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Various physiognomic observations (1)

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02 Religious and ideological symbols and iconographic motifs

05 Scientific knowledge and scholarly lore

13th century CE
Byzantine Empire
Christian-Syriac philosophers and scholars

Bar Hebraeus, Laughable Stories 20:
679. The man with coarse hair, and lofty stature, and a broad belly, and a closely knit back, and broad shoulders, and little flesh on his neck, and a fleshy breast, and small thighs, and red and dry eyes, and a long and pointed forehead, is a mighty man and a hunter; but he who has the reverse of these attributes is a weak and a timid man.
680. He whose flesh is soft, and who is not fat overmuch, whose arms move easily, whose hair is soft and not black overmuch, and whose complexion is between red and white, is a good man by nature and in him there is no wickedness.
681. He who has much flesh on his neck, and large feet, and shoulders drawn upwards, and a round belly, and forehead and a tinge of green in his eyes, is a man who is without sexual passion.
682. He who has his eyes open always, and thick eyebrows, and a meagre stature, and hasty movements, and a ruddy colour, and a round face, and a mole in his cheek, is an impudent and audacious man.
683. He who has an emaciated face, and eyebrows which do not meet, and slow movements, is a man who grieves and despairs habitually.
684. He whose head leans to the right, and whose knees are stretched out from each other in walking, who moves his arms as he goes along, who leans with his hand on the top of his side when he sits down, and who does not look upon the various sides (of a matter) in a disordered manner, is a man who is blessed in all his movements and actions, and he is naturally noble.
685. He who has broad cheek, and coarse thick hair upon it, and quick movements of the head, is a man of wrath.
686. He who has the upper lip larger than the lower one, and a ruddy colour, and a hasty gait, is a man easily (moved) to words of abuse.
687. He who has whitish colour, and very fat eyes, and a round nose, and moist eyes, is a man prone to the passion of love and to the love of women; he will never allow himself to do harm to any man whatsoever, and usually daughters are born to him.
688. The man who has the upper members of his body larger than the lower ones, and a flat nose, and a fat body, and a fluent speech, and a superabundance of hair on his belly, loves his children exceedingly. …
692. He who shakes his legs as he goes along is one who meditates upon lofty subjects and is even like the lion, especially if his arms are curved. …
706. He whose steps are long behaves wickedly in his actions: and he is accounted excellent, even as is the lion, especially if there be a sound (when he moves) his arms.

Source (list of abbreviations)
Bar Hebraeus, Laughable Stories 20


Budge 1897, 177-180Budge, E. A. Wallis. The Laughable Stories collected by Mar Gregory John Bar-Hebraeus, Maphrian of the East from A.D. 1264 to 1286. The Syriac text edited with an English Translation. London: Luzac and Co 1897.

Amar Annus

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