In 13th-century Toledo, King Alfonso the Wise fostered the publication of Castilian translations of certain Arabic works that had in turn been translated from Greek and Pehlvi. In this book, which is the revised English version of the Spanish original published under the title of Modelos griegos de la sabiduría castellana y europea, the author studies four of these Castilian translations – the Libro de los Buenos Proverbios, Poridad de las Poridades or Secreto de secretos, Bocados de Oro and Historia de la Donzella Teodor – works of sapiential literature that had an enormous influence in all of Europe. Their Arabic models had been translated from Greek in Bagdad at the instigation of the great caliphs of the 9th century and also in the Fatamid court at Cairo in the 11th century.
The traditional view is that this literature is simply of oriental origin, but the author believes that the models were Greek Byzantine works discovered by the Arabs in Syria and Egypt in the 7th and 8th centuries. Their true origin is to be found in the Greek sapiential literature that developed around the figures of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Alexander in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine schools of philosophy; its influence can frequently be found reflected in authors of Christian literature. A detailed study of themes, vocabulary and expressions in the works themselves confirms these origins.