Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Hello? Dr Galen?

The physician, Claudius Galenus, better known as Galen of Pergamon, was the most famous doctor in the Roman world of the 2nd century AD and probably the most famous of antiquity.

He was born in Pergamon, where he studied and he completed his education in Smyrna (modern Izmir), Corinth and Alexandria as well. He learnt his skills in his natal city while serving as an apprentice at the sanctuary of Asclepius. His main clientele were the gladiators and through this work he gained much experience in treating wounds of all kinds. This led to an unrivaled knowledge of the human anatomy, physiology and neurology. His fame was such that it reached even the imperial court of Rome. He moved to that city in 161 AD where he became the personal physician of the emperors Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and Commodus. By that time, he had specialized in anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology and neurology but he was also well versed in philosophy and logic.

The influence of Dr Galen lasted for many centuries as his works were translated first into Arabic and later into Latin. His comprehension of the anatomy and physiology of the human body was not surpassed till the 17th century. He had borrowed his philosophy from works of Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus and he also wrote an analysis of dreams, seventeen centuries before Sigmund Freud. Renowned Islamic physicians, pharmacologists and botanists heavily leaned on Galen’s studies. Over the centuries, many scholars translated his books reviving his vast field of knowledge that was by the 11th-12th century taught at the newly founded European universities like Oxford, Paris and Bologna.

It is obvious that after almost two thousand years, Galen’s legacy has been disseminated among monasteries, medressas, museums, universities and private collectors worldwide. This makes it difficult to get a complete list of his works and almost impossible to know to what extend the books we have are really complete. Lady Fortune plays an important role in such matters and from time to time new works or unknown passages are discovered.

Papyri and parchment were expensive commodities in antiquity but also in the Middle Ages and thrifty monks in search of writing support for their prayers effectively reused old parchment. They simply scraped off the old manuscripts to overwrite them with their Christian psalms and hymns perpendicularly to the initial writing. This process is called Palimpsest.

[Picture from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory by Farrin Abbott]

One such Palimpsest appeared in Germany at the beginning of the 1900s and its origin has been traced back to the Monastery of St Catherine on the Sinai Peninsula. Close examination with special X-ray imaging has revealed an underlying text in Syriac from the 6th century which constitutes the most complete surviving copy of an original book by Galen. This text was erased and written over in the 11th century.

Thanks to modern imaging and digital processing techniques, scientists and scholars are uncovering and studying the Roman physician’s original text over the past decade. Eventually this precious evidence will be added to the already existing high-resolution images which are made available online by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. This institution is in the process of collecting leaves from the same Syriac manuscript that made their way to different locations such as the libraries at Harvard University, Paris, and the Vatican to name just a few.

The intention is to digitally reconstruct Galen’s book. This is a long-term project considering that it takes about ten hours to scan one single page. Only when these complex scans are completed the research team will be able to start analyzing the words and thoughts of this great physician in order to fit them in the context of the pages that are kept elsewhere.

Details on this time-consuming research can be found in this article “HiddenMedical Text Read for the First Time in a Thousand Years” by Amanda Solliday".

No comments:

Post a Comment