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(538 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), donkey (fem, atān and ḥimāra ). The Arabs make a distinction between the domestic donkey ( ahlī ) and the wild donkey ( waḥs̲h̲ī , faraʾ , ʿayr al-ʿāna ). Domestic donkeys are used to turn mills, as beasts of burden and as mounts, but although the Prophet is said to have owned one, named Yaʿfūr, and although the animal has been esteemed by famous persons, it is not ridden by Arabs of high rank, who even employ a formula of apology ( ḥas̲h̲ā-kum , aʿazza-kum Allāh , etc.) when they utter its name. The zoological works provide details of its characteristic…


(184 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
the planet Mars. The etymology of the name is unknown. The sphere of Mars is the fifth sphere of the planets. It is bounded on the inner side by the sphere of the sun and on the outer side by the sphere of Jupiter, and its breadth is according to Ptolemy (xx, 376) 998 miles. Its period of revolution is estimated at 1 year, 10 months and 22 days. In about 17 years, after 9 revolutions, Mars comes back to the same spot in the heavens; it spends about 40 days in each sign of the zodiac and covers about 40 minutes each day. It is said to be one-and-ahalf times the size of the earth. Astrologers call Mars al-Naḥs al-a…


(774 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, also nus̲h̲ādir , naws̲h̲ādir , Sanskrit navasadara , Chin, nao-s̲h̲a , sal-ammoniac. The etymology of the word is uncertain; perhaps it comes from the Pahlavi anōs̲h̲-ādar “immortal fire” as we find the form anūs̲h̲ād̲h̲ur in Syriac. The oldest references to the occurrence of salammoniac in a natural state are in the reports of ¶ Chinese embassies of the 6th-7th centuries, which were the subject of very full investigation in connection with a geological problem, the question of volcanoes in Central Asia, by H.J. von Klaprot…


(364 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), the spider. Al-Ḳazwīnī and al-Damīrī mention several species, the most dangerous of which is the poisonous tarantula, al-Rutailāʾ or al-Rut̲h̲ailāʾ . Al-Damīrī also describes a fieldspider of reddish colour with fine hair on its body; at the head it has four claws with which it bites; it digs a nest in the ground, and seizes its prey by night. The weaving spiders make their webs according to mathematical rules; according to some the male spins the warp and the female the woof; according t…


(725 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.) “snake”, generic name of the ophidians, embracing all kinds of reptiles ( mā yansāḥ ) from the most poisonous to the most harmless, the viper ( afʿā ) appearing to be the most clearly distinguished species among them. Terms such as ḥanas̲h̲ , aym , t̲h̲uʿbān , aswad , raḳs̲h̲āʾ , ṣill , etc. are given in classical Arabic to species which are not always easily identifiable from the descriptions in the early zoological works, there being a certain amount of confusion in this field; and present-day terminology is still far …


(628 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), pl. of al-manzil, more fully manāzil al-ḳamar, the stations of the moon. Just as for the sun the zodiacal circle is divided into 12 stations each of 30°, which it traverses in the course of a year, so the course of the moon is connected with 28 groups of stars, each of which corresponds to one day of its course, so that on an average each is an arc of 13° apart. The settings of the sun at these stations, Arabic nawʾ, pl. anwāʾ, are of decisive importance for the beginning and forecasting of the phenomena of the weather and the fertility or otherwise of a year which depend…


(576 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the eagle, the king of birds. al-Ḳazwīnī and al-Damīrī tell remarkable things about his habits, some of which go back to Greek tradition. According to al-Damīrī, there are black, brown, greenish and white eagles. Some nest in the mountains, others in deserts, in thick woods or in the vicinity of towns. (Here there is of course a confusion with the vulture and also in the statement that they follow armies and devour the fallen). The eagle hunts small wild animals and birds and eats only the liv…


