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Hijazi Abdul Rahim

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 Lebanon, France

At the end of the fifteenth century, an intellectual, cultural and scientific movement covered the whole of Europe and the Renaissance originated from it. The medical science belongs to this movement. It played an important role, thanks to many medical schools, which were established in Europe.

The Islamic medicine played a decisive role in the establishment and in the development of the Europe an schools, more particularly in Salerno to the South of Italy and in Montpellier and Paris in France.

Nevertheless, the greater part of the French historic works do not know the role played by the Islamic medicine, as well as its scientific and historic importance. Few historians note the role played by the Arab medicine in the establishment of the Salernitan School and of the school of Montpellier. On the other and, most authors concur in the denial of the existence of an Islamic medicine in the basic meaning of the word. They admit, that the Arabs have translated Greek and Indian works and that they have transmitted them later on to Europe through Spain.

In the medical and pharmaceutic history of Laignel- Lavastine and in the chapter about the Islamic medicine', the author Sanjurjo D'arellano says, "there is strictly speaking no Arab medicine but an abundant compilation written in Arab by Persians, Jews or Christians". Darembers, points out: "more ver, after so to speak replacing the Greek dress by the Arab dress, the science still was Galenic throug the doctrines, as the Arab medicine as a whole is only a translation or a travesty of the Greek medicine". Bareiety and Courych think, "The main but not the only merit of the Arab medicine is the keepin and the transmission of many Greek and even Latin texts, which had been forgotton or lost during th first half of the Middle Ages". Castiglioni , "with the penetration of the Arab streams, the old tradition Italic origin, which blends with the Greek medicine wearing new clothes, still holds good". Reuter de Ro emont5, ' 'the works of the Arabs can be regarded as the compilation of Dioscorides, of Galen and of the ones known at this time". Alexander Aimes6, "the Byzantine school knew compilers only... It will no reappear before the tenth century through Rhazes and Avicenna, Abulcassis (twelfth century) and A enzoar (thirteenth century) whose great merit was to transmit the works of the Greeks to the Salerni an School". Barbillon, "the inferiority of the Arab Science is obvious. Servility, fanaticism and supers ition prevent the mind from striding. No anatomical discovery, no progress in the physiology a few origina writings about the pulse, the eruptive fevers and the chronic deseases of the skin, the utilization of a new harmacopoeia, such is approximately the achievement of the Arab science. On the other hand, there are many unnecessary discussions, futile quarrels, childish quibbles in their works".

But looking at the phenomenon closely, it can be asserted that the Arabs not merely translated the Greek works. To the world, they have given doctors worthy of the name and to the medicine, they have given a for and a content unknown to the previous peoples and their medical schools were the example followed by the West, giving to its own schools the same organization and teaching the same programs. We are going to examine the Islamic medicine in the tenth century, then the part played by it in the European Medicine and consequently, in the European awakening and in the Renaissance.


As far back as the tenth century, the Islamic medicine took three elements as a basis:

(a) A new Medical Organization
(b) A new Medicine
(c) A new pharmacopoeia


Contra to the Greeks, this organization was made up of; a school where theory was taught, a library often full of books arid works of any kind and a hospital where it was learnt to examine the patient and to identify the illness. The hospitals of Baghdad, Ray and Ibn Toulon are just a few examples among other ones.
Furthermore, this organization required from any person wishing to practice medicine to have an authorization granted by a jury presided over by a scientist. This jury was also entitled to withdraw this authorization, if the knowledge of the doctor were regarded as insufficient.


Based, like with the Ancients, on the observation but defining each illness by several symptoms. This system enabled them to describe several new illnesses such as: the variola described by Rhazes and Avicen a, the measles, the Spina Ventosa, the smallpox, the pleurisy etc... The medical books were not only translations. The "Continent" of Rhazes 'was made up of 70 books and included the whole medical knowledge of the tenth century .The Canon of Avicenna has unquestionably remained the reference book during the whole middle ages. If Avicenna was called "Le Cheik-al-Rais" in the East, he was called "the rince of Doctors" in the West


The Arabs are the fathers of pharmacy. They have discovered many matters and they have developed veral medicaments. They also organized the pharmacy and the laws of this science. This canoe f und in a book, the title of which is "Nichajat ar Rutba", written in 1236 and a copy of which, dating from the fifteenth century, is in Sarajevo in Yugoslavia9.1. These elements made it possible for the Islamic medicine to expand very quickly and, as far back as the tenth century, famous names were noted; I-Razi in Iran, al-Macoudy and Ibn al Abbas in Iraq, Ibn al Jazzar in Morroco, Abulcases in Spain.

