HIPPOCRATES, or Boqrāṭ (var. Eboqrāṭ, Eboqrā-ṭis, Boqrāṭis) in Islamic tradition, where he is often referred to as “the first codifier of medicine.” He is traditionally, but without factual basis, said to have been born on the Island of Cos (Dodecanese) in about 460 and to have died in Larissa (Thessaly) around 370 B.C.E. (for the attempts of Muslims at dating see below). In Persian, as well as in Arabic, his name, etymologized as żābeṭ al-ḵayl (horse-tamer), was often corrupted (e.g., Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, I, p. 28, who knew fairly correct representations of the original Greek) to Boqrāṭ. Since in New Persian the transmission of Hippocratic works, as well as the bio-bibliographical tradition on Hippocrates, depends entirely on Arabic antecedents, which are in turn derived from the late classical horizon of transmission, all questions pertaining to the historicity or non-historicity of the transmitted persona of Hippocrates and to the provenance of the Corpus Hippocraticum remain outside the scope of the present article (for these see Potter and Gundert, Craik, and Smith, Tradition). On the other hand, in tracing the impact of Hippocrates in Islamic Persia, one cannot overlook arabophone Iranian authors, or those who practiced their profession in Persia or whose works circulated there (for a census of Arabic biobibliographical sources on Hippocrates, see Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 25-35, esp. 26, n. 2 and ʿAli b. Reżwān).

Hippocrates’ image as the exemplary physician-philosopher had, prominently but by no means exclusively through Galen’s emphatic Hippocratism, become canonized in late antiquity alongside and separately from the transmission of the collection of medical literature now called Corpus Hippocraticum. The narrative(s) of Hippocrates the sage, the moral philosopher, and virtuous man were passed on to the world of Islam by way of gnomologia and related literature, whereas his works were, if at all, transmitted in the context of medical and scientific studies. This is not to suggest that the two conduits of tradition were hermetically shut off from each other, though the Arabic and particularly the Persian traditions tend to support this assertion (e.g., in Arabic: Sejestāni, Mobaššer, Šahrestāni, Šahrazūri; and in Persian: ʿAwfi, Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, Mirḵᵛānd, and Ḵᵛānamir, with their respective Arabic antecedents and their Persian translations). In contrast, the Arabic combination of bio-bibliography, as diversely represented in the works of Ebn al-Nadim, Ebn Joljol, Ebn al-Qefṭi, and Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, for long did not meet with similar receptiveness in a Persian-speaking environment. It was only under the Safavid Shah Solaymān (r. 1666-94) that an anonymous translator dedicated his version of Ebn al-Qefṭi’s work, or rather of the abridged version by Moḥammad b. ʿAli Zawzani (which alone survives), to a ranking official referred to as Mirzā Moḥammad Ebrā-him Mostawfi-al-Mamālek (Storey, I, pp. 1106-7 [oldest ms. dated 1099/1688]). Thus Hippocrates as the author of foundational medical books largely faded from memory (see below); at most, the titles either of his Aphorisms (Foṣūl) or of his Oath (ʿAhd Boqrāt or Aymān) were mentioned, if his authorship was not altogether reduced to that of “many books.”

Biography. Hippocrates the Sage. Depending on the Hellenistic fictitious biographical tradition of Hippocrates, his biography in Islamic sources also included the Coan genealogy given in the second Pseudo-Hippocra-tic letter. According to this letter, he was the son of Heraclides (Eraqlidas), son of Hippocrates, son of Gnosidicus, son of Nebrus, son of Sostratus, son of Theodo-rus, son of Cleomyttades, son of Crisamis; his was the seventeenth generation from Asclepius, the nineteenth from Zeus, and his mother was Phainarete’s daughter Praxithea, descended from Heracles (Smith, Studies, pp. 48 f; Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, I, p. 24, ll. 12-16; Ṯābet b. Qorra, apud Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 352, has an abridged version). He was further credited with two sons, Thessalus and Draco, who each had a son named Hippocrates, and with a daughter; the daughter’s name, unattested in Greek and variously garbled in Arabic and Persian, has thus far defied deciphering (mʾyʾ ʾrsyʾ in Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 347; mʾnʾrysʾ in Ebn al-Qefṭi, p. 94 [Maia Orthia: “Asclepius-like woman doctor"?]; see also Sejestāni, p. 20; Mobaššer, p. 47; Ebn Abi Osaybeʿa, I, p. 33). However, her presumed husband, Polybus (Fulubos), to whose authorship certain works in the transmitted Corpus had for long been attributed, was not known as Hippocrates’ son-in-law, but merely as his most prominent student and successor (e.g., Galen, Maqālat Jālinus, p. 20; Galen, apud ʿAli b. Reżwān, p. 21; Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 347; Ebn Joljol, p. 16; Sejestāni, p. 20; Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, I, 33; Sezgin, III, p. 47; data furnished by the Pseudo-Hippocratic Embassy were not incorporated here; see Smith, Studies, pp. 118 f.). He was said to have studied initially with his father and later to have passed on his learning to his sons, grandsons, and a large circle of disciples from outside his own family; special acumen was attributed to his presumed daughter.

