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Article

disease  

Robert Sallares

Disease, the main cause of death in antiquity, is a topic for which there are more sources than for most aspects of life in the ancient world, thanks principally to the Hippocratic corpus (see Hippocrates (2)), *Aretaeus, and the numerous works of *Galen. Additional information may be obtained from palaeopathology, the study of diseases found in human skeletal remains. Ancient medical literature concentrates on chronic and endemic diseases, rather than the major epidemic diseases. In fact the Greek word ἐπιδήμιος, in a medical context, means ‘endemic’ rather than ‘epidemic’.Malaria and tuberculosis are the most prominent diseases in ancient literature. Malaria occurred in antiquity in three forms, vivax, the commonest, falciparum, the most dangerous, and quartan, which has the longest periodicity. All three produce periodic fevers recurring every two or three days which were noticed easily, if not understood, by ancient doctors. The epidemiology of malaria in antiquity resembled that of recent times. In the highly seasonal Mediterranean climate malaria occurs mainly in the summer and autumn and affects adults at least as much as children, helping to explain its importance for ancient doctors. It depends for its transmission on certain species of mosquitoes, and was probably absent from some regions where these vectors did not occur. It is not necessarily associated with marshy environments. The chronology of the spread of malaria in the Mediterranean is disputed. All three types existed in Greece in the 4th cent. bce, but it is uncertain how long before that falciparum malaria had been present.

Article

Pupil of the astronomer *Conon (2). He continued a connection between the Alexandrian astronomers and *Archimedes which had begun with the latter's studies in *Alexandria (1); Archimedes dedicated several of his books to Dositheus. Observations by him on the time of appearance of the fixed stars (some of them made at places further north than Alexandria) and on weather-signs are recorded in the Parapegma of *Geminus and elsewhere.

Article

Georgia L. Irby

The Mediterranean Basin is prone to earthquakes, and ancient thinkers sought to explain their causes either through myth (Poseidon’s wrath) or natural philosophy (dry and wet exhalations, trapped subterranean winds). Notable theorists include Thales, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Epicurus, Posidonius, Lucretius, and Seneca the Younger. Historians and geographers (including Thucydides, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and Pausanias) described severe earthquakes and their effects on geology (diverting bodies of water or causing bodies of water and/or land masses to appear or disappear, such as Atlantis), populations, and infrastructure (e.g., the complete annihilation of Helice and Boura). Among particularly noteworthy seismic events are those that occurred in Laconia in 464 bce, along the Malian Gulf in 426 bce, at Rhodes in 227/6 bce (toppling the famous Colossus of Helios), one extending from the Levant to Euboea (of unknown date), the quake affecting Campania (especially Pompeii and Herculaneum) in 63/63 ce, and at Smyrna in 178 ce.

Article

A. T. Grafton

Solar and lunar eclipses rank with the most impressive celestial phenomena. They were widely considered ominous—as the story of *Nicias (1)'s final defeat in Sicily shows—and some 250 reports of them occur in ancient sources. The Babylonian records of lunar eclipses to which *Ptolemy (4) had access apparently began in the 8th cent. bce. By the 5th cent., well-informed Greeks like *Thucydides (2) understood (2.28) that solar eclipses can take place only at new, and lunar ones at full moon. *Hipparchus (3), in the 2nd cent., supposedly predicted the motions of the sun and moon, including their syzygies, for 600 years; and Ptolemy, 300 years later, provided precise methods for predicting the time not only of lunar, but also of solar eclipses (a much harder task). Recorded eclipses in Greek and Roman literature provide the only absolute dates for historical phenomena (like the *Peloponnesian War): the dated eclipses recorded by historians of the later Roman republic make it possible to trace the deviation of the months of the republican calendar from their proper positions.

Article

Hans-W. Fischer-Elfer

First attested indirectly in the 3rd millennium bce, then in the early 2nd millennium in terms of medical handbooks, and then in the early Roman Period (2nd century ce), Egyptian medicine displays a broad range of topics and treatments. Its textual corpus can be divided into veterinarians and gynaecological and general diagnoses and prescriptions pertaining to men and women alike. By drawing on analogies from the natural world, healing procedures were expected to transfer properties, for example, from the realm of minerals, plants, and animals, to the patient and restore his or her former healthy condition.

