The Prince of Medicine : Galen in the Roman Empire
Overview - Galen of Pergamum (A.D. 129 - ca. 216) began his remarkable career tending to wounded gladiators in provincial Asia Minor. Later in life he achieved great distinction as one of a small circle of court physicians to the family of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, at the very heart of Roman society. Read more...
More About The Prince of Medicine by Susan P. Mattern
Galen of Pergamum (A.D. 129 - ca. 216) began his remarkable career tending to wounded gladiators in provincial Asia Minor. Later in life he achieved great distinction as one of a small circle of court physicians to the family of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, at the very heart of Roman society. Susan Mattern's The Prince of Medicine offers the first authoritative biography in English of this brilliant, audacious, and profoundly influential figure. Like many Greek intellectuals living in the high Roman Empire, Galen was a prodigious polymath, writing on subjects as varied as ethics and eczema, grammar and gout. Indeed, he was (as he claimed) as highly regarded in his lifetime for his philosophical works as for his medical treatises. However, it is for medicine that he is most remembered today, and from the later Roman Empire through the Renaissance, medical education was based largely on his works. Even up to the twentieth century, he remained the single most influential figure in Western medicine. Yet he was a complicated individual, full of breathtaking arrogance, shameless self- promotion, and lacerating wit. He was fiercely competitive, once disemboweling a live monkey and challenging the physicians in attendance to correctly replace its organs. Relentless in his pursuit of anything that would cure the patient, he insisted on rigorous observation and, sometimes, daring experimentation. Even confronting one of history's most horrific events- a devastating outbreak of smallpox-he persevered, bearing patient witness to its predations, year after year. The Prince of Medicine gives us Galen as he lived his life, in the city of Rome at its apex of power and decadence, among his friends, his rivals, and his patients. It offers a deeply human and long- overdue portrait of one of ancient history's most significant and engaging figures.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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In this meticulous and engaging biography, University of Georgia history professor Mattern (Galen and the Rhetoric of Healing) writes that Galen, a Greek aristocrat of great ambition and dazzling intelligence, was already a superstar physician when he arrived in Rome in 162 C.E. Educated in medicine and philosophy, Galen left his provincial medical practice at the age of 32 to come to the center of the world’s largest empire, where he treated the prominent—including Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a feverish philosopher named Eudemus, and gladiators—and the common populace, in a city regularly assaulted by malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, and (in 168 C.E.) a devastating plague. “Visits to patients were a normal part of his daily life,” Mattern writes. The book covers Galen’s upbringing by an adored father and a despised mother, as well as his medical and philosophical training, and his astounding repertoire of medical work—including anatomy, surgery, and voluminous writings. Mattern’s rigorous scholarship also unveils the rich, vivid layers of Galen’s life and times, and Galen’s own words paint a portrait of an astounding physician whose motivation was “not fame or wealth” but “the love of mankind.” 18 b&w illus. & 3 maps. (July 2)