al-sawdāʾ].
By his phrase ‘then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī]’ he means
‘its [disease] matter is melancholic [māddatuhū sawdāwīyatun]’, because
it is known that Hippocrates often applies the terms ‘disease [al-ʿilla]’ and
‘illness [al-maraḍ]’ to the disease matter [al-mādda al-maraḍīya].
The third topic. You have learnt previously when we discussed the
explanation of his phrase ‘to fill the body with drink is better that to fill
it with food’ in the second [section] of this book193 that the vital pneuma
(ar-rūḥ al-ḥayawānī) has been prepared by it [?] to receive what comes
upon it. For it is known that the vital power naturally predisposes the
bodily pneumas to accept the effects of life [ʾāṯār al-ḥayāt]194. The
pneuma is only able to receive, whereas the predisposition belongs to
things that occur to it. For this reason one says that predisposition is the
completion of the power through analogy [istikmālu l-qūwati bi-l-qiyāsi]
to be at [one] extreme of two things being opposite each other [ʾilā ḥaddi
l-mataqābilatayni]. You already know the things that predispose to joy;
therefore, the things that predispose to sorrow [al-ġamm] are the opposite
of this. As you know, the things that predispose to joy are an overabundant
amount of pneuma, its consistency that is balanced between thinness and
thickness, and its luminosity. In the case of the melancholic [al-sawdāwī],
the opposite things of this come together, namely a small amount of vital
pneuma and that its consistency is turbid and dark. Because of the small
amount, nature is dissolved through it [the small amount of vital pneuma],
keeping it [the vital pneuma] in the inside, because it [nature] is afraid for
it [the vital pneuma]. For when it [nature] is in this state, it [nature] cannot
satisfactorily arrange the outside and inside [lam tafi bi-tadbīri l-ẓāhiri
192 That is, when melancholic disease matter turns into vapour and rises to the heart and the
193 Aphorisms ii. 11: ‘Ῥᾷον πληροῦϲθαι ποτοῦ ἢ ϲιτίου.’
194 An important variant reading has ‘effects of heat (ʾāṯār al-ḥarāra)’ here.
240 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

wa-l-bāṭini]. When it [nature] cannot do this satisfactorily, it [nature]

keeps it [the vital pneuma] in the inside during the beginning. This is the
situation of people who convalesce, the old and the emaciated. When the
pneumas do not spread to the outside, the powers do not spread [there
either], because they are carried by the pneumas. Then, as you know, joy
does not supervene, but sorrow [al-ġamm] and depression [al-kaʾāba]. If
the pneumas are present in large quantity under these circumstances, so
that they can satisfactorily spread to the outside, then this causes constant
anger [ġaḍab ṯābit], that is, rancour [al-ḥiqd], to supervene. Anger [occurs]
because the [disease] matter is somewhat sharp, and predisposed to sorrow
[al-ġamm] and depression [al-kaʾāba]. The constancy [of the anger] is due
to the thickness of the [disease] matter. Because of the thickness, it [the
pneuma] does not consent to move, as does the thin one. When it does not
consent, it tends towards the inside, so that sorrow [al-ġamm], sadness [al-
ḥuzn], and depression [al-kaʾāba] occur. Because it [the pneuma] is dark,
it makes the soul forlorn, as is the case with darkness in the outside. When
these three things come together in the melancholic [patient], he no longer
feels joy, except when there is an extremely strong cause for joy, unlike
someone who is in the opposite situation. For he [such as person] feels joy
for the simplest of causes, as happens in the case of someone who drinks
wine, if he is excessive [?] in his drinking, as we have mentioned in On the
Preservation of Health. God knows best.

Ibn al-Quff’s entry on aphorism vi. 23 is too long and too complex to do it
justice here. He discusses first the connection between this and the previous
aphorisms. Then he investigates the problem of the ‘disease matter (al-mādda
al-maraḍīya)’. In both these cases, Ibn al-Quff approaches his task quite differ-
ently from his predecessors, as they did not explicitly deal with these topics. His
third investigation is by far the longest: it considers the role of ‘pneuma (rūḥ)’ in
this disease. He also touches on the problem of predisposition for this disease, a
topic already raised by Galen and other commentators. Even here, most of what
Ibn al-Quff says is original in the context of this aphorism. Yet, one cannot help
but notice that Ibn al-Quff’s discussion appears to be based largely on theoreti-
cal considerations: nowhere does he mentions his own practical experience.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 241

ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Mūsā al-Sīwāsī (early 14th cent.)

