Abbasid Caliphate

House of Wisdom
Scholars at an Abbasid library. Maqamat of al-Hariri Illustration ©Yahya ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti
830 Jan 1

House of Wisdom

Baghdad, Iraq

Al-Mansur founded a palace library modeled after the Sassanian Imperial Library, and provided economic and political support to the intellectuals working there. He also invited delegations of scholars from India and other places to share their knowledge of mathematics and astronomy with the new Abbasid court.

In the Abbasid Empire, many foreign works were translated into Arabic from Greek, Chinese, Sanskrit, Persian and Syriac. The Translation Movement gained great momentum during the reign of caliph al-Rashid, who, like his predecessor, was personally interested in scholarship and poetry. Originally the texts concerned mainly medicine, mathematics and astronomy but other disciplines, especially philosophy, soon followed. Al-Rashid's library, the direct predecessor to the House of Wisdom, was also known as Bayt al-Hikma or, as the historian Al-Qifti called it, Khizanat Kutub al-Hikma (Arabic for "Storehouse of the Books of Wisdom").