Yahya Ibn al-Batriq

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Abu Yahya Ibn al-Batriq (working 796 - 806) was a Syrian scholar who pioneered the translation of ancient Greek texts into Arabic, a major early figure in the transmission of the Classics at the close of Late Antiquity. He translated for Al-Mansur the major medical works of Galen and Hippocrates,[1] and also translated Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos.[2]

Translation was not a fully developed skill: al-Batriq worked by a combination of direct word-for-word translation and transliteration of ancient Greek words into Arabic where no equivalent was to be found.[3]

He compiled the encyclopedic Kitab sirr al-asrar, or the Book of the science of government: on the good ordering of statecraft, which became known to the Latin-speaking medieval world as Secretum Secretorum ("[The Book of] the Secret of Secrets") in a mid-12th century translation; it treated a wide range of topics, including statecraft, ethics, physiognomy, astrology, alchemy, magic and medicine. The origins of the treatise are uncertain. No Greek original exists, though al-Batriq claims in the Arabic treatise that it was translated from the Greek into Syriac and from Syriac into Arabic.


  1. ^ Hamid Naseem Rafiabad, ed. World Religions and Islam: A Critical Study, Part 1 :149.
  2. ^ De Lacy O'Leary, How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs 1949, Ch. XII.
  3. ^ I.M.N. Al-Jubour, History Of Islamic Philosophy: With View Of Greek Philosophy,,, 2004:193: al-Jubour singles out al-Batriq among "several translators... particularly capable in their fields."