The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire

Hardcover | June 12, 2013

bySusan P. Mattern

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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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From the Publisher

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 thi...

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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Paperback|Mar 3 2004

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Kobo ebook|May 24 2013

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:June 12, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019976767X

ISBN - 13:9780199767670

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Customer Reviews of The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Focussed and Informative In this book, the author recounts the life of Galen of Pergamum, a polymath and one of the most influential figures of Western medicine; he lived during what is usually accepted as the peak period of the Roman Empire, i.e., mainly the second century CE. The author focuses largely on Galen’s formative years as a physician and on his lengthy career in practicing medicine and conducting medical research. The animosity among various physician groups/philosophies of the era is very well illustrated. The author frequently describes various patients’ conditions and Galen’s approach towards treating them – with a rather amazing success rate. However, only infrequently does she mention whether there is any actual effectiveness in these treatments beyond the placebo effect. Although not all medical terms used in the text are defined for the non-expert reader like me, I did not find this to be a problem generally. The text is detailed and contains extensive references. Along the way, the reader learns of how people lived and what illnesses were common during those ancient times, especially in Imperial Rome. I found the author’s writing style to be rather formal and scholarly yet quite captivating. Because of the many medical/technical terms used, the book should appeal the most to serious medical history enthusiasts and physicians/health care professionals. However, non-experts can still glean quite a bit of fascinating information from this book and thoroughly enjoy it; I certainly did.
Date published: 2014-01-08

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Rancid Cheese1. Pergamum2. Learning Medicine3. The Gladiators4. Rome5. Anatomy, and Boethus6. Marcus Aurelius, and the Plague7. The FireAppendix: Abbreviations of Galen's WorksBibliographyMapsIndex