Al-Sīwāsī195 completed his commentary with the title Support of the Paragons
to Comment on the Aphorisms (ʿUmdat al-fuḥūl fi šarḥ al-Fuṣūl) in 1314. It
survives—apart from a fragment in the Bodleian Library196—in the following
five manuscripts:
Alexandria, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, MS Maktabat Baladīyat al-ʾIskandarīya
1846 dāl ṭibb197
Istanbul, Veliyeddin 2509 (fols. 109b–164b)198
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3721 (fols. 68–109)
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Şehid Ali Paşa, MS 2045 (fols 1–55)
Paris, BnF 2844 (fonds arabe) (fols. 1–98)199; MS P4.
Emilie Savage-Smith convincingly proved that the text of this specific
commentary closely follows that by Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq, but that it is certainly not
identical to it. According to her ‘this contention is further supported by the
extract of al-Sīwāsī’s introduction given in the Kašf al-ẓunūn by Ḥaǧǧī Ḫalīfa
(Kātip Çelebi), where it is evident that al-Sīwāsī intended his commentary to be
an exposition and final improvement on that by Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq’.200 This conclusion
is also confirmed by the introduction of the MS P4, which gives evidence of al-
Sīwāsī’s deep respect for Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq. The latter namely solved a fair portion
of the problems of the Hippocratic text and he was able to shed light on its
profound difficulties. However, he was not able to do away with the repetitive
character of the text and its long-windedness. Al-Sīwāsī intends, however, to set
the record straight, and to improve these matters in his own commentary.
Al-Sīwāsī’s entry on aphorism vi. 23 demonstrates both his indebtedness to
Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq and his independence in interpreting Hippocrates. Here, a lin-
guistic misunderstanding gives rise to an interesting exegetical solution201:

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ɷʓˬˈ͎ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ LJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑Αā ƛLJ͘

ķǨʓˈ̈ LJͲ ɷʒ̤LJ̿ ķǨʓˈʉ͎ ζɷ˳ˬͅΑāć ǽ͵LJʶˏ˶ͫā ŔćǨͫā Ģǚ͛ ŸLJͲǚͫā ȅˬ͇ ȇˬ͈ āĕΒā ķćāĔǍʶͫā Ⱥˬʦͫā :Ǩʉʶˏ̒
ȅΎ̒ΑLJʓ̈ ҙҏ ȅʓ̤ ɼ͛Ǩʥ˳ͫā ƴǍ˙ͫā Ʉˈˁ̒ ǽ͵LJʶˏ˶ͫā ŔćǨͫā ƴĢćǚ͛ć .Ʀǩʥͫāć žǍʦͫā ɬͲ ɼ˳ˬˆͫā ǽ͎ ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏā
.ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ ɑͫĕć ŰǨˈ̑ć Ǩʶˈ̑ ҙҏΒā ȫˏ˶ͫā łҙҏΐāć Ģǚˀͫā ɑ̈Ǩʥ̒

195 Zaydān 1991, 16 (Arabic 32) calls him "a Turkish physician".
196 Savage-Smith 2011, no. 7.
197 Zaydān 1996, pp. 272–3, no. 296.
198 The three Istanbul manuscripts are listed in Şeşen 1984, 10.
199 Slane 1883–95, 512.
200 Savage-Smith 2011, no. 7.
201 MS P4, fol. 87a, lines 3–9.
242 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

Hippocrates said: ‘If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last
for a long time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].’
Explanation [tafsīr]: When the melancholic humour [al-ḫilṭ al-sawdāwī]
dominates the brain, it renders the psychic pneuma turbid and dark. Then
the patient suffers from the fear [al-ḫawf] and sadness [al-ḥuzn] that
someone in the dark experiences. The turbidness of the psychic pneuma
weakens the faculty of movement [al-qūwa al-muḥarrika], so that the
movement of the chest and the instruments of breathing [ʾālāt al-nafas]
can only be accomplished with difficulty and accidentally. This is ‘badness-
of-breathing’ [ḫubṯ al-nafas].

