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GALEN (Claudius Galenus - Galen of Pergamum A.D. 131-200). The great figure
in Roman medical history a  physician and an author of books, the drugs and
remedies described in which were used almost universally for  fifteen
hundred years. Although usually remembered for his books of recipes and by
the word "Galenical", his anatomical and physiological work was of of great
importance. He frequently recommended the dissection of animals, and was an
authority on the pulse. Before the time of Galen there were many different
medical sects, but these gradually merged in his followers who, in the
period of Roman decline, added little or nothing of scientific importance.
Galen's works were translated into Arabic in the ninth century, and his
views were long considered infallible.

Some historical information on Galen may be of interest to the viewer by
looking at History and Materia Medica

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This selection of resources has been chosen to cover a wide and broad range
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The following links have been selected for your consideration and interest,
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GALENICAL OF THE MONTH - each month an old galenical type formula researched
              by the author will be available from this link.


                            HISTORY   OF  GALEN


    GALEN (ga'len) 129 to 200 AD, a Greek physician and teacher, born in
                           Pergamum (Asia Minor)

                                               author of 500 books on
philosophy, philology, and medicine ( 83 medical books survive).

  Galen was also court physician to Marcus Aurelius a former surgeon to the
                        gladiators, and a practising

  anatomist he performed vivisections and post mortems on the Barbary ape (
                          Macaca sylvana), but not

                                 on humans.

  Galen was an eclectic Dogmatist; he worshipped Hippocrates and Plato and
                      respected Aristotle, but he also

               freely advanced his own findings and opinions.

    Galen was the great compiler and systemizer of Greco-Roman medicine,
                     physiology, pharmacy and anatomy.

 He accepted Aristotelian teleology and the theories of humoralism, the four
                       qualities, and pneumatism, and

               he promulgated that of the four temperaments.

    Galen's piety, half-Stoic, half-Christian, appealed strongly to late
                       antiquity and the Middle Ages.

  By experiment he showed that arteries carried blood, and he believed the
                   brain to be the seat of intelligence,

and he understood the diagnostic value of the pulse. His work was superseded
                        by Vesalius in anatomy, and

                          by Harvey in physiology.

  He compounded various vegetable and other botanical extracts, as well as
                        those from animals, to form

                 basic pharmaceuticals known as Galenicals.

Dorlands Medical Dictionary:27th Ed -672

                           FURTHER GALEN HISTORY

                              "MATERIA MEDICA"


The Origins of Pharmacy

In the autumn of Roman imperial power and culture, scholars began recording
all the medical knowledge acquired over centuries of study and conquest. The
famous book "De Materia Medica" by the military doctor Dioscorides,
describing more than six hundred vegetable, animal and mineral remedies,
laid the basis for pharmacology. Dioscorides also produced a discourse on
poisons and antidotes. A little earlier, the physician Cornelius Celsus had
completed a huge encyclopaedia of Greek and Alexandrian medicine.

However, it was not until the second century of the Christian era that the
tone was really set by Galen (Claudius Galenus in Latin, Klaudios Galenos in
Greek), who was born on 22 September 131 in Pergamum, Asia Minor, and died
in Rome in 201.

This Greco-Roman doctor, pharmacist and philosopher produced around five
hundred books and treatises and was unquestionably the leading scientist of
his day. Galen wrote on all aspects of medical science, his books on
medicine and anatomy, shaping medical thinking throughout the Middle Ages
and beyond. The word "galenic" is still used to describe drugs and
medicaments made directly from vegetable or animal ingredients (known as
"simplicia") using prescribed methods.

The Gladiators'  Doctor

After initially studying philosophy, particularly Aristotle, Galen began to
specialize in medicine at the age of seventeen. Having gained experience on
travels through Greece, Asia Minor and Palestine, when he further developed
his skills, Galen established himself as a doctor in Alexandria (Egypt), the
leading medical centre of the day.