(997 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the pearl. The ancient legend of its origin is found at great length in the Arabic authors, first in the Petrology ( Steinbuch , ed. Ruska) of Aristotle, then with variants in the Rasāʾil Ik̲h̲wān al-Ṣafāʾ and the later cosmographers. According to it, the aṣṭūrūs (’οστρεῖον) rises from the depths of the sea frequented by ships and goes out to the ocean. The winds there set up a shower of spray and the shells open to receive drops from This; when it has collected a few drops it goes to a secluded spot and exposes the…


(329 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
— frequently regarded as a determined noun ( al-mās; correctly al-Almās according to Ibn al-At̲h̲īr, in Lisān viii. 97: the ’l belongs to the root as in Ilyās), a corrupt form from the Greek ἀδάμαΣ ( l. c. “ wa-laisat bi-ʿarabīya”), — the diamond. According to the pseudo-Aristotelian Kitāb al-aḥd̲j̲ār which — on the basis of cognate Greek sources, — agrees in the main with the statements of Pliny, the diamond cuts every solid except lead, by which it is itself destroyed. On the frontier of Ḵh̲orāsān is a deep valley in which the diamonds lie g…

Tabula Smaragdina

(265 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the revelation of secret alchemistic teaching ascribed to Hermes Trismegistos. Known in a later version in the west since the middle of the xiith century, the origin of the text was until recently an unsolved problem in the history of chemistry. Since R. Steele in his edition of Bacon (1920) showed that the text of the Tabula existed in Arabic and Latin in the Sirr al-Asrār of Pseudo-Aristotle, and E. J. Holmyard in 1923 discovered a more primitive form of the text in the Kitāb al-Uṣṭuḳuss al-t̲h̲ānī of Ḏj̲ābir b. Ḥaiyān, J. Ruska has been able to show that the original source o…


(101 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the common name for the white and yellow-red lily and for the blue iris which is more precisely described by the addition of asmānd̲j̲ūnī and is also called īrisā by the physicians. The name is a general Semitic one, but whether from s̲h̲es̲h̲ (six), as Low suggests, seems to me doubtful on account of the ū or ō always found in it. The root of Iris ftorcntina L. is still used in medicine. (J. Ruska) Bibliography Ibn al-Baiṭār, transl. Leclerc, ii. 306 al-Ḳazwīnī, ʿAd̲j̲āʾib al-Mak̲h̲lūḳāt, ed. Wüstenfeld, i., p. 276 I. Löw, Die Flora der Juden, ii. I—4, 160—184.


(126 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, Bawraḳ, Būraḳ, borax. The description in Ḳazwīnī shows that the most different salts were confused under the general name of borax; he mentions natron as a kind of borax; i.e. the Armenian borax, the borax of the metal-founders, tinkār, which is brought from India, bakers’ borax, the borax of Zerāwand and of Kirmān. Even in the Petrology of Aristotle the peculiar property of borax is said to be that it melts all bodies, hastens smelting and facilitates casting. Natron is particularly mentioned in this connection as a kind of borax; tinkār is said to…


(390 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
— Arab, fad̲h̲zuhr, from the Persian Pā(w)zahr, i. e. removing poison — a highly esteemed remedy against all kinds of poison for which high prices were paid throughout the middle ages down to the xviiith century and to the present day in the East. The real (Oriental) bezoarstone is obtained from the Persian bezoar-goat ( Capra aegagrus Gm.) and according to Wöhler’s researches is a gallstone. A description of its properties and supposed effects is to be found as early as in the Kitāb al-Aḥd̲j̲ār, which is ascribed to Aristotle. The effect of poisons is to make the blood coagula…


(270 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), the crab; the name is applied to the fresh water crab as well as to the sea-crabs, saraṭān nahrī and baḥrī. Al-Damīrī describes the crab as follows: “it can run very quickly, has two jaws, claws and several teeth and a back as hard as stone; one might think that it had neither head nor tail. Its two eyes are placed on its shoulders, its mouth is in its chest and its jaws are sideways. It has eight legs and walks on one side. It breathes both air and water. It casts off its skin six times a year. It builds itse…


