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Constantinus Africanus

Chapter XXXII

Constantinus Africanus: c. 1015 – 1087.

Reputation and influence.

Constantinus Africanus will be here considered at perhaps greater length than his connection with the history either of magic or experimental science requires, but which his general importance in the history of medicine and the lack of any good treatment of him in English may justify. 1
Our discussion of him as an importer of Arabic medicine will also serve to support our attitude towards the School of Salerno. Daremberg wrote in 1853,

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to Constantinus because he thus opened for Latin lands the treasures of the east and consequently those of Greece. He has received and he deserves from every point of view the title of restorer of medical literature in the west.” 2

Daremberg proceeded to propose that a statue of Constantinus be erected in the center of the Gulf of Salerno or on the summit of Monte Cassino. Yet in 1870 he made the surprising assertion that

“the voice of Constantinus towards the close of the eleventh century is an isolated voice and almost without an echo.” 3

But as a matter of fact Constantinus was a much cited authority during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the works both of medicine and of natural science produced in Latin in western Europe, and his translations were cited under his own name rather than those of their original authors. 4

His studies in the Orient.

A brief sketch of Constantinus’ career and a list of his His works 5

is twice supplied us by Peter the Deacon, who wrote in the next century, 6

and who treats of Constantinus both in the chronicle of Monte Cassino, which he continued to the year 1138, 7

and in his work on the illustrious men of Monte Cassino. 8

Peter tells that Constantinus was born at Carthage, by which he probably means Tunis, since Carthage was no longer in existence, but went to Babylon, by which Cairo is presumably designated, since Babylon had ages before been reduced to a dust heap, 9 to improve his education.

His birth must have been in about 1015. There he is said to have studied grammar, dialectic, geometry, arithmetic, “mathematics,” astronomy, and physics or medicine (physica). To this curriculum in the Chronicle Peter adds in the Lives of Illustrious Men the subjects of music and necromancy. When so little was said of spirits in the occult science of the Arabic authors of the ninth century whom we considered in an earlier chapter, it is rather a surprise to hear that Constantinus studied necromancy, but that subject is listed along with mathematical and natural sciences by Al-Farabi in his De ortu scientiarum, 10

and we shall find this classification reproduced by two western Christian scholars of the twelfth century. 11

The mathematica and astronomy which Constantinus studied very likely also included considerable astrology and divination. At any rate we are told that he not only pursued his studies among “the Chaldeans, Arabs, Persians, and Saracens,” and was fully imbued with “all the arts of the Egyptians,” but even, like Apollonius of Tyana, visited India and Ethiopia in his quest for learning. It was only after a lapse of thirty-nine or forty years that he returned to North Africa. Most modern secondary accounts here state that Constantinus was soon forced to flee from North Africa because of the jealousy of other physicians who accused him of magic, 12 or from fear that his fellow citizens would kill him as a wizard.

In view of his study of necromancy, this may well have been the case. Peter the Deacon, however, simply states that when the Africans saw him so fully instructed in the studies of all nations, they plotted to kill him, 13 and gives no further indication of their motives.

His later life in Italy.

Constantinus secretly boarded ship and made his escape to Salerno, where he lived for some time in poverty, until a brother of the caliph (regis Babiloniorum) who chanced to come there recognized him, after which he was held in great honor by Duke Robert Guiscard.
The secondary accounts say that he became Robert’s confidential secretary and that he had previously occupied a similar position under the Byzantine emperor, Constantine Monomachos, 14 but of these matters again Peter the Deacon is silent. When Constantinus left the Norman court, it was to become a monk at Monte Cassino, where he remained until his death in 1087.

In a work addressed to the archbishop of Salerno he speaks of himself as Constantinus Africanus Cassinensis 15

and Albertus Magnus cites him as Constantinus Cassianensis 16

What purports to be a picture of Constantinus is preserved in a manuscript of the fifteenth century at Oxford. 17

His works were mainly translations.

Peter the Deacon states both in the Chronicle and in the Illustrious Men that while at the monastery of Monte Cassino Constantinus Africanus “translated a great number of books from the languages of various peoples.” Peter then lists the chief of these. It is interesting to note, in view of the fact that Constantinus in prefaces and introductions appears to claim some of the works as his own, and that he was accused of fraud and plagiarism by medieval writers who followed him as well as by modern investigators, that Peter the Deacon speaks of all his writings as translations from other languages. Peter does not, however, give us much information as to who the Greek or Arabic authorities were whom Constantine translated. It may be added that if Constantinus claimed for himself the credit for Latin versions which were essentially translations, he was merely continuing a practice of which Arabic authors themselves had been repeatedly guilty. Indeed, we are told that they sometimes even destroyed earlier works which they had copied in order to receive sole credit for ideas which were not their own. 18


The longest of Constantinus’ translations and the one most often cited in the middle ages was the Pantechni or Panteegni, comprising ten books of theory and ten of practice as printed in 15 15 with the works of Isaac, 19 although Peter the Deacon speaks of Constantinus’ dividing the Pantegni into twelve books and then of a Practica which also consisted of twelve books.

What is the ninth book of the Practica in this printed version is listed as a separate book on surgery by Peter in his Illustrious Men, although omitted from his list in the Chronicle, and was so printed in the 1536 edition of the works of Constantinus. 20

And the Antidotarium which Peter lists as a separate title is probably simply the tenth book of the Practica as printed with the works of Isaac. 21

The Pantegni, however, is not a translation of any work by Isaac, but an adaptation of the Khitaab el Maleki, or Royal Art of Medicine, of Ali Ibn Abbas.
The preface of Constantinus 22 says nothing of Ali but tells the abbot Desiderius that, failing to find in the many works of the Latins or even in “our own writers, ancient and modern,” such as Hippocrates, Galen, Oribasius, Paulus, and Alexander, exactly the sort of treatise desired, he has composed “this little work of our own” (hoc nostrum opusculum).

But Stephen of Pisa, who also translated Ali into Latin in 1127, 23

accused Constantinus of having suppressed both the author’s name and title of the book and of having made many omissions and changes of order both in preface and text but without really adding any new contributions of his own. 24

Stephen further justified his own translation by asserting that not only had the first part of The Royal Art of Medicine of Ali Ibn Abbas been “corrupted by the shrewd fraud of its translator,” but also that the last and greater portion was missing in the version by Constantinus. 25

Also Ferrarius said in his gloss to the Universal Diets of Isaac that Constantinus had completed the translation of only three books of the Practica, losing the rest in a shipwreck, 26

A third medieval writer, Giraldus Bituricensis, adds 27 that Constantinus substituted in its place the Liber simplicis medicinae and Liher graduum, and that it was Stephen of Pisa who translated the remainder of the work of Ali ben Abbas which is called the Practica Pantegni et Stephanonis. Stephen’s translation is indeed different from the ten books of the Practica printed with the works of Isaac.

From these facts and from an examination of the manuscripts of the Practica Rose concluded 28

that Constantinus wrote only its first two books 29 and the first part of the ninth, which is roughly the same as the Surgery published separately among Constantinus’ works.

The rest of this ninth book was translated into Latin at the time of the expedition to besiege Majorca, that is, in 1114-1115, by a John 30

who had recently been converted to Christianity 31 and whom Rose was inclined to identify with John Afflacius, “a disciple of Constantinus,” of whom we shall have more to say presently.

