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Isabelle Boehm
Daniel Vallat

Première partie. Résumer les textes scientifiques et techniques

Aetius of Amida’s abbreviations of his Galenic source texts1

Christine F. Salazar et Philip van der Eijk


Compilations of earlier medical writings, often referred to as “medical encyclopaedias”, emerged as a new type of medical literature in Late Antiquity. The three great collections that have come down to us – by Oribasius, Aetius of Amida and Paul of Aegina – consist almost entirely of quotations and excerpts taken from well-known medical authors, especially Galen, but these were often rearranged, paraphrased, abbreviated or summarized with the stated aim of making the medical content more suitable for practical use. Our paper presents three case studies from the Libri medicinales of Aetius that illustrate how the compilers reshaped their sources, leaving their individual mark on them.

Texte intégral

  • 1 We acknowledge the financial support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

1Late Antiquity saw the emergence of a new type of medical writing, the sunagôgê/sunagôgai, or in Latin Collectio(nes), English “compilation”, German “Sammelwerk”. As the ancient terms suggest, in these works textual material from earlier medical authors was brought together, but selectively, in a new arrangement, and in abbreviated form. In Greek, the earliest extant examples of these works are Oribasius’ Sunagôgai iatrikai, Aetius of Amida’s Logoi iatrikoi and Paul of Aegina’s Epitomê iatrikê (4th, 6th and 7th centuries CE respectively).

  • 2 For a discussion of the problems involved in the use of this term see Doody 2009; McCabe 2007, p.  (...)

2In modern scholarship, these works are sometimes also referred to as “medical encyclopaedias”2, but this term is to be used with qualification, for the texts in question differ in important ways from earlier “encyclopaedic” writings, such as those by Varro, Pliny the Elder or Celsus, and they also differ significantly from the modern development of the Encyclopédie in the 17th century, let alone from the type of medical encyclopaedias as we know them today. The works of Oribasius, Aetius and Paul may be regarded as encyclopaedic in the sense that they provide comprehensive coverage of the whole of the medical art (though with a notable emphasis on some areas of medicine over others, e.g., a strong preference for the practical, therapeutic side and little attention for the theoretical, philosophical side of medicine).

3Yet they differ formally from the encyclopaedic works just mentioned in one striking regard, namely that they consist almost entirely of quotations and excerpts taken from earlier writers. The persona of the author, compilator or excerptor – perhaps “producer” or “editor” would be a better term – hardly ever shines through, except where there is a preface (as there is in Oribasius and in Paul, but not in Aetius). His hand is visible mainly indirectly, in his selection of sources, his arrangement of the material and his methods of quoting, excerpting, paraphrasing, abbreviating and summarizing.

  • 3 Little is known about the actual reception and usage of these medical compilations in the Byzantin (...)

4This is not to belittle the complexity and the significance of this activity. The decisions that Oribasius, and in his footsteps Aetius and Paul, took about the inclusion or exclusion of material, its arrangement, abbreviation and textual presentation were very large in number and sometimes also in complexity, as they covered the whole of Greek medical literature from “Hippocrates” in the 5th century BCE to the writings of Pneumatist medical authors such as Posidonius of Byzantium in the late 4th century CE. Even for us, who possess only a fraction of the medical writings that were produced in that time frame, this is already a very large quantity of text, and Oribasius, Aetius and Paul almost certainly had access to much more material, which is lost to us. Obtaining an overview of all this, summarizing it and presenting it in a user-friendly manner was no mean feat. Moreover, Oribasius’, Aetius’ and Paul’s decisions had great consequences for medical study and medical practice in Byzantine times: for their summaries constituted, as it were, a filter through which ancient Greek and Roman medical writing was passed on to subsequent generations of readers, medical doctors and students in the Eastern Roman Empire3. It is therefore of great literary but also medico-historical importance to obtain a clearer view and a better understanding of the principles and methods of selection, arrangement and abbreviation as used by these compilators.

5This is one of the things a team of researchers are trying to do in Berlin, as part of the Sonderforschungsbereich 980 “Episteme in Bewegung”4. The SFB is primarily interested in processes and mechanisms of knowledge transfer, where “transfer” is meant in the sense of “recontextualisation”: blocks of texts are taken out of their original context and put into a new context; and in this process, their meaning or implication range is modified. Our research team (which currently consists of Christine Salazar, Matteo Martelli, Irene Calà, Ricarda Gäbel, Sean Coughlin, Eric Gowling and Philip van der Eijk) are looking at these medical Collectiones, for they provide numerous illuminating examples of such transfer. We are in the process of identifying, gathering and studying such examples. But we are also interested in the methods of compilation and abbreviation as such, and in excerpting techniques in other areas such as historiography, rhetoric and law, and this brings us closer to the theme of the present conference.

