The hostility of their enemies has rendered the reconstruction of the ideas and opinions of the Methodists difficult, but there can be little doubt as to the extent of their success and importance in the first and second centuries of the Roman Empire. The achievements of their rivals who favoured humoral theories are even more difficult to establish, for precisely the opposite reason. The suffocating friendship of Galen has tended to subsume all who agreed with him under the banner of Hippocrates and to imply that all were united in resisting the novelties of the Methodists and the Empiricists. Differences are downplayed, and Galen's precursors are rarely allowed to speak for themselves, even to be contradicted. Galen's egocentric rhetoric disguises his debts to his teachers, and developments within Hippocratism, so that it is often difficult to gain a comprehensive picture of what later medical writers called the Dogmatist viewpoint. Historians have until recently had to make do with a meagre collection of fragments in Greek and a handful of treatises, but the rediscovery of more writings of Rufus of Ephesus in Arabic translation, as well as others by Galen himself, has allowed a better understanding of Galen's place within the humoral tradition. He no longer appears so isolated as he claimed to be, and several of his striking medical methodologies can be seen to have been inherited from his teachers or from his immediate predecessors. At the same time, a clearer picture emerges of the ways in which doctors who did not believe in corpuscular theories but in humours applied them to medicine.
Among the most influential rivals of the Methodists of the first and second centuries were the Pneumatists, so called because they placed great emphasis on pneuma, or spirit, as the controlling factor in health and disease. 1 A passage preserved only in later translations of a work by Galen reveals that their founder, Athenaeus of Attaleia (S.W. Turkey), was a pupil of a certain Posidonius. 2 If this is the famous Stoic philosopher and scientist Posidonius of Apamea, and if Galen meant that Athenaeus actually sat at his feet (neither hypothesis is entirely proven), the sect would have been founded in the last century BC, and perhaps as early as 60 BC. 3 But neither Pliny nor Celsus refers to it, and, where dates can be assigned with confidence to its most famous adherents, none can be shown to have flourished before the middle years of the first century AD.