EBN AL-BAYṬĀR, ŻĪĀʾ-AL-DĪN ABŪ MOḤAMMAD ʿABD-ALLĀH b. Aḥmad (not Aḥmad-al-Dīn as in EI ² III, p. 737), Andalusian botanist and pharmacologist. He was born in Malaga (Ar. Mālaqa; hence his nesba Mālaqī) in the second half of the 6th/12th century, and died in Damascus in 646/1248 (for the scanty biographical data available about him, see Leclerc, Histoire II, pp. 225-29; idem, in Traité I, pp. vi-ix; Brockelmann, GAL I, p. 492, S I, p. 896; Ben Mrād, I, pp. 169-76). He is best known for his encyclopedic Jāmeʿ (so titled by himself [Būlāq ed., I/1, p. 3] but expanded by later authors into al-Jāmeʿ le mofradāt al-adwīa wa’l-aḡḏīa), which he compiled after extensive studies (he quotes from over 150 sources, including his own observations) and herborizing trips that took him from Seville (ca. 617/1219?), across North Africa, to Lebanon, Syria, Asia Minor, parts of Arabia, and as far east as Mesopotamia (Leclerc, in Traité I, p. viii; as far as “Irak and Persia,” Ben Mrād, p. 172).
Jāmeʿ, “the most extensive and perfect” pharma-copoeia produced since Dioscorides to the 16th century (Leclerc, in Traité I, p. ix), describes, in alphabetical order, some 1,422 simples (mofradāt) from animal, mineral, and, especially, vegetable origins (Ben Mrād, I, pp. 179, 207) and from different proveniences; it also includes 931 short synonymic entries in various languages (Greek, Spanish, Berber, Arabic vernaculars, Persian, Hindi, etc.). This article deals primarily with the Persian language elements in the Jāmeʿ and, secondarily, with the Persian authors quoted by Ebn al-Bayṭār.
Although Greek authors constituted the prime medico-pharmacological source of the Islamic period scholars (cf. the Arabic translations of the relevant works of Dioscorides, Galen, Paulos of Aegina, Rufus, Oreibasos, etc.; Ebn al-Bayṭār is intent on beginning his descriptive entries with adequate quotations from the first two whenever available), Persian elements in the Jāmeʿ’s nomenclature, 454 in number (41.96 percent of the total 1, 082), exceed the Greek ones (428 items; 39.56 percent of the total; Ben Mrād, ibid.). In Ebn al-Bayṭār’s work Persian names and synonyms (like all other non-Arabic words) usually appear in a more or less badly arabicized form (often further disfigured by the copyists’ error). His knowledge of Persian vocabulary (as compared with his proficiency in Greek; see Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, II, p. 133), proves very superficial and rudimentary, thus disproving René Basset’s statement (p. 1) that Ebn al-Bayṭār also “knew Persian ... well”; Basset’s opinion may have been derived only from the fact that Ebn al-Bayṭār had provided “accurate literal meanings in numerous cases” for Persian drug names and synonyms, e.g.: fīljūš=āḏān al-fīl “elephant ears” (Pers. p/fīl-gūš); kāw-zowān=lesān al-ṯawr “ox tongue” (Pers. gāv-zabān); kazmāzek=ʿafṣ al-ṭarfāʾ “tamarisk gall” (Pers. gaz-māzak); sebestān=aṭbāʾ al-kalba “bitch teats” (Pers. sag-pestān); jollanār=ward al-rommān “pomegranate blossom” (Pers. gol[-e]nār); oštorḡār/z=šawk al-jemāl “camels’ thorn” (Pers. oštor-ḵār). These and other examples show, however, that Ebn al–Bayṭār’s literal meanings are generally limited to compound Persian names with a rather perspicuous composition. There are many Persian drug names or synonyms (both simple and compound) whose Persian origins and literal meanings were ignored by the author, e.g.: āḏaryūn (Pers. āḏar-gūn, lit. “fire-colored”), esfīd/ḏāj (Pers. espīd/safīd-āb, lit. “white water”), bāḏāward (Pers. bāḏ/d-āvard, lit. “wind-brought”), osrob (Pers. sorb), bāḏ/dāmak (Pers., lit. “little almond”), ber/lenjāsef (Pers. berenj[-e] asp/b, lit. “horse rice”), barsīāwašān/baršāwašān (Pers. par-esīāvašān, lit. “Sīāvaš’s feather”), šādānaq, šāhdānaj (Pers. šāh-dāna[k], lit., “king grain”), zaybaq (Pers. jīva), qabj (Pers. kabk), mārmāhīj (Pers. mār-māhī, lit. “snake fish”), tadroj (Pers. taḏarv), sawsan al-azād (Pers. sūsan-e āzād, lit. “noble lily”). In other cases, the literal meanings given are partly or utterly wrong, e.g.: mayboḵtaj=maṭbūḵ al-ʿenab “decoction of grapes” (Pers. may-poḵta, lit. “cooked/boiled wine”), māhūbḏāna=al-qāʾem be nafsehi “standing by itself” (Pers. māhū/māhūb-dāna[k], lit. “māhūb [?] seed”), mīūfezaj, maywīzaj=zabīb al-jabal “mountain raisin” (Pers. mīmīzak, mavīzak, lit. “small raisin”), dīwdār=šajar al-jenn “jinn’s tree” (Pers. dīv-dār < Skt. devadāru, “deodar; lit. divine tree/wood”), jamesfaram/rayḥān Solaymān “Solomon’s herb” (Pers. jam-espar[ḡ]am, lit. “Jam’s herb”) kešt-bar-kešt =zarʿ ʿalā zarʿ “sowing upon sowing” (Pers. gašt-bar-gašt, lit. “fold upon fold”). Sometimes the origin is indicated, but the literal meaning is not, e.g.: b/fal/ranjmešk (Pers. palang-mošk, lit. “leopard musk”), asfīūš/s (Pers. asp/b-gūš, lit. “horse ear”), marza(n)jūš, mardaqūš (Pers. marza-gūš, lit. “mouse [?] ear”), k/jīldārū (Pers. gīl-dārū, lit. “Gīl[ān] drug”), jūrj/kandom (Pers. gowz[-e] gandom, lit. “wheat nut”).