  • 5 The critical editions of books 9, 13, 14 and 16 by A. Zervos ( (...)
  • 6 Hirschberg (English) of book 7 (opthalmology); Romano (Italian) of book 16 (gynaecology and reprod (...)
  • 7 Daremberg and Bussemaker for Oribasius, Adams for Paul.
  • 8 See Gowling 2017.

6For practical reasons, to do with the enormous volume of textual material, we have decided to focus on one of these compilations in particular, the Books on Medicine (Logoi iatrikoi, Libri medicinales) by Aetius of Amida. Aetius lived in the early 6th century and held a position as court physician in Constantinople. An indicator of the esteem in which he was held by later medical writers is the fact that he is portrayed, along with Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna, as one of the four most important ancient physicians on the title page of the Iuntine edition of Hippocrates’ opera omnia (1588). Aetius’ work is in 16 books, and it survives in its entirety and in the original, which allows us to get a sense of its overall structure and architecture (as opposed to Oribasius’ Collectiones medicae, which was in 70 books but which, unfortunately, survives only in part). Yet the study of Aetius’ work is still in its infancy: only the first 8 books are accessible in a critical edition (by A. Olivieri, CMG), for the other books the textual situation is more problematic5. Moreover, with the exception of books 7 and 166, there is no translation into any modern language, let alone a detailed analysis and exegesis of the text (as opposed to Oribasius and Paul, where we do have good annotated translations in French and English of the extant works)7, our team is in the process of addressing part of this major gap. We have made a modest start by preparing annotated English translations (with an improved text) of books 1, 2 and 6, as well as a critical edition (with translation and notes) of book 9; and in so doing, we have also been studying Aetius’ engagement with his sources, his selection of material, his arrangement and his methods of paraphrase and abbreviation. We have already carried out a case study of Aetius’ compilatory technique in the long introduction to the first book, which is an intricate collage of passages taken from various books of Galen’s Simple Medicines8. The question here is not only what material has been included, how it has been arranged and what material has been excluded, but also what has motivated Aetius’ choices, considering that, at least to our taste, he has taken some passages out of context. What other options did he have and why did he choose the particular one he followed?

  • 9 See van der Eijk 2010, p. 524.

7One caveat that should be noted here in advance is the risk of over-interpretation, of attributing too much significance or intentionality to certain moves that Aetius appears to make9. Some of the decisions we ascribe to him may not have been his, but those of his precursors, such as Oribasius, whose work we have only in part. Yet while there is no doubt that Aetius used Oribasius, in many cases that does not explain everything; and in some cases, Aetius may have used other intermediaries as well, or he may have used Galen directly. Another uncertainty is posed by the manuscript tradition, where it is not always clear whether the arrangement of the text or the use of name labels as structuring headers at the beginning of a section is due to Aetius or to scribal intervention. Furthermore, some apparent moves in Aetius may be mechanical rather than intentional, or they may have been dictated by factors beyond his control. Yet in our view, in the current state of scholarship, we simply do not know enough about Aetius’ method of working in order to dismiss any explanatory scenarios in advance, and our analysis therefore starts from the assumption that there is a mind at work here, who had an impressive command of the medical art, practical as well as theoretical, and very considerable literary and rhetorical competence.

Three Case Studies

8In what follows, we shall present three further case studies of his procedures.

9These passages are chosen from book 2 of the Libri medicinales to illustrate by concrete examples what has been said in general terms about Aetius’ modus operandi so far. Following on the plant remedies discussed in book 1, book 2 contains the second part of the pharmacology: minerals, comprising different kinds of earth and stones, as well as parts of animals (including humans) and animal products (such as milk, as in the passages below, or eggs), and finally lists of substances ordered by their effects (“things that heat to the second degree”, etc.).

  • 10 11.379‑13.377 K.
  • 11 6.453‑748 K.

10As has been mentioned, Aetius’ work is a compilation, and this is often flagged – in most manuscripts – at the beginning of chapters by either the source author’s name in the genitive (e.g. Γαληνοῦ) or the phrase ‘ἐκ τῶν/from the works of’ followed by the name in the genitive (e.g. ἐκ τῶν Γαληνοῦ). Much, though not all, of the text in book 2 is taken from two of Galen’s works about remedies, De simplicium medicamentorum temperamentis ac facultatibus (= SMT)10 and De alimentorum facultatibus (Alim. Fac.)11. Whilst that much is clear, often the pathways of the text are not. Aetius had an arsenal of different methods for dealing with his sources, and quoting directly from Galen was not his only option. Oribasius, whose voluminous Collectiones medicae have already been mentioned, also wrote two shorter works, the Synopsis for his son Eusthatius and the books for his friend (and later biographer), the historian Eunapius. All three works constitute an earlier layer of renderings – verbatim quotes and paraphrases of varying succinctness – of Galenic material. Aetius thus had the choice of going directly to Galen for what he wanted to discuss, turning to Oribasius for a condensed version, or in many cases using a different author altogether (or at least additionally).