Rose further held that this John completed the Practica 32 commonly ascribed to Constantinus with the exception of its tenth book which, as we have suggested, seems originally to have been a distinct Antidotarinm. Different from the Pantegni is the Compendium megategni Galeni by Constantinus published with the works of Isaac, and the Librum Tegni, Megategni, Microtegni listed by Peter the Deacon.


Perhaps the next best known and the most frequently Viaticum. printed 33 of Constantinus’ translations or adaptations from the Arabic is his Viaticum which, as Peter the Deacon states, is divided into seven books. In the preface Constantinus states that the Pantegni was for more advanced students, this is a brief manual for others.

He also adds that he appends his own name to it because there are persons who profit by the labors of others and, “when the work of someone else has come into their hands, furtively and like thieves inscribe their own names.” Daremberg designated Abu Jafar Ahmed Ibn-al-Jezzar as author of the Arabic original of the Viaticum. Moses Ibn Tibbon, who made a Hebrew translation in 1259, criticized the Latin version of Constantinus as often abbreviated, obscure, and seriously altered in arrangement. 34

Constantinus seems to be alluded to in the Ephodia or Greek version of the same work. 35

Other translations.

If neither the original of the Pantegni nor of the Viaticum is to be assigned to Isaac, Constantinus nevertheless did translate some of his works, namely, those on diets, urines, and fevers. 36

Moreover, Constantinus himself admits that these Latin works are translations, stating in the preface to the treatise on urines that, finding no satisfactory treatment of the subject in Latin, he turned to the Arabic language and translated the work which Isaac had compiled from the ancients. Constantinus also states that he translated the treatise on fevers from the Arabic. We have already seen that the alphabetical Latin version of Dioscorides which had most currency in the middle ages is ascribed in at least one manuscript to Constantinus. He also translated some treatises ascribed to Hippocrates and Galen, such as Galen’s commentary on the Aphorisms and Prognostics of Hippocrates 37 and the Tegni of Galen.
Constantinus has also been credited with translating works of Galen on the eyes, on diseases of women, and on human nature, but these are not genuine works of Galen.

The book of degrees.

In his list of the works which Constantinus translated from various languages 38 Peter the Deacon includes The hook of degrees, but it has not yet been discovered from what earlier author, if any, it is copied or adapted.

The work is a development of Galen’s doctrine that various medicinal simples are hot or cold, dry or moist, in varying degrees. Constantinus presupposes four gradations of this sort. Thus a food or medicine is hot in the first degree if its heating power is below that of the normal human body; if it is of the same temperature as the body, it ranks as of the second degree; if its heat is somewhat greater than that of the body, it is of the third degree; if its heat is extreme and unbearable, it is of the fourth degree. The rose is cold in the first degree, is dry towards the end of the second degree, while the violet is cold towards the end of the first degree and moist in the beginning of the second degree. Thus Constantinus distinguishes not only four degrees but a beginning, middle and end of each degree, and Peter the Deacon once gives the title of the work as The book of twelve degrees. 39 This interesting though crude beginning in the direction of scientific thermometry and hydrometry unfortunately rested upon incorrect assumptions as to the nature and causation of heat and moisture, and so was perhaps destined to do more harm than good.

On melancholy.

A glossary of herbs and species and a work on the pulse, which Peter the Deacon includes in both his lists of Constantinus’ works or translations, do not seem to have been printed or identified as Constantinus’. On the other hand, the printed edition of the works of Constantinus includes treatises on melancholy and on the stomach 40 which are not mentioned in Peter’s list.

In a preface to the De melancholia which is not included in the printed edition 41 Constantinus Africanus speaks of himself as a monk of Monte Cassino and states that, while he has often touched on the disease of melancholy in the many medical books which he has added to the Latin language, he has decided also to write a separate brochure on the subject because it is an important malady and because it is especially prevalent “in these regions.” “Therefore I have collected this booklet from many volumes of our adepts in this art.”

Whether the word “our” here refers to Greek or Arabic writers would be hard to say. Constantinus states that melancholy is a disease to which those are especially liable who are always intent on study and books of philosophy,

“because of their scientific investigations and tiring their memories and grieving over the failure of their minds.”

This ailment also afflicts

“those who lose their beloved possessions, such as their children and dearest friends or some precious thing which cannot be restored, as when scholars suddenly lose their books.”

Constantinus also describes the melancholy of

“many religious persons who live lives to be revered, but fall into this disease from their fear of God and contemplation of the last judgment and desire of seeing the summum honum. Such persons think of nothing and seek for nothing save to love and fear God alone, and they incur this complaint and become drunk as it were with their excessive anxiety and vanity.” 42

Such passages would seem to describe Constantinus’ own associates and environment, but they may possibly be a mere translation of some work of an earlier Christian Arab, such as Honein ben Ishak who translated or pretended to translate a number of works of Greek medicine into Arabic. In a later chapter 43 we shall find that Honein perhaps had something to do with another work called The Secrets of Galen, in which remedies for religious ascetics who have ruined their health by their austerities form a rather prominent feature.

On disorders of the stomach.

That the treatise on disorders of the stomach is Constantinus’ own work is indicated by its preface, which is addressed to Alfanus, archbishop of Salerno from 1058 to 1087 and earlier a monk of Monte Cassino. Alfanus had himself translated Nemesius Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου 44 and was the center of a group of learned writers:

the dialectician, Alberic the Deacon,
the historian, Amatus of Salerno,
and the mathematician and astronomer, Pandulf of Capua. 45

Constantinus states that he writes this treatise for Alfanus as a compensation for his recent failure to reheve a stomach- ache with which that prelate was afflicted. Such instances of self-confessed failure, be it noted in passing, are rare indeed in ancient and medieval medicine, and for this reason we are the more inclined to deal charitably with the charges of literary plagiarism which have been preferred against Constantinus. He goes on to say that he has sought with great care but in vain among ancient writings for any treatise devoted exclusively to the stomach, and has only succeeded in finding here and there scattered discussions which he now presumably combines in the present special treatise.


Medical works ascribed to Alfanus.

This archbishop Alfanus appears to have written on medicine himself, since A treatise of Alfanus of Salerno concerning certain medical questions was listed among the books at Christchurch, Canterbury about 1300. 46

Also a collection of recipes entitled, Experiments of an archbishop of Salerno, in a manuscript of the early twelfth century are very likely by him. 47

They follow a treatise on melancholy which does not, however, appear to be that of Constantinus Africanus. 48

Constantinus and experiment.

Peter the Deacon’s bibliography of the works of Constantinus includes a De experimentis which, if extant, has not been identified as Constantinus’. In such works of his as are available, however, we find a number of mentions of experience and its value. It is of course to be remembered that such expressions as “we state what we have tested and what our authorities have used,” 49 and

“we have had personal experience of the confection which we now mention,” 50

may refer to the experience of the past authors whose works Constantinus is using or translating rather than to his own. In the Pantegni 51 “ancient medical writers” are divided into experientes and rationabiles, and we are told that the empirics declare that compound medicines can be discovered only in dreams and by chance, while the rationalists hold that these can be deduced from a knowledge of the virtues and qualities and accidents of bodies and diseases. This much is of course simply Galen over again.

