Peter of Abano (Petrus de Abano)(1250-1318)

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Peter of Abano (Petrus de Abano)(1250-1318)

Famous medieval philosopher, mathematician, and astrologer who also wrote treatises on magic. He was born in Abano, near Padua, and became a learned scholar. He traveled widely, visiting France, Sardina, and Constantinople, and he once met the famous traveler Marco Polo, from whom he obtained information on Asia. During his travels he also discovered one of the lost books of Aristotle and translated it into Latin.

He practiced medicine in Paris with success and became rich, but his wealth and attainments were annulled by the accusation of sorcery brought against him. He was said to receive instruction in the seven liberal arts from seven spirits that he kept in crystal vessels. Other rumors claimed that he had the curious and useful ability to make the money he spent to return to his own purse.

An act of revenge, for which he was called to account by the Inquisition, brought about his downfall. A neighbor of his had been possessed of a spring of excellent water in his garden, from which he allowed Peter to drink at will. For some reason, the permission was withdrawn, and it was claimed that with the assistance of the devil, Peter caused the water to leave the garden and flow uselessly in some distant street.

The unfortunate physician died before his trial was finished, but the inquisitors were so bitter that they ordered his bones to be dug up and burned. This public indignity to his memory was averted by some of his friends, who, hearing of the vindictive sentence, secretly removed the remains from the burying-ground where they lay. The inquisitors satisfied their animosity by burning him in effigy.

Peter had a considerable literary output. He translated the astrological work Nativities by Abraham Aben Ezra, and wrote books on physiognomy, geomancy, prophecy, and the practice of occult magic.


Seligman, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948. Reprined as: Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books, 1971.