The Editio Princeps of Fārābī’s Compendium Legum Platonis

Mahdi, Muhsin. “The Editio Princeps of Fārābī’s Compendium Legum Platonis.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Vol 20, No.1, Jan. 1961, pp. 1-24.

Overview: A powerful and philologically competent defense of the view that Alfarabi’s work on Plato’s Laws represents far more than a more summary of Plato or Galen.


“The “Summary of Plato’s Laws” by Alfarabi is the only commentary by a Muslim author on a Platonic writing which we possess in the original Arabic text. The first edition of this relatively unique philological document by Professor Fracnesco Gabriele of Rome was thus an event of some importance which has not received the critical appraisal it deserves. This may have been in part due to certain comments with which the editor prefaced the text. These comments tend, on the whole, to discourage the specialist and the general reader alike from occupying themselves with the text or attempting to understand its significance. For they suggest that the way to explain what appears, in many respects, to be a baffling text is to assume some Neo-Platonic influences, Syriac intermediaries, unknown Hellenistic summaries, mistakes or deliberate corruptions in the translations, and simple misunderstandings of the Greek text or of the Greek institutions to which it refers. The present article intends (1) to sketch the broad outline of an approach to the text which (a) emphasizes the limitations of the evidence purporting to support these assumptions and (b) introduces the evidence available in the writings of Farabi and other Muslim writers relative to their own understanding of Plato’s Laws; (2) to give a more detailed description of, and to reappraise, the material upon which the edition is based; and (3) to supplement the edited text and its apparatus criticus with a list containing additional evidence, corrections, and improved readings drawn (a) from a re-examination of the unique manuscript utilized in the edition and (b) from a manuscript containing a partial German translation and some marginal notes by the late Paul Kraus not available to the editor. The examination of this list will reveal the nature and the extent of the emendations which must be made in the edited text before it could be profitably read and interpreted.”