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(ft. Baghdad and Armenia , 860–900)

medicine, philosophy, translation of scientific literature.

Qusṭā ibn Lūqā, a doctor from Baalbek (Heliopolis), was praised by the ancient Arab biographers as one of the famous authors and translators who provided Arabic and Syriac versions of Greek scientific works during the Abbasid period (749–1258). Indeed, Ibn al-Nadim declares that Qusṭā was even greater than Hunayn ibn Isaq, especially in medicine. Qusṭā was a Christian of Greek origin; he had visited Byzantine regions and returned to Syria with Greek books which he then had translated by others or translated himself. He also revised earlier translations, and he was praised for his excellent literary style. Qusṭā was summoned to Baghdad, where he worked for Caliph al-Mustain (862–866); and there he probably knew al-Kindi and Thabit ibn Qurra. Al-Kindi revised Qusṭā’s translations of Hypsicles’ Liber … de ascensionibus and Autolycus’ De ortu et occasu, and Thabit completed Qusṭā’s version of Theodosius of Bithynia’s De sphaeris. Probably before 865 Qusṭā was summoned to Armenia by the ruler Sanharib, and it was there that he wrote a number of works for the Patriarch Abu ’l-Ghitrif, and composed his reply to Abu ’Isa ibn al-Munajjim on the prophetic mission of Muhammad. Qusṭā remained in Armenia, greatly honored, until his death, and a noble tomb was erected for him there.

The biographers claim that Qusa ibn Lūqā was skilled in philosophy, geometry, arithmetic, music, astronomy, logic, and especially in medicine. They list more than sixty titles of works ascribed to him and mention some seventeen translations made by him. Qusṭā was quoted as a medical authority by al-Razzi and Ibn al-Jazzar, and the majority of his writings seem to have been medical. He wrote treatises on various organs and diseases, diet, bathing, and bloodletting, and an introduction to medicine. Among his extant medical works are Kitab fi’l-sahar (“On Insomnia”), a viaticum, a treatise on the four humors, and a work on the origin of hair. A Latin translation of his book on poisons seems to have been available in sixteenth-century Italy.

Qusṭā’s arithmetical works included a treatise on numerical questions in the third book of Euclid’s Elements and a commentary on Diophantus, whose work he also translated into Arabic. He wrote an introduction to geometry, a work on Euclid, and a treatise entitled Kitab fī shzakl al-kura wa ’l-ustuwana (“Shape of the Sphere and the Cylinder”), possibly a version of Archimedes’ work. None of these appears to be extant.

Qusṭā wrote an introduction to astronomy and several works on the use of astronomical instruments. The most widely known of these, Kitab fī ’l-amal bi ’l-kura aI-nujumiyya (“On the Use of the Celestial Globe”), in sixty-five chapters, exists in Arabic in two recensions; it was also translated into Latin (by Stephanus Arnaldus, as De sphaera solida), Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian.

Other works, no longer extant, dealt with logic, politics, and natural science; there were treatises on winds, mirrors, and on the atom. Some interesting works on psychophysical relations are extant; in them Qusṭā sought to define the effects within man of matter on form, and of form on matter. Of these, the treatise on the efficacy of amulets is extant only in the Latin translation of Arnald of Villanova, entitled both De physicis ligaturis and De incantatione; and the treatise Risala ila Abi ’Ali ibn Bunan … (“On the Diversity of the Characters of Men”) is extant only in Arabic. Most widely known and influential was the short treatise Kitab fī ’l-farq baina ’l-nafs wa ’l-rụ̄ (“On the Difference Between the Spirit and the Soul”), which, in the Latin translation of John of Seville, was used as an authority by Alfred of Sarashel, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and many others. It was frequently copied and commented upon with Aristotle’s works, as if it were a clarification of or supplement to the De anima. Although Latin forms of Qusṭā’s name (Costa ben Luca, or Constabulus) were current in the later Middle Ages, his works frequently were ascribed to other authors, especially to Constantine the African.

Qusṭā’s greatest importance to his contemporaries, however, was as a translator of Greek scientific and philosophical works: in this respect he was the rival and associate of the better-known Hunayn ibn Isaq and Thabit ibn Qurra. Qusṭā’s Arabic version of Hero of Alexandria’s Mechanics provides the only text of the work extant today. Qusṭā is credited with an Arabic version of Aristotle’s Physics with the commentary of Alexander of Aphrodisias on books IV, V, and VII; the first four books of the commentary by John Philoponus on the same works; and also with part of Aristotle’s De generatione et corruptione commented upon by Alexander. Treatises entitled Maqala fī tul al-’umr wa qasrih (“On Length and Shortness of Life”), and Kitab fī l-nawm wa l-ru’ya (“On Sleep and Dream”) are ascribed to Qusṭā, but the relationship of these to Aristotle’s works is not known.

