, a very celebrated Arabian philosopher, and whom Christians as well as Arabians esteemed equal, if not superior to Aristotle himself, was born about the middle of the 12th centufy, of a noble family at Corduba, the capital of the Saracen dominions in Spain. He was early instructed in the Islamitic law, and, after the usual manner of the Arabian schools, united with the study of Mahometan theology that of the Aristotelian philosophy. These studies he pursued under Thophail, and became a follower of the sect of the Asharites. Under Avenzoar he studied the science of medicine, and under Ibnu-Saig he made himself master of the mathematical sciences. Thus qualified, he was chosen, upon his father’s demise, to the chief magistracy of Corduba. The fame of his extraordinary erudition and talents soon afterwards reached the caliph Jacob Al-Mansor, king of Mauritania, the third of the Almohadean dynasty, who had built a magnificent school at Morocco and that prince appointed him supreme magistrate and priest of Morocco and all Mauritania, allowing him still to retain his former honours. Having left a temporary substitute at Corduba, he went to Morocco, and remained there till he had appointed, through the kingdom, judges well skilled in the Mahometan law, and settled the whole plan of administration after which he returned home, and resumed his offices.

This rapid advancement of Averroes brought upon him the envy of his rivals at Corduba who conspired to lodge an accusation against him, for an heretical desertion of the true Mahometan faith. For this purpose, they engaged several young persons among their dependants, to apply to him for instruction in philosophy. Averroes, who was easy of access, and always desirous of communicating knowledge, complied with their request, and thus fell into | the snare that had been laid for him. His new pupils were very industrious in taking minutes of every tenet or opinion advanced by their preceptor, which appeared to contradict the established system of Mahometan theology. These minutes they framed into a charge of heresy, and attested upon oath, that they had been fairly taken from his lips. The charge was signed by an hundred witnesses. The caliph listened to the accusation, and punished Averroes, by declaring him heterodox, confiscating his goods, and commanding him for the future to reside among the Jews, who inhabited the precincts of Corduba where he remained an object of general persecution and obloquy. Even the boys in the streets pelted him with stones, when he went up to the mosque in the city to perform his devotions. His pupil, Maimonides, that he might not be under the necessity of violating the laws of friendship and gratitude, by joining the general cry against Averroes, left Corduba. From this unpleasant situation Averroes at last found means to escape. He fled to Fez, but had been there only a few days, when he was discovered by the magistrate, and committed to prison. The report of his flight from Corduba was soon carried to the king, who immediately called a council of divines and lawyers, to determine in what manner this heretic should be treated. The members of the council were not agreed in opinion. Some strenuously maintained, that a man who held opinions so contrary to the law of the prophet deserved death. Others thought that much mischief, arising from the dissatisfaction of those among the infidels who were inclined to favour him, might be avoided, by only requiring from the culprit a public penance, and recantation of his errors. The milder opinion prevailed and Averroes was brought out of prison to the gate of the mosque, and placed upon the upper step, with his head bare, at the time of public prayers and every one, as he passed into the mosque, was allowed to spit upon his face. At the close of the service, the judge, with his attendants, came to the philosopher, and asked him whether he repented of his heresies. He acknowledged his penitence, and was dismissed without further punishment, with the permission of the king. Averroes returned to Corduba, where he experienced all the miseries of poverty and contempt. In process of time the people became dissatisfied with the regent who had succeeded Averroes, and petitioned the king that their | former governor might be restored. Jacob Al-Mansor, not dar.ng to show sucli indulgence to one who had been infamous for heresy, without the consent of the priesthood, called a general assembly, in which it was debated, whether it would be consistent with the safety of religion, and the honour of the law, that Averroes should be restored to the government of Corduba. The deliberation terminated in favour of the penitent heretic, and he was restored, by the royal mandate, to all his former honours. Upon this fortunate change in his affairs, Averroes removed to Morocco, where he remained till his death, which happened, as some say, in 1195, or according to others in 1206.

Averroes is highly celebrated for his personal virtues. He practised the most rigid temperance, eating only once in the day the plainest food. So indefatigable was his industry in the pursuit of science, that he often passed whole nights in study. In his judicial capacity, he discharged his duty with great wisdm and integrity. His humanity would not permit him to pass the sentence of death upon any criminal; he left this painful office to his deputies. He possessed so great a degree of self- command and patient lenity, that, when one of his enemies, in the mklst of a public discourse, sent a servant to him to whisper some abusive language in his ear, he took no other nptice of what passed, than if it had been a secret message of business. The next day, the servant returned, and publicly begged pardon of Averroes for the affront he had offered him upon which Averroes only appeared displeased, that his patient endurance of injuries should be brought into public notice, and dismissed the servant with a gentle caution, never to offer that insult to another, which had in the present instance passed unpunished. Averroes spent a great part of his wealth in liberal donations to learned men, without making any distinction between his friends and his enemies for which his apology was, that, in giving to his friends and relations, he only followed the dictates of nature but, in giving to his enemies, he obeyed the commands of virtue. With uncommon abilities and learning, Averroes united great affability and urbanity of manners, and may, in tine, be justly reckoned one o: the greatest men of his age.

In philosophy, he partook of the enthusiasm of the times with respect to Aristotle, and paid a superstitious deference to his authority but extravagant as he was in | this respect, it is unquestionably true, that he was unacquainted with the Greek language, and read the writings of his oracle in wretched Arabic translations, taken immediately from Latin or Syriac versions. The necessary consequence was, that his “Commentaries on Aristotle” were nothing better than a confused mass of error and misrepresentation. Yet such is the power of prejudice, that many learned men, since the revival of letters, have passed high encomiums upon Averroes as an excellent commentator. His writings of this kind were exceedingly numerous, and were so much admired by the Jews, that many of them were translated into Hebrew. Besides these, he wrote “a paraphrase of Plato’s Republic” and a treatise in defence of philosophy against Al-Gazal, entitled “Happalath hahappalah,” commonly cited under the name of “Destructorium Destructorii,” and many other treatises in theology, jurisprudence, and medicine. He took great pains to improve the theory of medicine by the help of philosophy, and particularly to reconcile Aristotle and Galen, but it does not appear that he practised physic. Few of his writings are to be met with, except in Hebrew or Latin translations. His “Commentary on Aristotle” was published in Latin at Venice, in folio, 1495. An edition of his works was published in 4to, at Lyons, in 1537 another, in folio, with the former Latin translations, by Bagolin, at Venice, in 1552 and a third by Mossa, at Venice, in 1608.

Much has been asserted concerning the impiety of Averroes, but as Brucker thinks, without sufficient proof. It is probable, however, that he adhered with more devotion to Aristotle than to Mahomet, or any other legislator for it appears that, after Aristotle, he held the eternity of the world, and the existence of one universal intellect, inferior to Deity, the external source of all human intelligence, and consequently denied the distinct existence and immortality of the human soul. 1


Brucker, whose account of Averroes we have substituted for the confused article (from —Bayle) in the former edition of this Dictionary. —Bayle, however, maybe usefully consulted for authorities and Dr. Freind, in the second part of, his History of Physic, with Leo Africanus de Vir. Illust. Arab. &c. Saxii Onemasticon.