Golius, James

, professor of Arabic at Leyden, descended from a considerable family in that city, was born at the Hague, in 1596. At Leyden he made himself master of all the learned languages, and proceeded to physic, divinity, and the mathematics. His education being finished, he took a journey to France with the duchess de la Tremouille; and was invited to teach the Greek language at Rochelle, which he continued to do, until that city was in the following year reduced again to the dominion of the French king, after which he resolved to return to Holland. He had early taken a liking to Erpenius, the Arabic professor at Leyden; by the help of whose lectures he made a great progress in the Arabic tongue, and having in 1622 an opportunity of attending the Dutch ambassador to the court of Morocco, he consulted with Erpenius, who directed him to observe carefully every production, either of nature, art, or custom, which were unknown in Europe; and to describe them, setting down the proper name of each, and the derivation of it, if known. He also gave him a letter directed to that prince, together with a present of a grand atlas, and a New Testament in Arabic. These procured him a very gracious reception from Muley Zidan, then king of Morocco, who expressed great satisfaction in the present, and afterwards read them frequently. | In the mean time Golius made so good use of Erpenius’ s advice, that tie attained a perfect skill in the Arabic tongue; and in indulging his curiosity respecting the customs and learning of that country, contrived to make himself very agreeable to the doctors and courtiers. By this means he became particularly serviceable to the ambassador, who growing uneasy because his affairs were not dispatched, was advised to present to his majesty a petition written by Golius in the Arabic character and language, and in the Christian style, both circumstances rather novel in that country. The king was astonished at the beauty of the petition, both as to writing and style; and having learned from the ambassador that it was done by Golius, desired to see him. At the audience, the king spoke to him in Arabic, and Golius said in Spanish, that he understood his majesty very well, but could not keep up a conversation in Arabic, by reason of its guttural pronunciation, to’which his throat was not sufficiently inured. This excuse was accepted by the king, who granted the ambassador’s request, and dispatched him immediately. Before his departure, Golius had an opportunity of examining the curiosities of Fez, and took a plan of the royal palace, which was afterwards communicated to Mr. Windus, and inserted in his “Journey to Mequinez,1721, 8vo. Go* lius brought with him to Holland several books unknown in Europe; and among others, “The Annals of the Ancient Kingdom of Fez and Morocco,” which he resolved to translate. He communicated every thing to Erpenius, who well knew the value of them, but did not live long enough to enjoy the treasure; that professor dying in Nov. 1624, after recommending this his best beloved scholar to the curators of the university for his successor. The request was complied with, and Golius saw himself immediately in the Arabic chair, which he filled so ably as to lessen their sense of the loss of Erpenius. Being, however, still desirous of cultivating oriental languages and antiquities, he applied to his superiors for leave to take a journey to the Levant; and obtained letters patent from the prince of Orange, dated Nov. 25, 1625. He set out immediately for Aleppo, where he continued fifteen months; after which, making excursions into Arabia, towards Mesopotamia, he went by land to Constantinople, in company with Cornelius Hago, ambassador from Holland to the Porte. Here the governor of the coast of Propontis gave | him the use of his pleasant gardens and curious library in which retirement he applied himself wholly to the reading of the Arabic historians and geographers, whose writings were till then either unknown to, or had not been perused by him. Upon his return to the city, discovering occasionally in conversation with the great men there a prodigious memory of what he had read, he excited such admiration, that a principal officer of the empire made him an offer of a commission from the grand signor to take a survey of the whole empire, in order to describe the situation of places with more exactness than was done in such maps as they then had; but he pretended that this would interfere with the oath which he had taken to the States, although his real fear arose from the danger of such an undertaking. In this place also he found his skill in physic of infinite service in procuring him the favour and respect of the grandees; from whom, as he would take no fees, he received many valuable and rich presents, and every liberal offer to induce him to settle among them. But after a residence of four years, having in a great measure satisfied his thirst of eastern learning, and made himself master of the Turkish, Persian, and Arabic tongues, he returned in 1629, laden with curious Mss. which have ever since been valued among the richest treasures of the university library at Leyden. As soon as he was settled at home, he began to think of making the best use of some of these manuscripts by communicating them to the public; but first printed an “Arabic Lexicon,1653, folio; and a new edition of “Erpenius’s Grammar, enlarged with notes and additions;” to which also he subjoined several pieces of poetry, extracted from the Arabian writers, particularly Tograi and Ababella. One purpose on which he employed his knowledge and influence cannot be too highly commended. He had been an eye-witness of the wretched state of Christianity in the Mahometan countries, and with the compassion of a Christian, resolved, therefore, to make his tfkill in their language serviceable to them. With this laudable view he procured an edition of the “New Testament” in the original language, with a translation into the vulgar Greek by an Archimandrite, which he prevailed with the States to present to the Greek church, groaning under the Mahometan tyranny; and, as some of these Christians use the Arabic tongm? in divine service, he took care to have dispersed among them an Arabic translation | of the confession of the reformed protestants, together with the catechism and liturgy *.

