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The Arabic translation of Galen's commentary on the Hippocratic Epidemics

The transmission of medical knowledge to the Islamic world and the development of clinical medicine


The Epidemics of Hippocrates (fl. 430 BCE) is a collection of case notes by different authors in seven books. The material was compiled in its present form much later, but some of it probably originated already in the fifth century BCE. The text constitutes a milestone in the history of clinical medicine. Galen (d. c. 216) wrote an extensive commentary on those parts he considered genuinely Hippocratic, i.e. Books 1, 2, 3 and 6. This commentary is only partially and badly preserved in the original Greek. Almost all of Book 2 and parts of Books 1 and 6 solely survive in an Arabic translation by Hunayn ibn Ishaq (d. c. 873).

The Warwick Epidemics project aims at editing and translating into English three books out of four of Galen's Commentary on Hippocrates' Epidemics: Book 1, for which large parts of the Greek original survive; Book 2, where no Greek is extant; and Book 6, which is partially lost in Greek. These three books represent ca. three quarters of Hunayn's Arabic translation and cover the entirety of those parts that are lost in Greek. In addition, textual analyses and comparisons of Books 1 and 6 with other translations will provide insights into the history of the Greek-Arabic translation movement and Hunayn's translation technique and terminology.

Project Team

In its first phase from 2008 to 2012, which focused on Books 1 and 2 and was funded by a Wellcome Trust project grant, the project team consisted of two post-doctoral research assistants, Uwe Vagelpohl and Bink Hallum , who worked under the supervision of Peter E. Pormann and Simon Swain . In the current phase, which started in 2012, Uwe Vagelpohl and Simon Swain have attended to the completion of the work on Bks 1-2. Publication will happen in 2014 for vol. 1 (Bk. 1) and in 2016 for vol. 2 (Bk. 2). In addition Uwe Vagelpohl is now editing and translating Book 6 as a Wellcome History of Medicine Fellow.

Further information