Brooke Holmes

in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199286140
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Greek History
  • Historical Archaeology



This article attempts to characterize a secular tradition of medicine, and focuses on approaches to the body and theories of causation. It seems that, just like the street philosophers, magicians were more individualistic and charismatic than the writers of systematic treatises, and yet they too sometimes relied on texts. It is important to remain open to possible connections between magic and medicine. For example, in the course of medical history, dissection and investigation of the interior of the body gradually became more prominent; similarly, ancient curses, spells, and binds became increasingly specific about the body parts and internal organs they targeted. The wider context of society is relevant here: magical and medical texts are affected by the history of torture, and of vivisection.

Keywords: causation theories; medicine; medical history; dissection; ancient curses; torture; vivisection

Article.  7571 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Greek History ; Historical Archaeology

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