Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8750-2318 Asade Daniel

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2648-2119 Druille Paola


During the Late antiquity, several works by Galen (2nd–3th CE.) were translated into Syriac for the first time by Sergius of Rēšʽaynā (6th CE.), starting up the Hippocratic-Galenic medicine in Syriac Language. Based on these translations, there arouse novel versions of compound medicines in Syriac, such as the “Apostles’ Ointment” which is found in The Book of Medicines, possibly from Abassid period, edited and translated by E.A.W. Budge in 1913, which contains more ancient Syriac medical prescriptions. The textual pharmaceutical study regarding the therapeutic uses and qualitative composition of the ‘Apostles’ Ointment’, and its comparison with a kind of plaster (barbaros) which appears in various Late antiquity Greek recipes (Galen, Oribasius, Aetius of Amida, and Paul of Aegina), reveal the micro-transformations suffered to a new and final Syriac Christian version which we here introduce.


Apostles’ Ointment, The Book of Medicines, Syriac, Greek tradition


Aetíou Amidīnoú lógos dékatos pémptos, ed. S. Zervos, “Ἀθήνα” 21, 1909, p. 7–138.

Antidotarium Romanum, seu Modus componendi medicamenta quae sunt in usu, Venetiis 1585.

Avicenna, al-Qānūn fī al-ṭibb, Bulaq, al-Maṭbaʻah al-ʻĀmirah 1878.

Le candélabre des Sanctuaires de Grégoire Aboulfaradj dit Barhebraeus, ed. et trans. J. Bakoš, Paris 1933 [= Patrologia orientalis, 24].

El códice de Cyrurgia de Teodorico de la Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada. Teoría y praxis farmacéutica, trans. J.L. Valverde, M.T. Bautista, Granada 1984.

Le formulaire des hôpitaux d’Ibn Abil Bayan, médecin du Bimaristan Annacery au Caire = al-Dustūr al-bīmāristānī, ed. P. Sbath, Le Caire 1933.

Galen, De compositione medicamentorum per genera libri VII, [in:] Claudii Galeni opera omnia, vol. XIII, ed. C.G. Kühn, Hildesheim 1965 (= Leipzig 1827).

Ibn Abi L-Bayan, El formulario de los hospitales de Ibn Abi L-Bayan, ed. et trans. J.L. Valverde, M.C. Peña, Granada 1981.

A List of Plants and their Properties from the Menârath kudhsê of Gregorius Bar ʻEbhrâya, ed. R.J.H. Gottheil, [s.l.] 1886.

MS BL Add 14661.

Oribasii Collectionum medicarum reliquiae, libri XLIX–L, libri incerti, eclogae medicamentorum, ed. J. Raeder, Leipzig–Berlin 1933 [= Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, 6.2.22].

Paulus Aegineta, Libri V–VII, ed. J.L. Heiberg, Leipzig–Berlin 1924 [= Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, 11.2].

Pedanii Dioscuridis Anazarbei de materia medica libri quinque, vol. I–III, ed. M. Wellmann, Berlin 1907–1914.

Sābūr ibn Sahl, Dispensatorium Parvum (al-Aqrābādhīn al-ṣaghīr), ed. O. Kahl, Leiden 1994 [= Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science. Texts and Studies, 16], https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004450479

Sābūr Ibn Sahl’s Dispensatory in the Recension of the ʻAḍudī Hospital, ed. et trans. O. Kahl, Leiden 2009 [= Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science. Texts and Studies, 78].

Syrian Anatomy, Pathology and Therapeutics, or, The Book of Medicines, vol. I–II, ed. et trans. E.A.W. Budge, Oxford 1913.

Asade D., La literatura farmacéutica siríaca y árabe: comparación de las recetas de El Libro de las Medicinas (siríaco) con recetas en la literatura farmacéutica árabe, Buenos Aires 2017 (PhD dissertation).

Asade D., Recepción del Ungüento de los apóstoles en el Formulario de los hospitales de Ibn Abī l-Bayān, [in:] Religión, Derecho y Medicina en Egipto Antiguo, Tardoantiguo y Medieval. Actas del Ciclo de Conferencias en la Embajada de la República Árabe de Egipto, ed. P. Druille, D. Asade, Santa Rosa 2021 (in press).