Specialization, starting with dentistry, ophthalmology, pharmacology and veterinary medicine attest to a high degree of professional education and practice in the 3rd millennium. Any generalizing term for the art of medicine is unknown; names of individuals involved in it are known to us from either autobiographical inscriptions or documentary texts from everyday life. In many cases, magical incantations and rituals went along with the “medical” treatments. Medicine and magic cannot be separated from each other in ancient Egypt.

Article

J. T. Vallance

στοιχεῖα (Lat. elementa) gradually became the standard Greek word for ‘elements’, and it was used with a range of senses similar to the English term used to translate it. Etymologically it means ‘one of a series’ (στοῖχος). Eudemus, quoted in the 6th cent. ce by *Simplicius in his Commentary on Aristotle's Physics (7. 13), says that the word was first used in this sense by *Plato (1) (see e.g. Ti. 56b, 61a6).The term has important connotations in logic, mathematics, and discussions of scientific method as well as natural philosophy. *Aristotle (Metaph. 1014a26) defined an element as the primary constituent in something—be it object, speech, or a geometrical proof—which is indivisible into any other kind of thing. In the case of an object the elements might be the four Empedoclean roots, in that of speech the letters which make up a word, or in that of a geometrical proof the basic axioms and indemonstrables upon which the proof depends. In general, the concept of elements is fundamental to the widely held Greek—not just Aristotelian—conceptions of science as axiomatic-deductive in character. Basic mathematical works are often called Elements; best-known examples include the Elements of *Euclid, and the Elements of Harmonics by *Aristoxenus.

Article

The ἐμβατήριον was properly a marching-tune (Polyb. 4. 20. 12). Hence it was also a marching-song, such as the Spartans sang when under arms (Ath. 630 f; schol. Dion. Thrax 450. 27), like the anapaests (see metre, greek) attributed to *Tyrtaeus (Carm. pop. 18–19; cf. Dio Chrys. 2. 59).

Article

J. T. Vallance

Several barely intelligible accounts of animal reproduction (and in particular of the origins and development of the human embryo) are preserved amongst the fragments of the Presocratic philosophers. It is debatable whether or not these accounts—amongst which one should include zoogonies and anthropogonies such as that of *Anaximander who argued that the first living creatures had their origin in a kind of earthy moisture (DK 12 A 30)—should be described as ‘embryological’ in a modern scientific sense. (Anaximander seems mainly to have been concerned with explaining the ultimate origin of man, given that he is unusual in requiring intensive nursing after birth. He ended up by positing a first generation of humans born at puberty.) It should also be remembered that the word embryon in Greek does not always correspond to the modern ‘embryo’, but can often refer even to newly born infants. Ancient ‘embryology’, then, covers a whole range of problems, from generation to the nutrition of neonates. The three Hippocratic treatises (see hippocrates (2)) concerned with generation, heredity and sex differentiation, and paediatric physiology—Diseases 4, On Generation, and On the Nature of the Child together with the later medical works spawned by them, including *Soranus' Gynaecology, and *Galen's On the Seed—could all be described as wholly or partly ‘embryological’.

Article

Marquis Berrey

Empiricists were a self-identified medical sect of the Hellenistic and Imperial periods who shared a common experiential methodology about the purpose and practice of medicine. Denigrating unobservable causes and experimental medicine, they espoused a sceptical, passive approach to accumulated observations about the body and the natural world. Since few Empiricist texts survive, historical knowledge depends largely on the medical doxographies of later ancient physicians who were not Empiricists. Doxographies report that Empiricists practiced a controlled experiential medicine based on personal observation, written reports from previous physicians, and analogical reasoning from known to unfamiliar conditions. The importance of chance and memory to their medical practice along with a willingness to compare themselves to tradesmen of lesser status distinguished their philosophical medicine from other ancient medical sects.Empiricists (Gk. empirikoi, Lat. empirici) were a self-identified sect or school (hairesis) of physicians from the Hellenistic and Imperial periods who shared a common experiential methodology about the purpose and practice of medicine. Empiricists practiced a controlled experiential medicine for individual therapeutic success based on personal observation, written reports from previous physicians, and analogical reasoning from known to unfamiliar conditions. Twenty-one named Empiricists are known to have practiced. The prosopographic record of the sect begins from Philinus of Cos, a renegade student of .

