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Diseases of the brain in the Libri medicinales of Aetius of Amida

Subproject by Ricarda Gäbel

The Libri medicinales, written by Aetius of Amida, are a compilation dealing with virtually all important medical topics. In this work, Aetius draws upon the full extent of contemporary medical knowledge, and uses those texts of earlier scholars that fit his purposes. He does not simply copy these texts but changes them, amends them, and rearranges them.

This subproject is concerned with the sixth book of the Libri medicinales, which is devoted to diseases of the head. The sixth book contains chapters dealing with diseases of the brain as well as diseases affecting the hair, ears, and nose. The section on diseases of the brain also includes a discussion of affections which impair mental capacities, such as phrenitis, lethargia, melancholia or mania. In this project, the discussion of these “mental illnesses” will be translated into English and commented on in detail. Given that the sixth book has never been translated into any modern language, let alone commented on or analysed, this project seeks to break new ground. It provides, on the one hand, a thorough analysis of Aetius’ way of working and his compilation technique, and attempts, on the other, to make a contribution to the exploration of the status of mental illnesses in Late Antiquity.