Review of Ancient Medicine/Medicina Antiqua

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Ancient Medicine/Medicina Antiqua

Lee Pearcy, head of Classics at The Episcopal Academy, has single-handedly produced and maintained this useful "starter-kit" on ancient medicine since February 1996. Everyone will learn something from it.

The homepage (which could be simplified visually) leads via button to six categories of primary material and links: Info, Resources, Bibliographies, Hypertexts, News, SAM. Its icon (taken from an 11th C ms. of Galen) allows easy return to home from any page (though we are not told this).

"Info" describes the site (editions, translations and articles are refereed; announcements are not), lists the impressive advisory committee (Ann Hanson of Michigan, James O'Donnell of Penn, and Heinrich Von Staden of Yale--this last needs to be updated) and cites a number of awards. As of 7 July 1998 the site had been visited 7263 times, almost 200 times a month on average.

"Resources" comprises an Index of Sites (Emory's MedWeb, Melbourne's Virtual Library and the AMA's Medguide), a list of Major Resource Sites (Perseus, Diotima, National Library of Medicine's HyperDoc Project), and Other Resources (a few course syllabuses and sites, an on-line exhibition, a table of ancient physicians, a glossary of medical terms in nine European languages, articles on Roman life expectancy and Biblical plagues).

"Bibliographies" begins with P's own introductory bibliography of Classical medicine meant for graduate students, probably the site's most useful item, much more complete than the Oxford Classical Dictionary entry (with which it often does not overlap, curiously), though lacking Asclepius, Edelstein, Lloyd, magic and even Aelius Aristides, on whom P. himself has published. It would be nice to have a short blurb on the "periodicals little known to classicists" that are listed, like the occasional blurbs on individual items here and elsewhere. Next comes a small collection of 7 electronic articles, followed by 29 electronic reviews (all but two from BMCR or BMMR), and a list of 61 articles on gynecology taken from Diotima in addition to links to TOCS-IN, Gnomon Online, and SAM review (not working).

"Hypertexts" contains a number of original Galen translations: On the Natural Faculties, Exhortation to Study the Arts, On Diagnosis from Dreams and his commentary on Hippocrates' On the Nature of Man plus a link to the MIT Classics Text Archive, which contains 17 translated texts of Hippocrates and 1 of Galen, and finally Diotima's electronic version of the medical texts in the Lefkowitz/Fant Women's Life in Greece and Rome.

"News" is a hodge-podge of 7 announcements over a two year period of courses, books and prizes. "SAM" is a description of the Society of Ancient Medicine, with another non-functioning link to the SAM Review.

This site has a considerable potential and is already providing a unique (though limited) service with its translations of Galen. (Could they be shared with the MIT site?) The infrequent News postings suggest it has not yet become the center for communication among students of ancient medicine, but perhaps that is endemic (if I may) to the field, as the broken links to SAM suggest. The site has the twin virtues of a high standard of information and low maintenance. Updates occur perhaps four times a year and are scrupulously noted.

The hard work ahead is adding to the translations of primary texts, especially Galen, which seems to me the essential and lasting value of the site. I can think of some simple enhancements: (a) create links to lists of Loeb and Bude texts of Hippocrates, which are probably already available on the web somewhere (one can use at worst); (b) add (and update) the list of CMG/CML volumes found in Society of Ancient Medicine vol.15.11-16; (c) assimilate references in the various Oxford Classical Dictionary articles; (d) add more descriptive blurbs. Other possible projects include: (e) adding a listing from TOCS-IN like that from Diotima; (f) simplifying the presentation (perhaps having only three groupings: bibliographies and other resources; texts and articles; news--how different are Medguide, TOCS-IN and Diotima after all?); (g) connecting to epigraphical and papyrological sites.

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