Following late classical predecessors, such as Porphyry and the shadowy figure behind Yaḥyā Naḥwi, Islamic authors strove in vain as Abu Rayḥān Birūni first summed up the available evidence (Biruni, pp. 19-22) to ascertain the dates of Hippocrates’s life. ʿAli b. Reżwān’s efforts further illustrate the problems of chronology confronting them (ʿAli b. Reżwān, pp. 28-32, 55-61). Results varied, depending on the underlying synchronisms with known rulers and the alternatively “Hellenist” or “Iranist” derivation of the respective chronologies. Thus, on the basis of a tradition reflected in the Pseudo-Hippocratic letters (Smith, Studies, pp. 48-53) and in Galen (Maqālat Jālinus, p. 20), he had been synchronized with the Achaemenid Artaxerxes I Longimanus (q.v., r. 465-64 to 424-23 B.C.E.), as Democritus (Dimoqrāṭis/Ḏimoqrātis) had been (Šahrestāni, ed. Cureton, p. 305, tr., p. 307). The Achaemenid’s Hellenized name was rendered into Arabic indirectly on the basis of external information; either it appeared in its transcribed Aramaic form as Arṭaḵšast (e.g., Masʿudi, Tanbih, p. 131; idem, Moruj, ed. Pellat, sec. 526) or in Sasanian Persian garb as Ardašir (e.g., Galen, Maqālat Jālinus, p. 20; see Biruni’s comment, p. 20, on the alternative versions of the name). Yet he was further integrated into the dominant mytho-history of ancient Iran and and was identified as Bahman son of Esfandiār (e.g., Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 346; Masʿūdi, Tanbih, p. 131; Sejestāni, p. 74; see BAHMAN iii.), which could lead to various combinations of the names Ardašir and Bahman (e.g., Ebn Joljol, p. 16; Biruni, p. 20). In later, especially Persian, texts the king was given his Kayanid name and patronymics as Bahman b. Esfandiār b. Goštāsb. Hippocrates was said to have ‘appeared’ in the year 96, or alternatively 146, of Nebuchadnezzar (Boḵt-Naṣar), corresponding to Bahman’s regnal year 14 (e.g., Ebn al-Nadim, p. 346; cf. Mobaššer, p. 48). In a Hellenistic frame of reference, Hippocrates was dated roughly a century before Alexander (r. 336-323 B.C.) and about six hundred years before Galen, whose floruit was synchronized with the reign of the Roman emperor Commodus (180-92 C.E.; Masʿūdi, Tanbih, p. 131; cf. Birūni, p. 20).

