European Studies


The Mediterranean World: Past & Present

Spring Quarter (S18)

Dept/Description Course No., Title  Instructor
Emphasis/Category: The Mediterranean World: Past & Present

This course will offer an overview of the origins and development of Western medicine in ancient Greece and Rome. It will track the trajectory of ancient medicine starting from the Pythagoreans (c. 6th century BCE) and their belief in the special powers of numbers (e.g. they considered the number 40 to be sacred—hence, quarantine) and ending with Galen (2nd century AD), the physician and philosopher of the late Roman empire. We will begin with a brief account of medicine in Mesopotamia and Egypt (the Edwin Smith Papyrus) and work our way through Homer, the Greek rationalists, the Hippocratic writers, the theory of humors, Thucydides, the tragedians, Plato, Aristotle, Herophilus, Soranus, the Gospel of Matthew, and Galen. We will ask questions such as: how did western medicine begin? What led the Greeks and Romans to “invent” medical theories and practices? How did they think of medical effectiveness and failure? How did the Greeks and Romans understand the complex relationships between mind, body, and spirit? What led them to prescribe regular exercise, healing baths, special diets, the use of specific herbal remedies, and healing ointments? How do we separate medicine from other healing methods such as folk medicine, magic, and especially the cult of the god Asclepius? How did purges, cold baths, and prayers to the gods affect health and wellness?

Paying special attention to how gender, ethnicity, and social order influenced medical knowledge, students in this course will learn about ancient notions of health, disease, and healing that may still have relevance to contemporary medical practices. They will also explore ancient attitudes towards the body and disability; the relationship between medical theory and medical practice; and Greek and Roman reactions to bodily suffering, healing, illness, injury, and the epidemics that occasionally swept across whole populations.

Grading will be based on class participation, two non-cumulative exams, one oral report, and one short paper (5 pages).
Days:   12:00-12:00 AM

Emphasis/Category: The Mediterranean World: Past & Present

History   136D     ANCIENT MEDICINE

Studies in selected areas of Medicine and Health Care history. Topics addressed vary each quarter.
Days:   12:00-12:00 AM