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Rufinus

RUFINUS

(fl. Italy, second half of thirteenth century)

botany, medicine.

All that is known of Rufinus is what can be gleaned from his only known work, Liber de virtutibus herharum. He was an Italian monk and priest of the second half of the thirteenth century who, having studied astronomy among the liberal arts at Naples and Bologna, turned to examine “the lower realm” of herbs: the De virtutibus herbarum, finished after 1287, apparently was composed late in his career. This work lists nearly a thousand medicinal materials, mostly vegetable simples, presenting for each a brief summary of its description by earlier authorities (most commonly Macer Floridus, Dioscorides, and the early medieval herbal called Circa instans). Fully one-fifth of the text. however, consists of Rufinus’ own contributions, which are outstanding for including a great many careful botanical descriptions of a detail quite unknown to earlier medical writers. He regularly describes the stem, flower, and leaves of a plant under consideration and contrasts it with similar plants. Much of his knowledge comes from direct acquaintance with these plants or from the lore of the practicing herbalists of Naples, Bologna, and Genoa: Rufinus often supplies vernacular names as well as Latin synonyms for the plants he discusses.

For all its interest in descriptive botany, Rufinus’ book was intended as an aid to medical practice and is much closer in spirit to the Salernitan sources on which he drew than to the contemporary Scholastic botany of Albertus Magnus—to which, indeed, it makes no reference whatsoever. Perhaps because it lay outside the direction taken by much of medicine in the later Middle Ages, it seems to have been very little used: only Benedetto Rinio, in the early fifteenth century, has been shown to have had a knowledge of it.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Liber de virtutibus herbarum is known in only one MS, Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, Fondo Ashburnham 116 (189–121), of 118 fols. It has been edited, with an introduction, by Lynn Thorndike, as The Herbal of Rufinus (Chicago, 1946). Thorndike’s introduction is in part an expansion and correction of his earlier article “Rufinus: A Forgotten Botanist of the Thirteenth Century,” in Isis, 18 (1932), 63–76, but it does not retain the article’s translations into English of sample passages from Rufinus’ text.

Michael McVaugh

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Rufinus

Rufinus (rōōfī´nəs), d. 395, Roman statesman, minister of Theodosius I and Arcadius. After Theodosius' death (395) he virtually ruled the Eastern Empire for Arcadius, but his attempt to marry his daughter to the young emperor was thwarted by Eutropius (d. 399). Rufinus was assassinated by Gothic mercenaries, who acted possibly on the orders of his rival Stilicho.

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"Rufinus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Rufinus." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rufinus