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John of Capua


JOHN OF CAPUA (Johannes de Capua ; 13th century), Italian translator who lived in Rome during the pontificate of Bonifacius viii (1294–1303). Probably born in Capua before 1250, John of Capua, an apostate, is known for his translation of Kalila and Dimna from Hebrew into Latin. John translated this famous collection of tales, working on the basis of a previous Hebrew version done from Arabic in the 12th century by a Jew named Joel. He worked on this Latin translation between 1263 and 1278 and dedicated it to Cardinal Matteo Orsini. The work was thereafter widely known under its Latin name, Directorium humanae vitae, alias parabolae antiquorum sapientium ("The Guide of Human Life, or Proverbs of the Ancient Sages"). The influence of the Directorium on the writers and collectors of fables with an ethical-didactic purpose was immense, and eminent writers and novelists dealt with this work until the 17th century. The Directorium was first published between 1484 and 1493; a critical edition was established by F. Geissler only in 1960. John of Capua also translated – always from the Hebrew translations of the Arabic – treatises dealing with medicine, including the al-Taysīr ("The Facilitation"), a treaty on pathology and therapeutics by Abu Marwan ibn Zuhr (1090–1162); several medical texts by Maimonides: "On Hygiene" (De regimine sanitatis) dedicated to Bonifacius viii, "On the Causes of Accidents" (De causis accidentium), De haemorroidibus, on the initiative of one of the papal physicians and possibly also De coitu.


Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 2 (1893), 748, 772, 875–6, 981. add. bibliography: F. Geissler, in: Mitteilungen des Instituts fuer Orientforschung, 9 (1963), 433–61; M. Zonta, in: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 55 (2000), 760–61.

[Joseph Baruch Sermoneta /

Alessandro Guetta (2nd ed.)]

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