EBN ḴAMMĀR, ABU’L-ḴAYR ḤASAN b. Savār (or Sovār)b. Bābā b. Bahrām (or Behnām) Ḵᵛārazmī, philosopher. He was born in 331/942, presumably in Baghdad; his father, a Nestorian Christian, was apparently a wineseller (ḵammār). He studied logic and other philosophical subjects under the noted philosopher Yaḥyā b. ʿAdī, and medicine under Jebrāʾīl b. ʿObayd-Allāh b. Boḵtīšūʿ. The names of his books have long been known from the Fehrest of Ebn al-Nadīm and other bio-bibliographical works, but it is only in recent decades that mss. of some of these have come to light and enabled us to form a first-hand view of his importance (Walzer, pp. 91ff.; repr., pp. 60-113; Graf, pp. 156f).

It now appears that he and one or two other pupils of Yaḥyā b. ʿAdī, such as Ebn Samḥ, were the persons chiefly responsible for completing the master’s work and establishing a school of Aristotelian studies in Baghdad. Ebn Ḵammār was above all a “critical editor” of Aristotle’s logical works, such as the Prior and Posterior Analytics and the Categories. In this he followed, like his master, the tradition of scholarship of Alexander of Aphrodias. It is thought that he did not know Greek, but he seems to have known the works of Greek writers on Aristotle’s logic through Syriac translations, and he certainly translated from Syriac.

Among his works is the Ketāb sīrat al-faylasūf (Lewin, pp. 267-84). Three of his works on ethics are extant, including the Ketāb al-ṣeddīq wa’l-ṣadāqa (on friendship), one on meteorology, and at least one on a medical subject. Yet another line of his activity is indicated by a book on “The agreement between the views of the philosophers and the Christians” (al-Wefāq bayna raʾy al- falāsefa wa’l-naṣārā ), and another on “unity and trinity.”

Among his pupils at Baghdad were Abu’l-Faraj ʿAlī b. Ḥosayn b. Hendū (d. after 410/1018) and Abu’l-Faraj ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ṭayyeb (d. 435/1043), who, besides being a practicing physician and a philosopher, was an important Nestorian Christian theological writer. Eventually, Ebn Ḵammār left Baghdad and became a physician at the court of the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Maʾmūn b. Moḥammad (399-408/1009-17). After the fall of the Ḵᵛārazmšāhs before Sultan Maḥmūd of Ḡazna in 408/1017, Ebn Ḵammār went to Ḡazna and practiced at the court there, under both Maḥmūd and his son Moḥammad. He was so successful that he was known as “the second Hippocrates.” In his old age he became a Muslim as a result of a dream. He is said to have died in 440/1048.


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

Brockelmann, GAL I, p. 236; S. I, p. 378. Ebn al-Nadīm, ed. Tajaddod, p. 323.

Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, Beirut, 1955-56, pp. 322 f.

Ebn al-Qefṭī, Taʾrīḵ al-ḥokamāʾ, ed. J. Lippert, Leipzig, 1903, p. 115 (s.v. Ḥasan b. Sovār).

G. Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, Vatican City, 1947, II, pp. 156 f.

B. Lewin, “L’ideal antique du philosophe arabe; un traité d’éthique du philosophe Baghdadien Ibn Suwār,” Lychnos, 1945, no. 5.

M. Meyerhof, “Von Alexandrien nach Bagdad,” SPAW, phil.-hist. Kl., 1930, pp. 389-429, esp. p. 421, using the Berlin and Leiden manuscripts of Abū Zayd Bayhaqī, Tattema ṣewān al-ḥekma. N. Rescher, Studies in the History of Arabic Logic, Pittsburgh, 1963, p. 57.

Idem, The Development of Arabic Logic, Pittsburgh, 1964, pp. 140 f.

S. J. Sajjādī, “Ebn-e Ḵammār” in DMBE III, pp. 463-65.

Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 322-23.

S. M. Stern, “Ibn al-Samḥ,” JRAS, 1956, pp. 31-44, esp. pp. 31 f., 40.

R. Walzer, “New Light on the Arabic Translations of Aristotle,” Oriens 6, 1953, pp. 91 ff.; repr. with additions in Walzer, Greek into Arabic, Oxford, 1962, pp. 60-113.

(W. Montgomery Watt)

Originally Published: December 15, 1997

Last Updated: December 6, 2011

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