Al-Sīwāsī begins by picking up on the idea darkness (ẓulma) affecting the psy-
chic pneuma that we already encountered in Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq. But then, his in-
terpretation seems to rely on the misreading of the Arabic calque ḫubṯ al-n-f-s.
Nafs (‘soul’) is the correct vocalisation that corresponds to the Greek dysthymía.
But al-Sīwāsī reads ḫubṯ al-nafas, literally meaning ‘badness of breathing’. For
this reason, he explains the difficulty to breathe that results from the darken-
ing of the psychic pneuma. From our perspective, this explanation is obviously
wrong, as it is based on a linguistic mistake. Yet it still testifies to the originality
of the interpreter when faced with a difficult phrase such as ḫubṯ al-n-f-s.

Ibn Qāsim al-Kilānī

Al-Kilānī, about whom little is known, composed his commentary between 1340
and 1356.202 It only survives in a single manuscript: London, British Library,
MS Or. 5939.203 In the preface, the author extols medicine as the art that is
necessary for all branches of knowledge, since a healthy body is the basis of
sound thinking. In this context, he quotes the prophet as saying: ‘If someone’s
nature is sound, then his [observance of the] law is sound (ǚ˙͎ ɷʓˈʉʒ̈́ Ȉʥ̿ ɬͲ
ɷʓˈ̈Ǩ̶ Ȉʥ̿)’.204 The author is going to write a commentary on the Aphorisms,
but he criticises the previous commentary by Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq205:

202 Zaydān 1991, 16 (Arabic 32), avers that Ibn Qāsim al-Kilānī composed his commentary for
a certain dignitary, namely the Batuʾid sultan of Qipčaq, Ǧānī Beg Maḥmūd Ḫān (d. 1357); see
also Hamarneh 1975, 5.
203 Hamarneh 1975, p. 5, no. 7; MS BL2. Bink Hallum was kind enough to inspect this
manuscript for us, and he provided us with a preliminary transcript on which the following
quotations are based.
204 MS BL2, fol. 1a, line 11. This ḥadīṯ does not occur in the canonical collections; see, for
instance, Wensinck 1992, under ṣaḥḥa.
205 MS BL2, fol. 1b, lines 9–13.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 243

ŁLJʓ͛ ƛǍˀˏͫ ȇʉ̒Ǩʓͫā Ɏ͎āǍͲ ɷʉ͎ LJ̤́Ǩ̶ć ƛǍˀˏͫā Ǩ͛ĕ ȫʉͫć ȇ̒ǨͲ Ǩʉ͈ ȺˬʓʦͲ ƈĔLJˀͫā ǽ̑Αā ŔǨ̶ ƦΑҙҏ
ɬͲ ɡˀ͎ Ǩʉʶˏ̒ ȇͫLJ˅ͫā ǚʤ̈ ҙҏć ƹLJ˳˜ʥͫā ɬʉ̑ ɡ˳ˈʓʶ˳ͫāć ƹLJʒ̈́Αҙҏā ɬʉ̑ ƛćāǚʓ˳ͫā ȇ̒Ǩ˳ͫā ɬʉʶʥͫā ǽ̑Αā
Ǩʶ͇ć Ǩˆ͵ ƛǍ˅̑ ҙҏΒā ŴǍʒˁ˳ͫā Ǩʉˉͫā ƈĔLJˀͫā ǽ̑Αā ŔǨ̶ ǽ͎ ȇ̒Ǩ˳ͫā ŁLJʓ˜ͫā

For the commentary by [Ibn] ʾAbī Ṣādiq is confused and unorganised. In

it, the discussion and explanation of the aphorisms does not correspond to
the Arrangement of the Aphorisms in the Arranged Book by ʾAbū l-Ḥusayn
[al-Sanǧarī]. It circulates among the physicians and is used by the doctors.
But someone who wants to look up the explanation of an aphorism in
the Arranged Book will only find [the information] in the inaccurate
commentary by [Ibn] ʾAbī Ṣādiq after looking for a long time and with

