Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

Accessing Ancient Medicine

This project aims to make available in English translation a number of key texts in the history and historiography of ancient medicine.

While interest in Graeco-Roman medicine has continued to grow over the last decades, the linguistic skills to study read the relevant texts and the scholarly literature in the original have become ever more rare. There is therefore an urgent need for greater and easier access to the sources of information about ancient medicine. While substantial progress has been made over the past decades in meeting that need as far as the primary sources are concerned, there is still a long way to go when it comes to accessing secondary literature.

Scholarship on Greek and Roman medicine has a long and venerable history, much of which is still relevant today, and much of which is in languages other than English. The academic study of ancient medicine was, for a long time, a predominantly French, German, Italian and, more recently, Spanish business, and although publications in English were by no means absent, it is indisputable that the majority of contributions came from Continental Europe. While no serious scholar of Graeco-Roman medicine can afford to ignore this, the reality is that many students in the English speaking world, including a new generation of researchers, have more and more difficulty accessing these scholarly works in the original. Efforts are therefore needed to make scholarship on ancient medicine more accessible.

The project “Accessing Ancient Medicine” is intended to contribute to meeting that need by providing English translations of important works in the history and historiography of ancient medicine.

The project, led by Philip van der Eijk, originated at the Northern Centre for the History of Medicine at Newcastle University in 2009 as part of a Strategic Award funded by the Wellcome Trust. It is now being continued at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

One major outcome of the project was the English translation of a number of selected papers by Jacques Jouanna, published by Brill Academic Publishers (Leiden) in 2012 under the title Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen. Selected Papers, translated by Neil Allies and edited with a preface by Philip van der Eijk.

In addition, a number of papers included in H.F.J. Horstmanshoff (ed.), Hippocrates and Medical Education (Leiden: Brill, 2010) and in H.F.J. Horstmanshoff, H. King, C. Zittel (eds.), Blood, Sweat and Tears. The Changing Concepts of Physiology from Antiquity into Early Modern Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2012) were revised or translated into English by Neil Allies as part of the Accessing Ancient Medicine project.

Furthermore, three papers to be included in Heinrich von Staden, Medicine, Language and Culture in the Graeco-Roman World. Selected Papers (Leiden: Brill, in preparation) were translated into English by Christopher Strachan and John Dillon as part of the Accessing Ancient Medicine project.