Plato’s Republic in Arabic: A Newly Discovered Passage

Reisman, David C. “Plato’s Republic in Arabic: A Newly Discovered Passage.” In Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, vol. 14, 2004, pp. 263-300.

Overview: A recent and important contribution to the debate over Plato’s reception into the Islamic world. By indicating that a crucial passage of the Republic was indeed translated into Arabic, it adds fuel (but of course no proof) to the speculation that Alfarabi must have had access to most of the original.


“My aim here is to present an editio princeps of a newly discovered Arabic translation of a very important passage from Plato’s Republic (Book VI, 506d3-509b10) found in the work entitled Kitab fi Masa’il al-umur al-ilahiyya (hereafter Masa’il), penned by the somewhat obscure Neoplatonist Abu Hamid al-Isfizari (fl. mid fourth / tenth c.). While an edition of al-Isfizari’s word has been published by Daniel Gimaret, the manuscript he used (Ragip Pasa 1463) lacked the literal translation of the Republic passage. The one other known exemplar of the work, MS Zahiriyya 4871, dated slightly later than the first, appears to be closer to the author’s original unedited version; it contains the Republic passage. I am currently preparing a new edition of the work on the basis of the Zahiriyya manuscript, but it seemed worthwhile to bring the Republic passage to immediate attention. I do not attempt here a thorough evaluation of al-Isfizari’s philosophy as presented in the Masa’il; this can be done successfully only upon completion of the edition. However, to place the word in its proper context, i do provide a brief overview of the transmission of Plato’s Republic in Arabic.”

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