series directed by

Samir Khalil Samir sj


There is nothing wrong with the title of this new series of studies titled The Treasures of Arabic Christian Culture. Although many people may be surprised in seeing the words Arab and Christian in the same sentence, Arabs were present at the first Pentecost and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:11). Later some Arab tribes accepted Christianity, invented the Arabic script, and formed the first kingdoms in the Arabian Peninsula long before the rise of Islam.

 After the rise of Islam, other Middle Eastern Christian communities, Syriac, Melkite, and Coptic, also came to be «Arabized» to a significant degree. A Christianity inspired by the Fathers of the Church but thinking in Arabic grew up in this environment. It re-examined the Christian heritage as it came into contact with a new religion, Islam, and for the first time Christians weighed their beliefs against those of another faith.

 These Christians preserved and synthesized the scientific and philosophic inheritance of the Hellenic world and because of this the Muslim Caliphs of Baghdad and Damascus sought them out as court physicians and councilors.

 They transmitted this treasure, through translations and commentaries on the medical treatises of Galen and Hippocrates, the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, and their disciples, and the scientific works of Euclid and Ptolemy. They were students of Greek learning and they began in the 9th century a renaissance in the Arab world that three centuries later spread to the West.

 Beginning in the 16th century, these Arab Christians came to study in the West and when they returned home they built modern colleges in Lebanon, founded printing houses, and disseminated the methodology of the scientific revolution. As they brought learning from the west to the east so also they became in the 17th and 18th centuries the first Orientalists, introducing Westerners to Middle Eastern culture, both Christian and Muslim. In the 19th century, they were the first promoters of the nahda, a second Arab renaissance, starting newspapers and other publications, reviving theatre, novels, and later the cinema.

 Even so, these Arab Christians, being no less Arab than their Muslim counterparts, were not taken seriously in the Western world. In the endless fascination with all that was «different», they were dismissed as «charming» and «exotic». Because their faith was so similar to that of the West, because they were so oppressed by their Ottoman overlords, and because they were so few in numbers, they were ignored by Western intellectuals, attracting the attention only of those missionaries that sought to «evangelize» them.

In order to remedy this serious gap of knowledge about the Arab Christian world, the present series, The Treasures of Arabic Christian Culture is being offered to scholars and interested readers in Italy and all of Europe.

Samir Khalil Samir


PCAC 20 / strumenti

Georg GRAF, Storia della letteratura araba cristiana. Gli scrittori melchiti, maroniti, nestoriani fino alla metà del XV secolo, traduzione dal tedesco con addizione di numeri e titoli redazionali a cura di Paola PIZZI.

(It is the italian translation of the first part of GCAL 2nd volume until page 219. No bibliographical update was made. Instrument of work for students who can read italian)

ISBN: 978-1729133682

sample pages from PCAC 20

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Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq, La durata dell’esistenza (kitāb al-aʿmār wa-l-aǧāl); Come si dimostra la verità delle religioni (kayfiyyah idrāk ḥaqīqah al-diyānah); Epistola a ʿAlī ibn Yaḥyā in cui si menziona quanto è stato tradotto dei libri di scienza di Galeno e parte di ciò che non è stato ancora tradotto), testo arabo a cura di Samir Khalil Samir, traduzione e note a cura di Rosanna Budelli.



Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq is known as the most important translator of works from Greek into Arabic at the dawn of Islam. As Christian Intellectual and scientist, Ḥunayn contributed enormously to the development of Arab-Islamic civilization, thanks to his work of transmitting knowledge from the Greek world to the Arab world. At the crossroads of more cultures and more languages, Arab and Syriac Christians played a fundamental role in the circulation of science and philosophy in the territories dominated by the Abbasid Caliphate. As a doctor, Ḥunayn worked for a long time in Baghdad, at the court of the caliphs of the time. In this book we publish The Epistle of Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq to 'Alī Ibn al-Munajjim, with the complete list of the galenical works he translated, and two of his small treatises of apologetic and religious content (How to demonstrate the truth of religions and The duration of existence) that allow us to know his thoughts on sensitive topics that are still relevant today.


Yaḥyā Ibn ʿAdī, L'affinamento dei caratteri. (Kitāb tahḏīb al-aḫlāq). Un trattato di etica del X secolo, edizione a cura di Samir Khalil Samir; introduzione, traduzione e note a cura di Ida Zilio Grandi; indici a cura di Ida Zilio-Grandi e Davide Righi, Bologna 2019, independently published. 

ISBN: 978-1985163577


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Compendium of rational ethics in the form of a systematic treatise, the Tahḏīb al-aḫlāq ("The refinement of the characters") of Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī disregards a properly religious way and instead moves on the ground of Greek philosophical reflection and also on that of a simpler reasonableness. Precisely the absence of religious references meant that it was attributed over time to Muslim authors, such as al-Ǧāḥiẓ of Basra, Ibn al-ʿArabī of Murcia, or the mathematician, physicist and astronomer Ibn al-Hayṯam.

    Among the earliest and most important examples of Arabic literature on the ethical topic, «The refinement of the characters» of Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī teaches and illustrates a journey of personal improvement. Rich and meticulous, vast in content and generous in intent, this small text composed in the 10th century Baghdad can speak with intelligent simplicity even to the contemporary reader.