Schola Medica Salernitana, Miniature, Avicenna’s Canons
A renowned center of Jewish learning, Oria was the hometown of Shabbetai Donnolo, considered one of the founders of modern medicine. Born in Oria in 913, Donnolo was captured by Saracen raiders at the age of 12. Ransomed by relatives, Shabbetai Donnolo spent the rest of his life in southern Italy. He studied medicine, pharmacology, astronomy, and astrology. He was well versed in Talmud and knew Hebrew, Aramaic, Italian, Greek, and Latin.
It appears that Donnolo was the first to write about medicine in Christian Europe. His work, Sefer HaMirkachot, “the Book of Remedies” is a summary of his forty years of medical experience. He included more than 100 remedies with specific instructions for making the compounds. It does not appear that he was familiar with Arab medicine because he made no mention of it in his work.
His medical reputation has overshadowed his cosmological writings, the most important of which is his Sefer Hakhmoni. As pharmacy and medicine in the tenth century were inextricably interwoven with astrology and cosmology, Donnolo set out his idea of a divinely created universe, with man in the image of God, based on a synthesis of contemporary thought. Donnolo wrote in Hebrew, which was very unusual for his time. He died in 982, respected and honored for his contributions to medicine.
Other important scholars from Oria are Hananeel ben Amittai, Shefatiah ben Amittai, Rabbi Haima’az, and the poet Amittai ben Shefatiah, whose poems are still part of the liturgy of the Jewish Community of Rome and the chronicler Ahimaaz ben Paltiel.