Constantinus occasionally gives medical “experiments,” as in the case of “proved experiments to eject reptiles from the body,” 52 or the placing of a live chicken on the place bitten by a mad dog.

The chicken will then die while the man will be cured “beyond a doubt.” 53 Such medical “experiments” by Constantinus were often cited by subsequent medieval writers.

“Experiments” involving incantations.

Incantations are involved in some of these “experiments.” One approved experiment, we are told, consists in whispering in the ear of the patient the words, Recede demon quia dee fanolcri precipiunt.
The effect of this procedure is that when the epileptic rises, after remaining like one dead for an hour, he will answer any question that may be put to him.
Another experiment to cure epilepsy is frequently cited by subsequent medieval medical writers from Constantinus, and, while it may not have originated with him, is apparently of Christian rather than Greek or Mohammedan origin. If the epileptic has parents living, they are to take him to church on the day of the four seasons and have him hear mass on the sixth day and also on Saturday. When he comes again on Sunday the priest is to write down the passage in the Gospel where it says,

“This kind is not cast out save by fasting and prayer.”

Presumably the epileptic is to wear this writing, in which case a sure cure is promised, “be he epileptic or lunatic or demoniac.” But it is added that the charm will not work in the case of persons born of incestuous marriages. 54

Superstition comparatively rare in Constantinus

But as a rule incantations and superstitious ceremony are comparatively rare in the works of Constantinus, which contain little to justify the charge of magic said to have been made against him in Africa or the charge of superstition made against the Arabic medicine which his writings so largely reflect. Also these superstitious passages seem limited to the treatment of certain ailments of a mysterious character like epilepsy and insanity, which, Constantinus says, the populace call divinatio and account for by possession by demons. 55

It is against epilepsy and phantasy that it is recommended to give a child to swallow before it has been weaned the brains of a goat drawn through a golden ring. And it is for epilepsy that we find such suspensions as hairs from an entirely white dog or the small red stones in swallows’ gizzards, from which they must have been removed at midday.
When Constantinus is treating of eye and ear troubles, or even of paralysis of the tongue and toothache, use of amulets is infrequent and there is only an occasional suggestion of marvelous virtue. Gout is treated with unguents and recipes but without the superstitious ligatures often found in medieval works of medicine. 56

Parts of animals are employed a good deal: thus if you anoint the entire body with lion fat, you will have no fear of serpents, and binding on the head the fresh lung of an ox is good for frenzy. 57

But Constantinus more often explains the action of things in nature from their four qualities of hot, cold, moist, and dry, than he does by assuming the existence of occult virtues.

And of Greek rather than Arabic origin.

It is also to be noted that those passages where Constantinus’ medicine borders most closely upon magic are apt to be borrowed from, or at least credited to, Galen and Dioscorides. Neither Constantinus nor his Arabic authorities introduced most of these superstitious elements into medicine. In his work on degrees Constantinus repeats Galen’s story of the boy who fell into an epileptic fit whenever the suspended peony was removed from his neck. 58

In the Viaticum 59 he ascribes the suspension of a white dog’s hairs and the use of various other parts of animals for epileptics to Dioscorides, but they do not seem to be found in that author’s extant works.

Water in which blacksmiths have quenched their irons is another remedy prescribed for various disorders upon the authority of Dioscorides and Galen. 60

Theriac and terra sigillata are of course not forgotten.
That there is a magnetic mountain on the shore of the Indian Ocean which draws all the iron nails out of passing ships, and that the magnet extracts arrows from wounds is stated on the authority of the Lapidary of Aristotle, a spurious work. Constantinus adds that Rufus says that the magnet comforts those afflicted with melancholy and removes their fears and suspicions. 61

However, it is without citation of other authors that Constantinus states that the plant agnus casttis will mortify lust if it is merely suspended over the sleeper. 62

Some signs of astrology and alchemy.

There is not a great deal of astrological medicine in the works of Constantinus Africanus. There are some allusions to the moon and dog-days, 63 Galen being twice cited to the effect that epilepsy in a waxing moon is a very moist disease,

while in a waning moon it is very cold. In a chapter of the Pantegni 64 the relation of critical days to the course of the moon and also to the nature of number is discussed.

In another passage of the same work 65 we read that if other remedies fail in the case of a patient who cannot hold his water while in bed, he should eat the bladder of a river fish for eight days while the moon is waxing and waning and he will be freed from the complaint.

But Hippocrates testifies that in old men the ailment is incurable. But the principal astrological passage that I have found in the works of Constantinus is that in De humana natura 66 where he traces the formation of the child in the womb and the influence of the planets upon the successive months of the process, and explains why children born in the seventh or ninth month live while those born in the eighth month die.

This passage was cited by Vincent of Beauvais in his Speculum naturale. 67

Belief in alchemy is suggested when Constantinus repeats the assertion of some book on stones that lead would be silver except for its smell, its softness, and its inability to endure fire. 68

Constantinus and the School of Salerno.

The relation of Constantinus Africanus to the School of Salerno has been the subject of much dispute and of divergent views. Some have held that Salerno’s medical importance practically began with him; others have tried to maintain for Salernitan medicine a Neo-Latin character quite distinct from Constantinus’ introduction of Arabic influence. From the fact that Constantinus passed from Salerno to Monte Cassino, where most, if not all, of his writing seems to have been done, it has been assumed that there was an intimate connection between the monks and the rise of a medical school at Salerno.
On the other hand, Renzi and Rashdall have ridiculed the notion, declaring the distance and difficulty of communication between the two places to be an insurmountable difficulty. It must be remembered, however, that Constantinus himself both attended the archbishop of Salerno in a case of stomach trouble and sent a treatise on the subject to him afterwards. A strong personal influence by him upon the practice and still more upon the literature of Salernitan medicine is therefore not precluded, though his stay at Salerno may have been brief and his literary labor performed entirely at the monastery.
In any case a Master John Afflacius, who is associated with other Salernitan writers in a compilation from their works, was a disciple of Constantinus and, as we are about to see, perhaps the author of some of the treatises which have been published under Constantinus’ name. It certainly would seem that Constantinus and his disciple have as good a right to be called Salernitan as most of the authors included in Renzi’s collection.

John Afflacius

Liber aureus.

In a medical manuscript which Henschel discovered at Breslau in 1837 69

and which he regarded as a composition of the School of Salerno and dated in the twelfth century, he found in the case of two works compiled from various authors 70

that the passages ascribed to a Master John Afflacius, who was described as “a disciple of Constantinus,” 71 were identical with passages in the Liber aureus or De remediorum et aegritudinum cognitione published as a work of Constantinus in the Basel edition of 1536.

He also identified a Liber urinarum attributed to the same John Afflacius, disciple of Constantinus, in the Breslau manuscript with the De urinis which follows the Liber aureus in the printed edition of Constantinus’ works. Thus either the pupil appropriated or completed and published the work of his master, or Constantinus had the same good fortune in having his own name attached to the compositions of his pupil 72 as in the case of the writings of his Arabic predecessors.

Aiflacius more superstitious than his master.

