Sickness and Healing in Byzantium

Sickness and Healing
in Byzantium

From the Imperial Court
to the City Hospitals

Irene Calà

5 December 2023 – 5 PM (CET)

Greek medicine has come to us through the Byzantine civilization, as evidenced by the numerous medical works produced throughout the history of the Eastern Roman Empire.

In Byzantium, the integrity of the body was not only about medicine but had also profound social and political implications, the sacredness of the emperor’s body being a central theme in Byzantine medicine.

This lecture aims at providing an overview of the medical practices offered to the citizens of Byzantium, the role of hospitals and their connection with religious and political institutions, as well as the care provided by physicians at the imperial court.

A question I will also address is therefore how medical theory and practice were transmitted and used in Byzantium.

In so doing, I will use different sources, from medical manuscripts used to encode traditions into current practice to the medical works produced in Byzantium, especially the surgical work of Paul of Egina (625-690 AD) and its reception.

As well as medical texts, I will discuss a number of episodes drawing from historical works and epistolary letters, such as the historical work of John Skylitzes (1040-1101 AD), including an analysis of the illuminated manuscript from Madrid.

In the final part of my lecture, I will highlight the role of the doctor in manipulating the body of the sick person, with an emphasis on anatomical knowledge and surgical operations, including mutilations and autopsy cases.

About the Speaker ...

Irene Calà is a Byzantine Philologist working on the longue durée of medical knowledge between the Antiquity and the Middle Ages. 

She is a research associate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich in the DFG project (386999510) ‘Greek first edition of the Libri medicinales, books 10 and 14, of the Aëtios of Amida (6th century AD) including German translation, medical history- philological commentary and source analysis’ and has been Visiting Researcher at Humboldt University of Berlin until 2022, the Max Plank Institute for the History of Science, and the CNRS UMR 8167 of Paris. She is also a member of the editorial board of Ediciones Críticas – Ediciones de la Universidad de la UCLM, Castilla La Mancha and serves regularly as a peer-reviewer for journals such as The Classical Quarterly, Medicina nei Secoli, Dynamis, and Ceranea.

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