On the Authorship of the Syriac Prognostics

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The Syriac translation of the Hippocratic Prognostics is preserved in the bilingual Syriac-Arabic manuscript Bibliothèque nationale du France Paris ms. arabe fonds ancien 6734 (hereafter referred to as P7). Jacques Jouanna has ascribed the Syriac translation to Ḥunyan b. Isḥāq (d. 873). Yet, comparing the translation styles of the Syriac and Arabic translations and how their translators understood the Greek text reveals that there is reason to doubt Ḥunyan's authorship of the Syriac Prognostics. First, I point to evidence that the Arabic Prognostics preserved in P7 is a contaminated version of Ḥunayn's Arabic Prognostics, as P7's scribe modified Ḥunayn's Arabic Prognostics by collating the Arabic text with the parallel Syriac text. Second, Ḥunayn's Arabic translation of the Hippocratic Aphorisms vi.52 and nearly identical passage in the Prognostics shows that Ḥunayn's translation style and interpretation of the same Greek text are not always consistent from text to text. Yet, I argue that these inconsistencies are mainly terminological. They are not grounds for dismissing the value of evidence provided by analysing translation style and interpretation. Thus, in the final section of this article, I compare a number of passages from the Greek Prognostics with the Arabic and Syriac translations. These examples show that in translating the Prognostics, Ḥunayn and the Syriac translator adopt widely differing translation techniques and interpretations of the Greek text. These findings lead me to conclude that the Syriac Prognostics was not translated by Ḥunayn.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHippocreates East and West
EditorsPeter Pormann
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameStudies in Ancient Medicine


  • Prognostics
  • Hippocrates
  • Syriac
  • Hunayn ibn Ishaq


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