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Arabic Commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms


The Hippocratic Aphorisms have exerted a singular influence over generations of physicians both in the East and in the West. Galen (d. c. 216) produced an extensive commentary on this text, as did other medical authors writing in Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew. The Arabic tradition is particularly rich, with more than a dozen commentaries extant in over a hundred manuscripts. These Arabic commentaries did not merely contain scholastic debates, but constituted important venues for innovation and change. Moreover, they impacted on medical practice, as the Aphorisms were so popular that both doctors and their patients knew them by heart. Despite their importance for medical theory and practice, previous scholarship on them has barely scratched the surface. Put succinctly, the present project breaks new ground by conducting an in-depth study of this tradition through a highly innovative methodology: it approaches the available evidence as a corpus, to be constituted electronically, and to be analysed in an interdisciplinary way.
We propose to survey the manuscript tradition of the Arabic commentaries on the Hippocratic Aphorisms, beginning with Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq’s Arabic translation of Galen’s commentary. On the basis of this philological survey that will employ a new approach to stemmatics, we shall produce provisional electronic XML editions of the commentaries. These texts will constitute the corpus, some 600,000 words long, that we shall investigate through the latest IT tools to address a set of interdisciplinary problems: textual criticism of the Greek sources; Graeco-Arabic translation technique; methods of quotation; hermeneutic procedures; development of medical theory; medical practice; and social history of medicine. Both in approach and scope, the project will bring about a paradigm shift in our study of exegetical cultures in Arabic, and the role that commentaries played in the transmission and transformation of scientific knowledge.

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Oxford road
M13 9PL Manchester
United Kingdom

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North West (England) Greater Manchester Manchester
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Liz Fay (Ms.)
Principal investigator
Peter Ernst Pormann (Dr.)
EU contribution
No data

Beneficiaries (2)