Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.09.02


Vincent Barras, Terpsichore Birchler, Anne-France Morand (trans.), Galien: L'âme et ses passions (Les passions et les erreurs de l'âme; Les facultés de l'âme suivent les tempéraments du corps). Paris: Société d'édition Les Belles Lettres, 1995. Pp. lxviii + 155. FF130. ISBN 2-251-33962-4.


Reviewed by Robert B. Todd, University of British Columbia (bobtodd@unixg.ubc.ca).

The works translated here are (in their official Latin titles) the De propriorum animi cuiuslibet affectuum dignotione et curatione (An. Aff.), the De animi cuiuslibet peccatorum dignotione et medela (An. Pecc.) (both translated from De Boer's edition at CMG V.4.1.1), and the Quod animi mores corporis temperamenta sequantur (QAM) (translated from Müller's Teubner text in Galenus: Scripta Minora, II [Leipzig, 1891; repr. 1967]). They are put into clear and vigorous French in a series aimed at a non-specialist readership. An. Aff. and An. Pecc. have long been available in an English translation by P. Harkins, Galen: On the Passions and Errors of the Soul (Columbus, 1963), while QAM still regrettably awaits its first English version.

The first two works deal with therapy for the "passions and errors of the soul", and contain some lively and engaging material, not only in descriptions of specific cases needing therapy (notably the vivid anecdote at Ann. Aff. 4 which, like others, shows that Galen would have made a fine novelist), but also in the famous autobiographical digression (An. Aff. ch. 8) in which he compares his irascible mother to Xanthippe. An. Aff. also contains some less inviting methodological material, and An. Pecc. is sometimes hard going since it reflects Galen's epistemological position, typically developed in a polemical and reactive way.

QAM is to a large extent an anthology of passages culled from Plato, Aristotle, and Hippocrates to support his (far from clear) position on psychophysical causation. Although elementary, and protreptic, it is more scholastic than the other two works. It is the subject of a penetrating analysis by G.E.R. Lloyd (rightly noted in this volume) in the proceedings of the third Colloquium Galenicum (Le opere psicologiche di Galeno, edd. P. Manuli and M. Vegetti [Naples, 1988], 11-42).

This collection will be worth consulting even by specialists. The introduction (xxvii-lii) and notes (117-127) are brief but useful, and the select bibliography (129-132) is admirably comprehensive and up to date, although restricted to the subject matter of the treatises translated. (But now that ANRW II.37.1 and 2 are out, Galenic bibliography is no longer a problem.) The programmatic preface by Jean Starobinski (vii-xxvi) magisterially reviews the way that Galen's intellectually complex identity was simplified into a scholastic medical system over the centuries. That complexity is emerging in recent scholarship through efforts to locate Galen in the broader culture of his time, the so-called Second Sophistic. (P.A. Brunt at BICS 39 [1994] 25-52 may be able to dismiss the identification of Galen as a sophistes, but his narrow claims about professional identity need not preclude Galen's having wider affinities with contemporary culture.) Starobinski has insightful remarks on this theme at pp. xx-xxiii, and particularly on Galen's use of discourse in therapy. (On discourse and its conventions in the technical area of anatomical researches see now H. von Staden, "Anatomy as Rhetoric: Galen on Dissection and Persuasion," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 50 [1995], 47-66.)

In a work designed for a wide audience we cannot expect discussions of the text. The notes indicate problematical loci only in general terms, although the authoritative note at 118 n. 10 on issues in the manuscript tradition suggest that the authors have deliberately held their fire in this area. Even so, I would have liked some indication of supplements to the text; angle brackets are used only to identify proposed lacunae. While many of the unidentified supplements are admittedly of limited significance, at one place (QAM p. 44.12-13) this practice conceals from readers who might compare the Greek text an issue of some historical importance. Here the Teubner text has a reference to the important Peripatetic Andronicus of Rhodes in angle brackets to indicate its presence only in the Aldine edition. But as Paul Moraux (Der Aristotelismus bei den Griechen, I [Berlin, 1976], 134 n. 9) showed, this supplement can be confidently included in the text on the basis of the Arabic tradition. (Since the authors mention at p. liv some of the manuscripts of QAM, I might add that in the same note Moraux also refers to a manuscript of this work not used by the Teubner editors, Vindob. phil. gr. 330, s. xvi, fols. 250r-279v. Another manuscript of QAM neglected by them is reported in the fiches published by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies [Greek Index Project Series 3 (Toronto 1990), fiche 003, p. L06]: Zeitz, Stiftsbibliothek, ms. gr. 66, s. xvi, fols. 100-116.)

The translation is, as I have said, clear and effective (although it might have been divided into shorter paragraphs and employed subheadings), and is usefully supported by a lengthy indexed glossary (139-155) (although the latter's references to pages makes the task of searching for terms a little difficult). I have problems with the translation of some terms in epistemology and methodology. "Obscur" for adelos (usually "non-evident" in English discourse) is a bit misleading. And endeixis at p. 54 (= V.75 K) as "exposition" ("exposition [de l'argument]" in the Glossary at 144) is perhaps unhelpful; in the context it is contrasted with argument by "demonstration" (apodeixis), or deductive reasoning, and a Romance language could, like English, have used a form derived from the traditional Latin term "indicatio". That would certainly ring louder bells with readers already acquainted with Galenic methodology where the term refers technically to the inference from perception to unobservables. (On endeixis see the proceedings of the 2nd. Galen Symposium, Galen's Method of Healing [Leiden, 1991], where R. Durling at 112-113 notes the ancestry of the Latin equivalent "indicatio".)

In An. Pecc. and especially in QAM the phrase ta enargôs phainomena (usually "phénomènes évidents" in this version, although "évidence manifeste" at p. 54) is widely used. This identifies (though elliptically in these treatises) Galen's Stoicising version of the criterion of truth. I would note that the phrase is also used frequently by Posidonius, and it is surely his use of it in various contexts that Galen is reflecting. The topic needs further discussion, but for now see I.G. Kidd's remarks on Posidonius at Posidonius: Vol. II, The Commentary (Cambridge, 1988), p. 74.

Finally, QAM, it should be stressed, was a work that just through its title defined for later philosophers a crude humorial determinism that could be easily dismissed. The Teubner editors briefly noted the diffusion of the title in their Praefatio (p. xxxiii), and I have discussed its presence in Aristotelian commentaries on the discussion of psychophysical causation at Aristotle, de anima 403a19-24; see Symbolae Osloenses 52 (1977) 123-128, and cf. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 38 (1984) 110. Perhaps the moral here is that Galen may have suffered the penalty of writing too accessible a treatise.

But all in all this is a valuable addition to the corpus of introductory literature on Galen, and an excellent companion to the late Paul Moraux's Galien de Pergame: Souvenirs d'un médicin published in 1985 by the same house in another of its innumerable series. Anglophone scholars should be inspired to emulate their Francophone, not to mention Italian, colleagues in making Galen similarly accessible to a wider audience in fresh translations that draw on a growing and revisionary body of secondary literature.