Case 1

  • 12 Oribasius, who also cites Rufus when discussing “the drinking of milk” in his Collectiones medicae(...)

11For two of the chapters presented below, II.86 and 87, Aetius had apparently consulted another author as part of his source material. The heading of II.86 proclaims that the chapter comes “from the works of Rufus and Galen”, and II.87 (about different kinds of milk) has a heading that declares it to be entirely from Rufus. This is clearly Rufus of Ephesus, the first-century (CE) author of a large number of medical treatises, including the still extant Quaestiones medicinales and many others that are now lost. Neither passage is to be found in Rufus’ surviving writings12, so it cannot be verified what percentage, if any, of the chapter is in fact by him. As the text stands, most of II.86 is a near-verbatim quote (with some omissions) from Galen (SMT 10/XII.263,12‑14 and 264,1‑7 K.). In the absence of any extant writings by Rufus on this topic, this leaves us guessing. Is “from the works of Rufus” a mistake that has crept in at a later stage during transmission, or is this Rufus transmitted via Galen (who, however does not mention him in this context)? In II.95, only a few lines can be traced back to Galen, although lines 13‑15 have some similarity with book 10 of Alim. Fac., VI.681,14f. and 682,8f. K. Can we assume, therefore, that these sentences are cited by Galen without attribution, and that the rest preserves more or less the ipsissima verba of Rufus? Failing the discovery of further works by him, it is impossible to answer this question. On the other hand, the reference to Galen – only found in the 14th-century manuscript La (Laurentianus Graecus, LXXV, 20) which Olivieri himself describes as misera condicione […] traditus, but nonetheless adopts – seems misplaced regarding almost half of the chapter. After two more sentences from Alim. Fac. (VI.682,16f. K.), there follow several lines (17‑28, especially 25‑28) for which there is no match in Galen or Oribasius. (The passage would have presented an intriguing image of Galen standing by the hearth and wiping overboiling milk from the pot with a sponge.) Given that II.86 and 87 belong to the same sequence of chapters about milk as 95, it is possible that either this reference is a mistake, or that here, too, the heading should have been “From the works of Rufus and Galen”. Alternatively, the “From the works of Rufus and Galen, about milk” at I.180,5 O. could be meant not just as the heading of II.86, but as a general title for the entire section about all aspects of milk, including chapters 86 to 95.

Case 2

  • 13 Here, as with all comments on Aetius citing Galen, the caveat concerning over-interpretation that (...)
  • 14 XII.263,12‑14 and 264,1‑7 K.
  • 15 Διττὴν ἔχει τοῦτο χρείαν.
  • 16 Διττὴν ἔχει τὸ γάλα χρείαν.
  • 17 τὸ […] ὑγιεινότατον γάλα.
  • 18 καθάπερ ὀλίγον ἔμπροσθεν ἐπὶ τοῦ αἵματος.

12Until recently, the received wisdom was that the “compilers” did just that, merely reproducing entire chunks of the source text, for the most part without modifications. While it is true that Aetius often does quote several lines of, e.g., Galen (in whose case we are in a position to check), a close look at these passages reveals a careful management of the source. There rarely are uninterrupted stretches of perfectly verbatim citation. If one takes II.86/I.180,5‑12 O. as an example13, it becomes clear in the first sentence that Aetius is mindful of the position a passage has in his work as opposed to that in the original. In this case we have an extended quote from SMT14, where Galen has already been mentioning milk in the preceding lines, and his sentence, therefore, begins: “This has two uses…”15 This would not make sense at the beginning of a new chapter, so Aetius changes it to: “Milk has two uses…”16 After the same sentence, he leaves out some of Galen’s words, first a reference to De Methodo medendi, to which Galen directs the reader for instructions about the use of milk as food. Aetius does so again in the sentence that follows, where, after the words “the healthiest milk”17, Galen refers back, with a comparison, to his discussion of blood, “as [I did] slightly earlier regarding blood”18. At I.180.10 O., the wording has been slightly changed (by whom?) from σμικρᾶς τινὸς εὐωδίας μετέχον (“partaking of some small amount of a pleasant smell”) to σμικροτάτης τινὸς εὐωδίας ἐμφαῖνον (“presenting some very small amount of a pleasant smell”). If this has been done by Aetius, it would suggest that occasionally he also makes what amounts to stylistic adjustments. It is impossible to say, though, whether that is also the case for the very small alteration of γευόμενον (“when ingested”) to γευομένοις (“to those who ingest it”) in the final sentence of the quote. Although the passage investigated here is only seven lines in Olivieri’s edition, it showcases several of the actions that Aetius performs habitually when dealing with source texts taken from Galen’s works.

  • 19 θρέψαι τε καὶ τὰ μόρια ὑπελθεῖν ἀγαθόν.
  • 20 λεπτότατον καὶ.
  • 21 The description of camel’s milk having the most whey appears in De probis pravisque alimentorum su (...)
  • 22 Nor are any of these additions present in Oribasius’ section about milk and cheese, Coll. med., II (...)