Then, the author gives his name as ʾAḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Qāsim al-
mutaṭabbib al-Kilānī, and says that he explained the aphorisms ‘according to
the arrangement of the book by al-Sanǧarī (ķǨʤ˶ʶͫā ŁLJʓ͛ ȇʉ̒Ǩ̒ ȅˬ͇)’.206
Although al-Kilānī complained about Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq, he remains an important
source for his commentary on aphorism vi. 23207:

.ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ɷʓˬˈ͎ ζΈ ҨҞ̈Ǎ̈́ ΈLJ͵LJͲģ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā ɷ̑ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ŴāǨ˙̑ ƛLJ͘
ƦǍ˶ˆͫā Ǩʉˉ̒ Ǎ΀ LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJ˳ͫāć [2] .LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJ˳ͫā ŁLJʥ̿Αҙҏ ɼͲģҨҞͫā ŰāǨ͇Αҙҏā ɬͲ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏʓͫā [1]
ŸLJͲǚͫā ŔćĢ Ȭ̤Ǎ̈ ķćāĔǍʶͫā œāǩͲ ƴƹāĔǨͫć [3] .žǍʦͫā ȅͫΒāć ĔLJʶˏͫā ȅͫΒā ǽˈʉʒ˅ͫā ĿǨʤ˳ͫā ɬ͇ Ǩ˜ˏͫāć
Ί ȫ̑LJʉͫā ĔĢLJʒͫā œāǩͲ ƦΑā ȅˬ͇ [4] ζɼ̣ĢLJʦͫā ɼ˳ˬˆͫā Ȭ̤Ǎ̒ć ŷǩˏ̒ LJ˳͛ ζɼ˳ˬˆ̑ ɷ͇ǩˏ̒ć ɡ̥āĔ ɬͲ
ƦΑā LJͲΒā ɷʒʒ̵ć [6] .ɼ͘ǨʥͲ Ǩʉ͈ ƹāĔǍ̵ ɬ͇ ɷ̓ćṳ̈̌ ƦLJ͛ LJ˳ͫ 208LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJͲ ƛLJ˙̈ LJ˳͵Βāć [5] .ƱLJ̈Βā ɄˈˁͲ ŔćǨˬͫ
ƹǍ̵ ɬͲ ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā LJͲΒLJ͎ ζɷʶˏ͵ ŸLJͲǚͫā ǽ͎ ķǛͫāć [7] .ŸLJͲǚͫā œĢLJ̥ ɬͲ LJͲΒāć ζɷʶˏ͵ ŸLJͲǚͫā ǽ͎ ƦǍ˜̒
ƦǍ˜̈ ƦΑā LJͲΒāć [8] ζɼ˳ˬˆͫā ȅͫΒā Ǩʉ˶ͫā ŔćǨͫā œāǩͲ Ǩʉˉ̒ć Ȼʉˬˉʓ̑ ŸLJͲǚͫā Ǩ΀Ạ̌ ɡ˙ʔ̒ ƴǨͲ ҨҞ̑ ȫ̑LJ̈ ĔĢLJ̑ œāǩͲ
žǍʦͫā ŰǨˈʉ͎ ζǽ͵LJʶˏ˶ͫā ŔćǨͫā Ȉ˳ˬͅΑLJ͎ [9] .ŸLJͲǚͫā ȅˬ͇ ɼʒͫLJ͈ ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ łāĢLJʦ̑ ćΑā ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ ƴǨͲ ȽͲ
ζLJ˳́͵LJͲģ ƛLJ̈́ć ζLJ˳́ʒʒ̵ žǨˈ̈ ɨͫć [11] †ζɬʉ̀ĢLJˈͫā āǛ΀ ƹǨ˳ͫā ȅˬ͇ ɨʤ̿ LJ˳́Ͳ ƛǍ˙̈† [01] Ʀǩʥͫāć
.ƢāǛʤͫāć ƦǍ˶ʤͫLJ͛ ķćāĔǍ̵ Ǩ̥ΐā ŰǨͲ ćΑā LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJ˳ͫā ǽ͎ Ƚ˙̈ ɷ͵Αā ɨˬ͇LJ͎ [21]

