Ruffo, Giordano

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(b. Gerace [?], Calabria, Italy; fl. Italy, middle of the thirteenth century)

veterinary medicine.

Ruffo was either the son or the nephew of Pietro Ruffo, count of Catanzaro and viceroy of Sicily. He was himself the lord of Valle di Crati, and in 1239 was named governor of Cassino. He spent a part of his life with other members of his family at the court of the emperor Frederick II, who learned that Ruffo was expert in caring for horses and made him his farrier. Ruffo’s treatise De medicina equorum is dedicated to the emperor’s memory and must therefore have been finished after Frederick’s sudden death in 1250. It is almost equally certain that the work was put into final form before the death of Frederick’s successor, Conrad, in 1254. for Ruffo’s involvement in the subsequent political turmoil would otherwise have precluded its completion. In the internecine struggle between Conradin, Frederick’s grandson, and Manfred, Frederick’s illegitimate son, Ruffo opposed Manfred, who took him prisoner at the beginning of the war. Following the Assembly of Barletta, in February 1256, Ruffo’s eyes were put out. It is probable that he died in captivity.

The De medicina equorum consists of six parts: “De generatione et nativitate equi,” “De captione et domatione equi,” “De custodia et doctrina equi,” “De cognitione pulcritudinis corporis equi,” “De egritudinibus naturalibus venientibus,” and “De accidentalibus infirmitatibus et lesionibus equorum.” As their titles suggest, the first four sections deal with horses in general, while the last two are more specifically concerned with veterinary medicine.

It is likely that Ruffo knew the Byzantine Hippiatrica, perhaps in the compilation by Hierocles. His pathology derives from the humoral theory that Galen elaborated from the work of Hippocrates, and his work, moreover, refers to the Galenic theory of various tumors. The De medicina equorum is, however, essentially the product of Ruffo’s personal experience and acute observation (certain passages, for example, suggest that he performed autopsies). Although he was of course ignorant of the circulation of the blood, he distinguished between veins and arteries, and he offered a method of differential diagnosis for cases of lameness. It is noteworthy that there is no astrology in his book.

The De medicina equorum was widely disseminated in both manuscript and printed form. It was probably written in Latin and was translated into Sicilian, Italian, French, Provençal, and Catalan. Its influence in the development of veterinary medicine was considerable.


The only modern ed. of the De medicina equorum— H. Molin, Jordani Ruffi Calabriensis hippiatrica (Padua, 1818)—is so rare that it is virtually inaccessible. G. Beaujouan, Y. Poulle-Drieux, and J.-M. Dureau-Lapeyssonie, Médecine humaine et vétérinaire à la fin du moyen âge (Geneva-Paris, 1966) (Centre de recherches d’histoire et de philologie de la IVe section de I’Ecole pratique des hautes études, V. Hautes études médiévales et modernes, 2). pp. 17–21, contains references to the older eds., a list of the MSS of the various versions, and a bibliography on Ruffo and on his treatise: it contains also (pp. 51–114) a study on the veterinary portion of the De medicine equorum from a methodological point of view.

Yvonne Poulle-Drieux