Stephen of Antioch

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(fl. first half of the twelfth century),


According to a gloss on the Diete universales of Isaac Judaeus (Ishāq al-Isrā‘īlī)1 written by a certain Magister Mattheus F.,2Stephen of Antioch was a Pisan who want to Syria, learned Arabic, and translated the Kitāb al-mālikī of Haly Abbas (‘Alī ibn al-‘Abbās). This work, known more commonly in the medieval period as the Liber regius, was called by Stephen Regalis dispositio Stephen undertook this task because, in his opinion, the text had been incompletely translated and grossly distorted by Constantine the African.3 In order to prevent confusion between his own translation and that of Constantine, Stephen affixed his name to practically every one of the twenty books contained in the Regalis disposition, adding the date on which each part of the work had been completed and several times naming the place where it had been made. Although the dates he gives are conflicting, the year 1127 is constant and can be reliably accepted. The place of translation, Antioch, has been questioned by some writers,4 but in view of Stephen’s remarks at the end of his Synonima, “these are the things we have found in Syria,” and the description of him as “the nephew of the Patriarch of Antioch,”5there can be little doubt that the place of translation is correct. The Latin patriarch of Antioch at that time was Bernard, previously bishop of Arethusa in Syria, who died in 1134.6 Antioch also fits in with what we know of the Pisan contribution to the First Crusade and of the existence of a Pisan quarter in Antioch dating from 1108.7

In the prologue to the second part of the Liber regalis Stephen promised to assist his readers in their understanding of Arab materia medica by compiling a list of synonyms in three columns: Arabic, Latin, and Greek.8 This list, which can be found in some manuscripts, does not appear in the printed editions and has been supplanted by an alphabetical list compiled by Michael de Capella.9

Stephen’s probable connection with Salerno is indicated not only by his remark, made at the end of the Synonima, that if readers have difficulty in understanding the latinized Arab words they can consult Sicilian and Salernitan scholars who know both Greek and Arabic, but also by several quotations made from his work by Giovanni Platearius in his Practica10 and by the Salernitan treatise De aegritudinum curatione.11

Stephen’s accusation that Constantine the African was a plagiarist and a distorter of Haly Abbas’text has been uncritically accepted by later writers. A close comparison of the two translations reveals that Stephen’s slavishly literal and verbose text closely follows its source, while Constantine’s free paraphrase is easier to understand, gives better sense, and does great justice to the original.

Since Stephen says that his translation of the work of Haly Abbas was his first undertaking and that he intended to produce others, it has been suggested that he may be identical with a certain Stephanus Philosophus, who wrote several works on astronomy based on Arabic and Greek sources.12A comparison of the literary styles and vocabulary of their works makes the suggestion probable, but further investigation is needed.13


1. W. M. Schum, Beschreibendes Verzeichniss der Amplonianischen Handschriften-Sammlung zu Erfurt (Berlin, 1887), 719; Hs. Amplon.O. 62, fols, 49–83v.

2. V.Rose. Verzeichniss der lateinischen Hss. der königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, II, pt. 3 (Berlin, 1905), 1059–1065, expands the letter F to Ferrarius.

3.Liber totius medicine necessaria continens quem sapientis simus Haly filius abbas discipulus abimeher moysi filii seiar edidit: regique inscripst, vnde et regalis dispositionis no men assumpsit, Et a Stephano philosophie discipulo exarabica lingua in latinam satis ornatam reductas . . . .(Lyons, 1523), fol. 5r, col,2.

4. See M. Steinschneider, in Virchows Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und physiologie und für klinische Medizin,39 (1867), 333.

5. B. M. Sloane MS 2426, fol. 8r.

6. P. B. G. Gams, Series episcoporum (Regensburg, 1873–1886), 433. For the bishopric of Arethusa in Syria, see M. Lequien. Oriens christianus, in quattuor patriarchatus digestus; quo exhibentur ecclesiae, patriarchal, caeterique Praesules totius Orientis (Paris, 1740), II. 915; III, 1190–1191.

7. V. Balaguer, Historia de Cataluña y de al Corona de Aragon. I (Barcelona, 1863), 620 ff.

8.Liber regalis (Lyons, 1523), fol. 136r, col. 1.

9. This list appears at the beginning of the 1523 edition and is not paginated.

10. Printed with Practica Jo. Serapionis dicta breviarium (Venice, 1503). The relevant passages can be found on fols. 180r, 180v, cols, 1 and 2, 183v, col. 1.

11. S. de Renzi, Collectio Salernitana, II (Naples, 1853), 266, 267, 270, 326–327, with the attribution to M[agister] Platearius.

12. C. H. Haskins, Studies in Mediaeval Science (Cambridge, Mass., 1927), 99–103, 135.

13. R. Ganszynieč. “Stephanus de modo medendi,” in Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin. 14 (1923). 110–113, claims him as the author of a text that appeared in a fifteenth-century MS of Cracow and tries, unconvincingly, to make him a pupil of Copho of Salerno.

Charles H. Talbot

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Stephen of Antioch

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