• Nature in the books of seven metals – Ǧābirian corpus in dialogue with ancient Greek philosophy and Byzantine alchemy –
  • Watanabe, Masayo <1988>


  • M-STO/05 Storia della scienza e delle tecniche


  • The Ǧābirian corpus was a receiver of ancient Greek ideas and, at the same time, a source of knowledge for the later Greek-speaking world, in particular for medieval Byzantine alchemy. Both aspects are explored in the dissertation with respect to the notion of nature. After a general introduction to the Corpus and the sciences described in it, particular attention is devoted to a Byzantine anonymous text, The Work of Four Elements, which was probably influenced by the Ǧābirian Books of Seventy. These texts exemplify how, in the theory of the Ǧābirian science, things are constructed from four natures (hot, cold, moist and dry), the balance of which defines what a thing is. By changing the balance of natures, one can transmute any metals into gold that is perfectly proportioned in terms of natures. Ǧābir presents the art of dyeing metals gold in the Books of Seven Metals which, along with chrysopoetic recipes, also include medical recipes and theoretical contents such as the theories of four humours, properties, and talismans. Moreover, Ǧābir postulated a substrate that does not change in itself and continues to exist when natures move in and out of things. Such primary existence is called the fifth nature as an additional principle to the four natures. This key concept for the Ǧābirian theory, which has been underexplored so far, is discussed through the textual and critical analysis of various unedited sources: the Books of Seven Metals and the Book of the Fifth Nature. This study confirms that the fifth nature was probably derived from ancient Greek philosophical concepts such as the Empedoclean particles, the Aristotelian fifth element and the Stoic pneuma. Thus, this research indicates the importance of the Ǧābirian corpus both in the history of alchemy and the history of philosophy.


  • 2023-02-17


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Watanabe, Masayo (2023) Nature in the books of seven metals – Ǧābirian corpus in dialogue with ancient Greek philosophy and Byzantine alchemy –, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Philosophy, science, cognition, and semiotics (pscs) , 35 Ciclo.