Qusṭā’s versions of works of Diophantus and Plutarch are no longer extant; but manuscripts of his translations of Aristarchus, Autolycus, Hypsicles, and Theodosius Tripolitanus survive. The Arabic versions of Galen’s commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorismsand the De horoscopo of Asclepius are also ascribed to Qusṭā by the scribes of the manuscripts of these works, which are now in Florence. Gerard of Cremona’s Latin translations of Theodosius of Bithynia’s De sphaeis and De habitationibus were made from Qusṭā’s Arabic versions. Although Qusṭā evidently played an important part in the transmission of Greek science to the West, he is a neglected figure and very few of his works have been published.


I. Original Works. Full details on what is known about Qusṭā’s works are in Gabrieli (see below). The work of al-Munajjim on the prophetic mission of Muhammad and Qusṭā’s reply are extant in MS at Bibliotheque orientale, University St.-Joseph, Beirut; see L. Cheikho, “Catalogue raisonne des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque oricntale, VI: Controverses” in Melanges de l’Universite St.-Joseph (Beirut), 14 , fasc. 3 (1929), 44 (MS 664).

Gabrieli does not mention the Kitab al-fasd thamaniyya ‘ashara bab (“Phlebotomy in 18 Chapters”), listed by Ibn al-Nadim, Fihrist(see below), 295. Among the extant works are Kitab fī ’l-sahar (“On Insomnia”), Staats-bibliothek, Berlin, Arabic MS 6357; Kitab fī tadbir al-abdan fī safar al-hajj (“Viaticum”); and Kitah ’ilal al sha’r (“On the Origin of Hair”), both in British Museum Add. 7527/3; and a treatise on the four humors, in Staats-bibliothek, Munich, Arabic MS 805. For the existence of Costa ben Luca de venenis in the sixteenth century, sec M. Steinschneider, “Die toxicologischen Schriften der Araber bis Ende XII. Jahrhunderts. Ein bibliographischer Versuch, grossenheils aus handschriftlichen Quellen,” in Virchows Archiv fur pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin52 (1871), 371–372.

The only extant arithmetical treatise of Qusṭā seems to be Kitab fī ’l-burhan ’ala ’amal hisab al-khataayn; a German trans, was published by Heinrich Suter: “Die Abhandlung Qosta ben Lūqās und zwei andere anonyme uber die Rechnung mit zwei Fehlern und mit der ange-nommen Zahl,” in Bibliotheca mathematica, 3rd ser., 9 , no. 2 (1908), 111–122.

There has been some confusion over the works on the use of astronomical instruments. There appear to be three different works in question: (I) a doubtful work in Leiden University library (MS 1053) entitled Kitab al-amal bi l-asturlab al-kuri, which is discussed by Hugo Seemann and T. Mittelberger, “Das kugelformige Astrolab nach den Mitteilungen von Alfons X. von Kastilien und den vor-handenen arabischen Quellen,” in Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Medizin, 8 (1925), 46–49; (2) a well-authenticated work in Bodleian Library MS Arabic 879, entitled Hayat al-aflak (“On the Shape of the Celestial Spheres”); and (3) a very famous work, Kitab fī l-’amal bi 1-kura al-nujumiyya (“On the Use of the Celestial Globe”), which is summarized and discussed by W. H. Worrell, “Qusṭā ibn Lūqā on the Use of the Celestial Globe,” in Isis, 35 (1944), 285–293. For the Latin version of Stephanus Arnaldus, see M. Stein-schneider, “Der europaischen Obersetzungen aus dem arabischen bis Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts,” in Sitzungs-berichte der K. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, Phil.-hist. Kl., 149 (1904), 77. Steinschneider states that there are MSS of this trans, in the Bodleian Library (Coxe 693), in Vienna (MSS 5415 and 5273), and in the cloister of San Marco, Florence.

