Accepted paper:

The therapeutic use of mineral amulets in medical works of Late Antiquity


Irene Calà (CNRS UMR8167 'Orient et Mediterranée')

Paper short abstract:

The paper will offer a view on the medical use of amulets in the medical works of the 6th and 7th century AD. I will examine the relations beetween the works of Aetius of Amida, Alexander of Tralles and Paul of Egina and their sources.

Paper long abstract:

The boundaries between rational and popular magical medicine were unclear since the origin of rational medicine in the Corpus hippocraticum and they remained so until Late Antiquity. The medical works in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. show large overlapping areas between rational, magical and religious medicine. Physicians tried to keep their distance from the practices considered as superstitious. For instance Aetius Amidenus suggests keeping away from magic in chapter 85 of the second book of his Libri medicinales, thus stressing the rational features of his works. This claim seems to indicate a clear opposition between two kinds of medicine, rational and magical. As a matter of fact, the medical writers do include in their treatises magical remedies, such as amulets. Based on the number of occurrences in the texts, amulets play a particular place. They are of three kinds: vegetable, mineral and animal. I will focus on the medical work of Aetius of Amida, Alexander of Tralles and Paul of Egina to show a view on the therapeutic use of the amulets, with specific attention to the mineral ones. This paper is intended to link up with papers of Matteo Martelli "Galen on the pharmacological properties of minerals" and Christine Salazar "Aetius of Amidas on the Medical Uses of Earth and Minerals - Reception and Transformation".

panel P23
Medical knowledge in motion: exchange, transformation and iteration in the medical traditions of the Late Antique Mediterranean world