Medicine

   Byzantine medicine was built on the foundation of ancient medicine, including Galen (q.v.) and Hippocrates, so much so that many early Byzantine texts are little more than edited encyclopedias of ancient knowledge (e.g., the work of Julian's physician Oribasios [qq.v.] summarizes Galen). Nevertheless, even the encylopedists were hardly mere copyists. For example, the work of Alexander of Tralles (q.v.) includes some original ideas on pharmacology, and Aetius of Amida's sixth-century encyclopedia of medicine interprets Galen's theory of drug therapy by degrees. Such works transmitted ancient medicine far beyond the borders of Byzantium (q.v.). Arab doctors used the works of Paul of Aegina, especially the section on surgery in his Epitome. The work of Nicholas Myrepsos, court physician to John III Vatatzes (q.v.), was used as a textbook on pharmacology at the University of Paris until 1651. Byzantine hospitals in the major cities of the empire included a variety of specialists (some of whom were women doctors), e.g., in surgery, anesthesiology, orthopedics, gynecology and obstetrics, and epidemiology. Educated persons took an interest in medicine and disease, as seen in Prokopios of Caesarea's (q.v.) description of the plague. Medicine was especially fashionable among 12th-century intellectuals, including Anna Komnene (q.v.), who writes respectfully of the doctors who administered to her dying father. Having said this, Byzantine literature is not without its portrayal of doctors as unscrupulous quacks. Moreover, amulets and other forms of magic, as well as healing icons and holy men, were patronized as forms of alternative medicine.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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