As indicated above, Hippocrates’s exemplary wisdom and virtue had been enshrined in the gnomological literature of late antiquity. Transmission into Persian passed, by no means exclusively, from Mobaššer b. Fātek through Šahrazūri to Mirḵᵛānd and Ḵᵛāndamir; alternative strands are represented in Šahrestāni’s al-Melal wa’l-neḥal and its Persian version by Afżal-al-Din b. Ṣadr Torka Eṣfahāni (comp. 843/1447), in ʿAwfi’s Javāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt, and by Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, not to mention eclectic combinations. Apart from minimal historical data and a considerable, varying number of brief apophthegms, the major portion of these accounts consists of the narrative of Hippocrates’s refusal to accede to Ardašir-Bahman’s invitation to his court, for reasons of patriotism as well as an ascetic disdain for material goods (Ebn Joljol, p. 16; Sejestāni, p. 74, no. 106; Ebn Hendu, Meftāhá, pp. 28-29; Awfi, p. 307; Šahrazuri, tr., pp. 231 ff.; cf. Pinault, p. 95, n. 3). The second essential component of the classical and Arabic gnomological tradition, namely Hippocrates’s diagnosis and cure of a lovesick royal prince and heir-apparent (e.g., Sejestāni, pp. 75 f., no. 108) was not related by Šahrazuri; thus to date it would appear that in Persian Hippocrates figured in the story only in Šahrestāni (ed. Cureton, pp. 302-4; tr., p. 305) and in ʿAwfi (pp. 307-8). Even in classical antiquity, the anecdote had been a migrant narrative motif that figured in diverse contexts and became attached to various physicians (Pinault, pp. 105-14). The earliest attestation (ca. 850), which does not mention Hippocrates, is related by ʿAli b. Rabban Ṭabari (p. 358; cf. Ebn Qotayba Dinavari, IV, pp. 131 ff., who credits the 6th-century Arab physician Ḥāreṯ b. Kalda with the treatment). The similar anecdote related by Neẓāmi ʿArūżi featuring Avicenna (ed. Qazvini, pp. 78-80, ed. Qazvini and Moʿin, text, pp. 121-22, tr. Brown, pp. 88-90) is evidently based on a case mentioned by Avicenna himself in his al-Qānun fi’l-ṭebb (ed. Bulāq, II, p. 72) and reported by Esmāʿil Jorjāni and rehashed, with mystical coloring and embellishments, by Rumi (Esmāʿil Jorjāni, p. 304; Rumi, I, pp. 5 ff.; Neẓāmi ʿArużi, ed. Qazvini and Moʿin, comm., pp. 426-27; for a detailed treatment of the story see Foruzānfar, I, pp. 41 ff.). A third anecdote in the gnomological tradition of Hippocrates features the physiognomist Antonius Polemon (Aflimun) of Laodicea diagnosing, from a portrait drawing, Hippocrates’s concupiscence; the latter’s answer, while admitting his weakness, refers to his superior sense of self-control and so wins the argument (Gutas, p. 326, with ref. to original version with Socrates and Zopyrus; Ebn Joljol, p. 17; Ebnal-Qefṭi, pp. 91-92; Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, I, pp. 27-28, with ref. to Socrates[!]; ʿAwfi, pp. 16-18; Nizamu’d-Din, pp. 100, 162).

In contrast to such colorful anecdotes, references to actual Hippocratic writings tend to recede into the background in the gnomological tradition, especially in Persian. Whereas Sejestāni quotes from Aphorisms (p. 77, nos. 1593-1607) and the Oath (nos. 1609-27) and Mo-baššer at least mentions the number of titles in the Corpus and singles out twelve as necessary reading for the serious medical scholar after Galen’s "Sixteen Books"(al-Settata al-ʿašara; Mobaššer, pp. 48-49; also in Šahrazuri, p. 223, tr. Maqṣud-ʿAli, p. 235 f., no. 2823, without their actual titles, however; for Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa’s complete, thus intelligible version see below), Šahrestāni (1981, p. 176b) merely quotes a brief passage from the Oath, refers to Hippocrates’s “well-known oaths,” and summarily alludes to his “many books on medicine”; neither ʿAwfi nor Mirḵᵛānd retain any such information. Mosawfi (p. 64) and, in his wake, Ḵᵛāndamir (I, p. 167) mention the Aphorisms (Foṣul) as a renowned medical text, but do not illustrate their assertion with a concrete, attributed quotation. Not surprisingly, the first Aphorism, “life is short and the art [of medicine] is long,” was a staple of Hippocratic ‘life and manners,’ at least in the abridged form, but without reference to the original context (Ḥonayn b. Esḥāq, p. 120; Mobaššer, p. 52; Šahra-zūri, p. 226, tr. Maqṣūd-ʿAli, p. 238, no. 2840) or even with an entirely different, otherwordly bent (e.g., Mostawfi, p. 64). Šahrestāni (1981, p. 176, ed. Cureton, p. 304, tr., p. 306) quotes the first Aphorism in a more complete version (al-ʿomr qaṣir wa’l-ṣenāʿa ṭawila wa’l-zamān jadid wa’l-tajraba ḵaṭar wa’l-qażāʾ ʿosr), but simply as a famous Hippocratic adage.

