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The Abbasid Activist Ḥayyān al-ʿAṭṭār as the Father of Jābir b. Ḥayyān: An Influential Hypothesis Revisited

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In 1927 Holmyard formulated the hypothesis that the Abbasid activist Ḥayyān al-ʿAṭṭār (“Ḥayyān the Perfumer”, fl. 98/717) was the father of the second/eighth century alchemist Jābir b. Ḥayyān. It will be shown here that this hypothesis is contradicted by two sources that have since been published (the third book of al-Balādhurī’s Ansāb al-ashrāf and the anonymous Akhbār al-ʿAbbās wa-wuldihi). The implications of this finding for the question of Jābir’s historicity will also be explored. Although the references to Jābir in later sources (including a number of new ones that will be listed here) strongly suggest that he is not a historical figure, his historicity is still often accepted, or at least left open as a possibility. It will be argued that Holmyard’s hypothesis has been a crucial factor in this continued acceptance, and that its rejection probably also entails the rejection of a historical Jābir.

Affiliations: 1: KU Leuven — University of LeuvenBelgium thijs.delva@student.kuleuven.be

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2017-06-15
2017-11-22

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