Europe was given the benefit of this development, as there are many Europeans in the Islamic schools and more particularly in Cordova in Spain. The most famous ones are; Gerber d' Aurillac, Gerard de Cremone, Arnaud de Villeneuve, Constantine I'African etc...

The first medical schools in Europe became famous thanks to the Islamic medicine. The first school the Salernitan school in Italy, Montpellier and Paris in France.


In Salerno, the patients were looked after in a convent founded in the ninth century. The healing monks i itated a monk living in the neighborhood, in the convent of Monte Cassino; he was called Desire and he had written a book, the title of which was "The medical miracles of Saint Benoit". He is famous, because he became later Pope Victor VIII. The reputation of Salerno remained local until the end of the eleventh century.

In 1077, Constantine, called "the African", arrived in Salerno. As he was born in Cartage, he had learnt medicine during his trip in Egypt, in Syria and in India. The story goes, that he was in Baghdad, where he studied Mesue and Serapion.

He had translated the books of Ali ben al Abbas, the most important one being "Almalak" made up of ten volumes of theoretical medicine and of ten volumes of practical medicine, without giving the name of the author. He had also translated a treatise on the ophthalmology of Honnein and the Viaticus of Ibn al Jazzar. He practiced medicine as he had learnt it in the Islamic schools. This practice was new in Salerno; its medicaments too. Shortly, and thanks to this medicine, he became very famous. Then he organize the Salernitan School, imitating the Islamic medical schools of the East and of Spain. "The studies took place either in the library or in the hospital and the student was directed in his work by a group of teachers". The Salernitan School became famous thanks to this new organization and to this new medicine.

As regards the program of the school, it included not only the works translated by Constantine but also a few books written by the teachers of Salerno but "in which signs of Arab influence are often found". The most famous books are;

De Aegritudinum Curatione -it is an anonymous book made up of two parts; the first one deals with illnesses from the head to the foot. The second one includes comments and explanations made by the seven teachers of the school. The resemblance of the first part to the works of al-Razi, Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Jazzar is obvious.

The Liber Simplici Medicina, also called the Circa Instans, which is only an updated translation of the book of Constantine de Gradibus Simplicium, this being also a translation of some Arab works.

The Antidotarium includes a few recipes copied out from the works of Galen, as well as many Arab pharmaceutic prescriptions.

In short, we can say with Turchini, that the coming of the Islamic medicine in Salerno has been a fundamental element in the development of the school, in its brightening up and in its celebrity.

The success of the Salernitan School has encouraged the creation of other schools and their organization on the same lines. The most famous schools were: Bologna, Padua, Pisa and Naples in Italy, Montpellie and Paris in France.


At the end of the twelfth century, medicine was practiced by the monks of the convents, by some Islamic doctors living here and by a few Jews, more particularly after many of them had left Spain, just as the Almohades came into power in 1147.

The anarchy dominated the practice of medicine at this time. Anybody could open a school to teach medicine and look after the patients.

In 1220, Cardinal Conrad, the Legate of Pope Honorius III, brought this disorder to and end by creating the medical school of Montepellier and by organizing it on the lines of the Arab medical schools. In this way, nobody could practice medicine without having the authorization granted by a jury coonsisting of scientists and presided over by a religious.

At this time there were 16 teaching books, 13 of which were books of Islamic medicine. These books were;

The Canon of Avicenna: the Antidotarium, the Continent, the Al-Mansouri and the Aphorisms of Rhazes, as well as the treatise about Pestilence; the guide of doctors and the spring water, the book of fevers by Isaad; the Isagoge of Honein, the translations of Constantine (Ibn Al Abbas, Mesue and Ibn Al Jazzar), the Techne, De Morbo et Accidenti of GAlen; the Aphorisms of Hippocrates.

During all the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries, the Islamic medicine was the most important subject in the teaching program of the medical school of Montpellier. The teachers commented on Avicenna, they explained Rahazes, Mesue etc... Galen was quoted from time to time Hippocrates was rarely quoted. As regards the other Greek doctors, they wrere purely and simply unknown."
Among the most famous teachers, there were Arnaud de Viulleneuve, Ermengaud Blein, Pierre de Capestang, Jean Jacme and other ones, who were called the Arabic Scholars, as they taught the Arab medicine to the exclusion of any other one.

