Maimonides (Moshe ben Maimon), ca. 1137 - 1204

portrait of Maimonides
Nineteenth century drawing

Born: 14th of Nisan, 4895 (30 March 1135), C
Died: 12 December 1204, Fostat, Egypt

Maimonides is known by his Hebrew name, Moshe ben Maimon, an Arabic name I won't attempt here, a Greek name, Moses Maimonides, and is often referred to in Jewish works as the Rambam, an acronym based on Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon. Moshe's early years were lived under the enlightened and peaceful rule of the Moors but the Almohades came from Africa and conquered Córdoba in 1148, offering the Jewish community the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile. The Maimon family wandered in southern Spain for a time, settling at Fez, Morocco where Moshe studied at the University of Al-Karaouine. The family traveled in the Holy Land and then settled at Fostat, Egypt about 1168 and continued his studies at a Yeshiva at Cairo. When the Jews at Bilbays were ransomed by King Amalric, Moshe arranged the ransom and won their release, becoming the Nagid or prince of the Jews in Egypt. The family sent their son David to buy trade goods in Sudan but he found the offerings inadequate and sailed for India in search of better, when his ship sank Moshe was forced to become a physician. His skill caused him to rise to become court physician to Grand Vezier Alfadil and then the Sultan Saladin. His medical texts built on the work of Galen and added elements of Persian practice and were influential for many generations after his death. Between 1170 and 1180 he compiled the fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah, a legal code (Halakha) that was opposed by some critics but is still influential among Jewish scholars. In fact, it influenced the work of the Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas. His son Avraham succeeded him as both Nagid and court physician at age eighteen, the office of Nagid remained in the family for four generations.

Biography from Wikipedia and Jewish Virtual Library

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