13Aetius’ discussion of milk and its uses continues with the different qualities of the milk of different species. As stated above, this chapter is supposed to be quoted from the works of Rufus, but parts of it are fairly close to passages in Galen’s De Alimentorum Facultatibus. (Or again, Galen quoting Rufus?) Apart from the paraphrasing and omitting of words, the chapter also features another method routinely employed by Aetius, namely that of moving back and forth in the Galenic text, and not quoting in the order in which Galen wrote. The beginning and end of the sentence at I.180,15‑17 O. (“That of cows […] least fatty is that of the camel”) can be found in Alim. Fac./VI.681,15‑17 K., but the words “good for nourishing and for permeating the parts”19, have been added (from Rufus?), as has “and thinnest”20. After some more apparently non-Galenic text (ll. 17‑19, διαχωρεῖ δὲ […] ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ τὸ ὄνειον)21, Aetius continues with a paraphrase of VI.684,10f. K., immediately followed by one of VI.682,1 K. Then, after a few more words that cannot be found in Galen’s chapter on milk (τὰ δ’ ἄλλα ἐπιεικῶς χρηστὸν καὶ θρέψαι ἱκανόν in l. 22)22, he ends with VI.682,2f. K. The remaining lines of the chapter do not appear to be Galenic, and what is more, the statement (I.180,24‑181,1 O.) that the milk of the sow is the thickest explicitly contradicts Galen’s, in SMT (XII.266,1f. K.), that “the sow has unconcocted and watery milk”. This discrepancy opens the exciting prospect that what we have here is indeed an excerpt from Rufus. Some of it might still be filtered through Galen, e.g. ll. 19f.: “This partakes the least of fatty humour”. Here, Aetius has again added an explanation where Galen is referring to the preceding sentence, writing τοῦ λιπαροῦ χυμοῦ (“of fatty humour”) instead of Galen’s τοιοῦτου τοῦ χυμοῦ (“of this humour”).

Case 3

14The final case study is II.95, the chapter on how to boil milk. It opens with a sentence from Alim. Fac. (VI.682,16f. K.), adding γαστέρα at the end. Again, this is something Galen does not need to say, having mentioned it two lines earlier. This is followed by a very close paraphrase (with the small variation of “they give/διδόασι” instead of “we give/δίδομεν”) of VI.683,1‑3 K.

  • 23 “[…] and we give it to those whose stomach is irritated by sharp residues”.
  • 24 And also in Oribasius’ chapter “Things that check the bowel”, Coll. med., 3.30/I.88,30, R., but κύ (...)

15The second half of this chapter can also be traced, at least in outline, to the two aforementioned treatises. The way they are quoted is anything but straightforward. The sentence in ll. 28‑31 (προεψήσας τὸ γάλα […] ἅπαντα) is a loose paraphrase of VI.682,16‑18 K., part of which was also the opening sentence of II.95. One gets the impression that here the joins are showing in Aetius’ compilation, where duplication has occurred. It may also be that only one of the two quotations comes from Galen. Omitting Galen’s additional explanation (VI.683,1‑3 K.)23, Aetius continues with a paraphrase of VI.683,3f. K., in which the red-hot metal object thrown into the milk – κυκλίσκοι (small spheres) in Galen24 – have become ἐλάσματα (plates). We can only speculate on the reason for this substitution. Is it stylistic preference, or is Aetius quoting from elsewhere, a source shared by Galen?

  • 25 VI.683,8f. K: “[…] and do not be surprised if, having removed the whey, they then pour water on it (...)

16At this point in the text (I.185,1 O.), Aetius suddenly switches to Alim. Fac. 10 (XII.267,8‑13 K.) to include Galen’s explanation about the properties of iron and his description of a method that is superior to throwing heated pebbles or metal objects into the milk. This quote is almost verbatim. Switching back to SMT, Aetius now continues with another, brief verbatim quote, VI.683,5‑6 K., and a loose paraphrase of ibid. 6‑9. It is interesting to observe that where Galen addresses the reader directly25, Aetius – never one for a vivid style – has left out the personal element. The final sentence of II.95 is again Galen verbatim (VI.683,9f. K.), with the verb in the third person plural (φεύγουσιν) like Galen’s, not the first person plural (φεύγομεν) as Oribasius has it (Coll. med. II.30/I.89,3, R.). Apart from the slightly awkward repetition, the chapter shows Aetius at his most virtuoso, juggling not merely different sections of a Galenic work, but two different treatises, far removed from the cliché of the mindless copier and paster.

  • 26 XII.292, K.

