The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire by Susan P. Mattern

By Susan P. Mattern

Galen of Pergamum (A.D. 129 - ca. 216) started his striking profession tending to wounded gladiators in provincial Asia Minor. Later in existence he accomplished nice contrast as one in every of a small circle of court docket physicians to the relations of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, on the very center of Roman society. Susan Mattern's The Prince of Medicine deals the 1st authoritative biography in English of this tremendous, audacious, and profoundly influential determine.

Like many Greek intellectuals residing within the excessive Roman Empire, Galen was once a prodigious polymath, writing on topics as diverse as ethics and eczema, grammar and gout. certainly, he used to be (as he claimed) as very popular in his lifetime for his philosophical works as for his clinical treatises. in spite of the fact that, it really is for medication that he's such a lot remembered this present day, and from the later Roman Empire throughout the Renaissance, clinical schooling was once established principally on his works. Even as much as the 20th century, he remained the one so much influential determine in Western drugs. but he was once a sophisticated person, packed with breathtaking vanity, shameless self-promotion, and lacerating wit. He used to be fiercely aggressive, as soon as disemboweling a dwell monkey and tough the physicians in attendance to properly substitute its organs. Relentless in his pursuit of something that may treatment the sufferer, he insisted on rigorous remark and, occasionally, bold experimentation. Even confronting one among history's so much terrible events--a devastating outbreak of smallpox--he persisted, bearing sufferer witness to its predations, 12 months after 12 months.

The Prince of Medicine supplies us Galen as he lived his lifestyles, within the urban of Rome at its apex of energy and decadence, between his buddies, his competitors, and his sufferers. It deals a deeply human and long-overdue portrait of 1 of historic history's most important and fascinating figures.

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Extra resources for The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire

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We can hazard a modern explanation of happened in the case of this patient. He probably suffered from gout; in advanced cases, uric acid crystals form deposits in the joints and over time can cause severe debility. Large accretions of crystals in the hands and feet are sometimes called “chalkstones” today. 1 It is inevitable that, reading Galen’s anecdotes from so long ago, we will refocus them through the lens of our own, very different ideas and experience, and in some places I have helped the reader to do this.

We fail to appreciate the extent to which Galen’s works are grounded in his life and in his practice, in what he observed, experienced, dared, performed, and accomplished. The Galen of this biography is a tireless interrogator of nature, an attentive inquisitor of patients and reader of diagnostic clues, a ruthless critic of ideas unsupported by experience, skeptical of nearly all received medical knowledge, and an aggressive and competitive public figure. When Vesalius used dissection to disprove many of Galen’s assertions about anatomy and then mercilessly skewered the followers of his remote predecessor for their mistakes, he was imitating the very methods that Galen had delighted in hundreds of years before.

Galen’s life can offer us this perspective. This is the story of a brilliant and driven, privileged and highly educated, but otherwise normal person practicing normal science on normal people. My main emphasis is not on Galen’s ideas, but on his life. I close this preface with a note on Galen’s personality; for ever since antiquity, one cannot write biography without consideration of the moral example set by one’s subject, nor disregard the historian’s traditional obligation of assigning praise and blame.

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