Asade D., Las recetas de El Libro de las Medicinas (siríaco) y las que figuran en la literatura farmacéutica árabe: una comparación, “Dominguezia” 34.2, 2018, p. 5–13.

Asade D., Greif E., Literatura farmacéutica en el mundo oriental medieval: la recuperación árabe del Libro de las Medicinas en lengua siríaca, “Scripta Mediaevalia” 12.1, 2019, p. 53–90.

bar Bahlul H., Duval R., Lexicon Syriacum, Paris 1901.

Becker A.H., Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom. The School of Nisibis and the Development of Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia, Philadelphia 2006 [= Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion], https://doi.org/10.9783/9780812201208

Bhayro S., Galen in Syriac: Rethinking Old Assumptions, “Aramaic Studies” 15, 2017, p. 132–154, https://doi.org/10.1163/17455227-01502003

Bhayro S., The Reception of Galen’s Art of Medicine in the Syriac Book of Medicines, [in:] Medical Books in the Byzantine World, ed. B. Zipser, Bologna 2013.

Bhayro S., Syriac Medical Terminology: Sergius and Galen’s Pharmacopia, “Aramaic Studies” 3.2, 2005, p. 147–165, https://doi.org/10.1177/1477835105059089

Bhayro S., Theory and Practice in the Syriac Book of Medicines, [in:] In the Wake of the Compendia. Infrastructural Contexts and the Licensing of Empiricism in Ancient and Medieval Mesopotamia, ed. J. Cale Johnson, Boston–Berlin 2015 [= Science, Technology and Medicine in Ancient Cultures, 3], p. 147–158, https://doi.org/10.1515/9781501502507-007

Bhayro S., Brock S., The Syriac Galen Palimpsest and the Role of Syriac in the Transmission of Greek Medicine in the Orient, “Bulletin of the John Rylands Library” 89.1, 2013, p. 25–43, https://doi.org/10.7227/BJRL.89.S.3

Bhayro S., Hawley R., La littérature botanique et pharmaceutique en langue syriaque, [in:] Les sciences en syriaque, ed. E. Villey, Paris 2014 [= Études syriaques, 11], p. 285–318.

Bhayro S., Rudolf S.M., Budge’s Syriac Book of Medicines after One Hundred Years: Problems and Prospects, [in:] Mesopotamian Medicine and Magic. Studies in Honor of Markham J. Geller, ed. S.V. Panayotov, L. Vacín, Leiden 2018 [= Ancient Magic and Divination, 14], p. 116–130, https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004368088_008

Bhayro S., Hawley R., Kessel G., Pormann P.E., The Syriac Galen Palimpsest: Progress, Prospects and Problems, “Journal of Semitic Studies” 58.1, 2013, p. 131–148, https://doi.org/10.1093/jss/fgs042

Brock S., Sergios of Resh‘aina, [in:] Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage, ed. S.P. Brock, A.M. Butts, G.A. Kiraz, L. Van Rompay, Piscataway 2011, https://doi.org/10.31826/9781463213312

Browne E.G., Arabian Medicine. Being the Fitz Patrick Lectures Delivered at the College of Physicians in November 1919 and November 1920, Cambridge 1921, https://doi.org/10.24157/ARC_11088

Calá I., Hawley R., Transliteration versus Translation of Greek Plant Names in the Syriac Medical Writings of Sergius of Reš ʿAynā: On the Tables of Contents in BL Add. 14,661, “Aramaic Studies” 15.2, 2017, p. 155–182, https://doi.org/10.1163/17455227-01502004

Degen R., Ein Corpus Medicorum Syriacorum, “Medizinhistorisches Journal” 7.1–2, 1972, p. 114–122.

Dozy R.P.A., Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, vol. I, Leiden 1927.

Duke J.A., Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, 2Boca Raton 2002, https://doi.org/10.1201/9781420040463

Evans W.C., Trease G.E., Evans D., Trease and Evans’ Pharmacognosy, Edinburgh 2002.

Gignoux P., Lexique des termes de la pharmacopée Syriaque, Paris 2011.