17It has been pointed out earlier on that the twelve lines I.184,17‑28 O. are a mystery as far as their provenance is concerned. The text as it stands cannot be found in any extant work by Galen or Oribasius, although Galen does discuss the method of boiling milk by throwing heated pebbles into it in SMT26, albeit in a different wording. When it comes to the guidelines on how to boil the milk on a fire in such a way as to prevent it from boiling over, not even that is the case. In cases like this we can only guess.


18Summing up, one can draw a few cautious conclusions (again, with all the usual caveats). The small number of samples presented here gives us an idea of what Aetius does and does not do. It should be clear from what has been said so far that he did not draw up a list of topics and then lift entire chapters on the respective subjects from Galen and other predecessors. (For one thing, if the aim was a medical compendium of manageable size, this would be difficult with Galen, given his verbosity.) The list of topics is likely to have come first (even if opinions vary as to who added the chapter headings), but the way in which Aetius navigates his sources is very much his own. As we have seen with chapters II.86, 87 and 95, he chooses sections of texts, for example from Galen, not necessarily in their original order, and not necessarily from just one treatise – or even from the same author. Sometimes the source is quoted verbatim, but often it is paraphrased, or individual words are replaced by different ones. Aetius also takes care to tailor the text to make it fit into his sequence of quotes, adding a few explanatory words, or dropping references, e.g. to preceding sections of the source text, or other remarks that only made sense in the original context.

19It would be interesting to see how Aetius achieved all this. He must have had a very thorough knowledge of earlier medical writings, Galen’s in particular, but he cannot possibly have known them all by heart. It seems likely, therefore, that he had some form of filing system, but it is difficult to imagine what this might have been. Strips of papyrus ordered by subject matter? We can only conjecture.

20Generally speaking, Aetius focuses on practical aspects of diagnosis and treatment, favouring them over medical theories. There is little doubt that the Libri medicinales were intended as a reference work for medical practitioners and perhaps also for those setting out to practise as doctors. The subject matter is clearly divided into books and chapters, making it easy to find what one needs to know. Overall one could say that Aetius is more systematic in ordering his material as a medical writer than Galen, who often launches into lengthy digressions. Readers who wish to learn about some aspect of theory in detail and who are also looking to be entertained with anecdotes and polemical asides are certainly well served with Galen. Those who want quick and easily digestible information about a certain disease or remedy might do better to choose Aetius.

21Key to the typographical features in the tables:

Bold: De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis ac Facultatibus (SMT)

Bold + Italics: paraphrase of Galen’s SMT text or slight deviations

Underline: De Alimentorum Facultatibus (Alim. Fac.)

