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Socrates and two disciples from an illuminated manuscript of Mukhtar al-ḥikam by Al-Mubaššir ibn Fatik

Abu al-Wafa' al-Mubashshir ibn Fatik ( Arabic: ابو الوفاء المبشّر بن فاتك Abū al-Wafā’ Al-Mubaššir ibn Fātik) was an Arab philosopher and scholar well versed in the mathematical sciences and also wrote on logic and medicine. He was born in Damascus but lived mainly in Egypt during the 11th century Fatimid Caliphate. He also wrote an historical chronicle of the reign of al-Mustansir Billah. However, the book he is famed for and the only one extant, Kitāb mukhtār al-ḥikam wa-maḥāsin al-kalim (مختار الحكم ومحاسن الكلم), the "Selected Maxims and Aphorisms", is a collection of sayings attributed to the ancient sages (mainly Greeks) translated into Arabic. The date of composition given by the author is 1048–1049.


The biographical details we have come from Ibn Abi Usaibia's Uyūn ul-Anbāʾ fī Ṭabaqāt ul-Aṭibbāʾ (عيون الأنباء في طبقات الأطباء, "the History of Physicians"). According to Usaibia, Ibn Fatik was from a noble family and held the position of " emir" at the court of the Fatimids in the reign of al-Mustansir Billah. He was a passionate bibliophile, acquired a great collection of books and enjoyed the company of scholars, and above all, he devoted himself to study. He trained in mathematics and astronomy under the philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040). He also associated with Ibn al-Amidi and the physician, astrologer, and astronomer Ali ibn Ridwan (988–1061). When he died, many heads of state attended his funeral. According to this biography, such was his wife's disaffection through want of attention, she threw most of his books into the pool at the center of the house, and so they were lost by drowning.


Kitāb mukhtār al-ḥikam wa-maḥāsin al-kalim (مختار الحكم ومحاسن الكلم), the “Book of Selected Maxims and Aphorisms”, can be described as a collection of biographies of twenty-one "sages", mainly Greeks (e.g. Seth, ( Zedekiah), [1] Hermes, Homer, Solon, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Diogenes, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Alexander the Great), accompanied by the maxims and sayings attributed to them. The biographies are largely legendary and most attributions highly dubious.


His al-Mukhtar was a great success in the centuries that followed, first in the Arab-Muslim world where it provided source material for later scholars, such as for Muhammad al-Shahrastani in his book Kitab al-wa-l-Milal Nihal and Shams al-Din al-Shahrazuri for his Nuzhat al-Arwah.


  • Los Bocados de Oro; translated in the reign of Alfonso X of Castile (1252–1284) was the earliest translation into a Western European vernacular. [2]
  • Los Dichs dels Philosophes from the Tignonville's French translation.


  • ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Badawī (ed.), Mukhtār al-ḥikam wa-maḥāsin al-kalim, Publicaciones del Instituto de Estudios Egipcio Islámicos (Egyptian Institute for Islamic Studies), Madrid, 1958.
    Before this edition, only the Lives of Alexander the Great and Aristotle had been published:
Medieval Spanish
Medieval French
Middle English
  • William Blades, The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers. A facsimile reproduction of the first book printed in England by William Caxton in 1477, (translated from the Medieval French by Anthony, Earl Rivers; edited by William Caxton). London: Elliot Stock, 1877. Although three subsequent editions of the book were printed in Caxton's lifetime, of the first of these editions, the only surviving copy carrying Caxton's printer's mark and dated November 18, 1477, is held at the John Rylands Library. Manchester.


Notes and references

  1. ^ The Spanish translation has "Sedechias" in place of Seth here. (See Bocados de Oro)
  2. ^ This primitive text (existing in isolation in several manuscripts) was notably integrated in the story of the journey of "Bonium of King of Persia" went to India to find wisdom and which he write down in Las Los Palabras Sabios Philosophers. Text printed in Seville in 1495, in Salamanca in 1499, in Toledo in 1502 and 1510, Valencia in 1522, and in Valladolid in 1527.
  3. ^ Ms. BL Harley 2266.
  4. ^ The Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers; transl. Stephen Scrope, William Worcester and an anonymous translator; ed. Curt F. Bühler (1941)
  5. ^ Translation performed after a book containing the text Tignonville lent by a traveling companion, Louis Bretaylles.

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