Article

Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Katherine Blouin

Natural environments such as the air currents, temperatures, waters, and topography were thought to shape humans, animals, and plants. For humans, the impact was physical, behavioural, and cultural. For animals, the impacts were mostly physical (e.g., oxen in Scythia have no horns because of the cold). This is typically referred to as environmental or climatic determinism. Early explicit examples of this idea include the HippocraticAirs, Waters, Places and occasional comments in Herodotus, but arguments for such a relationship between identity and environment as early as Homer’s Odyssey and Hesiod have been made.1 There is a long-standing tradition beginning with Homer and extending through the Roman imperial period of humans, animals, and their hybrids being associated with geographic distance from an imagined centre, dwelling in designated climate bands, or being earth-born or autochthonous (gēgenēs, autochthōn) that may reflect early forms of environmental determinism. The ideas continue to circulate in much the same form as found in the Hippocratic Airs in Roman authors such as Vitruvius, Manilius, Pliny the Elder, and Vegetius.

Article

Heinrich von Staden

Erasistratus of Iulis on *Ceos (about 315–240 bce?) is the only scientist other than *Herophilus to whom ancient sources attribute systematic scientific dissections of human cadavers. *Cornelius Celsus claims that Erasistratus, like Herophilus, also vivisected convicted criminals (see vivisection). The extant evidence leaves little doubt that he performed vivisectory experiments on animals. Often taking a functional approach to his anatomical discoveries, he combined detailed descriptions of parts with explanations of their physiological roles. Thus he not only gave the first reasonably accurate description of the heart valves but also demonstrated that their function is to ensure the irreversibility of the flow through the valves.Three consistent features of Erasistratus' approach are his use of mechanistic principles to explain bodily processes, an Aristotelian teleological perspective, and the verification of an *hypothesis by means of *experiment. His major mechanistic principle is that matter naturally moves by means of ‘following toward what is being emptied’ (πρὸς τὸ κενούμενον ἀκολουθία), i.

Article

Andrew Barker

Eratocles (probably late 5th cent. bce), musical theorist discussed by *Aristoxenus, empiricist rather than Pythagorean in approach (Aristox. Harm. 5. 9–6. 31, cf. Pl. Resp. 531a–b). He distinguished conjunct from disjunct systems, analysed scales quantitatively, probably using diagrams and measuring intervals as multiples of the quarter-tone, and developed representations of ἁρμονίαι (attunements) as octave-species, orderly transformations of one another.

Article

Erotian  

J. T. Vallance

Grammarian and author of the most famous Hippocratic lexicon of antiquity. Lived in the 1st cent. ce.

Article

Euclid  

Michalis Sialaros

Euclid of Alexandria was a Greek geometer whose floruit was c. 300 bce. He is famous as the father of geometry, as his influential Elements of Geometry has been read, edited, praised, or criticized more than any other mathematical book in history. Besides the Elements, Euclid wrote several other treatises which, according to late antique commentators, offer systematic introductions to all mathematical subdisciplines.

Euclid (Εὐκλείδης) is famous as the author of the Elements of Geometry (Στοιχεῖα). Indeed, his magnum opus has been read, edited, praised, or criticized more than any other mathematical book in history. Still, we know almost nothing about his life. The dominant view that Euclid was active in Alexandria (1) around 300 bce is based on a series of hypotheses, most of which rely on later accounts by Proclus (In Eucl. 68.8–20), Pappus (1) (Coll. 7.678.10–12.), and Stobaeus (Flor. 2.31.114).

Article

G. J. Toomer and Alexander Jones

Observed the summer solstice at Athens, together with *Meton, in 432 bce (Ptol. Alm. 3. 1). He is also associated with the Metonic nineteen-year luni-solar cycle. He composed a παράπηγμα, an astronomical calendar listing the dates of rising and setting of stars and associated weather phenomena, which is excerpted by later extant calendars.