It may be further noted that the disciple seems to have been more superstitious than the master, for in one of the passages ascribed to Afflacius in the aforesaid compilation after the correspondence with the Liber aureits has ceased, the text goes on to prescribe the suspension of goat’s horn over one’s head as a soporific and gives the following “prognostic of life or death.” Smear the forehead of the patient from ear to ear with musam eneam.

“If he sleeps, he will live; but if not, he will die; and this has been tested in acute fevers.”

Another method is to try if the patient’s urine will mix with the milk of a woman who is suckling a male child. If it will, he will live. Another procedure to induce sleep is then given, which consists in reading the first verse of the Gospel of John nine times over the patient’s head, placing beneath his head a missal or psalter and the names of the seven sleepers written on a scroll.
This is not the first instance of such Christian magic that we have encountered in connection with the School of Salerno and we begin to suspect that it was rather characteristic. At any rate it was not uncommon in medieval medicine in general and was almost certainly introduced before Innocent III who in 1215 forbade ordeals and who frowned on other superstitious practices.
Probably such Christian magic dates from a period before Arabic influence began to be felt. Thus again we have reason to doubt whether early medieval medicine or Salernitan medicine was less superstitious than Arabic medicine or than medieval medicine after the introduction of Arabic medicine. At least Constantinus Africanus who represents the introduction of translations from the Arabic is comparatively free from superstition.

  1. Many of the works listed by Peter the Deacon and some others which he does not name have been printed under Constantinus’ name, either in the edition of the works of Isaac issued at Lyons in 1515, or in the partial edition of the works of Constantinus printed at Basel in 1536 and 1539, or in an edition of Albucasis published at Basel in 1541.
    An early MS containing several of Constantinus’ works is Gonville and Caius 411, 12-13th century, fol. I-, Viaticum, 69- de melancholia, 77v- de stomacho, 98v- de oblivione, 100r- de coitu, (no author is named for 109v- liber elefantie, 113- de modo medendi), 121- liber febrium, (169- de inami- darium Galieni).
    The chief secondary investigations concerning Constantinus Africanus are:
    Daremberg, Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits Medicaux, 1853, pp. 63-100, “Recherches sur un ouvrage qui a pour titre Zad el- Mongafir en arabe, Ephrodes en grec, Viatique en latin, et qui est attribue dans les textes arabes et grecs a Abou Djafar, et dans le texte latin a Constantin.”
    Puccinotti, Storia delta Medicina, II, i, pp. 292-350, 1855, devoted several chapters to Constantinus and tried to defend him from the charge of plagiarism and to maintain that the Viaticum and some other works were original.
    Steinschneider, Constantinus Africanus und seine arabischen Quetlen, in Virchow’s Archiv für Pathologische Anatomie, etc., Berlin, 1866, vol. 37, pp. 351-410. This should be supplemented by pp. 9-12 of his Die europäischen Übersetsungen aus dem Arabischen (1905). ↩︎

  2. Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits Médicaus (1853), p. 86. ↩︎

  3. Histoire des Sciences Médicales (1870), I, 261. ↩︎

  4. Indeed Daremberg said in 1853 (p. 85, note) “dans le moyen age beaucoup d’auteurs citent volontiers Constantine comme une autoritée.” ↩︎

  5. Perhaps through the fault of the printer the list of the writings of Constantinus given by Peter the Deacon is defective as reproduced in tabular form by Steinschneider (1866), pp. 353-4. Steinschneider also incorrectly speaks of Leo of Ostia as well as Peter the Deacon as a source for Constantinus (p. 352, “Die Schriften Constantins sind bekanntlich von seinen alten Biographen, Petrus Diaconus und Leo Ostiensis verzeichnet worden”), since Leo’s portion of the Chronicle ends before Constantinus is mentioned. ↩︎

  6. Peter was born about 1107 and was placed in the monastery of Monte Cassino by his parents in 1115. He became librarian. Monumenta Germaniae, Scriptores, VII, 562 and 565. ↩︎

  7. Chronica Mon. Casinensis, Lib. III, auctore Petro, MG. SS. VII, 728-0; Muratori, Scriptores, IV, 455-6 (lib. III, cap. 35). ↩︎

  8. Petri Diaconi De viribus illustribus Casinensibus, cap. 23, in_Fabricius, Bibl. Graec_., XIII, 123. ↩︎

  9. Yet modern compilers and writers of encyclopedia articles invariably repeat “Carthage” and “Babylon.” ↩︎

  10. BN 14700, fol. 171v, cited by Baur (1903), who also notes parallel passages in Al-Gazel, Phil. tr. I, 1; and Avicenna, De divis. philos., fol. 141. ↩︎

  11. Gundissalinus and Daniel Morley. Al-Farabis list of eight mathematical sciences, including “the science of spirits,” was also reproduced by Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth century, Speculum doctrinale, XVI. ↩︎

  12. Possibly there is some confusion with Galen’s similar experience with the physicians of Rome, which Constantinus may have reproduced in some one of his translations of Galen in such a way as to lead the reader to consider it his own experience. ↩︎

  13. The words are the same both in the Chronicle and Illustrious Men: “quern cum vidissent Afriita ad plenum omnibus (omnium?) gentium eruditum, cogitaverunt occidere eum.” ↩︎

  14. Pagel (1902), p. 644, “Vorher soil er kurze Zeit noch in Reggio, einer kleinen Stadt in der Nähe von Byzanz, als Protosekretar des Kaisers Constantinos Monomachos sich aufgehalten und das Reisehandbuch des Abu Dschafer übersetzt haben.” But Pagel gives no source for this statement.
    Apparently the notion is due to the fact that a Greek treatise entitled Ephodia, of which there are numerous MSS and which seems to be a translation of the same Arabic work as that upon which Constantinus based his Viaticum, speaks of a Constantine as its author who was protosecretary and lived at Reggio or Rhegium.
    Daremberg (1853), p. 77, held that a Vatican MS of the Ephodia was of the tenth century and therefore this Greek translation could not be the work of Constantinus Africanus in the next century, but Steinschneider (1866), p. 392, only says, “Die griechische Uebersetzung des Viaticum soil bis in die Zeit Constantins hinaufreichen.”
    Another MS, Escorial &-II-9, 16th century, fol. 1-, contains a “Commeatus Peregrinantium” whose author is called “Ebrubat Zafar filio Elbazar,” which perhaps designates Abu Jafar Ahmed Ibn-al-Jezzar, whom Daremberg and Steinschneider call the author of the Arabic original of the Viaticum. The work is said to have been translated into Greek “a Constantino Primo a secretis Regis,” which suggests that Constantinus was perhaps first of the royal secretaries rather than of Reggio either in Norman Italy or near Byzantium. The translation from Greek into Latin is ascribed to Antonius Eparchus. The opening sentences of each book of this Latin version from the Greek by Eparchus differ in wording but agree in substance with those of the Viaticum of Constantinus Africanus, if we omit some transitional sentences in the latter. ↩︎