Underline + Italics: paraphrase of Galen’s Alim. Fac. text or slight deviations

||: parts of the Galenic text left out

[P. 180 O.] \5 II.86. Ἐκ τῶν Ῥούφου καὶ Γαληνοῦ περὶ γάλακτοϲ. Διττὴν ἔχει τὸ γάλα χρείαν, τὴν μὲν ἑτέραν ὡϲ τροφήν, τὴν δὲ ἑτέραν ὡϲ φάρμακον. || τὸ τοίνυν ὑγιεινότατον γάλα || καθαρόν ἐϲτι καὶ εἰλικρινέϲ, οὔτε πικρότητοϲ οὔτ’ ὀξύτητοϲ οὔθ’ ἁλυκότητοϲ οὔτε δριμύτητοϲ οὔτε δυϲωδίαϲ μετέχον, ἀλλ’ ὡϲ ἂν εἴποι τιϲ εὐῶδεϲ ἢ ἄνοϲμον ἢ εἴπερ ἄρα \10 ϲμικροτάτηϲ τινὸϲ εὐωδίαϲ ἐμφαῖνον. εὔδηλον δὲ ὅτι καὶ γευομένοιϲ ἐϲτὶν ἡδύ, βραχεῖαν ἔχον γλυκύτητα. πρῶτον δὲ ἀναγκαῖον ἐπιϲκέψαϲθαι τὰϲ διαφορὰϲ αὐτοῦ.
87. Περὶ διαφορᾶϲ γάλακτοϲ. Ῥούφου. Ὅϲον μὲν οὖν τῇ φύϲει διαλλάττει βοῦϲ τε καὶ ἵπποϲ καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ζῷα, εἰϲ τοϲοῦτον καὶ τὸ γάλα \15 διαλλάξειε. τὸ μὲν γὰρ τῶν βοῶν παχύτατόν ἐϲτι καὶ λιπαρώτατον, θρέψαι τε καὶ τὰ μόρια ὑπελθεῖν ἀγαθόν. ὑγρότατον δὲ καὶ λεπτότατον καὶ ἥκιϲτα λιπαρὸν τὸ τῆϲ καμήλου, διαχωρεῖ δὲ ἦϲϲον καίτοι ὀρρὸν πλεῖϲτον ἔχον· ἀλλ᾽ οὓτως ὦπται τοῖς πειράσασιν ἔκπαλαι. τὸ δὲ ἵππειον διαχωρητικώτερον, ὁμοίωϲ δὲ καὶ τὸ ὄνειον· ἥκιϲτα δὲ \20 τοῦτο μετέχει τοῦ λιπαροῦ χυμοῦ, διὸ καὶ ϲπανίωϲ ἐτυρώθη τινὶ κατὰ γαϲτέρα. || αἴγειον δὲ ϲύμμετρον τῇ ϲυϲτάϲει καὶ καθῆραι μὲν ἀϲθενέϲτερον βοείου, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα ἐπιεικῶϲ χρηϲτὸν καὶ θρέψαι ἱκανόν. τὸ δὲ τοῦ προβάτου παχύτερον τούτου, λεύκαϲ δὲ ὑπὸ τῷ δέρματι ποιεῖν εἴωθεν, εἴ τιϲ ϲυνεχῶϲ αὐτὸ προϲφέροιτο. τὸ δὲ τῆϲ ὑὸϲ παχύτατόν
[P. 181 O.] ἐϲτιν, ὡϲ μηδὲ πιτύαϲ δεῖϲθαι εἰϲ τὸ πήγνυϲθαι, καὶ ὀρρὸν ἀποκρίνειν βραχὺν καὶ ἕψοντι τάχιϲτα ϲυνίϲταται· ταῦτ’ ἄρα καὶ εἰϲ διαχώρηϲιν οὐκ ἀγαθόν, καὶ καυϲῶδεϲ τῇ κοιλίᾳ.
86. From the works of Rufus and Galen, about milk. Milk has two \5 uses, one for nourishment and the other as a remedy. ||Moreover, the healthiest milk || is pure and unmixed, partaking of neither bitterness nor sharpness, nor saltiness nor acidity, nor a bad smell, but as one might say, pleasant-smelling or odourless or, if at all, \10 presenting some very small amount of a pleasant smell. It is obvious that it is also pleasant to the taste for those who ingest it, having a brief [sensation of] sweetness. First it is necessary to examine its differences.
87. About the differences in milk. From the works of Rufus. Now, to the degree to which cattle, horses and the other animals differ in their nature, to that degree their milk, too, \15 differs. That of cows is the thickest and fattiest, good for nourishing and for permeating the parts. The most liquid and thinnest and least fatty is that of the camel: it is excreted less and indeed has the most whey. But thus it has been seen from ancient times by those who tried it. Mare’s milk is more laxative, and to the same degree so is also ass’s milk. This partakes the least \20 of fatty humour, and therefore it rarely curdles in one’s stomach. Goat’s milk is moderate in its consistency, and it purges more weakly than cow’s milk, and otherwise it is fairly good and sufficiently nourishing. Sheep’s milk is thicker than the former, and it tends to produce leukai under the skin if one were to administer it continuously. That of a sow is the thickest [181 O.], so that it does not even need rennet for solidifying, and it secretes a thick whey, and when boiled, it very quickly congeals. So it is not so good for excretion, and it burns the bowel.


