1st Edition

The Friar and the Philosopher William of Moerbeke and the Rise of Aristotle’s Science in Medieval Europe

By Pieter Beullens Copyright 2023
    170 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    William of Moerbeke was a prolific medieval translator of Aristotle and other ancient philosophical and scientific authors from Greek into Latin, and he played a decisive role in the acceptance of Aristotelian philosophy in the Latin world. He is often criticized for an allegedly deficient translation method.

    However, this book argues that his approach was a deliberate attempt to allow readers to reach the correct understanding of the source texts in accordance with the medieval view of the role of the translator. William’s project to make all genuine works of Aristotle – and also of other important authors from Antiquity – available in Latin is framed against the background of intellectual life in the 13th century, the deliberate policy of his Dominican order to reconcile Christian doctrine with worldly knowledge, and new trends in book production that influenced the spread of the new translations. William of Moerbeke’s seemingly modest acts of translation started an intellectual revolution, the impact of which extended from the Middle Ages into the early modern era.

    The Friar and the Philosopher will appeal to researchers and students alike interested in Medieval perceptions of Aristotle, as well as other works from Antiquity.

    Chapter 1: Model

    Chapter 2: Precursors

    Chapter 3: Project

    Chapter 4: Order

    Chapter 5: Network

    Chapter 6: Diplomat

    Chapter 7: Success

    Chapter 8: Fall

    Appendix I: Chronological guide

    Appendix II: Guide to the translations by William of Moerbeke and their contents


    Pieter Beullens (b.1967) studied classics and philosophy at the universities of Antwerp and Leuven (Belgium). He published the critical edition of Aristotle’s History of Animals in the Latin translation by William of Moerbeke (with Fernand Bossier, two volumes, 2000-2020). His PhD-research centred on the working methods of late medieval translators (A Methodological Approach to Anonymously Transmitted Medieval Translations of Philosophical and Scientific Texts. The Case of Bartholomew of Messina; KU Leuven, 2020). He currently works as a postdoctoral research fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders at the KU Leuven (2021-2024).

    ‘This book is a singular achievement. Pieter Beullens synthesizes all the scholarship on Moerbeke himself to paint a picture of his life and his work within late medieval intellectual culture. This book answers a tremendous need. It contains a wealth of new information that specialists will value; at the same time its clarity and generosity will welcome students new to the field of medieval philosophy’ – Professor Rita Copeland, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

    ‘Finally, thanks to Beullens, we now have a comprehensive English-language account of medieval translator, William of Moerbeke, and an indispensable work on the transmission of Aristotle since Antiquity by one of the world’s foremost experts’ – Associate Professor Chelsea C. Harry, Southern Connecticut State University, USA.

    ‘The scope of Beullens' research and wealth of historical knowledge about the ancient world and the Middle Ages is impressive, to say the least. The themes covered include the creation of Aristotle's oeuvre as we know it today, the tradition of commentaries on Aristotle and the ancients in Arabic philosophy, Aristotle versus biblical revelation and medieval church interests ... Beullens' fine writing style and sharp observations make the book a must-read for anyone interested in ancient or medieval text traditions, philosophy or history’ - translated from Dutch, Tineke Melkebeek, University of Ghent, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie: Leuven Journal of Philosophy