(261 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the constellation of the Pleiades. According to al-Ḳazwīnī, the group is made up of two brighter stars between which are three others close together like grapes in a bunch. The group is also called simply al-Nad̲j̲m “the (group of) stars” and the principal star (η; Alkyone) is called Wasaṭ, Ḏj̲awz or Naiyir al-T̲h̲uraiyā i. e. middle, heart or bright star of the Pleiades. The word T̲h̲uraiyā is a diminutive of t̲h̲arwā which means “existing in plenty” and would correspond to the Greek πλειάΣ if this name could be connected with πλεόΣ and not with πλεῖν “to naviga…


(186 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), the crown, the name of several constellations, namely: 1. al-Ikīl, is the name given to the stars β, δ, π, forming a blunt wedge close together on the brow of the Scorpion. These stars mark the seventeenth station of the moon. 2. al-Iklīl al-s̲h̲amālī, Greek στέφανοΣ Latin Corona, the northern crown, a constellation of eight stars which follows the staff of Bootes and is also called al-Fakka, the “breach”, and Ḳaṣʿat al-Masākīn, the “alms bowl”, Pers. Kāsa-i Darwīs̲h̲ān, the “beggar’s bowl” and Kasa s̲h̲ikasta, the “broken bowl”, because the ring of stars is broken at one spot. Al-Fakk…

Banū Mūsā

(756 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, more precisely Banū Mūsā b. S̲h̲ākir, the usual name for the three brothers Abū Ḏj̲aʿfar Muḥammad, Abu ’l-Ḳāsim Aḥmad and al-Ḥasan b. Mūsā b. S̲h̲ākir, who made a reputation under the ʿAbbāsids from al-Maʾmūn to al-Mutawakkil as mathematicians, astronomers and technicians and also at times played a part in politics. The father is said ¶ to have begun life as a bandit in Ḵh̲urāsān, then to have become an astronomer and geometer. We have no means of testing such stories or learning how a bandit could become an astronomer. If we assume however that Mūsā b. S̲h̲ākir like Muḥammad b. Mūsā al-Ḵh̲wār…


(611 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), a time, a period of time, especially the hour. Following the custom of the Greek astronomers, a distinction is made between the equal or astronomical (sidereal) hour, sāʿa falakīya, which corresponds to a revolution of the heavens of the fixed stars through 15° and is also ¶ called mustawiya (uniform), and the unequal, curved, muʿwad̲j̲d̲j̲a, also an hour of time, zamānīya, which is the result of dividing day and night each into 12 hours and therefore varies with latitude and season and in the higher latitudes becomes quite absurd. — In the language of religion sāʿa is also the hour …


(295 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, an old town between Mas̲h̲had and Marw, where the frontier between modern Persia and Russia turns from E. to S., on the lower course of the Harirūd, which is at this part filled with water for part of the year only and then disappears in the oasis of Tad̲j̲ān north of Sarak̲h̲s. Between the town and Marw lies a part of the desert of Karaḳūm [q. v.] which belongs to the area of the Teke-Turkomans. The Arab-Persian geographers ascribe the foundation of the town to Kai-Kāwūs, Afrāsiyāb or Ḏh̲u ’l…


(211 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the constellation of the Dragon. According to al-Ḳazwīnī, it consists of 31 stars none of which lies outside of the constellation. Apart from the general figure of the constellation which comes from Greek (and probably earlier from Babylonian) astronomy the Arabs have names for smaller groups of stars within it. Thus the star μ is called the Dragon’s tongue, al-rāfiḍ, “the isolated grazing camel”, the four stars (β γ ν ξ in the head al-ʿawāʾid̲h̲, “the young dam-camels”, a not very bright star between them al-rubaʿ, “the camel-foal”; the bright stars ζ η are called al-d̲h̲iʾbain, “the tw…
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