  15. Opera (1536), p. 215. ↩︎

  16. De animalibus, XXII, i, 1. ↩︎

  17. Rawlinson C, 328, fol. 3. It is accompanied by the legend, “This is Constantinus, monk of Monte Cassino, who is as it were the fount of that science of long standing from the judgment of urines, and it has exhibited a true cure in all the diseases in this book and in many other books. To whom come women with urine that he may tell them what is the cause of the disease.” The illumination shows Constantinus seated, holding a book on his knees with his left hand, while he raises his right hand and forefinger in didactic style. He wears the tonsure, has a beard but no mustache, and seems to be approached by one woman and two men carrying two jars of urine. ↩︎

  18. See Margoliouth, Avicenna, 1913, p- 49. ↩︎

  19. Only the ten books of theory are printed in the 1539 edition of Constantinus. ↩︎

  20. Chirurgia, at pp. 324-41. ↩︎

  21. Opera omnia ysaac (1515), fol. 126v, “Liber decimus practice qui antidotarium dicitur in duas divisus partes.”
    Isaac Israeli is the subject of the first chapter in Husik (1916), who calls him (p. 2) “the first Jew, so far as we know, to devote himself to philosophical and scientific discussions.” ↩︎

  22. Daremberg (1853), pp. 82-5, gives the prefaces of Ali and Constantinus in parallel columns. ↩︎

  23. Printed in 1492 with the works of Ali ben Abbas; Stephen’s translation was made at Antioch in Syria. ↩︎

  24. Steinschneider (1866), p. 359. ↩︎

  25. “Ultimam et maiorem deesse sensi partem, alteram vero interpretis callida depravatam fraude.” ↩︎

  26. Amplon. Octavo 62. ↩︎

  27. In his gloss to the Viaticum of Constantinus. ↩︎

  28. Berlin HSS Verzeichnis (1905), pp. 1059-65, to whom I owe the preceding references to Ferrarius and Giraldus. ↩︎

  29. Rose cites Bamberg L-iii-9. The two following MSS are perhaps also worth noting: The Pantegni as contained in CU Trinity 906, 12th century, finely written, fols. I-141v, comprises only ten books. The first opens, “Cum totius generalitas tres principales partes habeat”; the tenth ends, “Unde acutum oportet habere sensum ad intelligendum. Explicit.”
    St. John’s 85, close of 13th century, “Constantini african: Pantegnus in duas partes divisus quarum prima dicitur Theorica continens decem libros secunda dicitur Practica 33 capita continens,” as a table of contents written in on the fly-leaf states. The ten books of theory end at fol. 100r, “Explicit prima pars pantegni scilicet de theorica. Incipit secunda pars scilicet practica et est primus liber de regimento sanitatis.” This single book in 33 chapters on the preservation of health ends at fol. 116v, and at fol. 117r begins the Liber divisionum of Rasis. ↩︎

  30. In Berlin 898, a 12th century MS of Stephen’s translation of Ali’s Practica, this ninth section by Constantinus and John is for some reason substituted for the corresponding book of Stephen. ↩︎

  31. He calls himself, “iohannes quidam agarenus (Saracenus?) quondam, qui noviter ad fidem christiane religionis venerat cum rustico pisano belle filius ac professione medicus.” ↩︎

  32. The main objection to this theory is that Stephen of Pisa, translating in 1127, speaks as if the latter portion of Ali’s work was still untranslated. Rose therefore holds that John had not yet published his translation, although we have seen that he completed the surgical section by 1115. ↩︎

  33. In Opera omnia ysaac, Lyons, 1515, II, fols. r44-72, “Viaticum ysaac quod constantinus sibi attribuit”; in the Basel, 1536, edition of the works of Constantinus, pp. I-167, under the title, “De morborum cognitione et curatione lib. vii’; in the Venice, 1505, edition of Gerardus de Solo (Bituricensis), “Commentum eiusdem super viatico cum textu”; and in the Lyons, 1511, edition of Rhazes, Opera parva Albubetri.
    A fairly early but imperfect MS is CU Trinity 1064, 12-13th century.
    Laud. Misc. 567, late 12th century, fol. 2, recognizes in its Titulus that the Viaticum is a translation, “Incipit Viaticum a Constantino in Latinam linguam translatam.” ↩︎

  34. Steinschneider (1866), 368-9. ↩︎

  35. See above, His later life in Italy., note. ↩︎

  36. In the 1515 edition of Isaac’s works, I, II-, 156-, and 203-. Peter the Deacon presumably refers to these three works in speaking of “Dietam ciborum. Librum febrium quern de Arabica lingua transtulit. Librum de urinis.” Whether the two initial treatises in the 1515 edition of Isaac, dealing with definitions and the elements, were translated by Constantinus or by Gerard of Cremona is doubtful. ↩︎

  37. See CLM 187, fol. 8; 168, fol. 23; 161, fol. 41; 270, fol. 10; 13034, fol. 49, for 13-14th century copies of Galen’s commentary upon the Aphorisms of Hippocrates with a preface by Constantinus.
    University College Oxford 89, early 14th century, fol. 90, Incipiunt amphorismi Ypocratis cum commento domini Constantini Affricani montis Cassienensis monachi; fol. 155, Eiusdem Prognostica cum Galeni commento, eodem interprete; fols. 203-61, Eiusdem liber de regimine acutorum cum eiusdem commento eodem interprete. ↩︎

  38. De viris illustribus, cap. 23, “. . . transtulit de diversis gentium linguis libros quamplurimos in quibus praecipue . . .” : Chronica, Lib. Ill, “. . . transtulit de diversorum gentium linguis libros quamplurimos in quibus sunt hi praecipue. . . .” ↩︎

  39. Librum duodecim graduum” in De viris illus.: in the Chronicle, “Liber graduum.” ↩︎

  40. Edition of Basel, 1536, at pp.280-98 and 215-74 respectively. ↩︎

  41. Ii is found in Laud. Misc. 567, late 12th century, fol. 51v. ↩︎

  42. Edition of 1536, pp. 283-4. ↩︎

  43. See below, Chapter 64. ↩︎

  44. Zeitsch. f. klass.Philol. (1896), pp. 1098ff. ↩︎

  45. J.A.Endres, Petrus Damiani und die weltliche Wissenschaft, 1910, p- 35, in Beiträge, VIII, 3. ↩︎

  46. James (1903), p. 59, “Tractatus Alfani Salernitanus de quibusdam questionibus medicinalibus.” ↩︎

  47. CU Trinity 1365, early 12th century, fols. 155-162v, Experimenta archiep. Salernitani. ↩︎

  48. Judging from its opening and closing words as given by James. ↩︎

  49. De coitu, edition of 1536, p. 306. ↩︎

  50. Viaticum, VI, 19. ↩︎

  51. Practica, X, 1; in Isaac, Opera,1515, II, fol. 126. ↩︎

  52. Practica, X, 1; VII, 31; fol. 111r. ↩︎

  53. Practica, X, 1; IV, 37; fol. 96r. ↩︎

  54. Practica, V, 17; fol. 99r. ↩︎

  55. De melancholia (1536), p. 290. ↩︎

  56. Practica, VIII, 40; ed. of 1515, fol. 118v. ↩︎

  57. Practica, IV, 39, and V, 7; ed. of 1515, fols. 96r and 98r. ↩︎

  58. Ed. of 1536, p. 358; also in the Viaticum, I, 22; p. 20. ↩︎

  59. Viaticum, I, 22; p. 21. ↩︎

  60. Viaticum, VII, 13: De gradibus (1536), p. 377. ↩︎

  61. According to Steinschneider (1866), p. 402, it is only from the citations of Constantinus that we know of a work by Rufus on melancholy. See especially De melancholia (1536), p. 285, “Invenimus Rufum clarissimum medicum de melancholia fecisse librum. . . .” ↩︎

