Translations into medieval Latin

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Earliest translations

Adapted from "Earliest translations of Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic works into Latin" (from The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy, ed. A. S. McGrade, Cambridge 2003, p.44).

Author Work Translator Date Modern editions
Plato Timaeus Calodius 0400 c.
Aristotle Categories Boethius 0510-22 c. Boethius:Categories
De interpretatione Boethius 0510-22 c. Boethius:Perihermenias
Prior Analytics Boethius 0510-22 c. Boethius:Prior Analytics
Posterior Analytics James of Venice 1125-50 ? Analytica posteriora. Translationes Iacobi, edd. L. Minio-Paluello et B.G. Dod, Desclée De Brouwer, Bruges-Paris 1968.
Topics Boethius 0510-22 c.
Sophistical Refutations Boethius 0510-22 c.
Physics James of Venice 1125-50 ? Physica, Translatio Vetus, edd. F. Bossier et J. Brams
De anima James of Venice 1125-50 ?
Metaphysics (nearly complete) Michael Scot 1220-24 c.
Nicomachean Ethics (complete) Robert Grosseteste 1246-47
Politics William of Moerbeke 1260
Porphyry Introduction (isagoge) Boethius 0510-22 c. Porphyry:Isagoge
Proclus Elements of Theology William of Moerbeke 1268
Anonymous Liber de causis (drawn from Proclus) Gerard of Cremona 1187 (before)
Ps.-Dionysius Mystical Treatises Scottus Eriugena 0862
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) Metaphysics [Book of Healing IV) Dominicus Gundisalvi 1150 (after )
De anima (Book of Healing III.6) Ibn Daoud and Dominicus Gundisalvi 1152 (after )
Ihn Cabirol Fountain of Life Iohannes Hispanus and Dominicus Gundisalvi 1152 (after)
Maimonides Guide for the


Anonymous 1230 c.
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) Great Commentary on

Aristotle's Physics

Michael Scot 1220-35 c.
Great Commentary on Aristotle's De anima Michael Scot 1220-24 c.
Great Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics Michael Scot 1220-24 c.
Middle Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Herman the German 1240 ?

The Metaphysics

It was only in the early 13th century, when Michael Scot translated the Arabic version contained in Averroes Long Commentary on the Metaphysics (the so-called Metaphysica Nova), that the text became fully available in the Latin West, some time after a tradition of commentaries on the Categories had been established. Most of the early English commentaries are based on the Metaphysica Nova[1].

  • Metaphysica Vetustissima, ascribed to James of Venice. See Aristoteles Latinus XXV. Contains only the first four books. A highly literal translation, even down to the word order. Although he sometimes translates the same Greek word with different Latin words, he systematically translates the key terms in a fixed way, sometimes deferring to Boethius's vocabulary.
  • Metaphysica Vetus, probably a revision of James's translation.
  • Metaphysica Media, also known as Translatio anonyma. A second translation from the Greek (the Translatio Media) seems to have been used by Albert the Great as the basis of his commentary. See Aristoteles Latinus XXV. It contains lib. I-X, XII-XIV. The translation is anonymous, but a close relationship has been demonstrated between the Media and the Translatio Vaticana of the Physics", an anonymous translation dating back probably to the second half of the 12th century. Reading 'Canoniensis' as 'Cremononsis', Minio-Paluello tentatively ascribes it to Gerard of Cremona (d.1187), best known as a translator from Arabic into Latin. See "Latin Medieval Translations of Aristotle's Metaphysics", Marta Borgo, Amerini & Galluzzo 2013 p. 37 ff.
  • Metaphysica Nova: Aristotle's text taken from the translation of Averroes' commentary, probably by Michael Scot, 1220s[2]. The first complete translation of the Metaphysics.

William of Moerbeke

In the second half of the 13th century the translations from the Greek of many Aristotelian writings and the revisions of earlier Greek translations were mostly by William of Moerbeke. William was born ca. 1215 or later in the village of Moerbeke, now in Belgium, and probably entered the Dominican convent at Louvain as a young man. He was probably a member of the Dominican convent established at Thebes in Greece in the 1250s - a manuscript colophon records that his translation of Alexander's commentary on the Meteorologica was completed at Nicea in April 1260, another records the completion of De animalibus at Thebes in December 1260. By 1271 he held the chaplain and confessor to the pope at the papal court at Viterbo. Manuscript colophons record that two of his translations were made in Viterbo in 1267 and 1268. He was one of the chief Greek interpreters at the Second Council of Lyons (1272-4). He stayed at the court until 1278, when he was made Archbishop of Corinth in Greece, dying there in 1286[3]. Moerbeke was clearly not the first to translate the Metaphysics from the Greek, but his translation was widely used in the late 12th and early 13th centuries – it supposedly was the basis of Aquinas's commentary on the work. The following editions of his work are in Aristoteles Latinus.

  • Metaphysica: libri I - X; XII - XIII.2 (translationis ‘mediae’ recensio), XXV.3, pars secunda, ed. G. Vuillemin-Diem, 1995, p. 11-320
  • Metaphysica: libri XI; XIII.2 - XIV, A.L. XXV.3, pars secunda, ed. G. Vuillemin-Diem, 1995, p. 11-320

See also


  1. Amerini & Galluzzo 2013 p.138
  2. Amerini & Galluzzo 2013 p. 49
  3. Mainly sourced from Fryde, E. (The Early Palaeologan Renaissance (1261-c. 1360), chapter 7 pp 103.ff.
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