Hippocrates said: ‘If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last
for a long time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].’
[1] Fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] belong to the
symptoms that necessarily befall those suffering from melancholy. [2]
Melancholy is the change of opinion and thought from its natural state

206 MS BL2, fol. 1b, line 14.

207 MS BL2, fol. 85b, line 3–fol. 86a, line 6.
208 LJʉͫǍʦ˶ͫLJͲ] inserted above the line by the same hand.
244 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

to corruption [al-fasād] and fear [al-ḫawf]. [3] Because the mixture of

the melancholic is bad, the pneuma of the brain is made to feel forlorn
internally and is frightened by darkness, just as the darkness outside
makes one feel forlorn and frightened. [4] For the mixture of someone cold
and dry is contrary to the pneuma of the brain and weakens it. [5] One
calls something melancholy when it is brought about by black [bile] that
is not burnt. [6] It is either caused by the fact that it [the bile] is inside
the brain itself, or outside the brain. [7] The [type] that is in the brain
itself is caused by a cold, dry bad mixture. This happens either without bile
[mirra]. Then the substance of the brain is made heavy through thickening,
whilst the mixture of the psychic pneuma changes to darkness. [8] Or it
is accompanied by melancholic bile or thick melancholic vapours that
dominate the brain. [9] Then they [the bile and the vapours] darken the
psychic pneuma, so that fear [al-ḫawf] and sadness [al-ḥuzn] occur. [10] If
one of these two symptoms befalls someone [?]209 [11] without their cause
being known, whilst they last for a long period of time, [12] then know
that he will succumb to melancholy or another melancholic disease such as
madness [ǧunūn] or leprosy [al-ǧuḏām].

Al-Kilānī begins his commentary with some fairly standard statements: fear and
despondency characterise melancholy (§ 1), which he then defines (§ 2). Then he
draws on Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq’s comparison between the inner darkness of the brain
and the outer darkness that frightens people (§ 3). He then explains the action
of the pneuma in terms of the primary qualities of the black bile, dry and cold
(§ 4), and classifies the type as that which is not burnt (§ 5); melancholy due to
black bile resulting from burning is normally associated with fury or lethargy.
Then al-Kilānī resorts to an interesting division and subdivision of melancholy,
according to whether it occurs inside or outside the brain (§ 6); and whether in
the former case black bile is present or not (§§ 7–9). In the following (§§ 10–11),
he appears to give information already found in Ibn ʾAbī Ṣādiq, namely that
prolonged fear and despondency without an apparent cause lead to melancholy
and other related diseases (§ 12).
Like other commentators, al-Kilānī combines the familiar with the novel. The
fact that melancholic vapours cause the psychic pneuma to darken, resulting in
fear and despondency is well known. His explanation for this phenomenon in
terms of primary qualities, however, does not appear in any other commentary
discussed here. Likewise, his division of types of melancholy is equally absent
from his predecessors. And it is quite different from the standard division of
melancholy into epigastric, encephalic, and general, that we know well from

209 The Arabic text as printed above is clearly corrupt, but we have not been able to find the
right conjecture yet; the translation conveys the probable meaning of this phrase.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 245

Galen’s Affected Parts, but that probably goes back to Rufus.210 Compared to our
next and last commentator to be discussed here in detail, al-Kilānī therefore ap-
pears as a quite interesting figure.

