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Leo Africanus

arabic, tunis and africa

LEO AFRICANUS (known variously as JOHANNES LEO; JUAN LEO; GIOVANNI Lao, Or LEONE; ELIBERITANUS ; and, among the Moors, as AL HASSAN IBN MAHOM MED AL WEZAZ AL FASO , Moorish traveler and geographer: b. probably Granada, about 1485 or 1494; d. Tunis, about 1552. He came of a noble Moorish fam ily, was educated at Fez, and as early as 1512 he traveled in Morocco, Tunis, Bugia and Con stantine. He traveled in the Sudan and Sahara regions in • later visited Constantinople, passing through Egypt, and afterward visited the three Arabias, Armenia and aTartary" (probably Tabriz). He also ascended the Nile from Cairo to Assuan. In 1517 or 1520, on his return journey by sea from Egypt, he was cap tured by pirates and eventually presented as a slave to Pope Leo X. The pontiff soon learned of his captive's wide explorations, bestowed a pension upon him, converted him to Christianity and stood sponsor at his baptism, giving him his own name. The captive, known as Leo Africanus, acquired Latin and Greek, and in turn taught Arabic, Cardinal Egidio Antonio being numbered among his pupils. At the sug

gestion of the Pope he wrote his 'Description of Africa.' The work is stated originally to have been written in Arabic, but that manu script is lost. However, the author himself wrote an Italian version (1526) which still ex ists. It was printed by G. B. Ramusio (1550), and for long was regarded as the best author ity on Africa. He returned to Tunis some time after the death of the Pope. Of his other writ ings, his poems, a Spanish Arabic glossary and a collection of Arabic epitaphs are lost. There remains his 'De viris quibusdam illustribus spud Arabes' (consult Fabricius, (•ibliotheca Gra.ca,) Vol. XIII, 259-298, Hamburg 1726). The 'Descrizione dell' Affrioa' was published in French by Jean Temporal (Lyons 1556) ; in German by Lorsbach (1805) ; in English by Francis Moore in 'Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa' (1738). Several Latin editions and English translations thereof are highly in accurate.