Medicine and the Making of Roman Women: Gender, Nature, and Authority from Celsus to Galen

By Rebecca Flemming | Go to book overview

1
The Social and Cultural
Formation of Roman Medicine

THE multiple strands of the historical record furnish an impressive array of persons and institutions to whom individuals in the Roman imperial world might turn if they deemed their state of health or somatic functioning to be in need of attention. There were diverse physicians, both male and female (

/iatroi and /iatrinai in Greek, media and medicae in Latin); midwives (/maiai and obstetrices); medical attendants and trainers (, usually latinized as iatraliptae;or just , rendered as aliptae; and also / gymnastai); root-cutters, herbalists, and other dealers in medical materials (/rhizotomoi and herbarii); various workers in magic (, latinized as magi); astrologers (, latinized as mathematici); dream-interpreters (/ oneirokritai, who seem to have no real Latin equivalent); a number of old women (/graes and aniles); and, in a rather different class, numerous temples and sanctuaries with their own personnel. Roman society, or at least parts of it, vested in each of these groups of practitioners the authority to intervene in a medical context, and designated certain religious sites as points of access to divine intervention in the same healing context, recognizing in all the activities they enacted or accommodated, different aspects of the cultural understandings of health and the workings of the body, and of illness and cure.

These are the persons (and places) involved in Roman medical practice, but it is not clear that they should all be described as medical practitioners per se. While the media, obstetrices, iatraliptae, and herbarii are all principally concerned, however broadly and diversely, with matters of health, as medicine is their business, for the magi, mathematici, oneirokritai, and, somewhat differently, the aniles, health counts as only one of many concerns they may address, as

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