Melancholia in medieval Persian literature: The view of Hidayat of Al-Akhawayni

Melancholia by Albrecht Dürer

Melancholia by Albrecht DürerMelancholia in medieval Persian literature: The view of Hidayat of Al-Akhawayni

By Behnam Dalfardi, Hassan Yarmohammadi, and Ahmad Ghanizadeh

World Journal of Psychiatry, Vol.4:2 (2014)

Abstract: “Melancholia” seems to be the oldest term used to describe the manifestations of depression. Throughout the history of medicine, melancholia has been the focus of consideration of many scholars who have provided varying definitions of this disorder and its manifestations. This continual process has resulted in the gradual development of the concept of melancholia over time. Persian scholars were among the scientists who have studied the melancholia and contributed to its concept. One figure, Al-Akhawayni Bukhari (?-983 AD), a Persian physician whose reputation was based on the treatment of patients with mental problems, investigated this disorder. He described Melancholia and explained its clinical manifestations and treatment methods. Al-Akhawayni provided an early classification of the patients suffering from this disorder. Since the medieval Persian concept of melancholia is not well-known, this paper aims to review Al-Akhawayni’s 10th century knowledge on melancholia which can represent the early concept of this disorder in the Near East.

Introduction: Melancholia has a long-standing history. A Swiss literary critic, Jean Starobinski (born in 1920), in his book entitled “Geschichte der Melancholie Behandlung von den Anfängen bis 1900” (The History of the Treatment of Melancholia From the Beginnings to 1900) and was published in 1960, estimated that this disorder traces its history back to the time of Homer (8th century BC). This disorder is among the neuropsychiatric concepts that Persian scholars, especially those who lived during the “Golden Age of Islamic Medicine” (9th-12th centuries AD) which was the era of medicine flowering in the Islamic civilization, noted and contributed to its development.

During this aforementioned time period, works of several Persian scholars, such as Rhazes (865-925 AD), Haly Abbas (949-982 AD), Avicenna (980-1037 AD), and Jurjani (1042-1137 AD) contributed to the development of various branches of medicine, including neuropsychiatric concepts. These works later affected European medicine.

Click here to read this article from the World Journal of Psychiatry

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!