ʾIbrāhīm al-Kīšī

Al-Kīšī wrote a commentary on the Aphorisms entitled Means to Arrive at the

Questions about the Aphorisms (Wasāʾil al-wuṣūl ʾilā masāʾil al-Fuṣūl). To date,
little has been ascertained about the author of this commentary. In the Leiden
manuscript, the author’s full name is given as ʿIzz al-Milla wa-l-Dīn ʾIbrāhīm
al-Kīšī.211 A person by the same name is the author of an Abridgment of the
Generalities in the Canon of Medicine (Muḫtaṣar Kullīyāt al-Qānūn fī l-ṭibb); this
text is preserved in a Turkish manuscript.212 As this manuscript was finished
in AH 753 (corresponding to AD 1352) in Damascus, al-Kīšī must have been
born at least a few decades before this date. According to various scholars,
his Means to Arrive at the Questions about the Aphorisms is extensively quoted
in the glossary of a certain ʿImād al-Dīn ʿAbd ar-Raḥīm al-Ṭabīb.213 The latter
appears to have finished his work in AH 785 (AD 1383). This could be correct,
since the scribe of the Istanbul manuscript finished his copy four years later,
namely in AH 789 (AD 1387). Rosenthal, who refers to our author as ʾIbrāhīm
al-Kaššī, did not have the opportunity to consult the Means to Arrive at the
Questions about the Aphorisms in manuscript. He speculated that it may ‘raise
interesting points or contain certain information not known to us from earlier

This commentary is preserved in four manuscripts:

Cairo, Dār al-Kutub, MS Ṭalʿat 594
Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Ayasofya 3670;215
Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, MS Or. 58 Voorhoeve216; MS LUB1
Mašhad, Riḍawīya, MS 123217
From our initial investigation of the manuscripts, we can give the following
assessment. It is a short, lemmatic commentary: the Hippocratic text is quoted,

210 Pormann 2008a, 5–6.

211 MS LUB1, fol. 1b, line 9.
212 Manisa, Kitapsaray, MS 1766, fols. 4a–88b; see Dietrich 1966, 96–8; Şeşen 1984, 72.
213 Brockelmann 1937–49, suppl. ii. p. 1029, no. 21; Sezgin 1970, 31; Şeşen 1984, 11.
214 Rosenthal 1966, 244–5.
215 Şeşen 1984, 11.
216 Voorhoeve 1980, 85.
217 Dānišpažhūh et al. 1926–93, vol. iii, p. 290, no. 123.
246 Peter E. Pormann, N. Peter Joosse

and then a brief explanation follows. The commentary begins with a short
reflection on the name ‘Buqrāṭ (Hippocrates)’ and briefly retells the the events
that allegedly occurred at Hippocrates’ graveside; ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baġdādī also
deals with this topic in the preface to his commentary on the Prognostics.218 After
this short reflection, the commentary commences with the first aphorism. The
short and somewhat derivative character of the commentary also appears from
the following sample dealing with aphorism vi. 23219:

.ƹāĔǍ̵ ɷʉ͎ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ŷǩˏ̒ ƢāĔ ɬͲ :ƛLJ͘

ɼ̈ćāĔǍ̵ łāĢLJʦ̑ ƹLJ˙̒Ģā ȅˬ͇ Ʀҙҏǚ̈ LJ˳́͵ҙҏ ķćāĔǍ̵ ŰǨͲ ȅˬ͇ Ʀҙҏǚ̈ ȫˏ˶ͫā ȉʒ̥ć ɨ̇āǚͫā ŷǩˏʓͫā :ƛǍ͘Αā
ɬͲ ƢāĔ āĕΒLJ͎ ɼ̑ΐLJ˜ͫāć žǍʦͫā ɬͲ ɼ˳ˬˆͫā ǽ͎ ƦLJʶ͵ Βҙҏā ķǨʓˈ̈ LJͲ LJ́ʒ̤LJˀͫ ķǨʓˈʉ͎ ǽ͎LJˀͫā ŔćǨˬͫ ɼ˳ˬˆͲ
LJ́́ʒ̶Αā LJͲć ƦLJ̈́Ǩʶͫāć ƢāǚʤͫLJ͛ ɼ̈ćāĔǍʶͫā ŰāǨͲΑҙҏā ǽ͎ ŷǍ͘Ǎˬͫ ɬʉʒʒ̵ LJ͵LJ͛ Ǩ΀LJͅ ȇʒ̵ Ǩʉ͈

He said: ‘If fear [al-tafazzuʿ] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs] last for a long
time, then his illness [ʿilla] is melancholic [sawdāwī].’
I say: constant fear [al-tafazzuʿ al-dāʾim] and despondency [ḫubṯ al-nafs]
indicate a melancholic illness [maraḍ sawdāwī], because they indicate that
melancholic vapours that darken the clear pneuma [ar-rūḥ al-ṣāfī] have
ascended. Then the patient is affected by the fear [al-ḫawf] and depression
[al-kaʾāba] that affects someone in the dark. If it persists without any
apparent cause, then these two [things] become causes for the occurrence
of melancholic diseases such as leprosy [al-ǧuḏām], cancer [al-saraṭān]
and the like.

