The Banu Musa

Born in 9th century Persia, these three sons of a famous highwayman turned court astrologer of Caliph al-Mamun became famous for their contributions to engineering, astronomy and mathematics in Baghdad’s House of Wisdom. All three trained under the polymath Yahya bin Abu Mansur, they individually and collectively contributed several texts to its library.

The eldest brother, Abu Ja’far Muhammad wrote primarily about celestial mechanics and astronomy – he may have secretly been an unGifted sahir of the House of Stars.

* Book on the Motion of the Orbs, a Quality 8 tractatus on Philosophiae proving that celestial objects followed the same physical laws as earthly objects in contrast to earlier teachings.

* Astral Motion and The Force of Attraction, paired works that when read together act as a Quality 8 tractati each on Artes Liberales (Astronomy) and Philosophiae.

* Premises of the Book of Conics is a commentary, Quality 9 on Artes Liberales (geometry) written on Apollonius of Perga’s summa Conics.

The youngest brother al-Hasan wrote primarily on mundane geometry and mathematics:

* The Book of the Measurement of Plane and Spherical Figures, arguably the most famous work of the brothers, deals with problems similar to those contained in Archimedes’ works On the Measurement of the Circle and On the Sphere and the Cylinder. It is a summa, Level 3, Quality 10 on Artes Liberales (geometry).

* The Elongated Circular Figure is a tractatus, Level 10 on Artes Liberales (geometry).

The works of the middle brother, Ahmad, are of special interest to magi interested in automata and mechanics. Reputedly a Gifted scholar with the Mechanica of Heron Virtue rather than a sahir, copies of Ahmad’s works are a potential source of Insight for magi researching Heron’s lost art (see Ancient Magic, pages XXX).

* Kitab al-Hiyal, (The Book of Ingenious Devices). A summa on Craft: Mechanism and Mechanica of Heron, equivalent to Level 4, Quality 6 published in Arabic in 850 at the orders of the Caliph al-Ma’mum. This text describes describes over a hundred mechanical devices, some of which resemble or duplicate Heron’s devices. Drawing on various original Greek texts and predominantly written by Ahmad, the original text is an incorrupt work detailing the lost art of the Alexandrian mechanicians. Gifted characters who do not already have a Major Supernatural Virtue or the Hermetic Arts opened can the Mechanica of Heron Virtue after a season of study. Unfortunately, although other Arabic and Persian copies of this work exist, the majority are corrupted and are useful only as a source on the mundane Craft: Mechanism Ability. Notably translated into corrupted Latin copies by Gerard of Cremona in the late 12th century. It is often confused with the late twelfth century work of al-Jazari, the Kitáb fí ma’rifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya (Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices).

* On Mechanics, also by Ahmad, is equivalent to a pair of tractatui, Quality 6 on both Craft: Mechanism and Mechanica of Heron dealing with various pneumatic devices. Numerous corrupted copies can be found in libraries throughout the Islamic world.

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