Academy of Gondishapur

Under the Pahlavi dynasty, the heritage of Gondeshapur was memorialized by the founding of the Jondishapur University and its twin institution Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, near the city of Ahvaz in 1955. After the 1979 revolution Jondishapur University was renamed to Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz in 1981 in honor of Mostafa Chamran. It has been renamed again as Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences recently.

Coordinates: 32°17′N 48°31′E / 32.283°N 48.517°E The Academy of Gondishapur (Persian: فرهنگستان گندی‌شاپور‎, Farhangestân-e Gondišâpur), also known as The Gondishapur University (دانشگاه گندی‌شاپور Dânešgâh-e Jondišapur), was one of the three Sasanian centers of education (Ctesiphon, Resaina, Gundeshapur) [1] and academy of learning in the city of Gundeshapur, Iran during late antiquity, the intellectual center of the Sasanian Empire. It offered education and training in medicine, philosophy, theology and science. The faculty were versed in Persian traditions. According to The Cambridge History of Iran, it was the most important medical center of the ancient world during the 6th and 7th centuries.[2]


In a.d. 489, the Nestorian Christian theological and scientific center in Edessa was ordered closed by the Byzantine emperor Zeno, and was transferred and absorbed into the School of Nisibis in Asia Minor,[3] also known as Nisibīn, then under Persian rule. Here, Nestorian scholars, together with Hellenistic philosophers banished from Athens by Justinian in 529, carried out important research in medicine, astronomy, and mathematics.[4]

However, it was under the rule of the Sassanid emperor Khosrau I (a.d. 531-579), known to the Greeks and Romans as Chosroes, that Gondeshapur became known for medicine and learning. Khosrau I gave refuge to various Greek philosophers and Syriac-speaking Nestorian Christians fleeing religious persecution by the Byzantine empire. The Sassanids had long battled the Romans and Byzantines for control of present-day Iraq and Syria and were naturally disposed to welcome the refugees.

Emperor Khosrau I commissioned the refugees to translate Greek and Syriac texts into Pahlavi. They translated various works on medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and useful crafts.

Khosrau I also turned towards the east, and sent the physician Borzouye to invite Indian and Chinese scholars to Gondeshapur. These visitors translated Indian texts on astronomy, astrology, mathematics and medicine and Chinese texts on herbal medicine and religion. Borzouye is said to have himself translated the Pañcatantra from Sanskrit into Persian as Kalila u Dimana.

A Church of the East monastery was established in the city of Gondishapur sometime before 376/7. By the 6th century the city became famed for its theological school where Rabban Hormizd once studied. According to a letter from the Catholicos of the East Timothy I, the Metropolitanate of Beth Huzaye took charge of both the theological and medical institutions.[5]

Although almost all the physicians of the medical academy were Persians, yet they wrote their treatises in Syriac, because medicine had a literary tradition in Syriac.[6]

Significance of Gondeshapur

[T]o a very large extent, the credit for the whole hospital system must be given to Persia.[7]

— Cyril Elgood, A Medical History of Persia

In addition to systemizing medical treatment and knowledge, the scholars of the academy also transformed medical education; rather than apprenticing with just one physician, medical students were required to work in the hospital under the supervision of the whole medical faculty. There is even evidence that graduates had to pass exams in order to practice as accredited Gondeshapur physicians (as recorded in an Arabic text, the Tārīkh al-ḥukamā). Gondeshapur also had a pivotal role in the history of mathematics.[8]

Gondeshapur under Muslim rule

In 832 AD, Caliph al-Ma'mūn founded the famous House of Wisdom. There the methods of Gondeshapur were emulated; indeed, the House of Wisdom was staffed with graduates of the older Academy of Gondeshapur. It is believed that the House of Wisdom was disbanded under Al-Mutawakkil, al-Ma'mūn's successor.

However, by that time the intellectual center of the Abbasid Caliphate had definitively shifted to Baghdad, as henceforth there are few references in contemporary literature to universities or hospitals at Gondeshapur. The significance of the center gradually declined. Al-Muqaddasi's Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions (c. 1000 AD) described Gondeshapur as falling into ruins.[9]

Famous physicians of Gondeshapur

Modern Gondeshapur

Talat basari
Soon after the founding of the modern school of Jondishapur, Dr. Tal'at Basāri was appointed vice chancellor of the university, the first woman to reach such a post in any university in Iran.

Under the Pahlavi dynasty, the heritage of Gondeshapur was memorialized by the founding of the Jondishapur University and its twin institution Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, near the city of Ahvaz in 1955.

The latter-day Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences was founded and named after its Sassanid predecessor, by its founder and first Chancellor, Dr. Mohammad Kar, Father of Cambys Kar and Cyrus Kar, in Ahvaz in 1959.

