Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/417

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405
SKETCH OF AVERROËS

SKETCH OF ABÛL-WALID MOHAMMED IBN-AHMED IBN-MOHAMMED IBN-ROSHD (COMMONLY CALLED AVERROËS).
By GEORGE JACKSON FISHER, M. D.

DANTE tells us that when he descended into the infernal regions, on arriving at limbo, which is the first and favored circle of hell, where the good and virtuous are permitted to reside, having been excluded from the bliss of paradise from neglect of baptism, he found "a sapient throng," with Aristotle, "the Master" —

"Seated amid the philosophic train";

and, when a little more he raised his brow, he "spied"

 "... Hippocrates,

Galenus, Avicen, and him who made
That commentary vast, Averröes."[1]

It is of this vast commentator and renowned Saracenic physician that I now propose briefly to write. Averröes flourished, without a doubt, in the twelfth century; there is, however, no inconsiderable amount of uncertainty and discrepancy among authorities concerning the precise time of his birth, some placing it as early as the year 1126, others as late as 1198. The same confusion exists as to the date of his death, ranging it from 1198 to 1225. The dates (1126-1198) are believed to be as nearly accurate as can be determined at this time. By this assumption it appears that Averröes attained the age of seventy-two years. He was of an ancient and noble family, being the son of the high-priest and chief judge of Cordova, the beautiful capital city of Andalusia, in Spain. Cordova was the place of his nativity.

Leo Africanus informs us ("De Vir. Arab.," p. 280) that Averröes commenced the study of philosophy, when he was but a youth, under the celebrated Thophail, or Ibn-Tofail (Abubacer), who is the author of the noted metaphysical tale "Hai Ebn Yochdan." An English translation of this elegant story was published by Professor Ockley, of Cambridge, in London in 1711. It is not unlikely that the extreme admiration which Averröes always entertained for the writings of Aristotle was inspired by the enthusiastic teachings of Ibn-Tofail. His unbounded admiration of Aristotle amounted to a profound reverence, for thus we find Averröes asserting that " the doctrine of Aristotle is the perfection of truth, and his understanding attained the utmost limit of human ability; so that it might be truly said of him that he was created and given to the world by Divine Providence, that we

  1. "Inferno," Vision, Hell, canto iv.