Early Arabic Literature in Context: the Hellenisti.. (ALCH)
Early Arabic Literature in Context: the Hellenistic Continuum
Start date: Jul 1, 2009,
End date: Jun 30, 2011
"This proposal addresses the inter-cultural exchanges in Egypt during the 11th century, as embedded in an Arabic compilation of ancient sources on the Greek, Egyptian and Semitic sages (prophets, heroes, philosophers and famous physicians). Written by Ibn Fatik and misleadingly entitled Choicest Maxims and Best Sayings, the work was read as early as the middle of the 13th century in Spain, and thereafter translated into the main European languages. The circulation of the text on both the Eastern and Western sides of the Mediterranean during the medieval times reflects the complexity of the late antique/early medieval societies. Figures such as Hermes, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Alexander the Great, and Galen, receive the rank of Hellenistic semi-gods. Written in an Islamic Shi’i context (the Fatimid court in Cairo), the work, based on earlier compilations and translations, and widely circulating in later Arabic literature, calls for a re-appraisal of the Greek and Hellenistic roots of both the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic civilizations. The project will focus on the historical context and the linguistic aspects of the text, as the work belongs to a well-represented genre of early Arabic literature using both Greek and Syriac translated materials. A study of the network behind the text will help to re-assess the ‘translation movement’ in Baghdad and surrounding area during the 9th-10th centuries. This literature of ‘Tales and Legends of Greece and the Ancient Near East’ can only be studied within an interdisciplinary framework. My project, at the crossroads of Arabic literature, Greek philosophy and history, and religious studies, aims to study the corpus of the Greek and Syriac literature translated into Arabic during the 8th-13th centuries from new angles. This approach will bring out the role of Egypt as a centre of intellectual exchanges between multifarious communities in the pre-Crusades period, and uncover unknown sources on the ancient Greek philophers."
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