The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire

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Oxford University Press, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 334 pages
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The remarkable career of Galen of Pergamum (A.D. 129 - 216) began as a provincial medic tending to wounded gladiators in Asia Minor. It ended at the very heart of Roman power as one of a small circle of court physicians to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Susan Mattern's The Prince of Medicineoffers the first authoritative biography of this brilliant, audacious, and profoundly influential figure. Like many Greek intellectuals living in the high Roman Empire, Galen was a prodigious polymath, writing on subjects as varied as ethics and eczema, grammar and gout. Indeed, he was highly regarded in his lifetime as much for his philosophical works as for his medical treatises, and his writings,published in twenty-two volumes, comprise fully one-eighth of all surviving classical Greek literature. From the later Roman Empire through the Renaissance, medical education would be based primarily on his works. Even up to the twentieth century, he would remain the single most influential figurein western medicine. Mattern presents a Galen possessed of breathtaking arrogance, fierce competitiveness (he once disemboweled a live monkey and challenged the physicians in attendance to correctly replace its organs), shameless self-promotion, and lacerating wit. Not just caustic and polemical,mocking his enemies and hurling abuse at them, Galen was also a brilliant critical thinker and rhetorical strategist. He is also credited with being the first physician with a good bedside manner. Relentless in pursuit of anything that would cure the patient, he insisted on rigorous observation andexperiment. Even confronting one of human history's most horrific events - a devastating outbreak of smallpox - he persevered, bearing patient witness to its predations, year after year. Including intriguing character studies of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus (of Gladiator infamy), Galen's family and close friends, several of his patients, not a few of his rivals, and the city of Rome at its apex of power and decadence, The Prince of Medicine offers a deeply human and long-overdueportrait of one of ancient history's most significant and engaging figures.
 

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Contents

THE RANCID CHEESE
1
PERGAMUM
7
LEARNING MEDICINE
36
THE GLADIATORS
81
ROME
99
ANATOMY AND BOETHUS
139
MARCUS AURELIUS AND THE PLAGUE
187
GALEN AND HIS PATIENTS
224
THE FIRE
257
EAST AND WEST OR GALEN AND TWO DISCIPLES
279
Bibliography
291
Index
313
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About the author (2013)


Susan P. Mattern is Professor of History at the University of Georgia and the author of Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate, Galen and the Rhetoric of Healing, and (with Robin W. Winks) The Ancient Mediterranean World: From the Stone Age to A.D. 600.

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