[P. 184 O.] 95. Περὶ ἑψήϲεωϲ γάλακτοϲ. Γαληνοῦ. Εἰ δὲ προεψήϲαϲ τιϲ τὸ γάλα \15τὸν ὀρρὸν ἐκδαπανήϲειεν, οὐδὲ ὅλωϲ ὑπάγει γαϲτέρα. διδόαϲι δὲ αὐτὸ τοῖϲ ὑπὸ δριμέων περιττωμάτων δακνομένοιϲ τὴν γαϲτέρα || καὶ τὰ ἔντερα καὶ τοῖϲ κατὰ νῆϲτιν πονηρευομένοιϲ χολώδεϲι ῥεύμαϲι καὶ τοῖϲ δυϲεντερικοῖϲ. τρόποι δὲ ϲκευαϲίαϲ διττοί. ἢ γὰρ ἑψομένου τοῦ γάλακτοϲ ἐπὶ πλέον δαπανᾶται αὐτοῦ τὸ ὀρρῶδεϲ ἢ κοχλάκων ἐμβλη-\20 θέντων· ἀλλὰ τὸ διὰ τῶν κοχλάκων ϲκευάζεται παχύτερον καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πονηρότερον γίγνεται τά τε ἄλλα καὶ τῷ ϲυγκαταμίγνυϲθαι τῷ γάλακτι τέφραν ἐκ τῶν πυρουμένων κοχλάκων· ἔχει δέ τι τὸ τοιοῦτο χρηϲιμώτερον ἐπὶ τῶν ϲηπεδονωδῶν ἑλκῶν. διὸ τούτοιϲ μὲν προϲφέρειν δεῖ τὸ διὰ τῶν κοχλάκων, τοῖϲ δὲ λοιποῖϲ τὸ ἑψόμενον. ἕψετα\25 δὲ μαλακῷ πυρὶ κινούμενον ϲυνεχῶϲ, ὡϲ μὴ διακρίνεϲθαι καὶ ἤν τι ἐπιζῇ τῷ ϲτόματι τῆϲ χύτραϲ καὶ τοῦτο ϲπόγγῳ καθαρῷ ἀφαιρεῖν χρή. πολλάκιϲ γὰρ τοῦτο ϲυμμιγὲν τῷ ἑψομένῳ καὶ τὸ ὅλον διέφθειρε. τὸ δὲ διὰ τῶν κοχλάκων ϲκευάζεται οὕτωϲ· προεψήϲαϲ τὸ γάλα μέχρι τὸ πλεῖϲτον τῆϲ ὑγρότητοϲ δαπανηθῆναι, ἔπειτα λίθουϲ κόχλακαϲ λαβὼν \30 καὶ πυρώϲαϲ ἔμβαλλε εἰϲ τὸ γάλα τοϲούτουϲ, ὡϲ τὸν ὀρρὸν δαπανῆϲαι ἅπαντα· || τῶν δὲ κοχλάκων οὐχ ἧττον, ἀλλὰ καὶ μᾶλλον, ἐμβαπτό- [185 O.]μενα τῷ γάλακτι ϲιδήρου ἐλάϲματα διάπυρα ταὐτὸν ἐργάζεται. μετέχει γὰρ ὁ ϲίδηροϲ || τῆϲ ϲτυπτικῆϲ δυνάμεωϲ καὶ τούτου γε χάριν παρεϲκευαϲάμην κυλίνδρουϲ ϲιδηροῦϲ πλέοναϲ ἐπὶ πέραϲιν ὀβελίϲκων προκειμένουϲ, ὡϲ ἄν τιϲ ἐκ τῆϲ λαβῆϲ εὐκόλωϲ ἐπαίροι τὸν ϲίδηρον \5 πυρωθέντα ῥάκεϲι κατέχων, ὡϲ ἐπὶ καυτήρων ποιοῦμεν. τυροῦταί γε μὴν ἐν τῇ γαϲτρὶ ῥᾳδίωϲ τὸ οὕτωϲ ϲκευαϲθὲν γάλα· διὸ ἀϲφαλέϲτερον ὕδατοϲ ἐπεγχεῖν, ὥϲπερ καὶ ποιοῦϲι τῶν ἰατρῶν οὐκ ὀλίγοι, ἐκδαπανήϲαντεϲ πρῶτον τὸν ὀρρόν, εἶτ’ αὖθιϲ ὕδατοϲ καθαροῦ ἐπεγχέοντεϲ· οὐ γὰρ τὴν ὑγρότητα τοῦ ὀρροῦ φεύγουϲιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δριμύτητα, καθ’ ἣν ὑπάγει γαϲτέρα. 95. About the boiling of milk. From [the works of] Galen. If one boils the milk in advance and \15 removes the whey, it does not purge the stomach completely. And they give it to those whose stomach and intestines are irritated [‘stung’] by sharp residues, and those whose jejunum is in a bad state because of bilious fluxes, and for those suffering from dysentery. There are two ways of preparing it. For the whey-like [part] of the milk is removed either by boiling it for some time, or by dropping pebbles into it. \20 However, milk prepared with pebbles is thicker, and because of that it becomes more troublesome in general and also because ash from the roasted pebbles gets mixed in with the milk. This has something rather useful in the case of ulcers inclined to putrefy. Therefore one must proffer to these [patients] milk prepared with pebbles, but to the rest boiled milk. And it is boiled on \25 a gentle fire, stirring continuously, so that it does not separate, and if something boils over at the mouth of the pot, one needs to remove this with a clean sponge. For often this becomes mingled with what is being boiled and ruins it all. The milk with pebbles is prepared like this: boil the milk beforehand until most of the moisture has been consumed, then take some pebbles and,\30 having roasted them, drop so many into the milk as to consume all the whey. No less than the pebbles, but more so, red-hot plates of iron dipped [185 O.] into the milk do the same. For iron partakes of an astringent property, and because of that we contrive several iron cylinders with projecting spits at the ends, so that by the handle one may easily lift the \5 heated iron, holding it with rags, as we do with cauteries. Yet milk prepared in this way easily curdles in the stomach. It is therefore safer to add some water, as a considerable number of doctors do, having first removed the whey and then pouring on clear water. For they do not seek to avoid the wetness of the whey, but its sharpness, by \10 which it purges the stomach.



K.: C.G. Kühn (ed.), Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia, 20 vols., Facsimile reprint, Hildesheim, Olms, 1964.

O.: A. Olivieri (ed.), Aetius Amidenus, Libri medicinales, vol. 1, Libri I‑VIII, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum VIII 1, Leipzig/Berlin, Teubner, 1935.

R.: J. Raeder (ed.), Oribasii Synopsis ad Eusthatium, Libri ad Eunapium, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, VI, 3, Leipzig/Berlin, Teubner, 1926.

