9

ALEXANDRIA, ANATOMY AND EXPERIMENTATION

Few episodes in the history of ancient medicine have been so well studied as the rise and development of human anatomy in the first half of the third century BC. 1 Herophilus and Erasistratus are rightly famous for their pioneering investigations, which for the first time in the Western tradition of medicine revealed many of the hidden structures of the human body. 2 But this concentration solely or even largely upon the achievements of these two men in anatomy and physiology is not without its dangers. There is a tendency to forget that their dissections were performed within the wider pattern of their activity as physicians, and, even more, that what might be termed investigative or experimental anatomy based on human beings was carried out only for a limited period and in a limited area. 3 Although anatomical demonstration by means of a skeleton or surface musculature continued longer in medical teaching, especially at Alexandria, anatomical experimentation, whether using humans or animals, seems to have died out well before the end of the third century BC and not to have been revived until the late first or early second century AD. 4 When discussions of anatomical and, especially, physiological phenomena appear in later Hellenistic texts, they are largely, if not entirely, based either on chance observation or on the data provided by these early anatomists. The achievements of Herophilus, Erasistratus and the less familiar Eudemus thus mark not only the beginning of Greek human anatomy but also, paradoxically, its ending, leaving historians to account for its restricted temporal and geographical development.

As we have seen, the second half of the fourth century BC saw a vigorous interest in describing and interpreting a wide range of diverse natural phenomena. Aristotle and his followers, to say nothing of Diocles, had dissected animals, birds and fishes to gain a wider understanding of the world of nature, while Praxagoras' investigations into and speculations about the pulse led to further consideration of the physiological processes within the body. 5 Euenor, an Acarnanian doctor resident in Athens in the 320s, is said to have called the horns of the uterus the 'coils', although whether this was as a result of animal dissection or his experience with difficult births is far from clear. 6 The theories of these medical thinkers were elaborated with the aid of reason, but within a new epistemological space, that of the visible. 7 The influence of

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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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