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Title: The medical profession in the Roman Empire from Augustus to Justinian
Author: Nutton, Vivian
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1970
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Abstract:
To write a social history of the Roman Empire which does justice to its variety is an almost impossible task and the brilliant essay of Rostovtseff has found few continuators. Historians have preferred to concentrate upon three approaches which must be combined in a general survey but which in a particular treatment can receive different emphases. A.H.M. Jones in his 'Later Roman Empire' attempted a chronologically restricted account: Meiggs and Levick have preferred to concentrate upon a particular city or area throughout the period of Roman rule: Kunkel set out to demonstrate the vicissitudes of one particular social group, the Roman lawyers. Each of these approaches, if followed to the exclusion of the others, leads to a sterile antiquarianism, and in this thesis which aims to delineate the medical profession in the Roman Empire, I have endeavoured to combine them as far as possible. The social position of a doctor can only be fully understood within his area and within a chronological context. Works on ancient medicine have in the past concentrated more upon the theories of the sects than upon the medical practitioner. The old article of Salomon Reinach with its copious documentation is thus of greater value than Allbutt 's 'Greek Medicine in Rome', which describes many of the ideas and medical opinions of the Roman doctors without attempting to relate them to their social context. More recently, Below has studied the doctor's legal position, and Edelstein and Temkin have suggested many new interpretations of old problems. Nevertheless, since the history of medicine, especially in this country, has long been the preserve of the interested amateur, many authors who lack a sound historical training have preferred unprovable speculation to the evidence of the texts and have uncritically mixed fact and fantasy in a way that makes detailed refutation lengthy and tedious. Thus few references will be found in the footnotes to the abundant secondary literature on medical history recorded in the bibliography. A survey as detailed as that of Kunkel is ruled out by the nature of the evidence: the inscriptions, mainly collected in the catalogues of Oehler and Gummerus, are numerous, and I have preferred to rely upon a selection to illustrate a point rather than present a complete list. The literary evidence is also too abundant to permit an examination of the background and career of every doctor, and the length of time covered by this thesis is itself a handicap to such an inquiry. Many developments begun in the first century only reach their final form in the fifth or sixth centuries, and apparent uniformity is only attained in the Later Empire. A detailed discussion of all the problems is thus impossible and I have chosen to discuss only those that seem most relevant to my theme; social attitudes towards doctors, their relations with their patients, their wealth and social status, their families and their civic offices. Chapter 4 is substantially a new assessment of the epigraphic evidence derived from a survey of all inscriptions and reliefs of doctors in the Roman Empire, and I have added further notes on Galen and his contemporaries to give greater precision to the conclusions already reached by Ilberg. My discussion of the archiatri, which will be found in Chapters 2 and 7 is also new and correets some of the results of Pohl's dissertation, which is more cited than read. The Later Empire and its medicine are almost unknown and save for the works of Temkin, K├╝hlewein and Sigerist summarised in Chapter 10, little has been done. Frings' dissertation is weakest on the social background and ends with John Chrysostom, leaving the late fifth and sixth centuries to be examined further by me in Chapter 8. No satisfactory account of early medical education has previously been written, and thus much of Chapter 9 is claimed as original work, especially the section on 'medical schools '.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Department of Education and Science ; University of Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.467358  DOI:
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