L. Cilliers, F.P. Retief


The stature of Galen (129–200 AD) as the outstanding physician of antiquity is challenged only by Hippocrates (5th century BC). Born in Pergamum, educated there, in Smyrna, Corinth and Alexandria, he spent most of his life in Rome as practicing physician and compilor of an enormous body of scientific literature which not only survived him, but became the accepted basis of medical learning for more than 1 500 years. He attempted to collate and systematize all known knowledge, supplemented by his own extensive animal experimentation and adapted to relevant philosophical and scientific theories of his day. Whilst showing humility towards Hippocrates, his self– assured dogmatic theses were critical of most other predecessors. During the Middle Ages with the stagnation of scientific progress, the Islamic doctors greatly admired his work and the Christian Church accepted Galenic theories unreservedly. With the advent of rational scientific medicine after the Renaissance, major deficiencies in Galen’s theories and systems became apparent, and the popular tide turned against him. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it cannot be denied that Galen was a colossus in ancient medical science.

Galenus, geneesheer van die 2de eeu nC, word vandag selde met waardering vermeld. Anders as in die geval van Hippokrates, word sy uitgebreide mediese nalatenskap as verouderde, oorwegend foutiewe konsepte gesien, nie–bydraend tot moderne geneeskunde (Singer 1997:vii). Daar word gewys op sy pedantiese dogmatiek wat wetenskaplike denke en vooruitgang vir eeue onderdruk het, en ‘n verwaande skryfstyl wat daartoe gelei het dat ‘n gesiene Duitse filoloog van weleer hom ‘n onuitstaanbare verleentheid (“unerträglicher Seichbeutel”) genoem het (Von Wilamowitz 1886:122). Tog kan dit nie ontken word nie dat, met die uitsondering van die geskrifte van die Hippokratiese skrywers en Aristoteles, daar geen omvattender wetenskaplike bydrae tot die natuurwetenskap en geneeskundige denke in die besonder was as dié van Galenus nie. In hierdie artikel word gepoog om die enigmatiese beeld van Galenus in perspektief te stel en sy enorme geskrewe erflating na waarde te probeer skat.

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