THEME: The arts of Asclep
SUGGESTED READING FOR THIS ISSUE
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
The articles in this issue have covered a range of topics related to the medical arts of the ancient Mediterranean world, but we’ve only just skimmed the surface of this fascinating part of ancient life. There is a wide variety of books out there for scholars and armchair historians alike, covering everything from a more fleshed-out look at Asclepius to the way we tell medical history itself. If you’re interested in learning more about ancient medicine, these books may be just what the doctor ordered.
Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-Century Greece: Between Craft and Cult
By Bronwen L. Wickkiser ISBN: 978-0801889783 Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
Medicine and Society in Ptolemaic Egypt
By Philippa Lang ISBN: 978-9004218581 Publisher: BRILL, 2012
For readers who are interested specifically in the establishment and rise of the cult of Asclepius in Greece, there is Bronwen L. Wickkiser’s Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-Century Greece: Between Craft and Cult. Wickkiser examines Greek medical practice both before and after the establishment of Asclepius’ cult in Athens, looking at how the Hippocratic treatises changed Greek thinking about medicine, and how interest in Asclepius rose rapidly in popularity alongside interest in those treatises. She goes further than simply looking at the medical side of the cult, however, discussing its political role in Athens, its association with state festivals, and its role in the Peloponnesian War. Wickkiser’s prose is scholarly, but not stuffy, and the book is reasonably priced at around $40, making it a great option for further exploration of Asclepius and the medical, religious, and political impact of his cult.
The crossover of Greek and Egyptian medicine is the focus of Philippa Lang’s Medicine and Society in Ptolemaic Egypt. This book looks at each society’s distinct ideas about medicine, and then examines how the two blended together during the Ptolemaic era. Tricky questions that the ancients grappled with, such as the extent of the two society’s gods’ influence on disease and healing, are explored, as well as the impact of Greek immigration to Egypt from a medical standpoint. Lang’s book gives an overview of what patients’ options were in terms of treatment at this time, and she looks into the practices of the Alexandrians, exploring how this particular cultural moment led to their famed human dissections. Unfortunately, Medicine and Society in Ptolemaic Egypt is pricey, costing almost $150. Lang’s subject is undoubtedly interesting and important to any study of the history of medicine, but depending on your book budget, it might be best to look it up at a local university library instead.
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