  62. De gradibus (1536), p. 378. ↩︎

  63. Edition of 1536, pp. 20, 290, 356. ↩︎

  64. Theorica, X, 9; ed. of 1515, fol. 54. ↩︎

  65. Practica, VII, 59 (1515), fol. 114v. ↩︎

  66. Ed. of 1541, pp. 319-21. ↩︎

  67. Spec. nat., XVI, 49. ↩︎

  68. De gradibus (1536), p. 360, “de quo Arabu (Aristotle?) in libro de lapidibus intitulato.” ↩︎

  69. Manoscritto Salernitano dilucidato dal Prof. Henschel, in Renzi (1853), II, 1-80, especially pp. 16, 41, 59. ↩︎

  70. De aegritudinum curatione tractatus, Renzi, II, 81-386; De febribus tractatus, II, 737-68. ↩︎

  71. The preface to Constantinus’ translation of Isaac on fevers is addressed to his “dearest son, John”: see Brussels, Library of Dukes of Burgundy 15489, 14th century, “Quoniam te karissime fili lohanne”; Cambrai 914, 13- 14th century; Cambrai 907, 14th century, fol. i, Prefatio Constantlni ad Johannem discipulum. ↩︎

  72. However, in an Oxford MS the Liber aureus itself is ascribed to “John, son of Constantinus”: Bodleian 2060, #1, Joannis filii Constantini de re medica liber aureus. ↩︎



Chapter XXXIV

Marbod, bishop of Rennes, 1035-1123

“Nec duhium cuiquam debet falsumque videri
Quin sua sit gemmis divinitus insita virtus;
Ingens est herbis virtus data, maxima gemmis.”

  • Marbod, Liber lapidum.

Career of Marbod.

Of medieval Latin Lapidaries the earliest and what also seems to have been the classic on the subject of the marvelous properties of stones is the Liber lapidum seu de gemmis by Marbod, bishop of Rennes 1 who lived from 1035 to 1123 and so had very likely completed this work before the close of the eleventh century.

Main Hebraic stones
cornerstones of medieval medicine

Indeed one manuscript of it seems to date from that century 2 and there are numerous twelfth century manuscripts. These early manuscripts bear his name and the style is the same as in his other writings.

Born in the county of Anjou, Marbod attended the church school there, became the schoolmaster himself from 1067 to 1 08 1, during which time he probably composed the Liber lapidum, then served as archdeacon under three successive bishops, and finally himself became a bishop in 1096. He attended church councils in 1103 and 1104 and died in September, 1123, in an Angevin monastery, whose monks issued a eulogistic encyclical letter on that occasion, while two archdeacons celebrated his integrity, learning, and eloquence in admiring verse. Marbod’s own productions are also in poetical form. It is interesting to note that despite his early date he was eulogized not as a lone man of letters in an uncultured age but as “the king of orators, although at that time all Gaul resounded with varied studies.”

Relation of his Liber lapidum to the prose Evax.

The Liber lapidum is a Latin poem of 734 hexameters describing sixty stones. In the opening lines Marbod writes:

“Evax, king of the Arabs, is said to have written to Nero,

Who after Augustus ruled next in the city. 3

How many the species of stones, what names, and what colors,

From what regions they came, and how great the power of each one.”

Making use of this worthy book, Marbod has decided to compose a briefer account for himself and a few friends only, believing that he who popularizes mysteries lessens their majesty. As a result of this opening line and the fact that in some manuscripts Marbod’s own name is not given, his poem is sometimes listed in the catalogues as the work of Evax. 4

There is also, however, extant a work in Latin prose which opens,

“Evax, king of Arabia, to the emperor Tiberius greeting.” 5

But as this prose work is not much longer than Marbod’s poem, and seems to be known only from a single manuscript of the fourteenth century, it is doubtful if it is the work which he professed to abbreviate. This prose work is also ascribed to Amigeron or Damigeron, 6 to whom we have already seen that the author of Lithica was supposed to be indebted and whose name was regarded as that of a famous magician.

After alluding to the magnificent gifts which the emperor had sent to Evax by the centurion Lucinius Fronto and offering this book in return, the author of the prose version lists seven stones appropriate, not, strangely enough, to the seven planets, but to seven of the signs of the zodiac. 7

Fifty chapters are then devoted to as many stones, beginning with Aetites, which is twenty-fifth in Marbod’s list, and ending with Sardo, while Sardiiis comes tenth in Marbod’s poem. Marbod’s own order, however, sometimes varies in the manuscripts. 8

Problem of Marbod’s sources.

King, and Rose after him, asserted 9 that despite Marbod’s professed abridgement of a work which Evax was supposed to have presented to Tiberius, he drew largely from Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies.

Rose thought that some of the descriptions of stones were from Solinus, the rest from Isidore, but that the account of their virtues was from Evax. King also noted occasional extracts from the Orphic work, Lithica, which is not surprising in view of the fact that both Evax and the Lithica seem based on Damigeron. This question of sources and ultimate origins is, however, as usual of relatively little moment to our investigation.
My own impression would be that in antiquity and the middle age there exists a sort of common fund of information and stock of beliefs concerning gems which naturally is drawn upon and appears in every individual treatise upon them. But the number of gems discussed and the order in which they are considered or classified varies with each new author, and there is apt to be a similar variation in the number of statements made concerning any particular stone and the way in which these are arranged. In fine, all ancient and medieval accounts of the natures and virtues of stones bear a general resemblance to one another which is more impressive than is the similarity between any two given accounts, and testify to a consensus of opinion and to a common learned tradition concerning gems which is more significant than the possible borrowings of individual authors from one another.

Influence of the Liber lapidum.

However, there seems to be little doubt that the poem of Marbod is itself an outstanding work among medieval accounts of precious stones, first because of the early date of its authorship, and second because of its late persistence and popularity, which is indicated by the fourteen editions that appeared after the invention of printing. 10 Its convenient form perhaps accounts to a considerable extent for its popularity. At any rate the manuscripts of it are numerous, and it was much used by subsequent writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, although citations of Lapidaritis cannot always be assumed to refer to Marbod. But at least the notions concerning gems which we find in his poem are a fair sample of what we should find in any Latin treatment of the same subject for several centuries to come. It is found also in a medieval French version.

Occult virtue of gems.

It does not make much difference where we begin or what stones we select from Marbod’s list as examples, since the same sort of marvelous powers are ascribed to all of them. In his prologue Marbod describes the occult virtues of gems as those “whose hidden cause gives manifest effects.” No one should doubt them or think them false,

“since the virtue in gems is divinely implanted. Enormous virtue is given to herbs, but the greatest to gems.”

Adamant, hard as it is, cracks when heated with goat’s blood. It counteracts the action of the magnet. It is used in the magic arts and makes its bearer indomitable. It drives off nocturnal specters and idle dreams. It routs black venom, heals quarrels and contentions, cures the insane, and repels fierce foes.

