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The Greek Medical Encyclopaedias of Late Antiquity

Subproject by Dr. Matteo Martelli and Dr. Christine Salazar

The Greek side of the project investigates the medical ‘encyclopaedias’ of the late antique and early Byzantine periods, or to be more precise, of the 4th to 7th centuries. While 19th- and 20th-century scholarship regarded these writings as mere storage facilities for earlier wisdom, more recent work has revealed that they are worth studying in their own right, in particular for the creative ways in which they deal with the great authorities of the past. Oribasius, Aetius of Amida and Paul of Aegina made careful choices as to which parts of ancient medical knowledge merited being transferred to posterity, and what form this knowledge should take, often condensing or paraphrasing, combining passages from different chapters of the original, or adding their own opinion. The result was a complete reconfiguration of ancient medical wisdom.

In the first stage, the project’s focus is on the sixteen Libri medicinales by the 6th-century author Aetius of Amida, since in his case we do not even have a complete printed edition of the text, nor a translation in any modern language. The first goals, therefore, are the constitution of a reliable text of the hitherto unedited books and an English translation with commentary of the entire work.