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Ancient University of Gundi-Shapur

A brief history of the ancient university of Gundi-Shapur

The scientific movement in Gundi-Shapur  began since the reign of Shapur I in 250 AD. Soon after, thousands of books, manuscripts and stone inscriptions were transferred to libraries at the behest of the Sasanian king. This was in fact the basis of the subsequent scientific and cultural movements in Gundi-Shapur .

The clash between Western and Eastern science in Gundi-Shapur , during the reign of Shapur II (330-382 AD) marked one of the greatest scientific events of its time. The University of Gundi-Shapur  prospered in all scientific fields in the very half century time with the help of Iranian Zorostrian priests, scientists, and physicians as well as the guidance of Greek, Syriac, Nestorian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese and Jewish scholars, philosophers, and physicians. This place was home not only to researchers and scholars from the vast land of Iran, but also to any scholar of any race, religion, or country. In Gundi-Shapur , the Eastern philosophy, medicine and science merged with the Western philosophy and Hippocratic (Greek) medicine leading to the birth of new scientific fields appropriately deemed as the underlying cornerstone for the greatness of Gundi-Shapur ’s future in 531-650 AD. Gundi-Shapur  School of Medicine and the affiliated organizations thereof in the half-century-long reign of Shapur II (330 to 382 AD) bore the title of one of the most productive medical centers in the world. Under Khosro Anushirvan’s rule, the scientific movement in the schools of medicine, mathematics, geometry, trigonometry, astronomy, philosophy, and other related disciplines, as well as the library science, had grown to such an extent that the university became the largest scientific organization in the world. The fields of Western philosophy and wisdom and Eastern mysticism were elaborated so much that the university could sustain its greatness well after 900 AD, enriching other subsequent Islamic scientific fields. 

Following a number of important historical, political, economic and cultural events and the fact that they hosted several great scientists from various nationalities, including Nestorians, Greeks, and Indians, Gundi-Shapur  University and its hospital achieved a remarkable growth and prosperity, especially in the field of medicine. As a result, many physicians could be trained and lots of book on medicine and pharmacology could be written and translated. However, the university slowly declined in the early years of the rise of Islam due to a vast migration of scholars to the land of Islam, the attention it received from the Abbasid caliphs, the construction of Baghdad's Beitol-hakma, and the transfer of Gundi-Shapur 's experiences to Baghdad, though other reasons such as political movements and the chaos caused by wars exacerbated the condition. The historical evolution of engineering sciences and technologies shows that after the emigration of scientists to Baghdad, these technologies were introduced to Europe by Muslims through Africa and Spain, which might have led to the renaissance in Europe. The university’s glorious services continue to shine in the human society and the Islamic culture and civilization in general, and still serve as a model for Islamic and Iranian scholars in particular.