This book examines aspects of the medicine practised in the Roman Empire from the reign of Augustus to that of Marcus Aurelius. ‘Roman medicine’ was an amalgam, which combined the theories and practices of Greek physicians operating within the so-called ‘Hippocratic tradition’ with those of various healers from all over the Empire.
Summerton draws on his expertise as a medical doctor to study the evidence, which consists in the writings of ancient physicians and philosophers, as well as a wealth of archaeological material. He acknowledges that this evidence must be studied on its own terms, but that should not prevent us from learning lessons from the past, especially in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19. The book focuses on six aspects of ancient medicine and their modern resonances: preventative medicine; relations between healers and patients; the architecture of health; pharmaceutical remedies; holistic practices and psychological well-being; and surgical and other physical practices.
This engaging work, with material from Roman Britain, is full of original insights.
Review by Laurence Totelin
Greco-Roman Medicine and What It Can Teach Us Today, Nick Summerton,,Pen & Sword, £25, ISBN 978-1526752871