Abu Yahya Ibn al-Batriq

Born on 730

Died on 815

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, and also translated Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.

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.

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.