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

By Rebecca Flemming | Go to book overview

2
A Rough Guide to the
Conceptual World of
Roman Medicine

IN the Roman world, then, the medical art was a practical and discursive formation constituted, according to its goal, within a certain set of social and economic relations. It was a discourse and praxis concerned with, and marshalled towards, the attainment and maintenance of human health, encompassing whatever was deemed to be requisite to that end, together with an assortment of criteria, varied in form and content, for judging that requisiteness. Some description and analysis of what was thus encompassed, of the domain of knowledge textually presented as appropriate to the goal of medicina (or iatrikē) during the period under scrutiny here, of its organizational principles, its basic concepts, and modes of articulation, is now necessary in order to support the kind of detailed examination of this domain’s female subjects which is to come. For the medical woman needs to be understood as a product of, and productive within, her ideative as well as more strictly social context, needs to be understood as fully caught up in this wider discursive web. It is the basis for this deeper understanding which this chapter seeks to provide. Since it is a segment of the Roman imperial era—roughly its first two centuries—that is at issue, this survey will be more synchronic than diachronic. The material is arranged in an internal order that is more contemporaneous than developmental—though medical discourse is historically cumulative, and Roman medici and iatroi clearly identified themselves as part of various medical traditions, so a certain amount of temporal depth will be required.

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