Arabic Sciences and Philosophy

Research Article

CASE NOTES AND CLINICIANS: GALEN’S COMMENTARY ON THE HIPPOCRATIC EPIDEMICS IN THE ARABIC TRADITION*

PETER E. PORMANNa1

a1 Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK Email: p.e.pormann@warwick.ac.uk

Abstract

Galen’s Commentaries on the Hippocratic Epidemics constitute one of the most detailed studies of Hippocratic medicine from Antiquity. The Arabic translation of the Commentaries by Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (d. c. 873) is of crucial importance because it preserves large sections now lost in Greek, and because it helped to establish an Arabic clinical literature. The present contribution investigate the translation of this seminal work into Syriac and Arabic. It provides a first survey of the manuscript tradition, and explores how physicians in the medieval Muslim world drew on it both to teach medicine to students, and to develop a framework for their own clinical research.

Footnotes

The idea to tackle this subject stems from conversations with Simon Swain; he has been supportive of my research in more than one way. Apart from the libraries which hold the manuscripts discussed here, I am indebted to the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, and its director, Christian Brockmann, for giving me access to their collection of manuscript facsimiles. Moreover, Philip J. van der Eijk made it possible for me to present my findings at the Approaches to Ancient Medicine meeting in Newcastle in August 2007. Finally, a number of colleagues as well as the anonymous referee read earlier drafts of this paper, or helped with questions of detail; they include Tom Burman, Charles Burnett, Oliver Overwien, and Uwe Vagelpohl. I am tremendously grateful to all of the above. The Wellcome Trust graciously funded the research which led to this paper (grant number 077558); I wish to thank the Trustees for their generous support..

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