Constantine Africanus, a medieval medical writer and teacher; born c. 1015; died c. 1087. His name, Africanus, comes from the place of his nativity, Carthage in Africa. Early in life he devoted himself to the study of medicine, and as was the custom of the times made distant journeys, some of which brought him into the Far East. He became familiar with the Oriental languages and studied Arabian literature very deeply. His studies in Arabian medicine taught him many things unknown to his Western contemporaries. On his return to Carthage this led to great jealousy on the part of his professional brethren and to so much unpleasantness, for he is even said to have been accused of practicing magic, that he gladly accepted the position of secretary to Duke Robert of Salerno. Before this he was, for a short time at least, secretary of the Emperor Constantine Monomachus in Reggio, a small town near Byzantium. While in Salerno Constantine became a professor of medicine and attracted widespread attention. He remained but a few years in this position, however, and gave up his honors and his worldly goods to become a Benedictine in the monastery of Monte Cassino. He was received with open arms by the Abbot Desiderius, one of the most learned men of the time, who afterwards became Pope Victor III. Nearly twenty years of Constantine’s life were spent at Monte Cassino. He occupied himself with the writing of books, being stimulated thereto by Desiderius who was his most intimate friend. His best-known work is the so-called “Liber Pantegni”, which is really a translation of the “Khitaab el Maleki” of Ali Ben el-Abbas. This book he dedicated to Desiderius. He also wrote some original works, but it has been found so difficult to separate what is undoubtedly genuine from what came to be attributed to him in time, that there is no certainty as to his original contributions to medicine. With Constantine begins the second epoch of the Salernitan School of Medicine, especially notable for its translation of all the great writers on medicine, Greek as well as Arabian, and for original work of a high order. Many of the distinguished professors of the twelfth century at Salerno were proud to proclaim Constantine as their master. Of the many editions of his works the chief is that of Basle (in fol., 1536).
JAMES J. WALSH