M. R. Mezzabotta†


Thanks to the theme for this conference (i.e. Multiculturalism in Antiquity) I have been prompted to look at the Mulomedicina of Vegetius from an angle that has not yet been explored. Like other Latin medical and veterinary treatises this work synthesises Greek theories for Roman use. But the kind of opposition to Greek medical ideas that Cato had voiced in the second century BC1 and that Pliny had echoed 200 years later2 is no longer an issue in this late text. The domestic medicine of the early Romans, based on incantations and herbal compounds and applied to both people and animals, had long since assimilated Greek concepts and therapies.3 The medical principles underlying the Mulomedicina derive from the “methodist” doctrines introduced by the Greek physician Asclepiades into Rome in the second century BC or early first century BC4 But Vegetius’s Mulomedicina opens a window on to the equine healthcare models of other peoples, usually referred to collectively as “barbarians”, but specific mention is made of “the Huns”. These management practices appear to function independently of and outside the existing Roman model, thus justifying discussion of them under the label of “multiculturalism”. I intend first to set Vegetius’ treatise briefly in its literary context, then to examine those passages in the work which have bearing on late Roman contacts with non-Roman hippiatric systems.

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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