Herman of Carinthia

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Herman Dalmatin or Herman of Carinthia (also known in Latin as Sclavus Dalmata, Secundus) was a philosopher, astronomer, astrologer, mathematician, translator and author.

Among Adelard of Bath, John of Seville, Gerard of Cremona (1114–1187) and Plato of Tivoli (1134–1145) Herman is the most important translator of Arabic astronomical works in 12th century and populariser of Arabic culture in Europe. The influence of his translations on the development of medieval European astronomy was especially large.

Contents

Life

In his own account he was born in "central Istria" circa 1100, then part of the Duchy of Carinthia. He died circa 1160.

Most likely he went to a Benedictine monastic school in Istria. He went on to study in France. It was probably in France that Herman's attention was drawn to the classical texts which were becoming available via Arabic sources. This was before the time of the first university in France, but at Chartres he attended one of the cathedral schools which were the predecessors of universities and he also studied in Paris in the 1130s. The teachers at Chartres included Thierry of Chartres to whom Herman was to dedicate a translation in 1143. The school of Chartres was known for its interests in Christian platonism and the natural sciences.

One of Herman's fellow students in France was Robert of Ketton with whom he travelled for four years in the Eastern Mediterranean. Both men became translators from the Arabic. At Constantinople and Damascus Herman took note of the Arabic science of that period. Circa 1138 he returned to Europe, and was active as a scholar in Spain (an important country for translations from the Arabic) and southern France. A huge part of his work remained anonymous.

Translation of Qur'an and other Islamic works

In 1142 Herman was in Spain and became involved in an important project to translate Islamic texts. Peter the Venerable recruited a team, including Herman, to translate five texts about Islam into Latin. Different members of the team appear to have concentrated on different works, and Herman is credited as the main translator of two of them: De generatione Muhamet et nutritura eius and Doctrina Muhamet.

The most significant translation in the collection was that of the Qur'an. This was entitled Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete and was the first known translation of the Qur'an into a European language. Robert of Ketton was its principal translator, according to most sources (including the Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete itself). However, Herman may have had some input, given the team nature of the project. Despite being an imperfect translation, Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete remained the standard one for centuries, circulating in manuscript before being printed in the 1543 edition published in Basel by Theodor Bibliander. In this edition both Herman's above-mentioned translations of treatises about Islam appeared together with a preface by Martin Luther.

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