HUNAYN.NET: Transmission of Classical Scientific and Philosophical Literature from Greek into Syriac and Arabic
ERC-Starting-Grant ID 679083, 2016-2021)

The ERC-project HUNAYN.NET focuses on the transmission of classical scientific and philosophical literature from Greek into Syriac and Arabic. The analysis of these translations highlights the extent to which scientific knowledge and scholarship in the medieval Near East was based on the shared tradition of Greek antiquity and illustrates the significance of language in the exchange and transmission of knowledge, also between Christian and Muslim scholars.

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It is often taken for granted that the Greek-Arabic translation movement (8th-10th c.) that made the entire body of Classical Greek scientific and philosophical literature available in Arabic (and that was later passed on to Europe in Latin translations) owes much to the translations from Greek into Syriac that were produced by Aramaic-speaking Syriac Christians in the preceding period. However, the actual impact of the Syriac translations on later methods of translation has so far not been measured and assessed.

This project aims to facilitate a comprehensive comparison of Syriac and Arabic translations through lexicographical analysis by developing an innovative research tool. Drawing on online lexicography and corpus linguistics, we will produce a parallel corpus of Syriac scientific and philosophical translations to facilitate the analysis and comparison of Syriac scientific terminology and translation techniques both with extant Greek originals and with Arabic versions. The lexicographic database will provide definitive data for the study of Syriac and Arabic translations and the connections between them. It will reveal how the Syriac translations along with underlying methods and tools that were put to use for the first time ever by Syriac Christians eventually formed the bedrock for the prosperity of the Islamic sciences. The open-access database thus creates a new instrument for a study of the history of the transmission of Greek scientific literature in antiquity and the middle ages.

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The project is housed at the Department of Byzantine Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and is undertaken in cooperation with the University of Bochum.