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בס"ד

Literary Notices.

(Continued from issue #10)

History of the Jewish Physicians, from the French of E. Carmoly, by John R. W. Dunbar, M. D. &c. Baltimore, 8 vo. pp. 94.

Under the reign of Haroun al Rashid the healing art flourished greatly, owing to the liberality and wisdom of this renowned prince of the East, who was contemporaneous with Charlemagne of France, to whom the former sent an embassy in 865, headed by a French Israelite. Haroun extended, as we should judge, (there is some little ambiguity in the work under review,) the school at Baghdad, and assigned to it the most celebrated Jewish and Christian physicians to teach the sciences, an example of enlightened toleration which must put to shame many of modern state philosophers, who see no safety in any policy which acts not upon the principle of exclusion. The Caliph gave these teachers good salaries, and decreed that those who wished to become physicians should be examined by these professors, as was the custom in the Nestorian schools. Among the distinguished men of the Baghdad school of that day we have Joshua ben Nun, surnamed the Rabbi of Seleucia, of the particulars of whose life but little is known, except that at the beginning of the ninth century he enjoyed great celebrity as a good practitioner and an excellent theorist. His school was much frequented, and many great names of that day are recorded among his scholars. The translation into the Arab language of books from the ancient Greek, such as Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy, was continued; and the religious wars and troubles of the time having driven many learned men from Constantinople, then the head of the Greek empire, they spread all over the East, and schools and academies sprung up in every direction, first at Basora, Samarcand, and Ispahan, then Alexandria, Fez, and Morocco, and next in Sicily, Provence; but chiefly Spain became the seat of Oriental sciences, and Cordova, Seville, Toledo, Saragossa, and Grenada vied generously for the front rank in these noble pursuits. And here, where the Hebrews were at liberty to pursue sciences, they aided the Arabs in pushing them onward, and did good service to medical studies; and among the learned Jews of the reign of Mahmoud the name of Meshalla is given, who obtained great renown as astronomer, astrologer, and physician.

Concerning the spread of the sciences to Western Europe, our author says:

"Up to this period these luminaries of knowledge, had been exclusively confined to the Jews of Asia and Africa. The time had arrived when those of Europe became partakers of the same sciences. The Saracens, assembled from all parts of their vast region upon the frontiers of France, appear to have been brought there only to diffuse a taste for learning among an ignorant people. In fact it is only since the invasion of the Arabs that we have seen the sciences cultivated successfully, by the Israelites of this country. These were Meshullam ben Kalonymos, Joseph ben Gorion, Moses ben Yehuda, Todros of Narbonne, Joseph ben Levi, and Sedekias, who led the way in introducing this celebrated epoch.

"The last was the physician of Louis the Meek, and Charles the Bald, his successor. He was high in favour with those princes, and died in the year 880, honoured by all who knew him."

Nevertheless, the East was the great source of light; and the Jewish schools became so eminent that the jealousy of the Arabs was excited to such a degree, that in 853 it was ordered that Jewish and Christian students should be taught in the Hebrew and Syrian languages, to the exclusion of the Arabic. Two names of celebrity are mentioned, Isaac ben Amram and Isaac ben Soleiman, also called Abou Jacob and D'Israeli. This last was born in 832, in Egypt, was at first oculist, and settled finally at Kairowan, where he became pupil of the former. Being soon celebrated for his genius and knowledge, he was appointed physician to Abou Mahomed, Abd-Alla Mahdi, King of Africa. He died in 932.

Of the European schools we are told:

"Some learned Israelites emigrated into Sicily with the Arabs, and formed there institutions for the cultivation of letters and the sciences. They founded the celebrated schools of Tarentum, Palermo, Salernum, and Bari, where medicine was taught with remarkable care. Shabatai Donolo gained an exalted reputation in the healing art, and was styled as a mark of distinction the physician.

"He was born at Aversa, about the 913th year of the common era: he studied under the Rabbi Uriel, one of the ten pious Rabbis, who were massacred in the year 925. At that period a body of Moors made a descent on the city of Aversa, and took it, and put to the sword a great number of the inhabitants, others they led captives to Palermo and Africa. Among these were the relatives of our Shabtai. He himself escaped and took refuge at Tarentum, when scarcely twelve years of age.

"After having finished his studies with distinction at this city, and probably also at Salernum, he travelled to all parts of Italy, where he believed he should find learned Israelites to teach him the science of astronomy. But he could find no one who could gratify his desires. He then addressed himself to the learned Greeks and Arabians, and after long search, he finally found a learned man from Baghdad, named Bagrat, who taught him this science, and he became one of the most learned men of his nation."

(To be continued.)