Saturday, December 8, 2018

Death of Amirdovlat of Amasia (December 8, 1496)

After Mekhitar of Her, the first important author of Armenian medicine, Amirdovlat of Amasia was his remarkable successor in the late Middle Ages. The particular character of their work is that it was written in Middle Armenian, the spoken language of the time, and not in Classical Armenian, the language of learned people.

Amirdovlat was born in Amasia around 1420. He attended schools in Amasia and Sebastia, and wandered as a traveling physician in the Near East and Iran, collecting plant samples. It is believed that he learned medicine in Mesopotamia. He was fluent in Armenian, Greek, Latin, Persian, Turkish, and Arabic. In the late 1450s he moved to Constantinople, where he continued his studies of medicine, natural sciences, and philosophy. In 1459 he wrote The Study of Medicine, dedicated to anatomy, hygiene, pathology, and pharmacology. The first part is about anatomy and the second about pharmacology. In the same year, he also wrote his first Akhrabadin (an extensive treatise on pharmacology; the word akrabadin means “pharmacology” in Arabic, the language of medicine par excellence at the time).

The former capital of the Byzantine Empire had been conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481). In the 1460s Amirdovlat was selected as chief physician to the sultan and received the honorary title of physician-ophthalmologist. Afterwards, for unknown reasons, he spent ten years in exile, wandering throughout the Balkans. During these years, between 1466 and 1469, he wrote his major work on clinical medicine, The Benefits of Medicine, where he offered a description of the structure and importance of all organs, in the city of Philipopolis (now Plovdiv), in Bulgaria.

In the 1470s the Armenian physician returned to Constantinople and regained his position in the court of Mehmed II, enjoying the Ottoman sultan’s confidence until the latter’s death in 1481. In this period he produced Folk Medicine (1474), a work that included elements of magic medicine and astrology, and his second Akhrabadin (1481).

It was in the period 1478-1492 that Amirdovlat produced Useless for Ignoramuses, his major compendium of over 3,000 plants and plant names with their medical uses.

Mehmed II’s son Ahmed became a ruler of Amasia and Amirdovlat was invited by him to return to his birthplace, which he did. In the 1490s he journeyed to the city of Brusa for treatment with mineral waters and passed away on December 8, 1496, either in Amasia or, as other sources suggest, Brusa.