Allectory, found inside cocks, slakes thirst. Milo overcame other athletes, and kings have won battles by its aid. It restores promptly those who have been banished, enables orators to speak with a flow of language, makes one welcome on every occasion, and endears a wife to her husband. It is advised to carry it concealed in the mouth.

The sapphire nourishes the body and preserves the limbs whole. Its bearer, who should be most chaste, cannot be harmed by fraud or envy and is unmoved by any terror. It leads those in bonds from prison. It placates God and makes Him favourable to prayers. It is good for peace-making and reconciliation. It is preferred to other gems in hydromancy, since prophetic responses can be obtained by it. As for medicinal qualities, it cools internal heat, checks perspiration, powdered and applied with milk it heals ulcers, cleanses the eyes, stops headache, and cures diseases of the tongue.

Gagates, worn as an amulet, benefits dropsy; diluted with water, it prevents loose teeth from falling out; fumigation with it is good for epileptics and it is thought to be hostile to demons; it remedies indigestion and constipation and overcomes magical illusions (praestigia) and evil incantations. Also

Per suffumigium mulieri menstrua reddit

Et solet, ut perhibent, deprehendere virginitatem.

Praegnans potest aquam triduo qua mersus habetur

Quo vexabatur partum cito libera fundit.

Gagates burns when washed with water; is extinguished by anointing it with olive oil.

The magnet is especially used in the illusions of magic. The great Deendor is said to have first used it, realizing that there was no more potent force in magic, and after him the famous witch Circe employed it. Among the Medes experience revealed still further virtues of the stone. It is used to test a wife’s chastity while she is sleeping; if she is unchaste, she will fall out of bed when the gem is applied to her head. A burglar can commit theft unmolested by sprinkling it over hot coals and so driving away all the occupants of the house.

In the case of Chelonitis Marbod’s account is very similar to that in Pliny’s Natural History, 11 citing the Magi for the power of divination it bestows when carried under the tongue at certain times of the moon, according to whose phases its power varies. Of the gems hitherto described only in the case of adamant and gagates was there any resemblance between Marbod and Pliny and there only partial.

Pliny also briefly states that the stone diadochos resembles beryl, but does not have Marbod’s statements that it is employed in water divination to show varied images of demons, “nor is there other stone stronger to evoke shades.” But if by chance it comes in contact with a corpse, it loses its wonted force, since the stone is sacred and abhors dead bodies. 12

Liber lapidum meant seriously.

The vast powers, not only medicinal and physical, but of divination and magic, over the mind and affections, miraculous and supernatural, even over God, as in the statement that the sapphire can be employed to secure a more favorable answer to prayer, which Marbod assigns to gems without a sign of scruple or scepticism or disapproval on his part, have so shocked some moderns that suggestions have been made, in order to explain away the acceptance of talismanic powers of gems to such a degree by a Christian clergy man who became a bishop, that Marbod must have composed his poem when quite young and lived to repent it, or that he regarded it merely as a poetical flight and exercise, not as an exposition of scientific fact. But wherefore then was it not only widely read in the literary twelfth century but also widely cited as an authority in the scientific and equally Christian thirteenth century?
No; everyone else took it precisely as Marbod meant it, as a serious statement of the marvellous powers which had been divinely implanted in gems. And why should not God be more easily reached through the instrumentality of gems, since He had endowed them with their marvelous virtues?
Marbod affirms his own faith in the great virtues of gems not only at the beginning but the close of his poem, stating that while some have doubted the marvellous properties attributed to them, this has been due to the fact that so many imitation gems are made of glass, which deceive the unwary but of course lack the occult virtues of the genuine stones. If the stones are genuine and duly consecrated, the marvelous effects will without a doubt follow.

De fato et genesi.

Marbod’s belief in the almost boundless talismanic virtues of gems is thrown into the higher relief by the fact that in another of his poems he makes an attack upon ge- nethlialogy or the prediction of the entire life of the individual from the constellations at his birth. In De fato et genesi he writes against “the common notion” (opinio vulgi) that all things are ruled by fate, that the hour of nativity controls man’s entire life, and the contention of the mathematici that the seven planets control not only the external forces with which man comes in contact but also human character. He objects to such a doctrine as that, when Venus and Mars appear in certain relations to the sun, the babe born under that constellation will be destined to commit incest and adultery in later life. He objects that such beliefs destroy all the foundations of morality, law, and future reward or punishment; contends that there are certain races which never commit adultery or crime, yet have the same seven planets; and argues that since Jews are all circumcised on the eighth day, they should all have the same horoscope. These are familiar contentions, at least as old as Bardesanes. Marbod declares further that the astrological writer, Firmicus, employs “infirm arguments,” and that his own horoscope, taken according to Firmicus’ methods and interpreted likewise, turned out to be false, “as I proved when once I dabbled in that art.” This is interesting as showing that Gerard of York 13 was not the only bishop of the eleventh century who was acquainted with the work of Julius Firmicus Maternus, and that even opponents of astrology are apt to have once been dabblers in it. Marbod concludes his poem with this neat turn:

“I thought I ought to write these lines briefly against genethlialogy.

Nevertheless, that I may not seem to repel fate and horoscope utterly,

I assert that my fate is the Word of the supreme Father,

By Whom should all things be ruled and all men confess;

And I say that the computation of my constellation is innate in me

And the liberty by which I can tend whither I will.

Therefore, if my will shall be in conjunction with reason

In the sign of the Balances with Christ regarding me,

All things will turn out prosperously for me here and everywhere: –

This is the favorable horoscope of all Christ’s followers.”

Written with StackEdit.

  1. I have used the edition of Marbod’s poems in Migne, PL vol. 171, which also contains a life of Marbod. Two secondary accounts of Marbod are C.Ferry, De Marbodi Rhedonensis Episcopi vita et. carminibus, Nemansi, 1877; L.V.E.Ernault, _Marbode, évèque de Rennes, sa vie et ses œuvres _, in. Bull. et Mém. de la Société Archéologique du dept. d’Ille-et-Vilaine, XX, 1-260, Rennes, 1889. See also V.Rose, Aristoteles De Lapidibus und Arnoldus Saxo, in Zeitsch. f. deutsches Alterthum, XVII (1875), p. 321, ef seg.; L.Pannier, Les lapidaires français du moyen âge, Paris, 1882. C.W.King, The Natural History, Ancient and . Modern, of Precious Stones and Gems, London, 1865. ↩︎

  2. CLM 23479, 11th century, fols. 4-10, Carmina de lapidibus eadem quae Marbodo tribuuntur sed alio ordine. Of CUL 768, 15th cen- tury, fols. 67-80, “Marbodi liber lapidum,” the Catalogue says, “This Latin poem has been often printed but it does not appear that the editors have collated this MS. The order of the sections is different from all those of which Beckmann speaks in his edition (Góttingen, 1799), answering, however, most nearly to his own.” ↩︎