Article

G. J. Toomer and Alexander Jones

Eudoxus of *Cnidus, (c.390–c. 340 bce) was an outstanding mathematician and did important work in *astronomy and geography; he was versatile in ‘philosophy’ in general. According to the not entirely trustworthy ancient biographical tradition (see especially Diog. Laert. 8. 86 ff.), he was a pupil of *Archytas in geometry and of *Philistion in medicine; he came to Athens to hear the Socratics when about 23, later spent time in Egypt studying astronomy with the priests, then lectured in *Cyzicus and the Propontis, visited the court of *Mausolus, and finally returned to teach at Athens, where he was acquainted with Plato; he drew up laws for Cnidus, and died aged 52.In geometry he invented the general theory of proportion, applicable to incommensurable as well as commensurable magnitudes, found in Euclid bk. 5 (scholion in Heiberg, Euclidis Opera 5. 280). This greatly helped to assure the primacy of geometry in Greek *mathematics.

Article

Eustochius, of *Alexandria (1), physician, became a pupil of *Plotinus in Plotinus' old age (Porph. Plot.7) (prob. c.270 ce), and is said to have edited his master's works.

Article

Geoffrey Lloyd

Greek and Roman scientists did not refer directly to the experimental method. However, in a variety of contexts they described testing procedures that were clearly deliberate investigations designed to throw light on problems or to support theories. Examples can be found in the Presocratic philosophers, the Hippocratic writers (see hippocrates (2)), *Aristotle, *Erasistratus, *Heron, *Philon (2), Ptolemy (4), and *Galen.We should distinguish first the areas where experimental investigation is possible from those where it is not. Direct experiments in astronomy are out of the question. This was also true, in antiquity, in relation to most problems in meteorology (thunder and lightning) and in geology (*earthquakes). In such cases ancient scientists often conjectured analogies with other more accessible phenomena that were directly investigable. Thus *Anaximenes (1) may have tried to support *Anaximander's theory of lightning as caused by wind splitting the clouds by suggesting that it is like the flash of an oar in water. Similarly some of the experimental interventions described in the Hippocratic writers incorporate an element of analogy. The writer of Diseases4, for instance, describes a system of intercommunicating vessels which can be filled or emptied by filling or emptying one of them.

Article

fire  

J. T. Vallance

Fire (πῦρ, ignis) has special status in ancient myth, religion, cosmology, physics, and physiology. According to Greek myth, *Prometheus stole it from the gods for mortals with dire consequences, and the name of the god *Hephaestus is often synonymous with it. Fire figures prominently in the cosmologies of *Heraclitus (1), *Parmenides, the Pythagoreans (see pythagoras (1)), and *Empedocles, to name only a few.The status of fire as an element presented problems throughout antiquity. *Theophrastus noted at the beginning of his treatise De igne (‘On Fire’) that ‘of the simple substances fire has the most special powers’; much of the rest of the work is concerned with describing its various manifestations, and coming to terms with the problem of how such an element can only exist in the company of a material substrate, and how it can generate itself and be generated in such a variety of ways. Heat, flame, and light are different species of fire in many theories including that of *Aristotle.

Article

Ludwig Edelstein and V. Nutton

In a spectacular career rose from gladiator physician in Asia Minor to court physician in the Rome of Marcus *Aurelius . The son of a wealthy architect, he enjoyed an excellent education in rhetoric and philosophy in his native town before turning to medicine. After studying medicine further in *Smyrna and *Alexandria (1) , he began practising in Pergamum in 157, and went to Rome in 162. Driven out by hostile competitors, or fear of the *Plague , in 166, he returned in 169, and remained in imperial service until his death. A prodigious polymath, he wrote on subjects as varied as grammar and gout, ethics and eczema, and was highly regarded in his lifetime as a philosopher as well as a doctor.

Although *Plato (1) and *Hippocrates (2) were his gods, and *Aristotle ranked only slightly below them, he was anxious to form his own independent judgements, and his assertive personality pervades all his actions and writings. His knowledge was equally great in theory and practice, and based in part on his own considerable library. Much of our information on earlier medicine derives from his reports alone, and his scholarly delineation of the historical Hippocrates and the writings associated with him formed the basis for subsequent interpretation down to the 20th cent. Large numbers of new texts, some book length, continue to be recovered, mainly in translation, but some in the original Greek.