History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

What do we know about Erasistratus? Part 3

doi: 10.3897/hmj.5.3.32484

Dmitry A. Balalykin

The writings of Galen are an important source of information about Erasistratus. A comprehensive analysis of this source material provides an idea of Erasistratus’s and his followers’ approaches to solving practical problems of clinical medicine. The article’s author cites arguments confirming that Erasistratus’s clinical practice, the basis of which was the natural philosophy of atomism, should be considered as the foundation of methodologists’ teachings. Methodist physicians, guided by Erasistratus’s medical postulates, needed a theory that logically explained the phenomena they observed, while for rationalist physicians theoretical medicine was the impetus for experimental studies, the results of which became its foundation.

The third part of the article presents historical and medical commentary of the Galen treatise “Treatment by Bloodletting,” which, along with his two other writings – “Bloodletting, against Erasistratus” and “Bloodletting, against the Erasistrateans at Rome,” contains valuable information about Erasistratus, allowing us to reconstruct his view of clinical practice and medicine in general. In his opinion, anatomical knowledge could not form the basis for reliable ideas about the structure of the human body. Anatomy and physiology were addressed by Erasistratus in a limited way, without contradicting his philosophical views. An important component of the clinical practice of Erasistratus was the rejection of venotomy, which was connected with the peculiarities of his worldview and the worldview of methodologists, the theoretical basis of which was the natural philosophy of atomism.

Keywords history of medicine, ancient medicine, Erasistratus, Methodic doctors


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