History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

What do we know about Erasistratus? Part1

DOI: 10.17720/2409-5834.v5.1.2018.01a

Dmitry A. Balalykin
FSSBI «N.A. Semashko National Research Institute of Public Health»
12 Vorontsovo Pole str., building 1, Moscow 105064, Russia

The work of renowned 3rd century BC Alexandrian doctor Erasistratus is significant in the history of ancient medicine. The author of the article calls into question numerous assessments of his work, which have evolved in domestic and foreign historiography. The article summarizes Erasistratus’ views on medical theory and practice, using supporting sources. The author comes to the conclusion that the natural philosophical views of Erasistratus, unlike generally accepted views, were far from the teachings of the peripatetics, and suggests that the clinical practice of Erasistratus be considered as the basis for the future development of the teaching of the school of methodologists.

The works of Galen are an important source of information about Erasistratus. Using a comprehensive analysis of these sources, a definite idea can be formed of the approaches of Erasistratus and his later followers to solutions for practical clinical problems. By comparing known data, it is possible to carry out a historically reliable reconstruction of the doctrine of Erasistratus. New sources introduced into Russian-language scientific discourse allow us to determine the continuity of the views of Chrysippus of Cnidus and Erasistratus. This, in a broader context, raises the question of the influence of atomistic natural philosophy on the medicine of antiquity in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The principal rejection of venotomy, the tactics of using pressure dressings and the patient’s fasting as a means of combating the plethora were the key moments of the clinical tactics not only of Erasistratus, but of generations of members of certain ancient medical schools. This allows us to conclude that Herophilos and Erasistratus did not adhere to similar views on the theory and practice of medicine. It can be assumed that completely different fields of medical scientific thought were developed in Alexandria in the 3rd century BC.

Keywords: history of medicine, ancient medicine, Erasistratus, methodologists-physicians


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