10

HELLENISTIC MEDICINE

To devote a chapter to the history of medicine in the Hellenistic Greek world, apart from anatomy and the coming of Greek medicine to Rome, might be thought unduly quixotic. Few original treatises survive, a situation characteristic of Greek literature of this period in general. The very success of Hellenistic scholars in commending as models the writings of earlier Greek historians, poets and orators militated against their own survival. What followed the Golden Age came to be seen as degenerate, lacking in originality or serious purpose, produced by ivory-towered pedants, akin to twittering birds in a cage and about as useful. 1 In philosophy, the later triumphs of Aristotelianism and (neo-)Platonism left little space for their opponents, the Epicureans and Stoics. 2 In medicine, Galenism emphasised the link with Hippocrates at the expense of other theoretical developments in the Hellenistic world, and, since what later writers thought the most significant results of the work of Hellenistic pharmacologists and surgeons could be easily incorporated into more up-to-date treatises, there was little reason to preserve the original books themselves. The literary remains of Hellenistic medicine have thus to be reconstructed almost entirely from the fragments preserved by others, with the constant dangers of deformation and misunderstanding. The traditional skills of the philologist, the precise decipherment and interpretation of an ancient text, must be exercised on material that rarely allows certainty.

Yet from a different perspective this historical enterprise takes on a less gloomy aspect. Although many details are inevitably gone beyond recovery, new trends, new developments and new opportunities can be discerned, without which the history of later Graeco-Roman medicine cannot properly be understood. New types of evidence begin to appear in abundance, notably the Egyptian papyri and the inscriptions set up in cities around the Greek world, especially in Asia Minor. If for the fifth and fourth centuries we are largely dependent for our information on medical treatises, speeches, histories and plays, the balance shifts in the Hellenistic period towards the non-literary evidence. No one city dominates; even Alexandrian medicine takes on a different appearance when viewed from a town several hundreds of miles up the Nile valley. Nor is there a block of contemporary material, like the

-140-

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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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