Commentary on Hippocrates' Aphorisms


The Greek medical tradition survived long after the decline of the Hellenistic world, thanks to the work of Arabic translators and commentators, who preserved the theoretical and practical discoveries of Greek physicians in Arabic translations. The translation of Greek medical texts into Arabic was mainly conducted under the ‘Abbasid caliphs and, in particular, in the circle of intellectuals linked to the name of Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (circa 809–73). Among the Greek physicians, Hippocrates has always been considered an exemplary character, the symbol of the true and scrupulous physician, thanks mainly to the high regard for this founding figure shown in works by Galen and other physicians. The Aphorisms (sayings) of Hippocrates were widely commented upon in both the Greek and Islamic worlds. The present manuscript is a clear example of this tradition, as it consists of a fragmentary 14th-century copy of an 11th-century commentary on Hippocrates' Fuṣul (Sayings) by the Persian physician Ibn Abī Ṣādiq al-Nīsābūrī. The Arabic translations of Hippocrates' aphorisms are underlined in red ink, while a remnant of the text preserves al-Nīsābūrī's commentary. An interesting ownership note in English, found in the opening folio of the manuscript, indicates that it was given as a present to the American surgeon Valentine Mott by Dr. Franz Pruner, who worked as the head physician of Cairo hospital after 1838. The title page records several previous owners from the 15th century to the 18th, and the manuscript may date back to the 14th century.

Last updated: August 29, 2017