Greek and Roman Medicine - CLAS6630

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Ancient medicine was a complex mixture of what we would consider 'rational' and 'irrational' ideas and practices for the causes and cures of disease and illness. In this module students will use the various sources of evidence that survive in the literary, archaeological and epigraphic record to learn about the subject of Greek and Roman medicine.

An historical approach will be used starting with an examination of the pre-Socratic philosophers' and Hippocratic writers’ ideas about the body and medicine, moving into the Hellenistic period examining the dissections and vivisections of Herophilus and Erasistratus. The archaeological material from Greek healing sanctuaries will add to the understanding of healing. For the Roman period questions will be addressed about the influence of Greek medicine on Roman medicine and the archaeological remains of instruments and buildings associated with healing, such as baths, sanctuaries and possible hospitals. The works of Celsus, Pliny the Elder and Galen will be examined. The module culminates in a review of the survival of medical practices into Late Antiquity and the medieval Islamic period. Throughout the class, students will examine ideas about rationality and medical influences from one society to another.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30


Also available under code CL607 (Level 6)

Method of assessment

- Short Writing Assignment (1,000 words) – 20%
- Short Creative Assignment (1,500 words) – 20%
- Presentation (5 minutes) – 10%
- Final Essay (Level 5 – 2,500 words; Level 6 – 3,000 words) – 50%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List -

Celsus De Medicina. W. G. Spencer (Trans.). 1993. London and Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lloyd, G.E.R. (ed.). (1983) Hippocratic Writings. London: Penguin.
Baker, P. 2013. The Archaeology of Medicine in the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
King, H. (2003). Greek and Roman Medicine. London: Bristol Classics.
Lloyd, G. E. R. (1983). Science, Folklore and Ideology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nutton, V. (2013) (2nd Edition). Ancient Medicine. London: Routledge.
Soranus. Gynecology. O. Temkin (Trans.) (1956). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
van der Eijk, P. J. (2005). Medicine and Philosophy in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 5 students will be able to:

- Demonstrate familiarity with Greek and Roman medical history from the period of the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (6th century BC) to the Late Roman and Early Medieval Islamic tradition;
- Apply the methods of textual, visual and material analysis, and the conceptual frameworks that result, to related topics outside of the culture and literature of Graeco-Roman medicine;
- Critically evaluate and understand current methods of interpretation within medical history, classical studies and archaeology;
- Utilise and analyse primary sources and current research relating to ancient medicine.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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