Academy of gundishapur

Coordinates: 32°17′N 48°31′E / 32.283°N 48.517°E / 32.283; 48.517 The Academy of Gondishapur (in Modern Persian: دانشگاه گندی‌شاپور‎, Dânešgâh-e Gondišâpur), was a renowned academy of learning in the city of Gundeshapur, Iran during late antiquity, the intellectual center of the Sasanian Empire. It offered training in medicine, philosophy, theology and science. The faculty were versed in the Zoroastrian and 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.[1]


Gondishapur was founded in the 3th century by Shapur I, and greatly expanded during the reign of Shapur II.[2]

In 489 AD, the Nestorian theological and scientific center in Edessa was ordered closed by the Byzantine emperor Zeno, and transferred itself to become the School of Nisibis,[3] also known as "Nisibīn, then under Persian rule with its secular faculties at Gundishapur, Khuzestan. Here, scholars, together with Pagan 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 (531-579 AD), called Anushiravan literally "Immortal Soul" and known to the Greeks and Romans as Chosroes, that Gondeshapur became known for medicine and erudition. Khosrau I gave refuge to various Greek philosophers, Syriac-speaking Christians and 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.

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

Anushiravan 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.

An East Syrian monastery was established in the city of Gondishapur sometime before 376/7. By the sixth century the city became famed for its theological school were 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]

Significance of Gondeshapur

[T]o a very large extent, the credit for the whole hospital system must be given to Persia.[6]
—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.[7]

Gondeshapur under Muslim rule

In 832 AD, Caliph al-Ma'mūn founded the famous House of Wisdom. There the methods of Gundishapur 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.[8]

Famous physicians of Gondeshapur

Modern Gondeshapur

Under the Pahlavi dynasty, the heritage of Gondeshapur was memorialized by the founding of the Jondishapour University and its twin institution Jondishapur University of Medical Sciences, near the city of Ahvaz in 1959.

The latter-day Jondishapour 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.[9]

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

Syriac Christianity portal



  • The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 4, ISBN 0-521-20093-8
  • Dols, Michael W. "The origins of the Islamic hospital: myth and reality": 1987, 61: 367-90; review by: 1987, 61: 661-62
  • 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

  • Medicine in ancient Iran
  • Jondishapur according to Ahvaz University
  • Gundishapur according to jazirehdanesh(In Persian)
  • imam khomeini hospital(Gundishapur medical center)
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