Jondishapur University was renamed to Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz in 1981 in honor of Mostafa Chamran. It has been renamed again as Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences recently.

The first woman to be appointed as vice-chancellor in a university in Iran, Dr. Tal'at Basāri, was appointed at this university in the mid-1960s, and starting 1968, plans for the modern campus were designed by famed architect Kamran Diba.[10]

Ancient Gondeshapur is also slated for an archaeological investigation. Experts from the Archaeological Research Center of Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago plan to start excavations in early 2006.

See also


  1. ^ Spangler, decline of the west, pp200
  2. ^ Vol 4, p396. ISBN 0-521-20093-8
  3. ^ University of Tehran Overview/Historical Events Archived 2011-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. 1993. Edinburgh Univ. Press. ISBN 0-7486-0455-3, p.4
  5. ^ Winkler & Baum 2010, p. 64
  6. ^
  7. ^ Elgood, Cyril. A medical history of Persia, Cambridge University Press, 1951, p. 173
  8. ^ Joseph, George Gheverghese (1991). The crest of the peacock : non-European roots of mathematics. London: I. B. Tauris.
  9. ^ Le Strange, Guy (1905). The lands of the eastern caliphate : Mesopotamia, Persia, and Central Asia, from the Moslem conquest to the time of Timur. Cambridge UK: University Press. p. 238.
  10. ^


  • The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 4, ISBN 0-521-20093-8
  • Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: A Concise History. London-New York: Routledge-Curzon.
  • Dols, Michael W. "The origins of the Islamic hospital: myth and reality" Bulletin of the. History of Medicine, 61:3: 1987, pp 367–90
  • Frye, Richard Nelson. The Golden Age of Persia, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1993.
  • Hau, Friedrun R. "Gondeschapur: eine Medizinschule aus dem 6. Jahrhundert n. Chr.," Gesnerus, XXXVI (1979), 98-115.
  • Piyrnia, Mansoureh. Salar Zanana Iran. 1995. Maryland: Mehran Iran Publishing.
  • Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. 1993. Edinburgh Univ. Press. ISBN 0-7486-0455-3

External links


Ahvaz (Persian: اهواز‎, translit. Ahvāz or Ahwaz) is a city in the southwest of Iran and the capital of Khuzestan province. Ahvaz's population is about 1,300,000 and its built-up area with the nearby town of Sheybani is home to 1,136,989 inhabitants. It is home to Persians, Arabs, Lurs (Bakhtiaris), Dezfulis, Shushtaris, etc. and different languages are spoken in it, such as Persian, Arabic, the Persian dialects of Luri (Bakhtiari), Dezfuli, Shushtari, etc.Iran's only navigable river, the Karun, passes by the middle of the city. It has a long history dating back to the Achaemenid period. In the ancient times, it had been one of the main centers of the Academy of Gondishapur.

Ancient Iranian medicine

The practice and study of medicine in Persia has a long and prolific history. The Iranian academic centers like Gundeshapur University (3rd century AD) were a breeding ground for the union among great scientists from different civilizations. These centers successfully followed their predecessors’ theories and greatly extended their scientific research through history. Persians were the first establishers of modern hospital system.In recent years, some experimental studies have indeed evaluated medieval Iranian medical remedies using modern scientific methods. These studies raised the possibility of revival of traditional treatments on the basis of evidence-based medicine.

Ancient higher-learning institutions

A variety of ancient higher-learning institutions were developed in many cultures to provide institutional frameworks for scholarly activities. These ancient centres were sponsored and overseen by courts; by religious institutions, which sponsored cathedral schools, monastic schools, and madrasas; by scientific institutions, such as museums, hospitals, and observatories; and by individual scholars. They are to be distinguished from the Western-style university, an autonomous organization of scholars that originated in medieval Europe and has been adopted in other regions in modern times (see list of oldest universities in continuous operation).


Bimaristan is a Persian word (بیمارستان bīmārestān) meaning "hospital", with Bimar- from Middle Persian (Pahlavi) of vīmār or vemār, meaning "sick" plus -stan as location and place suffix. In the medieval Islamic world, the word "Bimaristan" was used to indicate a hospital where the ill were welcomed and cared for by qualified staff.


Borzuya (or Burzōē or Burzōy) was a Persian physician in the late Sassanid era, at the time of Khosrau I. He translated the Indian Panchatantra from Sanskrit into Pahlavi (Middle Persian). But both his translation and the original Sanskrit version he worked from are lost. Before their loss, however, his Pahlavi version was translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa under the title of Kalila and Dimna or The Fables of Bidpai and became the greatest prose of Classical Arabic. The book contains fables in which animals interact in complex ways to convey teachings to princes in policy.

