Kalonymus ben Kalonymus

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KALONYMUS BEN KALONYMUS (Ben Meir ha-Nasi ; 1286–after 1328), author and translator. Probably born in Arles (Provence), Kalonymus pursued his studies in Salonica and devoted himself from his youth to the translation of Arabic scientific works into Hebrew. His first translation, Ibn Ridwan's Principles of Medicine, is believed to have been lost during the expulsion of the Jews from the territories directly under the rule of the king of France in 1306. During the years 1307–17 he lived in Arles (he was in Avignon in 1314), and in 1318 he stayed again for a time in Salonica. He later entered the service of Robert d'Anjou "the Wise" (1277–1343), king of Naples and count of Provence, for whom he is said to have made translations from Arabic and Hebrew into Latin. Probably in about 1319–21, Kalonymus traveled to Rome, where he frequented the circle to which the poet *Immanuel of Rome and the philosopher Judah b. Moses (among others) belonged. Whether, as some surmise, he was the representative sent by the Jews of Rome to the papal court at Avignon in 1321 remains uncertain. When Kalonymus was recalled to Arles, the Rome community addressed to the Jews of Arles a letter composed by the poet Immanuel explaining why it was desirable for Kalonymus to remain in Rome (Maḥberot Immanuel, no. 23). However, Kalonymus subsequently made his way home and from there went to Catalonia, but returned to Provence after 1322. In 1324 he was again in Naples and in 1328 he was still busy in Arles working on the Latin translation of Averroes for the King.

The works of Kalonymus comprise a polemic epistle against Joseph *Kaspi (1318; ed. Perles, Munich 1879) written in Provence; Massekhet Purim, a parody for the festival of Purim, composed in Rome; this work, in the guise of a talmudic tractate in four chapters, has gone through many editions (Pesaro 1513, c. 1520; Venice 1552, etc.); a fragment on mathematics (Munich ms 290); Iggeret Musar, an ethical work written for his son, published by I. Sonne in Koveẓ al Yad, 1 (1936), 93–110; Iggeret ha-Hitnaẓẓelut ha-Katan, published by J. Schatzmiller in Sefunot, 10 (1966), 9–52. One of his best-known works is Even Boḥan, a satire in rhymed prose, composed c. 1322 in Barcelona, on the moral and religious abuses prevailing among the author's contemporaries (Naples 1489; Venice 1546; Tel Aviv, ed. A.M. Habermann, 1956). He dedicated it to 10 notable Catalan Jews who had helped him during his stay in Catalonia. As T. Rosen has commented, Kalonymus includes in his Even Boḥan, among others things, the case of a man who asks God to turn him into a female – something that is unique in Jewish literature. It can be seen as a critique of the Jewish view on the life of men and women. The author describes also with humor many aspects of the life of the Jewish communities of his time, the celebration of Jewish festivals, and many kinds of social types (rich people, physicians, astronomers, grammarians, experts in masorah, poets, talmudists, etc.), criticizing their habits in a way that is sometimes picturesque, sometimes even grotesque.

He also translated works on philosophy, natural sciences, medicine, mathematics, and astronomy by other writers (more than 30), including 10 works by Averroes, the Centiloquium attributed to Ptolemy, with the commentary of Abu Jaffar Ahmed ben Yussuf; the Sphere and Cylinder of Archimedes (two translations, one of which has been lost); Galen's De clysteriis et colica and De Phebotomia, the Compendium of Arithmetic by Nicomachus of Gerasa; the Principles of Medicine by Ibn Ridwan (second translation; the first was lost in 1306); the treatise Cylinder and Cone of Ibn Samkh; the Figura sector of Thabit b. Kurras, the Hypotheses of Ptolemy and "Iggeret Ba'alei Ḥayyim," from the 21st treatise of the Encyclopedia of the Sincere Brethren (Mantua 1557, etc.). Only one of Kalonymus' translations into Latin is known, namely the Destructio destructionis of Averroes (part printed, Venice 1497; Venice 1508). Other works and translations have been incorrectly attributed to Kalonymus.

E. Fleischer sees in the work of Kalonymus, with all his bitter criticism and his satiric humor, but at the same time with his philosophic and scientific knowledge and his literary virtues, the last brilliant representative of the culture of Provence, inspired by the Sephardi tradition.


J. Chotzner, in: jqr, 13 (1901), 128–46, A.M. Habermann (ed.), Even Boḥan (1956), 163–87 (incl. bibl.). add. bibliography: Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (1997), 514–41 (Heb.); T. Rosen, in: Prooftexts, 20 (2000), 87–110; idem, Unveiling Eve (2003), 168–86.

[Umberto (Moses David) Cassuto /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]