Intent as he was in promoting religion and learning abroad, he did not neglect his duty at home, which was now increased by the curators during his absence conferring upon him, in addition to the former, the professorship of mathematics, to which he was chosen in 1626. He discharged, however, the functions of both with the highest reputation for forty years. He was also appointed interpreter in ordinary to the States, for the Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and other eastern languages; for which he had an annual pension, and a present of a chain of gold with a very beautiful medal, which he wore as a badge of his office. He went through the fatigue of all these duties with the less difficulty, as he always enjoyed a good state of health, which he carefully preserved by strict temperance; and his constitution was so firm, that in 1666, at the age of seventy, he travelled on foot from the Meuse to the Waal, a journey of fourteen hours. He died Sept. 28, 1667, a 1 much respected for his virtue and piety, as for his talents and learning.

Although entitled to the character of an universal scholar, his chief excellence lay in philology and the languages; in which his application and skill were such, that though he did not begin seriously to study the Persian language till he was fifty-four, he made himself so much a master, as to write a large dictionary of it, which was printed at London, in Castell’s “Lexicon Heptaglotton.” He was not less acquainted with the Turkish language; and made such a progress in the Chinese, that he was able to read and understand their books; though he began late in life to this study. Besides the books which he finished and printed, he left several Mss. of others, which would have been no ways inferior to them, had he lived to complete them. He had begun a Geographical and Historical Dictionary for the Eastern countries wherein the names of


For this purpose he employed an Armenian, who understood the vulgar Arabic, as well as the phrases consecrated to religion; and could accommodate Golius’s style to the capacity of everybody; otherwise his expression might probably have been too sublime and abstruse. Golius kept this Armenian two years and a half at his house and promised him the same pension that the States had granted to the Archimandrite, who translated the New Testament into vulgar Greek. Yet he did not know whether the States would be at the expence, nor did he propose the matter to them till the work was finished however, they agreed to his proposal, and likewise made a handsome present to himself.

| men and places throughout the east were explained. He had long given expectations of a new edition of the “Koran,” with a translation and confutation of it.

Amidst all this profound literature, his religion is said to have been plain and practical. He lamented and abhorred the factions and disputes, especially about indifferent matters, which disgraced Christianity, and therefore had no inclination to enter into the controversies of his time. He married a lady of a very good family, and well allied, with whom he lived twenty-four years, and who survived him, together with two sons, who studied the civil law at Leyden, and became considerable men in Holland.

His publications, besides those already noticed, were, 1. “The History of the Saracens, by Elmacin.Erpenius began the version, which Golius completed, and it was translated into English by Simon Ockley, Arabic professor at Cambridge. 2. “The Life of Tamerlane,” written in Arabic by an author of great reputation, Leyden, 1636. He had proposed a second edition of this some time before his death, and to print the text with vowels, with a translation and commentary. 3. “Alfragan’s Elements of Astronomy,” with a new version, and learned commentaries upon the first nine chapters, but he did not live to carry these farther, and what we have was published after his death, in 1669, 4to. 1


Gen. Dict. Gronovii Funebr. Oratio Jac. Golii, —Moreri. —Saxii Onomast.