R.: J. Raeder (ed.), Oribasii Collectionum Medicarum Reliquiae, vol. 1, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, VI, 1,1, Leipzig/Berlin, Teubner, 1928.

Secondary literature

Doody 2009: A. Doody, “Pliny’s Natural History: Enkuklios Paideia and the ancient encyclopaedia”, Journal of the History of Ideas 70, 2009, pp. 1‑21.

Doody 2010: A. Doody, Pliny’s Encyclopaedia. The Reception of the Natural History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Gowling 2017: E. Gowling, “Aetius’ extraction of Galenic essence: a comparison between Libri medicinales book I and SMT”, in M. Martelli, L. Lehmhaus (ed.), Collecting Recipes: Byzantine and Jewish Pharmacology in Dialogue, Berlin, De Gruyter, 2017, pp. 83‑102.

McCabe 2007: A. McCabe, A Byzantine Encyclopaedia of Horse Medicine, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.

van der Eijk 2010: P. van der Eijk, “Principles and practices of compilation and abbreviation in the medical ‘encyclopaedias’ of late antiquity”, in M. Horster, C. Reitz (ed.), Condensing Texts – Condensed Texts, Palingenesia 98, Stuttgart, F. Steiner, 2010, pp. 519‑554.

van der Eijk et al. 2015: P. van der Eijk, M. Geller, L. Lehmhaus, M. Martelli, C. Salazar, “Canons, authorities and medical practice in the Greek medical encyclopaedias of late antiquity and in the Talmud”, in A. Traninger, E. Cancik-Kirschbaum (ed.), Wissen in Bewegung: Institution – Iteration – Transfer, Wiesbaden, Harrassovitz Verlag, 2015, pp. 195‑222.


1 We acknowledge the financial support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

2 For a discussion of the problems involved in the use of this term see Doody 2009; McCabe 2007, p. 59‑65; van der Eijk 2010, p. 520.

3 Little is known about the actual reception and usage of these medical compilations in the Byzantine world: who were their readers and users? Did they play a role in medical teaching and instruction? To what extent did they replace the works of Galen and others in the curriculum, or to what extent did Byzantine medical doctors and their students continue to have access to, and make direct use of the ancient authors over and above these compilations? To our knowledge, these questions have not yet been answered.

4 See

5 The critical editions of books 9, 13, 14 and 16 by A. Zervos ( take only partial account of the manuscript tradition and are to be used with great caution.

6 Hirschberg (English) of book 7 (opthalmology); Romano (Italian) of book 16 (gynaecology and reproduction).

7 Daremberg and Bussemaker for Oribasius, Adams for Paul.

8 See Gowling 2017.

9 See van der Eijk 2010, p. 524.

10 11.379‑13.377 K.

11 6.453‑748 K.

12 Oribasius, who also cites Rufus when discussing “the drinking of milk” in his Collectiones medicae (II.61/I.59,6f., R.), presents the material as taken from book 5 of Rufus’ On Regimen (if περὶ διαίτης is a title and not a description, “his writings about regimen”).

13 Here, as with all comments on Aetius citing Galen, the caveat concerning over-interpretation that was raised in the Introduction needs to remain firmly in place – and at the back of one’s mind when interpreting Aetius’ use of his sources. Certainly, alterations may have been made by some earlier commentator, lost to us, or be the result of careless copying, and our Galenic text may not be a precise match with the one used by Aetius. Nevertheless, there are just too many instances of Aetius abbreviating, paraphrasing and adding text, or replacing one word or phrase with another, for all of them to have originated from these causes.

14 XII.263,12‑14 and 264,1‑7 K.

15 Διττὴν ἔχει τοῦτο χρείαν.

16 Διττὴν ἔχει τὸ γάλα χρείαν.

17 τὸ […] ὑγιεινότατον γάλα.

18 καθάπερ ὀλίγον ἔμπροσθεν ἐπὶ τοῦ αἵματος.

19 θρέψαι τε καὶ τὰ μόρια ὑπελθεῖν ἀγαθόν.

20 λεπτότατον καὶ.

21 The description of camel’s milk having the most whey appears in De probis pravisque alimentorum succis, VI.766,5f. K. This is now considered spurious, but it cannot be excluded that some of its text was taken from lost Galenic writings.

22 Nor are any of these additions present in Oribasius’ section about milk and cheese, Coll. med., II.59/I.57,15‑58,29, R.

23 “[…] and we give it to those whose stomach is irritated by sharp residues”.

24 And also in Oribasius’ chapter “Things that check the bowel”, Coll. med., 3.30/I.88,30, R., but κύλινδροι in the entry for “milk” in his Libri ad Eunapium 2.1/356,8 R.

25 VI.683,8f. K: “[…] and do not be surprised if, having removed the whey, they then pour water on it”.

26 XII.292, K.


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