  3. The full name of Tiberius was, of course, Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar. ↩︎

  4. Library of Dukes of Burgundy 8890, 12th century, Evacis regis. BN 2621, 12th and 15th centuries, #6, Poemation de gemmis cuius author dicitur Evax, Rex Arabiae.
    Montpellior 277, Liber lapidum preciosorum Evax rex Arabum.
    Riccard. 1228, 12th century, fols. 41-54; Incipit prologus Evacis regis Arabic ad Neronem Tyberium de lapidibus. Incipit lapidarius Evacis habens nomina gemmarum Ix.
    BL Hatton 76 contains two letters of Evax, king of the Arabs, to Tiberius Caesar, on the virtues of stones, according to Cockayne (1864), I. xc and Ixxxiv. ↩︎

  5. Printed by J.B.Pitra, III (1855), 324-35. ↩︎

  6. BN 7418, 14th century, fol. 116-, (D)amigeronis peritissimi de lapidibus. Since this is the sole MS known of the prose version (Rose, 1875, p. 326) and is of the 14th century, whereas we have numerous early MSS of Marbod’s poem, it would seem that this may be derived from Marbod rather than even from the earlier and fuller work which he is supposed to have used. ↩︎

  7. Namely, Leo, Cancer, Aries, Sagittarius, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. ↩︎

  8. See page 775, note 2. ↩︎

  9. King (1865), p.7; Rose (1875), p.335. ↩︎

  10. Ferry (1887), p.69. ↩︎

  11. NH XXXVI, 56. Pliny, however, makes these statements about chelonia and not chelonitis which follows it. ↩︎

  12. The stones which I have taken as examples are numbers 1, 3, 5, 18, 19, 39, and 57 respectively. ↩︎

  13. See above, chapter 29, page 689 ↩︎




Foarte puțină lume știe că marele inventator și pionier al aviației mondiale, Traian Vuia, a absolvit, la Budapesta, facultatea de Drept, nu Politehnica, așa cum și-ar fi dorit. Mai mult, el și-a luat și doctoratul în Științe Juridice, cu teza: „Militarism și industrialism, regimul de Status și contractus”.

Un alt aspect necunoscut – sau foarte puțin cunoscut – este implicarea lui Traian Vuia în mișcarea unionistă a românilor din Transilvania. Celebrul inventator bănățean (s-a născut la 17/30 august 1872, la Surducu Mic, judeţul Timiş), stabilit la Paris din 1902, a militat cu ardoare pentru destrămarea monarhiei austro-ungare, cu eliberarea naţionalităţilor oprimate şi unirea întregii suflări româneşti în propriul ei stat naţional.

Astfel, în contextul în care, la 24 aprilie/7 mai 2018, România se pregătea să semneze odiosul Tratat de la București (în fapt, o capitulare), la 17/30 aprilie 1918, la Paris, lua ființă, sub președinția lui Traian Vuia, Comitetul…

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Basarab și Teleorman

Cumanii erau turcofoni. Cunoaștem relativ bine limba lor.  Teoria lui Djuvara este că familia Basarabilor ar fi fost de origine cumană, deci turcofonă, cumanii fiind un trib turcic creștinat, care domniseră peste un enorm imperiu, de la Dunăre până în Asia Centrală, inclusiv în câmpia Bărăganului, și a căror limbă ne e bine cunoscută datorită acelui dicționar și ghid de conversație descoperit providențial, Codex Comanicus, despre care am mai scris aici.

Așa cum am arătat-o, limba cumanilor are cel mai probabil un descendent în limba kumîcilor de azi, popor turcic de la poalele Caucazului, în Daghestan. Tot așa, de la cumani ne-a rămas termenul oină, dar și o denumire geografică precum Teleorman. Tot de la ei avem nume de persoane precum Coman sau Comănescu, la fel: Kun în maghiară (Kun < Kuman) și nume de locuri precum Comana în România, Kun în Ungaria sau Kumanovo în Macedonia de azi.

Cumanii se convertiseră la catolicism iar despre clasa superioară știm că era bilingvă, vorbind și persana, acea franceză a orientului, adusă de ei din lunga ședere anterioară în Asia Centrală, unde sub forma numită tadjikă persana (farsi) e vorbită până astăzi de milioane de oameni.

Știm că nobilimea cumană era și persanofonă pentru că ni s-a păstrat acel ghid de conversație însoțit de un dicționar în trei limbi: cumană-persană-latină numit Codex Comanicus. Așa încât, este foarte natural ca anumite regiuni atinse de cumani să fi fost numite de ei în persană (farsi).

Basarab, ba-sar ab, la capul apei: din nou despre originea cumană a Basarabilor propusă de Djuvara

Cabal in Kabul

În cartea sa despre posibila origine cumană a Basarabilor, Neagu Djuvara evocă o posibilă etimologie iraniană, persană, a numelui Basarab.

Nefiind lingvist, Djuvara nu se aventura prea mult în etimologii, însă o vom face aici.

Mai întâi însă, să vedem dacă ar fi plauzibilă istoric și cultural o etimologie iraniană a numelui Basarab. Răspunsul este da, desigur.

Cumanii erau turcofoni. Cunoaștem relativ bine limba lor.  Teoria lui Djuvara este că familia Basarabilor ar fi fost de origine cumană, deci turcofonă, cumanii fiind un trib turcic creștinat, care domniseră peste un enorm imperiu, de la Dunăre până în Asia Centrală, inclusiv în câmpia Bărăganului, și a căror limbă ne e bine cunoscută datorită acelui dicționar și ghid de conversație descoperit providențial, Codex Comanicus, despre care am mai scris aici.

Așa cum am arătat-o, limba cumanilor are cel mai probabil un descendent în limba kumîcilor de azi, popor turcic…

View original post 736 more words

Diversity’s Dilemma



via Transylvanian postcards from the past, collection of Pethő Csongor



Povestea Telurului, primul element chimic descoperit în urmă cu mai bine de 200 de ani în Transilvania, un material strategic extrem de rar, neexploatat în zilele noastre din motive obscure

via Povestea Telurului, primul element chimic descoperit în urmă cu mai bine de 200 de ani în Transilvania, un material strategic extrem de rar, neexploatat în zilele noastre din motive obscure

Aussie Government Broadcaster Gives Climate Skeptics Airtime — Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall h/t Judith Curry (one of the guests): The ABC, Australia’s government owned media outlet, has dedicated an entire Science Show program, including a star cast of climate skeptics, to exploring why some politicians and academics dispute the alleged climate consensus. Has ‘denying’ won? Saturday 24 June 2017 12:05PM (view full […]

via Aussie Government Broadcaster Gives Climate Skeptics Airtime — Watts Up With That?

The madness of the #ParisAgreement on climate

… it will build no further wind turbines owing to their excessive infrastructure costs and their destabilising effect on the grid.

Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Iain Aitken

The December 2015 COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, in which 40,000 delegates from 196 countries flew in (and imagine the carbon dioxide emissions all that travel created) and finally agreed an ‘historic’ document that legally committed nobody to any carbon dioxide emission reductions, simply repeated the failure of the Lima conference of the previous year and Copenhagen before that. These conferences are wasteful and pointless charades, being cynically designed to give the public the impression that the politicians are actually serious about ‘saving the planet’. The Paris deal, in particular, allowed nations to set their own voluntary carbon dioxide targets and policies without any legally binding caps or international oversight.

To achieve the goal agreed in Paris of a maximum 2C increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels has been estimated to have a global cost of $17 trillion by 2040 (about 800 times

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