16

GALENIC MEDICINE

Galen's injunctions on the correct way to practise medicine are ubiquitous. They range in length from a few lines to whole books, and are directed to patients and doctors of greater maturity and experience as well as to those embarking on a medical career. Their message, that one should follow Galen's advice and example as a Hippocratic physician, is constantly reinforced by instances of his successful intervention or of the failure of others. Time and again he emphasised that it was not enough simply to have read the right books and have gained a theoretical understanding of medicine: this must be supplemented by practical expertise, which reinforced, and was in turn reinforced by, philosophy. Indeed, his sympathies at times were far more with the approach of the Empiricists, with their store of practical information, than with those who put forward theories, however intellectually exciting, based on little or no acquaintance with the facts of medical life. 1 Galen strove for a unified art of medicine, in which the effective treatment of the sick depended on a profound understanding of the body coupled with a broad acquaintance with all types of therapy. Although he acknowledged the existence of specialists, particularly in big cities like Rome and Ephesus, the practitioners for whom he wrote were of necessity generalists and were required to know how all the constituent parts of the medical art came together. 2

At the base of Galen's medicine lay his conviction of the supreme importance of anatomy. An ignorant incision could easily result in the death of the patient, and a misunderstanding of the pathways of the nerves could delay or frustrate a cure. 3 But considerations of medical prudence and practical utility were only part of Galen's justification for anatomy. In his opinion, only through dissection could one gain a proper understanding of the organisation and workings of the body, in sickness and in health. To this end, he wrote a variety of treatises on anatomical themes, ranging from short elementary tracts on bones, nerves, veins, arteries and muscles to a big manual of dissection, Anatomical Procedures. 4 He repeated his conclusions in two other large treatises aimed at showing the value of anatomy for philosophers interested in the human body. In On the Use of Parts he discussed his discoveries in Aristotelian terms, whereas in On the Opinions of Hippocrates and Plato he defended Plato's ideas on physiology and

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Ancient Medicine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Note to the Reader ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • 1 - Sources and Scope 1
  • 2 - Patterns of Disease 19
  • 3 - Before Hippocrates 37
  • 4 - Hippocrates, the Hippocratic Corpus and the Defining of Medicine 53
  • 5 - Hippocratic Theories 72
  • 6 - Hippocratic Practices 87
  • 7 - Religion and Medicine in Fifth- and Fourth-Century Greece 103
  • 8 - From Plato to Praxagoras 115
  • 9 - Alexandria, Anatomy and Experimentation 128
  • 10 - Hellenistic Medicine 140
  • 11 - Rome and the Transplantation of Greek Medicine 157
  • 12 - The Consequences of Empire: Pharmacology, Surgery and the Roman Army 171
  • 13 - The Rise of Methodism 187
  • 14 - Humoral Alternatives 202
  • 15 - The Life and Career of Galen 216
  • 16 - Galenic Medicine 230
  • 17 - All Sorts and Conditions of (Mainly) Men 248
  • 18 - Medicine and the Religions of the Roman Empire 273
  • 19 - Medicine in the Later Roman Empire 292
  • 20 - Conclusion 310
  • Notes 317
  • Bibliography 419
  • Index of Names 465
  • Index of Topics 478
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