Al-Mahdi and His Sons: Social and Religious Discourse and the Translation Movement
It is reported on quite unimpeachable authority that the caliph alMahdi (d. 785), al-Mangur’s son and successor, commissioned the translation into Arabic of Aristotle’s Topics. The translation was done, on the basis of a Syriac intermediary but also after consultation of the Greek, around 782 AD by the Nestorian patriarch Timothy I with the help of Abii-Ntih, the Christian secretary of the governor of Mosul. This translation of the Topics was not to be the only one; about a century later the book was translated again, this time directly from the Greek, by Abu-‘Utman ad-DimaSqi, and approximately fifty years later yet again by Yahya ibn-‘Ad? (d. 974) from Ishaq ibnI$unayn’s previous Syriac version.*
1 The evidence for the first Arabic translation comes from the pen of Timothy I himself, in
his letters; see the text and related bibliography in Fiey, Cbrptirns+aq~rssmu hA66mri& p. 38, and H. Putman, LYgfk rtl%lam SOW %zothPc1(780-823), Beirut, Dar el-Machreq, 1975, p. 106. Timothy does not refer to the caliph by name, but there ate good reasons, to which is to be added the discussion in this section, that al-Mahdi is meant; see Fiey and Putman, just mentioned, and cf. van Ess, Thrologie und G&!&$, III,23 and note 8. l?