Ebn al-Bayṭār quoted from the works (all in Arabic) of a number of authors of Persian origin and/or representing the scientific tradition of the old Gondēšāpūr medical school in Ḵūzestān. Rāzī (Rhazes; 250-313/864-925) is the Persian author most quoted from (about 410 times). In addition to Rāzī’s encyclopedic Ḥāwī, which has provided the greater part of Rāzī quotations, over eighteen works of his are mentioned (usually in an abbreviated form): Manāfeʿ al-aḡḏīa wa dafʿ mażārrehā (some 100 times); al-Ketāb al-manṣūrī fi’l-ṭebb (some 30 times); Ketāb abdāl al-adwīa (about 30 times); Ketāb al-ḵawāṣsá (9 times). The following, mostly short monographs, are quoted once or twice: Ketāb (elā) man lā yaḥżoroho’l-ṭabīb, Ketāb al-kāfī fi’l-ṭebb, Resāla fi’l-neqres, ʿElāj al-amrāż bi’l-aḡḏīa wa’l-adwīat al-mašhūrat al-mawjūda fī koll makān, Maqāla fī serr ṣenāʿat al-ṭebb, Ketāb al-modḵal ela’l-ṭebb, Ketāb ʿelal al-maʿāden, Maqāla fi’l-tīn, Ketāb al-jodarī wa’l-ḥaṣba, Ketāb fi’l-šarāb, Ketāb al-samāʾem (al-semām?), etc.
Next comes Avicenna (370-428/980-1037) with over 247 quotations, mostly from Book II of his Qānūn, over thirty-one times from his Ketāb al-adwīat al-qalbīya, and two quotations from his opuscule Maqāla fi’l-hendabā. The Ketāb al-nabāt of Abū Ḥanīfa Dīnavarī (3rd/9th century) is quoted over 124 times, mainly in connection with the plants of Arabia or with vernacular Arabic synonyms for plant names. The Persian Christian (?) scholar Māsarjīs/Māsarjūya/Māsarjawayh from Gondēšāpūr (not to be confused with his Jewish namesake Māsarjūya from Baṣra; see Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 206-07, 224-25) is quoted over 60 times. ʿAlī b. Sahl Rabban Ṭabarī is quoted over 50 times (most probably from his Ferdaws al-ḥekma, comp. 236/850, but his little-known Ketāb al-jawhara is specified twice), and ʿAlī b. ʿAbbās Majūsī Ahvāzī (4th/10th century), author of the Kāmel al-ṣenāʿat al-ṭebbīya, some 20 times. Quotations (“over 40 times”; Leclerc, in Traité I, p.18, n. 2) from the controversial author(s) referred to as “al-Ḵūz” (in other sources also as “al-Ḵūzī”) raise difficulties. This appellation was tentatively taken by Leclerc (ibid.) to designate “the natives of Ḵūzestān,” i.e., the group of physicians affiliated to Gondēšāpūr medical center—a view adopted also by ʿAbbās Zaryāb Ḵoʾī (in Bīrūnī, p. 89); but Sami K. Hamarneh (Bīrūnī, Introd., p. 123) states that “Khuz [was] a Nestorian physician and natural scientist who came from Gondēšāpūr to Baghdad as many others of his race did during the 9th century [C.E.]” (the problem is inconclusively discussed by Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 184-85). Finally, the Christian Persian physician Sābūr (Šāpūr) b. Sahl from Gondēšāpūr (d. 255/869) is quoted only a few times (e.g., s.vv. košūt¯ and mālekī).
Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)
H. Aʿlam, “Ebn-e Beyṭār” in DMBE III, pp. 145-47.
R. Basset, “Les noms berbères des plantes dans le Traité des Simples d’Ibn El-Beïthār,” in Giornale della Società Asiatica Italiana (Florence) 12, 1899, pp. 53-66.
E. Ben Mrād, al-Moṣṭalaḥ al-aʿjamī fī kotob al-ṭebb wa’l-ṣaydala al-ʿarabīya, 2 vols., Beirut, 1985.
Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-ṣaydana fi’l-ṭebb, ed. and tr. H. M. Saīd et al, introd. and commentary by S. K. Hamarneh, 2 vols., Karachi, 1973.
Idem, Ketāb al-ṣaydana fi’l-ṭebb, ed. ʿA. Zaryāb Ḵoʾī, Tehran, 1370 Š./1991.
Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, ed. A. Müller, 2 vols., Cairo, 1299/1882.
Ebn al-Bayṭār, al-Jāmeʿ le mofradāt al-adwīa wa’l-aḡḏīa, 4 pts. in 2 vols., Būlāq, 1291/1874; tr. L. Leclerc as Traité des simples, 3 vols., Paris, 1877-83.
L. Leclerc, Histoire de la médecine arabe, 2 vols., Paris, 1876.
J. Vernet, “Ibn al-Bayṭār” in EI ² III, p. 737.
Originally Published: December 15, 1997
Last Updated: December 6, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 1, pp. 6-8