The Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the Renaissance

The Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the RenaissanceThe Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the Renaissance

Medical Papyri

On display are five papyri offering evidence of the relevance of Greek medicine during the Roman Empire. Dioscorides studied pharmacology at Tarsus, a major city in Cilicia, in southeastern Turkey. His treatise On Materia Medica is a comprehensive list of more than 1000 medical substances, of which around 700 are plants. Two of these papyri reflect a long tradition of medical recipes. A fever amulet tells us about the relevance of magical medicine. The largest papyrus fragment contains a fascinating passage of so-called medical astrology, which concerns the effects of the planets on the health of certain parts of the body. For example, if an illness begins when the moon is in Aries, along with the sun or Mars, the disease will be in the head—the body part over which Aries has control. It will also be a hot disease, because of the heat of the sun or of Mars.