Gignoux P., On the Syriac Pharmacopoeia, [in:] The Harp, vol. XI–XII, ed. G. Panicker, J. Thekeparampil, A. Kalakudi, Boston–Berlin 2012, p. 193–202, https://doi.org/10.31826/9781463233006-018

Gignoux P., Le traité syriaque anonyme sur les medications, [in:] Symposium Syriacum VII: Uppsala University, Department of Asian and African Languages, 11–14 August 1996, ed. R. Lavenant, Rome 1998 [= Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 256].

Gottheil R.J.H., Berichtungen und Zusätze zu “A List of Plants”, “Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft” 43, 1889, p. 121–127.

Gutas D., Greek Thought, Arabic Culture. The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ʿAbbāsid Society (2nd–4th/8th–10th Centuries), London 1998.

Hayes E.R., L’École d’Édesse, Paris 2012 (11930).

Keil G., Zur Datierung des ‘Antidotarium Nicolai’, “Sudhoffs Archiv” 62, 1978, p. 190–196.

Kessel G., Inventory of Galen’s Extant Works in Syriac, [in:] Hunayn Ibn Ishaq on his Galen Translations, Provo 2016, p. 168–192.

Keyser P., Irby G., The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists. The Greek Tradition and its Many Heirs, London 2012.

Le Coz C.R., Les chrétiens dans la médecine arabe, Paris 2006.

Le Coz C.R., Les médecins nestoriens au Moyen-Âge. Les maîtres des Arabes (Comprendre le Moyen-Orient), Paris 2004.

Leikin J.B., Paloucek F.P., Poisoning and Toxicology Handbook, Boca Raton 2008, https://doi.org/10.3109/9781420044805

Margoliouth J.P.S., Payne S.R., A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. Founded upon the Thesaurus Syriacus, Oxford 1903.

Merx A., Proben der syrischen Uebersetzung von Galenus’ Schrift über die einfachen Heilmittel, “Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft” 39.2, 1885, p. 237–305.

Meyerhof M., Die Augenheilkunde in der von Budge herausgegebenen syrischen ärztlichen Handschrift, “Der Islam” 6, 1916, p. 257–268, https://doi.org/10.1515/islm.1915.6.3.257

Nutton V., Ancient Medicine, London 2004, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203490914

Pormann P.E., Savage-Smith E., Medieval Islamic Medicine, Washington D.C. 2007.

Puccinotti F., Storia della medicina, vol. II, Medicina del Medio Evo, pars 2, Livorno 1859.

Reinink G.J., Theology and Medicine in Jundishapur: Cultural Change in the Nestorian School Tradition, [in:] Learned Antiquity. Scholarship and Society in the Near-East, the Greco-Roman World, and the Early Medieval West, ed. G.J. Reinink, A.A. Macdonald, M.W. Twomey, Leuven–Paris–Sterling 2003, p. 163–174.

Rodríguez Adrados F. et al., Diccionario Griego-Español, Madrid 2020, http://dge.cchs.csic.es/xdge/

Rudolf S., Syrische Astrologie und das syrische Medizinbuch, Berlin 2018 [= Science, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Cultures, 7], https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110565737

Samir K., Ahrun Ibn A’yan Al-Qass, vol. I, New York 1991.

Scarborough J., Iulianus (of Alexandria?) (ca 140–160 CE), [in:] The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists. The Greek Tradition and its Many Heirs, ed. P.T. Keyser, G.L. Irby, London–New York 2008, p. 448–449.

Sélis C., Les Syriens Orthodoxes et Catholiques, Belgique 1988.

Sokoloff M., Brockelmann C., A Syriac Lexicon. A Translation from the Latin. Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann’s Lexicon Syriacum, Winona Lake 2009.

Tecusan M., The Fragments of the Methodists, vol. I, Text and Translation, Leiden 2004 [= Studies in Ancient Medicine, 24.1], https://doi.org/10.1163/9789047412687

Temkin O., Galenism. Rise and Decline of Medical Philosophy, Ithaca 1973.

Teule H.G.B., Les Assyro-Chaldéens. Chrétiens d’Irak, d’Iran et de Turquie, Turnhout 2008.

Teule H.G.B., Fotescu Tauwinkl C., ter Haar Romeny R.B., van Ginkel J.J., The Syriac Renaissance, Leuven–Walpole 2010 [= Eastern Christian Studies, 9].

Ubierna P., Las humanidades. Notas para una historia institucional, Buenos Aires 2016.

First Page


Last Page