Ancient Medicine (CLA3271)

StaffDr David Leith - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims


To understand how medicine developed and changed from the Classical period through to Late Antiquity and beyond, and to gain a broad familiarity with a range of ancient healing traditions and a core set of influential medical writings. To appreciate how modern perceptions of our ancient medical heritage have been conditioned by specific circumstances and assumptions.


ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. On completion of this module, students will be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of medicines used in Greek and Roman culture, of the way they are described and their cultural significance.
  • 2. Students will also be able to provide a comprehensive understanding of medical theories and practices and their social and cultural contexts, as articulated in the writings of individual doctors and medical sects.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Students will be able to combine historical and literary approaches.
  • 4. Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to criticise sources; and to challenge current cultural assumptions about antiquity and ourselves.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to research material and organise it into a coherent form within a strong argument.
  • 6. Through work in seminars, students will be able to deliver confident and well-argued oral performance in the face of challenge from others

Syllabus plan

An appraisal of medical theories and practices from pre-Hippocratic material to an overview of Galen and Galenism, within the context of ancient life, literature and thought.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44Seminars (1 x 2 hours per week)
Guided independent study256Independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
2 Essays402000 words each1-5Mark and written feedback
Presentation1015-20 minutes1-6Mark and written feedback
Exam503 hours1-5Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
2 Essays2 Essay1-5August refer/defer period
ExamExam1-5August refer/defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

E. J. & L. Edelstein, Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. 2 Vols. (Baltimore 1945)

P.J. van der Eijk, ‘The Role of Medicine in the Formation of Early Greek Thought’, in P. Curd & D.W. Graham (eds.), The

Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy (Oxford 2008), ch. 14

R.J. Hankinson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Galen (Cambridge 2008)

J. Jouanna, Hippocrates, trans. M.B. DeBevoise (Baltimore-London 1999)

H. King, Greek and Roman Medicine (Bristol 2001)

G.E.R. Lloyd, ‘The Hippocratic Question’, Classical Quarterly 25 (1975), 171-192

---, Magic, Reason and Experience (Cambridge 1979), 146-169

S.P. Mattern, The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Oxford 2013)

V. Nutton, Ancient Medicine. 2nd edn. (London 2013)

---, ‘Healers in the Medical Market Place: Towards a Social History of Greek and Roman Medicine’, in A. Wear (ed.), Medicine

in Society (Cambridge 1992), 15-58

---, ‘Roman Medicine: Tradition, Confrontation, Assimilation’, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 37.1 (1993), 49-78

J.R. Pinault, Hippocratic Lives and Legends (Leiden 1992)

W.D.Smith, The Hippocratic Tradition (Ithaca–London 1979)

H. von Staden, Herophilus. The Art of Medicine in Early Alexandria (Cambridge 1989)

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