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A physiognomic treatise in Syriac (1)

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02 Religious and ideological symbols and iconographic motifs

05 Scientific knowledge and scholarly lore

Byzantine Empire
Syriac texts

This treatise was probably translated from Arabic, which had a Greek original.

Syriac Manuscript ff. 9a-9b MS 5442 (British Museum):
Signification of Characters
1. This is a bald-headed (man), who has between his shoulder-blades a bone standing upright. Such (a man) is perverted, (a man) who does not stand by one word, and in whom there is no truth, and (who) is unfaithful even to God.
2. The fat ones, and those with a great body, are frivolous. They always mourn and are far from fear.
3. Those whose bodies and legs are long and have no hair are false and constantly swear false oaths.
4. And those who shake their heads, although there is no movement in them, are thinking bad thoughts, and are hatching bad plots.
5. And those who have stiff legs are bad … suddenly they get excited and are unfaithful.
6. And those whose finger nails are wasting away are seeking lust.
7. Those who are tall, thin, and whose head is a little compressed, are rich and do not converse with women.
8. Those whose eyes are small and blue, and are not able to look at the sky, are bad, and are having bad thoughts, and the middle (?) … contentious, rebellious.
9. Those who are big, and whose bodies are withered, and whose eyebrows are strong, curse one another, are seeking lust, are thieves, commit adultery, and there is no fear of God in them.

Source (list of abbreviations)
Syriac Manuscript ff. 9a-9b MS 5442 (British Museum)


Furlani 1919, 290-291Furlani, Giuseppe. “A Short Physiognomic Treatise in the Syriac Language.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 39 (1919) 289-294. [JSTOR (requires subscription)]

Amar Annus

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