The Invention of Medicine: From Homer to Hippocrates

Basic. Dec. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780465093441. $35. HIST
Medical knowledge existed in the Greek world long before the classical period, but the textual evidence we have from this time suggests new ways of practicing and understanding emerged as the archaic period ended. Fox (Augustine: Conversions to Confessions), in his characteristic thoughtfully argumentative and practical style, sifts through centuries of epigraphic, numismatic, and archaeological evidence to place the so-called Epidemic texts in a new context. Understanding their authorship and reception helps to frame the popular and artistic understandings of medicine in the classical period and in the Roman and Arab worlds in later centuries, who all drew on these texts. While the scope of the book is largely limited geographically to the island of Thasos, its strategic location allows a larger picture of Greek medical history as it existed in Attica and Asia Minor. A concluding section on retrospective diagnosis and the impact of these texts makes the case that we should not be overtempted to understand the past in light of modern knowledge.
VERDICT While some of the material may be dense for non-classicists, there are many readers who will find the sections about how we tell and understand medical stories timely and important.
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