As physician and author. The basic fact, amply attested by the actual transmission of Hippocratic texts into Arabic as well as by all other sources, is that, however venerable an ideal Hippocrates was in the late classical and Islamic medicine, in practical terms access to his works was hardly ever direct; rather it was mediated by Galen and the tradition of medical instruction subsequent to him, especially in late pre-Islamic Alexandria (Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 67 ff., 343; Sezgin, III, pp. 140-50; Iskandar). Hellenistic criticism of the authenticity of works attributed to Hippocrates as received and continued by Galen (cf. Smith, HippocraticTradition, pp. 121, 169-71, nos. 85-86, 238 f., and index, s.vv. “Dioscurides” [editor] and “Hippocratic Question”) also found its way into Arabic discussions of the problem (Ṯābet b. Qorra, apud Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 352; ʿAli b. Reżwān, pp. 21 ff.). The earliest Islamic syllabi of Hippocratic titles were restricted to those that Galen or others had commented upon (Yaʿqūbi, Taʾriḵ I, pp. 107-30; Ṯābet b. Qorra apud Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 347; Ebn Joljol p. 16; Ebn al-Qefṭi, pp. 94-95; Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, I, pp. 31-32), which formed a certain canon; but even this was no fixed corpus, rather a fluid grouping of between four (Smith, HippocraticTradition, esp. pp. 121, 238; Ṯābet b. Qorra apud Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 347) to twelve titles (Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa, I, pp. 31-32; Sezgin, III, pp. 28-47). This dodecad, the study of which allegedly followed that of Galen’s "Sixteen Books” in a well-rounded medical curriculum, comprised: (1) K. al-Janin (Peri gonēs, Peri phusios paidiou “The embryo”); (2) K. Ṭabiʿat al-ensān (Peri phusios anthrōpou “The nature of man”); (3) K. al-Ahwia wa’l-azmena wa’l-miāh w’l-boldān (or variants; Peri aerōn hudarōn topōn “Airs, waters, places”); (4) K. al-Fuṣūl (Aphorismoi “Aphorisms”); (5) K. Taqdemat al-maʿrefa (Prognōstikon “Prognostics”); (6) K. Tadbir al-amrāż al-ḥādda (Peri diaitēs oxeōn “Regimen of acute diseases”); (7) K. Awjāʿ al-nesāʾ (Gunaikeiōn “Gynecology”); (8) K. Abiḏimiā, or K. al-amrāżal-wāfeda (Epidēmiai “Epidemics”); (9) K. fi’l-Aḵlāṭ (Peri chumōn “Humors”); (10) K. al-Ḡeḏāʾ (Peri trophēs “Food”); (11) K. Qāṭiṭriyūn, or K. Ḥānūt al-ṭabib (Katʾ iētreion “The doctor’s office”); (12) K. al-Kasr wa’l-jabr (Peri agmōn “Fractures”). The earlier Hippocratic canons in Islamic sources had comprised only nine or ten titles, which were not necessarily included in the equally fluctuating dodecad; thus, for instance, in Ebn al-Nadim’s ennead, which Galen had distinguished by writing commentaries on it, The Oath (Horkos, K. al-ʿAhd, or K. al-Aymān) is included as well (Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 346; on the various selections of Hippocratic writings see also Dietrich, “Buḵrāṭ”). Not surprisingly, a considerably larger number were at least known by title (see Sezgin, III, pp. 23-47).

The corpus of thirty titles which Mobaššer barely cited (see above) was recorded in its entirety by Ebn Abi Oṣaybeʿa (pp. 32-33; cf. Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 27-34), but it was ʿAli b. Reżwān who gave the most extensive list of Hippocratic titles, the total of fifty-five, from among Islamic authors (Taṭarroq, pp. 17-19, 43-48); ʿAli b. Reżwān had asked for the list from Yaḥyā b. Saʿid Anṭāki, who himself had translated it from Greek (ʿAli b. Reżwān, pp. 15-17; Sezgin, GAS III, p. 28; cf. Rosenthal). Yet the diffusion of ʿAli b. Reżwān’s scholarship is hard to gauge, since his treatise had barely survived in a unique manuscript in the possession of a physician of 811/1408.

