Lecturer: Professor Han Baltussen
Galen of Pergamum grew up during a period of intense study of the classical world of fifth century Athens. The second century AD became known as the "Second Sophistic", to indicate how this period was a revival of classical style and ideas.
Galen's father, an architect, ensured that he had a good education, which included attending lectures of several philosophical schools. But his early passion turned to medicine—according to one story as a result of a dream. His prolonged training in medical science did not make him forget about philosophy, and consequently he developed a thorough grounding in both.
Galen may therefore serve as a striking example of a new breed, a philosopher-physician. This role he avidly took on no doubt following an ideal he found articulated in one of Aristotle's minor works.
My talk will move on from a biographical sketch to the new insights, which the recent research has given us. Research into ancient medicine has been growing dramatically over the last three decades, enhancing our understanding of this medical genius and his tactics of self-presentation. His stunning productivity stands as an impressive monument to his energy and ingenuity.
The last complete edition (1822-30) has twenty-two fat volumes, which cover an amazing range of medical and philosophical topics, such as anatomy, medicaments, critiques of competitors, vivisection, dissection, herbal knowledge, Hippocratic theory, operations, the pulse, diagnosis, prognosis, veins and arteries, respiration, the composition of drugs and more!
We also know him as the personal physician to emperor Marcus Aurelius, but this is just one of many different aspects of his rich and unusual life as a physician living in the Roman Empire. I will draw on the recent research to create a picture of the most influential medical expert of the ancient world up to the nineteenth century, which reveal how much his success was the result of his skills as a competent philosopher and shrewd spin-doctor.
Han baltussen is the Hughes Professor of Classics at the University of Adelaide and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
He has published on a wide range of topics in intellectual history and is the author of Theophrastus On Theories of Perception (2000), Philosophy and Exegesis in Simplicius (2008) and has also edited several collections of essays, one on ancient philosophical commentaries, another on ancient consolations.
He is currently finalising an edited volume entitled The Art of Veiled Speech. Self-censorship from Aristophanes to Hobbes (with PJ Davis, expected June 2015), and preparing a monograph on grief and consolation in antiquity. His latest project involves a collaborative study of Stoic influences on the political thinking in the Enlightenment.
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