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14 - The Two Hebrew-into-Latin Translations of Averroes’s Commentary on Plato’s “Republic”: Method, Motivation, and Context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

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Summary

Introduction

Averroes's Commentary on Plato's “Republic” was translated twice into Latin; both translations were made from the Hebrew version of Samuel ben Judah of Marseille. The first translation was done by Elijah Del Medigo (ca. 1455–93), a Crete-born Jew, who spent most of his life in northern Italy, Crete being at that time under Venetian rule. Although a devout Jew, Del Medigo's immediate intellectual milieu was Christian, mostly made up of figures related in some way to the university of Padua and to powerful circles in Venice. Most of Del Medigo's literary output was in Latin—including his Hebrew-into-Latin translation of Averroes's Commentary on Plato's “Republic”—and he himself translated some of his own original Latin works into Hebrew. Thematically, Del Medigo focused almost solely on the works of Averroes. His translation of Averroes's Commentary on Plato's “Republic” was part of his general endeavour of translating and commenting on the works of Averroes, while working at the service of his Christian patrons—namely, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Domenico Grimani. On his return to Crete, toward the end of his life, Del Medigo composed his Hebrew work Beḥinat haDat, which became his most celebrated work. In that work Del Medigo examines the relation between Judaism and rational thought, determining the rational nature of Judaism as opposed to the irrational character of Christian dogmas.

The second translation was by the Jewish physician and translator Jacob Mantino (d. 1549). Mantino, a Jewish physician who lived most of his life in Italy, had close relationships with bishops and cardinals to whom he dedicated several of his translations and he was the personal physician to Pope Paul III. Mantino translated many of Averroes's commentaries, and was, according to Dag Hasse, “the most prolific and most acclaimed among all Renaissance translators of Averroes.”

Del Medigo's translation was never printed during the Renaissance; it was discovered by Paul Oscar Kristeller in a Siena manuscript and published as a critical edition in 1992. Mantino's translation, first published in 1539, was printed four times during the Renaissance, yet has never received a modern edition. This chapter begins with a general overview of the two translations, discussing their different nature in light of the different circumstances surrounding their production.

Type
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Plato's Republic in the Islamic Context
New Perspectives on Averroes's <i>Commentary</i>
, pp. 297 - 318
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

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