"The book of the lessons and keys" in the Records of the University, gives us a precise idea about the programs of the school of Montpellier from 1489 to 1500.

and we see:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->1. that the works of Avicenna had the lion's share from 1489 to 1500 and that it is only from 1500, that the works of Galen superseded, for teaching, the ones of Avicenna.<!--[endif]-->

<!--[if !supportLists]-->2. that Hippocrates did not have the importance given to him by the Westerners.<!--[endif]-->

Even after 1500, the Islamic medicine was still taught in Montpellier and it had still its defenders. We fi d a typical example in the book of Austruc16, "Rene Moreau, a teacher of the University, reproached Jacobus Sylvius, another teacher of Montpellier for being a follower of the Arabs and of the Barbarians and for not attending to Hippocrates or to Galen. In the same way, he repooached the uni- versity of Montpellier for its taste for the Arab medicine, what proves that, even in the middle of the sixteenth century, the Arab medicine exercised an important influence in Montpellier". Moreover, Astruc says, 'surely, Montpellier had taught the Arab medicine for a long time. It was not in a position to teach other medicines. This fondness for the Arab medicine was common to all the universities".

This enables us to say, that the Arab medicine accompanied the school of Montpellier from its creation the second half of the sixteenth century .It made it possible for the school of Montpellier to develo , to open out and to become a scientific centre, not only in France but also in Europe, towards which students and patients made their way.


The phenomenon, which occured in Salerno and in Montpellier, also occured in Paris and the program of the school of Paris was identical with the one of Montpellier. We shall not come back to that, especially as one of the most famous teachers of Paris was Gilles de Corbeil, and old Salernitan. But we give an example confirming, what has been previously said: in 1395, the library of the school of Paris ad eight books17, five of which being books of Arab medicine: the Concordance of Jean de Saint Aiman , the Concordance of Jean de Saint Flour, the Usu Particum of Galen, "the Simple" of Mesue and th Practice of Mesue, the Theriaca and the Antidotarium of Abulcasis, as well as the precious one, the most beautiful and the most remarkable jewel of the university, the Totum Continens of Rhazes, We know the history of this book with Louis XI, who wanted to have a copy of the Continent in his library. He adked the library of the school of Paris for this book on loan. This was authorized, after stormy discussions, for a deposit of twelve silver plate sets and hundred gold crowns. This gives and idea about the value and the importance of the Islamic works.

This paper gives us an idea about the part played by the Islamic medicine in the creation of the European medical schools. We can also say, that without the Islamic medicine, the Islamic hospitals, the Islamic pharmacies and the medical schools, the Salernitan school and the school of Montpellier would probably never have been created.

The m vement started in Salerno and in Montpellier covered the whole of Europe very quickly and, at the end of the Middle Ages, there were eighty universities in Europe, nineteen of which were French ones. Each year, they brought multitude of scientists, doctors, pharmacists, surgeons and philosophers such as Roger Bacon, Guy de Chauliac, Thomas Alquin Henri de Mondeville, and other ones, who have created a scientific movement and a cultural movement, which were the ferment of what became the Renaissance later. In short, we can assert two things:

1. The Islamic medicine has been an essential element of the European Renaissance

2. We do not find in the most French works any proof of recognition.<!--[endif]-->


 SANURJO D'ARELLANO: Histoire generale de la pharmacie et de l'art dentaire. on I, p 511.

 WINTER PIERRE: Histoire generale de la medecine, de la pharmacie et de l'art dentaire, tom. II, p44, Ed Alban Michel, 1936- Paris.

 BARRIETY Maurice et COURY ch.: Histoire de la medecine, Ed. Fayard 1963 - Paris; P. 262, 280.

 CASTIGLIONI A. : Histoire de la medecine Ed. Payot 1931 - Paris: P.259.262

 REUTER DE ROSEMONT: Histoire de la pharmacie dans les premiers siecles du Moyen-Age - Paris 1931

 AIMES ALEXANDRE: GUY DE CHAULIAC, pere de la chirurgie moderne, MONSPELIENSIS HIPPOCRATES 6th yr. NO. 18-1962.


 SOUBIRAN A.: AVICENNE et la medecie - 1970 - tom. XX No. 204


E.H. GUITARD: REVUE histoire de la pharmacie - 1970 - tom. XX No. 204

WINTER PIERRE: La medecine au Moyen-Age. HIstoire generale de la medecine et de la pharmacie. tom. II-page 37-Albin Michel 1936

 TURCHIN JEAM: Salerne et Montpellier dans MONSPELKLIENSIS HIPPOCRATES. 4th year - NO. 14 - 1961-P4

 HARANT HERYE: La medecine arabe a Montepellier - extrait des cahiers de Tunisie 1955


BORIES MARCEL: Les universites du Languedoc au XIII siecle. Cahiers de FANJEAUX. 1970-Ed.

 DULIEU LOUIS: La medecine arabe a Montpellier - extrait des cahiers de Tunisie 1955.

 ASTRUC JEAN - Memoires pour servir a I'histoire de la faculte de Montpellier. Livre 5-1767-Archives de la bibiotheque de Montpellier

 SABATIER J.C.: Recherches historiques sur la faculte de medecine de Paris. 1837 - P. 10 - Ed. Baillere, Paris


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