Scribonius Largus' Compounding of Drugs (Compositiones medicamentorum): introduction, translation, and medico-historical comments

Jocks, Ianto Thorvald (2020) Scribonius Largus' Compounding of Drugs (Compositiones medicamentorum): introduction, translation, and medico-historical comments. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Scribonius Largus’ Compounding of Drugs or Recipes for Remedies (Compositiones medicamentorum) is an important source for Roman medicine, especially pharmaceutical practice, in the first century CE. Its division into three main sections – remedies addressing complaints head to toe (a capite ad calcem), poisons and venoms (antidotes, theriacs, toxicology), and plasters, ointments, and similar “surgical” matters – allows for investigation of Scribonius’ approach to these respective aspects of medicine, the types of remedies and ingredients which form his therapeutic repertoire, and the technical knowledge and practical methods of drug compounding which constitute applied pharmacy in the early Roman Empire. The work’s preface and its index supplement the understanding of the Compositiones as a systematic reference work for treating common and dangerous ailments, based on a medical model with a strong commitment to ethical professional conduct and the tripartite nature of medicine as an inseparable union between pharmacy, surgery, and dietetics. While relatively obscure when compared to the more extensive and famous works of Pliny the Elder, Dioscorides, Celsus, and above all Galen, the material resonated with audiences of different time periods, leading to a varied reception and afterlife which ranges from second hand citations in Galen and extensive reproduction in Marcellus over individual recipes copied in medieval recipe compilations to dissertations by pharmacologists and dentists around the turn of the twentieth century, and include materials as diverse as medieval manuscripts, a Humanist commentary written in prison, a treatise on the pox, a doctoral thesis which is both a defence of Scribonius and of contemporary academic dentistry, and an engraving of the author on a large Theriac container. This thesis approaches these aspects of the Compositiones from two angles: in volume one, the text, its scholarly analysis, and the methodology taken here will be introduced before discussing the different sections and themes of the text – its approach to medicine and professional conduct, its structure and pharmaceutical practice, and its position in contemporary context, compared to the works of Celsus, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscorides. Its reception will also be discussed, with a focus on three late nineteenth and early twentieth century German language works which approach Scribonius from a pharmacological (Felix Rinne, 1892/1896) or dental perspective (Walter Wriedt, Fritz Trilk, 1921) which illustrate engagement of scientists and practitioners with ancient medical texts and medico-historical studies and their importance as part of the legitimisation and identity formation strategies of newly developing academic disciplines such as pharmacology and academic dentistry. Volume two lets the work speak for itself and aims to make Scribonius more accessible to a wider range of audiences by providing an English translation of the Compositiones which reflects the technical and at times challenging nature of the text and its translation into a modern language and attempts to clarify ambiguities, uncertainties, or problems with text or meaning by extensive explanatory annotations and comments, as well as drawing attention to noteworthy elements of medico-historical interest. The translation is supplemented by an appendix listing the – at times tentative – modern scientific botanical names and, where possible or suitable, chemical composition of mineral and inorganic substances mentioned in the text.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: ancient medicine, history of medicine, Scribonius Largus, history of pharmacy, recipe books, Classical Latin, Latin medical texts, translation (Latin->English), pharmaceutical compounding, history of science, early Roman empire (first century CE), pharmacopoeias, herbal medicine, technical literature, classical reception, nineteenth-century German pharmacy, early twentieth-century German dentistry.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
R Medicine > RS Pharmacy and materia medica
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Classics
College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Ruffell, Professor Isabel and Panayotakis, Professor Costas and Airlie, Dr. Stuart
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mr Ianto Jocks
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-82178
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 May 2021 10:28
Last Modified: 12 May 2021 11:03
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82178

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