Other works include De physicis ligaturis (De incan-tatione), in Constantini Africans Opera omnia (Basel, 1536), 317 f; Arnald of Villanova, Opera (Basel, 1585). cols. 619–624; and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Opera omnia, 2 vols. (Lyons, n.d.), I, 741–745. The treatise (“Diversity of the Characters of Men”) has been edited with a French trans, by Paul Sbath, “Le livre des caract̀res de Qost̂ ibn Louqa: Grand savant et celebre medecin au IX” siecle,” in Bulletin de l’Institut d’Egypte, 23 (1941), 103–169. The Arabic text of (“Difference Between the Spirit and the Soul”) has been edited twice, from two different MSS; by G. Gabrieli, “La Risalah di Qusṭā b. Lūqā ’Sulla differenza tra lo spirito e l’anima,’” in Atti della R, Accademia del Lincei. Rendiconti, cl. di scienze morali, storiche, e filologiche, 5th ser, 19 (1910), 622–655, which includes an Italian trans.; and by L. Cheikho in al-Mashria.14 (1911), 94–109. The Latin version was printed in Constantini Africani Opera omnia (Basel, 1536), 308 317; and it has been edited by C. S. Barach, Costa-ben-Lucae; De differentia animae et spiritus liber, vol. 3 of Bibliotheca Philosophorum Mediae Aetatis (Innsbruck, 1878). The Latin version is copied with the works of Aristotle in Balliol MSS 232A and 232B; in Corpus Christi College, Oxford MS CXI; and in Bodleian MS Auct. F.5.25.

Qusia’s Arabic version of Hero of Alexandria, Mechanica, has been published by B. Carra de Vaux in Journal asiatique, 9th ser., 1 (1893), 386–472 and 2 (1893), 152–192, 193–267, 420–514; and by L. Nix, ed., Heronis Alexandrini Opera quae supersunt omnia, II, fasc. I (Leipzig, 1901), which includes a German trans. The treatise (“Length and Shortness of Life”) is in a Staatsbibliothek, Berlin MS Arabic no. 6232; the incipit does not sound like a work by Aristotle. In the Bodleian Library are the Arabic texts of Aristarchus of Samos, De magnitudine et distantia solis et lunae (MS 875); Autolycus, De ortu et occasionesiderum inerrantium (MS 895, there ascribed to Thabit ibn Qurra); Hypsicles, De ascensionibus (MS 875) and additions to Euclid’s Elements (books 14 and 15), (MS 279; see Nicoll, p. 257); Theodosius Tripolitanus, De sphaeris and De habitationibus (MS 875). The Arabic text of Theodosius, De diebus et noctibus is in MSS 271 and 286 at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence. Galen’s commentary on Hippocrates’ Aphorisms and the De horoscopo of Asclepius are in MSS 271 and 260 at the Palatine Library.

For further information on the location of other MSS containing Qusuta’s translations, see the references in Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, 2 vols, and 3 supps. (Leiden, 1937–1942), I, 204, 512; supp. I, 365, 374. For Gerard of Cremona’s translations of Theodosius, see M. Steinschneider, Die arabischen Obersetzmtgm aus dem Griechischen (Graz, 1960); 219. For MSS in the Bodleian Library, see J. Uri and A. Nicoll, Bibliothecae Bodleianae codicum manuscriptorum orientalium, 2 parts (Oxford, 1787–1821). For the Palatine Library, see Stephanus Evodius Assemanus, Bibiiothecae Mediceae Laurentianae et Palatinae codicum mss. orien-talium(Florence, 1742), 375, 381–383, 392. For Munich, see J. Aumer, Catalogus codicum mss. Bibiiothecae Regiae Monacensis (Arabic), 1, pt. 2 (Munich, 1866), 353–354. Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schriftums, III (Leiden, 1970), 270–274, contains a list of Qusṭā’s medical works; IV (Leiden, 1971), mentions a work by Qusṭā on wine: Kitab alnabidh wa shurbihi fil-walu’im.

II. Secondary Literature. Biographical material is in Ibn al-Nadim, Kitab al-fihrist. G. Flugel, ed., I (Leipzig, 1871), esp. 295; Ibn al-Qifti, Ta’rikh alhukama J. Lippert, ed, (Leipzig, 1903), 292; Ibn Abi Usaybi’a, “Uyun alanba fī tabaqat alatibba,”; A. Muller, ed., I (Cairo-Konigsberg, 1882), 244; G. Gabrieli, “Nota biobibliografica su Qusṭā ibn Lūqā,” in Atti della R. Accademia dei Lined. Rendiconnti cl. di scienze mora, storiche, e fflelogiche, 5th ser., 21 (1912). 341–382; and Georg Graf, Geschichte dev Chrisflichcn arabischcn Literatur, II (Vatican City, 1947), 30.

L. Ruth Harvey