The entry in al-Kīšī’s commentary appears to be based entirely on that by Ibn

ʾAbī Ṣādiq. In the second part, al-Kīšī merely copied a few phrases with very lit-
tle alteration. The only somewhat surprising feature in this commentary is the
‘clear pneuma (ar-rūḥ al-ṣāfī)’ which does not have any parallels in the other
commentaries listed above.

Other commentaries
In the bibliographical literature, six other commentaries are mentioned for
which we have been unable to see any manuscripts. We can therefore only
provide some references to them here, without being able to shed any new light
on their character. They are:

218 See our article on al-Baġdādī in the present volume.

219 MS LUB1, fol. 50a, lines 15–21.
Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms in the Arabic Tradition 247

1. Commentary by Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Salām al-Miṣrī, entitled Good Im-

ported to Arrange the Aphorisms (Baḍāʾīʿ al-nuqūl fī tafṣīl al-Fuṣūl). It is pre-
served in two Cairene manuscripts (Dār al-Kutub, MSS ṭibb 876 and ṭibb
2. Commentary by Zayn al-Dīn Ḫālid ibn ʿAbdallāh ʾAzharī (fl. c. 1500), extant
in one Iranian manuscript (Qum, Library of the Markaz ʾIḥyāʾ al-Turāṯ al-
ʾIslāmī, MS 740)221
3. Commentary by Masʿūd Farzand Ḥusayn Ǧunābaḏī, also extant in only one
Iranian manuscript (Qum, Maktabat ʾĀyat ʾAllāh al-ʿUẓmā al-Marʿašī al-
Naǧafī, no. 657)222
4. Commentary by Muḥammad al-ʿAṭṭār al-Dimašqī, extant in only one Cairene
manuscript (Dār al-Kutub, MS ṭibb 440)223
5. Commentary by Al-Manāwī (d. 893 AH), entitled Taḥqīq al-wuṣūl ʾilā šarḥ
al-Fuṣūl. It is preserved in one manuscript from Madrid: Escurial, MS árabe
6. Commentary by Naǧm al-Dīn ʾAḥmad ibn al-Minfāḫ (or: al-Minfāḥ) (d. AH
652 or 656), one of the medical teachers of the aforementioned Ibn al-Quff,225
entitled Epistle Refuting the Objections against the Book of Aphorisms (Risāla
fī radd al-iʿtirāḍāt ʿalā kitāb al-Fuṣūl). It is preserved in one short fragment
only: Istanbul, Hekimoğlu Camii, MS 574 (fols. 124b–155b).226
In the bibliographical literature two anonymous commentaries are mentioned,
for which we also have been unable to see any manuscripts. They are:
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS Ahlwardt 6225227
Rampur, Raza Library, MS ṭibb 3820228


In this article, we could only offer vignettes on the exegetical tradition of the
Aphorisms in Arabic, and future research will have to explore this fascinating
subject further. There are, however, a number of tentative conclusions that we
220 Sezgin 1970, 31; Zaydān 1991, p. 15 (p. 31 Arabic), mentions the same text, but now
composed by a certain Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Salām al-Muẓaffarī.
221 Ḥusaynī Aškiwarī, 2003–4, ii. 397.
222 Ḥusaynī Aškiwarī, 1994, xxix. 541-2.
223 Zaydān 1991, p. 15 (p. 31 Arabic).
224 Zaydān 1991, p. 16 (p. 32 Arabic).
225 See Hamarneh, 1974, 48-9, 65, 67, 174.
226 This manuscript has been described in Şeşen 1984, 8–9.
227 Ahlwardt 1893, 497–8.
228 ʿAršī 1963–1977, v. 150–51.