Task of the Project

Galen of Pergamum: The Transmission, Interpretation and Completion of Ancient Medicine

Galen of Pergamum, who served in the Rome of the second century AD as a medical advisor to the emperor Marcus Aurelius, remained, with his vast oeuvre, the definitive authority on medicine from antiquity to the European and Islamic middle ages until well into the modern era. In addition to representing and completing Hippocratic medicine he also assimilated and enlarged upon the body of medical knowledge existing in his day through independent study. His works were translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic and Hebrew, and formed the foundation of medical knowledge in both the Orient and Occident, while also serving as a source of inspiration for new developments. From the 6th century to the early 19th, without major interruptions, the analysis of Galenic texts served as an integral part of the study of medicine in the East and West. Galen was of particular importance in the formation of medical terminology, but also, and more generally, in defining the roles of medical practitioners and medicine, and in formulating all of the questions that arose regarding the health, composition and function of the human body, and concerning the philosophical and epistemological fundamental principles of medical theory and practice.

At the centre of the newly proposed project stands research on Galen’s works and their role as a decisive case of the transmission of medical knowledge from antiquity to the Middle Ages and the modern era, as well as between Europe and the Orient. The work to be performed by the proposed project will focus on several core issues for which the publication of critical editions of comprehensive key texts together with content-based analysis is envisaged.

Functioning as an independent research facility, the project involves edition, translation, commentary and historical contextualisation of Galen’s works. The edition series of the CMG and CML, which, as reference editions in the field of ancient medicine, have set a new standard for critical editions of ancient technical literature, continue to exist and will be issued in digital form to meet the needs of a broad readership not necessarily trained in philology. The project is understood to be a research institution rather than an editorial one. Where substantial points of contact exist, international cooperation will take place with other partners. However, the project has been planned in such a way as to ensure that goals can be attained independently of the contributions by external colleagues. External editions will be supervised by members of the advisory committee, which has yet to be established. Inclusion in the series will be determined by an anonymous peer review process. Furthermore, thanks to the use of suitable editing software, external staff will be able to perform much of the publishing work themselves.

In the future as well, cooperation with orientalists and classical philologists  will constitute an important element of the project. In order to guarantee external colleagues publication of their results, our intention is to publish, in the “Supplementum Orientale” of the CMG Series, Arabic translations also of those texts which have survived in Greek. On the one hand, this measure will make available additional, valuable sources for Arabic studies; on the other hand, it will render the evaluation of the Arabic tradition regarding the Greek texts more transparent by facilitating assessment of the value of various readings in context and in the original language. For the Latin translations that have been transmitted in a great number of manuscripts, only the main codices are to be consulted in the preparation of Greek editions; for the complete translated texts, a digital archive is envisaged.

The Galenic Corpus is by far the largest collection of extant writings by a single Greek author. But unlike the works of any other ancient author, a large part of Galen’s oeuvre has yet to be published in historico-critical editions. The sheer quantity of text and the frequent complexity of the manuscript tradition would seem to make it impossible for the project group to foresee a publication of a complete edition. This is why a selection has been made, on the basis of content-related criteria, of texts to be worked on by the project group. The project is consequently focused on influential texts and issues which are clearly located–as is wholly typical for ancient medicine–at the interface of fields which are today termed the natural sciences and the humanities, and which therefore have an interdisciplinary bearing on the questions at hand. These are:

  • Epistemology and the commentary as scientific form of expression
  • Nosology
  • Theory of the soul and topology of the body
  • Therapeutics

In this way, the project’s relation to ongoing debates in the relevant areas can be strengthened. At the same time, such a focus also promotes connectivity to rapidly developing Berlin projects in the fields of ancient philosophy, philosophical psychology and the history of science. Only through such an interdisciplinary embedding can sufficient light be cast on the Galenic writings, in which, alongside medical viewpoints, an important, often fundamental role is played by historical, natural historical philological, metaphysical, ethical, psychological and epistemological interests.

Within this project critical editions of the following works are in preparation:

  • Galeni Ad Glauconem de methodo medendi
  • Galeni De differentis morborum
  • Galeni De locis affectis
  • Galeni De morborum causis
  • Galeni De symptomatum causis
  • Galeni In Hippocratis Aphorismos commentaria (in cooperation)
  • Galeni In Hippocratis De aere aquis locis commentariorum versio Arabica
  • Galeni In Hippocratis De articulis commentaria
  • Galeni Methodus medendi
  • Galeni Quod animi mores corporis temperamenta sequantur
  • [Galeni] Definitiones medicae
  • [Galeni] De optima secta