The introduction to The Fables of Bidpai or Kalila and Dimna presents an autobiography by Borzūya. Beside his ideas, cognitions and inner development leading to a practice of medicine based on philanthropic motivations, Borzuya's search for truth, his skepticism towards established religious thought and his later asceticism are some features lucidly depicted in the text. Borzuya originally came to India in 570 CE to find an elixir that would revive the dead. He later found out from a philosopher that the elixir was a metaphor for the Panchatantra. He would later get permission to read the book from the King of India, however he could not copy it. Disobeying these instructions, Borzuya would read a chapter of the book a day and make a journal entry of what he read; effectively making a copy of the Panchatantra. He would later send this out to India to have it translated. There is considerable discussion whether Borzūya is the same as Bozorgmehr. While sources indicate they are different people, the word "Borzūya" can sometimes be a shortened form of Bozorgmehr.


Bakhtshooa Gondishapoori (also spelled Bukhtishu and Bukht-Yishu in literature) were Persian or Assyrian Nestorian Christian physicians from the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries, spanning six generations and 250 years. The Middle Persian-Syriac name which can be found as early as at the beginning of the 5th century refers to the eponymous ancestor of this "Syro-Persian Nestorian family". Some members of the family served as the personal physicians of Caliphs. Jurjis son of Bukht-Yishu was awarded 10,000 dinars by al-Mansur after attending to his malady in 765CE. It is even said that one of the members of this family was received as physician to Imam Sajjad (the 4th Shia Imam) during his illness in the events of Karbala.Like most physicians in the early Abbasid courts, they came from the Academy of Gondishapur in Persia (in modern-day southwestern Iran). They were well versed in the Greek and Hindi sciences, including those of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Galen, which they aided in translating while working in Gondishapur.In the course of their integration into the changing society after the Islamic invasion of Persia, the family acquired Arabic while preserving Persian as oral language for about 200 years.The family was originally from Ahvaz, near Gondeshapur, however they eventually moved to the city of Baghdad and later on to Nsibin in Northern Syria, which was part of the Persian Empire in the Sassanid era. Yahya al-Barmaki, the vizier and mentor to Harun al-Rashid, provided patronage to the Hospital and Academy of Gondeshapur and helped assure the promotion and growth of astronomy, medicine and philosophy, not only in Persia but also in the Abbasid Empire in general.

Cyril Elgood

Cyril Lloyd Elgood M.D., F.R.C.P., honorary physician to the king of Persia (Shah) (1893-1970) commonly referred to as Cyril Elgood was a British physician (graduate of St. Bartholomew's Hospital) and historian of medicine in Persia/Iran, best remembered for his breakthrough studies on the history of medical and educational advances of Persia during the period of the 1500s to mid 18th century. He was also known for his work at Her Britannic Majesty's embassy in Tehran, his service in the British army in British India starting in 1914, and his active role in quarantine facilitation during infectious disease outbreaks in south-west Iran.Elgood took great interest in Persian medicine, and its history and produced several publications on the topic. He also practiced medicine in Persia, as well as back home in Britain where he was a general practitioner in Wareham, Dorset as well as a consultant to two major English hospitals. Elgood was also a cosmopolitan man travelling to most of the Persian Gulf states adding such countries as Sudan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to the list of places he had visited where he had transiently practiced medicine and lecturing.


Gondēshāpūr was the intellectual centre of the Sassanid Empire and the home of the Academy of Gundishapur, founded by Sassanid king Shapur I. Gundeshapur was home to a teaching hospital and had a library and a centre of higher learning. It has been identified with extensive ruins south of Shahabad, a village 14 km south-east of Dezful, to the road for Shushtar, in the present-day province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran.

It is not an organised archaeological place as of today, and except for ruins, it is full of remainings like broken ceramics.

Despite the fame, recently some scholars have called Gundeshapur's overall historical importance, specifically, the existence of its hospital, into question.Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, educator and founder of anthroposophy, pointed out the role Gondishapur (or Gundishapur) played in world history. In essence, Steiner saw the culture of Gondishapur as a premature efflorescence which was (necessarily) destroyed by the Islamic hordes in the seventh Century CE.

Islamic Golden Age

The Islamic Golden Age was a period of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 14th century. This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the world's classical knowledge into the Arabic language. This period is traditionally said to have ended with the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate due to Mongol invasions and the Siege of Baghdad in 1258 AD. A few contemporary scholars place the end of the Islamic Golden Age as late as the end of 15th to 16th centuries.

