Greek and Roman Medicine (HS3372)

Greek and Roman Medicine
Laurence M.V. Totelin
Cardiff University
Lecture Outline
• The Hippocratic Oath: an unusual
• Healers in the market place
• Secular and religious medicine
• Note: Greek and ‘Roman’ medicine
Hippocrates and the Hippocratic Oath
• Very little information about
Hippocrates – some
information in the works of
Plato and Aristotle
• Hippocratic Corpus:
– Collection of more or less
60 texts
– Written by various authors
– Written in a variety of
– Deal with various medical
– Grouped under the name of
Hippocrates of Cos
Asclepius arrives at Cos, Cos, C2-C3 CE
– Most texts written end fifth
century BCE or fourth
century BCE
The Oath
• Context of the Oath is
• Not all physicians at the
time of Hippocrates agreed
with the principles of the
• Structure: invocation of the
gods – covenant – duties –
rewards and punishments
• The limits of technē
Papyrus fragment of the Oath,
3rd century CE
The physician, iatros/medicus
• No official training
• Importance of finding a good
• Itinerant physicians
• A few famous physicians
– Erasistratus and
Herophilus (third century
– Galen (second-third
Erasistratus discovers Antiochus is in love
century CE)
– Oribasius (fourth century with his stepmother Stratonice by examining
his pulse. Engraving after P. de Cortona 1772
– Aetius (sixth century CE)
• Dietetic medicine
• A life between Pergamum
and Rome
• An imperial career
• 434 titles, of which 350 at
least at really by Galen
– Extremely varied in topics
– Writings for beginners and
for more advanced learners
• The best physician is a
• The four humours
Asclepeion of Pergamum
The female physician and midwife
• Midwives are conspicuously
absent from the Hippocratic
• Socrates’ mother; Phanostrate
• Story of Agnodice and
• Soranus’ perfect midwife
• References to female healers in
Martial and Juvenal
• Galen’s competition against
the midwives
• Midwives and female healers:
epigraphic evidence
Tombstone of a medica from Metz,
C1 CE (?), CIL 13.4334
Stele of Phanostrate (Athens, fourth century BCE)
Phanostrate, midwife
(maia) and physician
(iatros), lies here at rest.
She caused pain to none,
and her death was
lamented by all.
Tombstone of Scribonia (1st century AD)
Ostia tomb 100
The surgeon
• Most surgery performed by
• But some physicians
specialised as surgeons
• Specialised surgeons existed
(specialising in eye-diseases; in
cutting for the stone)
• Need for a steady and fast
• Charlatans
A cylindrical case, Pompeii,
first century CE (Majno)
Surgical instruments found at Pompeii, now kept at the Naples
National Archaeological Museum
Extracting weapons
Fresco from Pompei representing
Iapex extracting an arrow from the
thigh of Aeneas
Setting bones and reducing fractures
Apollonius, Nicetas Codex
The pharmacologist
• The root-cutters (rhizotomoi),
e.g.Cratevas the root-cutter
• The drug-sellers
• Patients preparing their own
= drug (remedy)
= drug (poison)
= potion, philtre, charm
Herbal, 2nd century CE
Fragment of an illustrated herbal,
consisting of a treatise on the
medical properties of plants.
The Johnson papyrus (c. 400 CE)
The ‘Vienna
offered to Anicia
Juliana in 512 CE
Religion and healing in the ancient world
• Misleading to talk
about ‘healing gods’
as a distinct category
• The spread of the cult
of Asclepius
• Incubation and forms
of religious healing
• A unique witness:
Aelius Aristides
Epidaurus – sanctuary of Asclepius
‘Secular’ and ‘religious’ healing: conflict or
• The Hippocratic Oath
and the gods
• Areas of overlap
• Dedications by
physicians at temples
of Asclepius
• Physicians =
Votive relief from the Asclepion at Athens
• Medicine in the ancient world: a ‘market
place’ (Vivian Nutton)
• No official medical qualifications – the
importance of apprenticeship
• Overlap and collaboration between
‘secular’ and ‘religious’ healers

similar documents