Moses of Palermo

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MOSES OF PALERMO (c. 1275), Sicilian translator. Moses of Palermo was one of a group of Jewish translators from southern Italy who were active in Naples and Salerno at the request of Charles of Anjou (1226–85). Their work continued the tradition of Jewish translation that flourished during the reign of Frederick ii and his natural son Manfred. Charles apparently paid Moses a regular stipend as an official translator. On the occasion of his journey from Salerno to Naples in 1270, Moses received payment of "an ounce of gold" at Charles' command. A document dated 1277 states that the king ordered Maestro Matteo Siciliaco to give Latin lessons to Moses of Palermo, thus enabling him to translate scientific texts from the Arabic. Moses' name is primarily linked with the translation of a "Treatise on the Healing of Horses" ascribed to Hippocrates (Liber de curationibus infirmitatum equorum quem translavit de lingua arabica in latinam Magister Moyses de Palermo). This was translated into Italian, together with another article on the same subject, and published in 1865 as Trattati dimascalcia attribuiti ad Ippocrate, tradotti dall'arabo in latino da Maestro Moise da Palermo, volgarizzati nel sec. xiii (ed. P. Delprato). One of the earliest scientific texts written in Italian, this translation played an important part in the development of scientific terminology in the Italian language. It was widely circulated both in Italy and in other countries throughout the Middle Ages. Another version of the treatise, also in Italian, was entitled Libro della natura dei cavalli, and this was often reprinted during the Renaissance era.

There is, however, a possibility that there was another Moses of Palermo who flourished either at the court of the Norman kings, in the 12th century, or at the court of *Frederick ii Hohenstaufen. A work attributed to Moses of Palermo, Liber mariscaltie equorum et cura eorum, is cited in the De Medicina equorum of Giordano Ruffo (c. 1200), thus indicating that the writer of this text lived in an earlier period. A list of the manuscripts attributed to Moses of Palermo was published by Stefano Arieti, "Mosè da Palermo e le traduzioni dei trattati di mascalcia di Ippocrate Indiano," in: Gli ebrei in Sicilia, ed. N. Bucaria (1998).


M. Steinschneider, in: hb, 10 (1870), 8–11; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 2 (1893), 985; U. Cassuto, in: Vessillo Israelitico, 59 (1911), 341; Roth, Jews in the Renaissance (1959), 69–70. add. bibliography: C. Sirat, "Les traducteurs juifs à la cour de Sicile et de Naples," in: Traduction et traducteurs au Moyen Age, Actes du Colloque International du cnrs (1989), 169–91; D. Trolli, "Le traduzioni di Mosè da Palermo," in: Studi su antichi trattati di veterinaria (1990), 43–57; R. Bonfil, "La cultura ebraica e Federico ii, in: Federico ii e le nuove culture," in: Atti del xxxio Convegno storico internazionale (del Centro Italiano di Studi sul Basso Medioevo – Accademia Tudertina & Centro di Studi sulla Spiritualità Medievale dell'Università degli Studi di Perugia), Todi, 9–12 ottobre 1994 (1995), 153–71; S. Arieti, "Mosè da Palermo e le traduzioni dei trattati di mascalcia di Ippocrate Indiano," in: N. Bucaria (ed.), Gli ebrei in Sicilia (1998), 55–61; M. Zonta, "La filosofia ebraica medievale in Sicilia," in: N. Bucaria et al. (eds.), Ebrei e Sicilia (2002), 163–68.

[Joseph Baruch Sermoneta /

Nadia Zeldes (2nd ed.)]