Pediatrics in Medieval Islamic Theoria

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Elaine van Dalen



This article analyzes the pediatric material in the Arabic commentaries (written tenth–fifteenth centuries) on the Hippocratic Aphorisms by exploring the traces of its late-antique origins and highlighting the influences of contemporary Islamic sources. This study demonstrates, first, how the commentaries assimilate Galenic pediatric theory through intricate elaborations and innovations; and second, that the commentators on the Aphorisms exhibit a strict theoretical interest in the causes and nature of childood diseases as opposed to their remedies. Consequently, it shows that therapeutic pediatric material was restricted to other nonexegetical genres, such as the encyclopedias of Ibn Sīnā and Ibn Rabban al-Ṭabarī. The commentary material is thus a unique example of medieval Islamic theoria or theoretical medicine, which transmitted and transformed Galenic and early medieval theoretical explanations of childhood illnesses through the centuries.

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