Khosrow I

Khosrow I (known as Chosroes I and Kisrā in classical sources; 501–579, most commonly known in Persian as Anushiruwān (Persian: انوشيروان‎, "the immortal soul")); also known as Anushiruwan the Just (انوشيروان دادگر, Anushiruwān-e Dādgar), was the King of Kings (Shahanshah) of the Sasanian Empire from 531 to 579. He was the successor of his father Kavadh I (488–531). Khosrow I was the twenty-second Sasanian Emperor of Persia, and one of its most celebrated emperors.

He laid the foundations of many cities and opulent palaces, and oversaw the repair of trade roads as well as the building of numerous bridges and dams. His reign is furthermore marked by the numerous wars fought against the Sassanid's neighboring archrivals, the Roman-Byzantine Empire, as part of the already centuries-long lasting Roman–Persian Wars. The most important wars under his reign were the Lazic War which was fought over Colchis (western Georgia-Abkhazia) and the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 572–591. During Khosrow's ambitious reign, art and science flourished in Persia and the Sasanian Empire reached its peak of glory and prosperity. His rule was preceded by his father's and succeeded by Hormizd IV. Khosrow Anushiruwan is one of the most popular emperors in Iranian culture and literature and, outside of Iran, his name became, like that of Caesar in the history of Rome, a designation of the Sasanian kings.He also introduced a rational system of taxation, based upon a survey of landed possessions, which his father had begun, and tried in every way to increase the welfare and the revenues of his empire. His army was in discipline decidedly superior to the Byzantines, and apparently was well paid. He was also interested in literature and philosophical discussions. Under his reign chess was introduced from India, and the famous book of Kalilah and Dimnah was translated. He thus became renowned as a wise king.

List of libraries in the ancient world

The great libraries of the ancient world served as archives for empires, sanctuaries for sacred writings, and depositories of literature and chronicles.

Medicine in the medieval Islamic world

In the history of medicine, Islamic medicine is the science of medicine developed in the Islamic Golden Age, and written in Arabic, the lingua franca of Islamic civilization.Islamic medicine preserved, systematized and developed the medical knowledge of classical antiquity, including the major traditions of Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides. During the post-classical era, Islamic medicine was the most advanced in the world, integrating concepts of ancient Greek, Roman and Persian medicine as well as the ancient Indian tradition of Ayurveda, while making numerous advances and innovations. Islamic medicine, along with knowledge of classical medicine, was later adopted in the medieval medicine of Western Europe, after European physicians became familiar with Islamic medical authors during the Renaissance of the 12th century.Medieval Islamic physicians largely retained their authority until the rise of medicine as a part of the natural sciences, beginning with the Age of Enlightenment, nearly six hundred years after their textbooks were opened by many people. Aspects of their writings remain of interest to physicians even today.

School of Nisibis

The School of Nisibis (Syriac: ܐܣܟܘܠܐ ܕܢܨܝܒܝܢ‎), for a time absorbed into the School of Edessa, was an educational establishment in Nisibis (now Nusaybin, Turkey). It was an important spiritual centre of the early Church of the East, and like the Academy of Gondishapur, it is sometimes referred to as the world's first university. The school had three primary departments teaching: theology, philosophy and medicine. Its most famous teacher was Narsai, formerly head of the School of Edessa.

The school was founded in 350 in Nisibis. In 363, when Nisibis fell to the Persians, St. Ephrem the Syrian, accompanied by a number of teachers, left the school. They went to the School of Edessa, where Ephrem took over the directorship of the school there. It had been founded as long ago as the 2nd century by the kings of the Abgar dynasty. When Ephrem took over the school, its importance grew still further. After the Nestorian Schism, when the Byzantine emperor Zeno ordered the school closed for its teachings of Nestorian doctrine, deemed heretical by Chalcedonian Christianity, the School moved back to Nisibis.

Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz

Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz is a major Iranian University in Ahvaz, Khuzestan, Iran. By the ISC ranking, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz is 13th largest and top university in Iran. SCU University is considered one of Iran's "Grade A" universities by Iranian Ministry of Science. The campus today has 276 acres (1.12 km2) and houses 13 colleges. In 2010, 4798 students were enrolled.In 1982 the university was renamed to "Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz" to commemorate Mostafa Chamran.

In 1986, under national legislation, the Schools of Medicine, Health, Dental, Nursing, and Pharmacy, separated off into an independent Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, operated under the supervision of the new Ministry of Health and Medical Education.

Translation Movement

The Arabic translation movement was a widely supported movement under Islamic ruling that resulted in the translation of materials from various different languages to Arabic. It successfully formed an overlap of civilizations and established new cultural and political maps. Islamic rulers contributed to the movement in several ways, including the creation of translation classes to organize its flow of throughout the different periods of the Islamic Empire.The translation movement played a significant role in the development of Arab scientific knowledge, as many scientific theories had emerged from different origins.

Later, Western culture was introduced to the preserved Arabic translated collections because majority of their original scripts were lost.

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