Admittedly, the actual accessibility of Hippocratic titles cannot be assessed on the basis of the Arabic bio-bibliographical sources, or even by prima facie evidence in Islamic medical literature, simply because many quotations were copied from intermediary authorities. Only precise examination of each individual passage can reliably establish evidence; considering that an inquiry into the reception of Hippocrates in Persia cannot ignore the works of Arabophone authors, reference has to be made to all notable authors of the 10th and 11th centuries C.E., including Abū Bakr Moḥammad b. Zakariyāʾ Rāzi, ʿAli b. ʿAbbās Majusi (q.v.), Abu’l-Ḥasan Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Ṭabari Toronji, who programmatically titled his work al-Moʿālajāt al-boqrāṭiya (Hippocraticcures), Abū Sahl Bešr Sejzi (al-Rasāʾel al-ṭebbiya), Abu Manṣur Ḥasan Qomri (K. al-Ḡenā wa’l-monā/Konnāš), Abu Sahl ʿIsā Masiḥi Jorjāni (al-Kotob al-meʾa fi ṣenāʿa al-ṭebbiya), and, by no means last, Avicenna (see Sezgin, III, pp. 294-340 and index, s.v. “Hippokrates”; Ullmann, Medizin, index, s.v. “Hippokrates”). Mention must be made especially of Ebn Abi Ṣādeq Nayšāburi (q.v.), whose efforts as Hippocratic commentator earned him the sobriquet “second Hippocrates.” (As late as the Mughal period, Ḥakim Moḥammad-Ḥosayn, physician to Moḥammad Shāh, r. 1719-48, was fittingly honored by the title Boqrāṭ Khan; see Storey, I, p. 139, no. 166.) Important sources in Persian are Boḵāri Aḵawayni’s Hedāyat al-motaʿallemin and Esmāʿil Jorjāni’s Ḏaḵire-ye ḵᵛārezmšāhi (for further, sample titles see Richter-Bernburg, Manuscripts, pp. 24, 116, 183, 216, spanning the period to ca. 1600 C.E.). Naturally, extant manuscripts of Arabic Hippocratica and their very recent Persian translations (Storey, II, pp. 193-94, no. 345) also contain useful information (see, e.g., Dietrich, Medicinalia, pp. 221-24, no. 112, on an attestation of study of Prognostics by ʿAbd al-Laṭif Baḡdādi). Less direct, but perhaps indicative, testimony is provided by authors like Ebn Hendu (d. 1029; q.v.), Kaykāvus b. Eskandar, and Neẓāmi ʿArużi in their outlines of medical curricula; a caveat concerns the degree of realism versus literary tradition or convention in their expositions. In Ebn Hendu’s Meftāḥ al-ṭebb (pp. 28-29), Hippocrates’s excellence and virtue are duly acknowledged, albeit through Galen (the author relates the Artaxerxes anecdote from his teacher Ebn Ḵammār, q.v.). While Ebn Hendu does quote the First Aphorism with complete reference, neither Aphorisms nor any other Hippocratic titles figure in his proposal of a medical curriculum; instead, he bases it on the late Alexandrian syllabus of “Sixteen Books” by Galen (pp. 60-65; on this Galenic selection, cf. Ullmann, Medizin, pp. 38-46; Sezgin, III, pp. 79-100, 122). Kaykāvūs b. Eskandar, on the other hand, while obviously drawing on an Arabic authority (still unidentified), includes the following Hippocratic titles in his outline of an ambitious course of medical study: Taqdemat al-maʿrefa, al-Foṣūl, and Māʾ al-šaʿir (“Barley Gruel,” that is part or all of Regimen in acute diseases; Kaykāvus b. Eskandar, pp. 181-83; cf. Ullmann, Medizin, p. 29, no. 6); thus of the four ever most appreciated books only Epidemics is omitted (see Richter-Bernburg, “On the Diffusion,” p. 232). In deontology, Kaykāvūs is most indebted to the Pseudo-Hippocratic Testament (al-Waṣayā, Parangeliai; Richter-Bernburg, “On the Diffusion,” p. 232; cf. Ullmann, Medizin, p. 33, no. 26; Sezgin, III, p. 39, no. 12), which was also a favorite source for the gnomological tradition. The latest of the three aforementioned authors, Neẓāmi ʿArūżi, while basically differing from either of the earlier two writers in his selection of preferred medical reference books, resembles Ebn Hendu insofar as the only Hippocratic title that he includes is Aphorisms (Foṣul); he names it first on his reading list for prospective students (ed. Qazvini, p. 70, ed. Qazvini and Moʿin, pp. 109-10, tr, Browne, p. 78).

In conclusion, mention should be made of the uses that pseudepigraphic Hippocratica were put to. In addition to medicine, where, for instance, prognostication of impending death was studied on the basis of Risālat al-boṯūr (“Pustules,” with variant titles; Ullmann, Medizin, p. 33, no. 29; Sezgin, III, pp. 39-40, no. 13), three areas in which the authority of an apocryphal Hippocrates was appealed to were veterinary medicine (cf. Ullmann, Medizin, p. 219; Sezgin, GAS III, p. 349), alchemy (Sezgin, IV, index, s.v. “Hippokrates”), and magic; here, his name was distorted to Picatrix, the title ofthe Latin version of Pseudo-Majriṭi’s Ḡāyat al-ḥakim (see Ullmann, Natur, p. 385, and index, s.v. “Hippokrates”).




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(Lutz Richter-Bernburg)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 22, 2012

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Vol. XII, Fasc. 3, pp. 317-322