In about 159, at the age of 28, Galen returned to Pergamum, the city of his
birth, where he was appointed doctor to the gymnasium attached to the local
sanctuary of Asklepios. (In the Greek pantheon, Asklepios was son to the sun
god Apollo, traditionally depicted carrying a staff with a serpent coiled
around it.) Five years later, however, Galen moved to the capital of the
Empire to teach medicine. He quickly gained great fame and was made personal
physician to Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus. He also had the
job of looking after the gladiators; by treating their wounds, Galen was
able to expand his anatomical knowledge still further. Now he was also able
to carry out surgery and study plastic anatomy.

The Galenic Pharmacy

Galen also helped to shape pharmacological science. In addition to running a
thriving medical practice, he had his own pharmacy which stocked hundreds of
medicines made from vegetable and animal ingredients. Galen catalogued
countless remedies, recording how each was made. One striking feature of his
work was the attention he paid to the precise quantities of the various
ingredients used in the preparation of each remedy, and to the doses which
had to be given. He believed that, depending on the dose taken, every
medicine was capable of having a slight, strong, harmful or even fatal
effect on the patient.

Humoral Pathology

Galen firmly believed in what is known as humoral pathology: the science of
the bodily fluids pioneered by the Greek physician Hippocrates (460 to 377
BC). Humoral pathology is based on the notion that the human body contains
four humours or bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, choler and melancholy) and
that good health depends upon these humours being kept in balance.
Hippocratic theory suggested that if any one humour became predominant, ill
health would result; however, Galen argued that sickness could also be
caused by an insufficiency of one of the four humours. This belief was the
guiding principle of Galenic medicine.

So, to restore the patient's physiological balance, doctors needed to bleed
their patients or to prescribe laxative, emetic or sudorific medication.
Vegetable-based medicines were also used.

Human Temperaments

Drawing upon Hippocrates' theory regarding the four humours, Galen suggested
the existence of four basic human temperaments, each of which was caused by
a predominance of one of the four humours. First, there was the sanguinicus,
whose cheerful and lively temperament resulted from the dominance of the
blood. The temperament of the calm and tough flegmaticus was influenced by
excess phlegm, while the worry and gloominess of the melancholicus were due
to a surfeit of melancholy. Finally, the energetic cholericus had too much
choler in his or her system. Thus Galen believed that one's personality was
closely related to one's physical make-up.


The development of human physiological science owes much to Galen's theories
and discoveries. For the ancients, the functions of the heart and blood
vessels were a great mystery. Five hundred years before Christ, the Greek
Alcmaeon of Croton suggested that sleep was caused by blood draining from
the brain via the veins, and that death was the result of the brain becoming
completely drained. Two hundred years later, Aristotle ascribed the power of
thought to the heart, which he contended also contained the soul.
Erasistratus argued that intaken breath entered the arteries, which thus
carried nothing but air. Galen demonstrated the error of many of these


Dissection was forbidden in Greece, so Galen's work in this field must have
been carried out in Egypt. Be that as it may, he certainly contributed a
great deal to the development of anatomy as a science. He wrote long
anatomical treatises on the skeleton, the muscles and the central nervous
system. In Rome, he gave lectures in anatomy and performed animal
dissections, demonstrating that the arteries carried blood, rather than air.
(Galen did, however, subscribe to the contemporary theory that blood flowed
back and forth within the arteries. It was not until 1628 that the
Englishman William Harvey showed that the blood circulated round a closed


On the basis of his philosophical studies, Galen came to the conclusion that
the various bodily functions were induced by the Pneuma or universal spirit.
He believed the pneuma to be a fine, spirit-like material which drifted
through the universe and which controlled and organized physical bodies.
Galen distinguished between three types of spirit: the spiritus vitalis or
life spirit, originating in the heart and flowing through the arteries; the
spiritus animalis or animal spirit to be found in the brain and nerves; and
the spiritus naturalis, or natural spirit, formed in the liver.

However, Galen also believed that the life process was sustained by food,
which was convened into blood in the liver. Blood from the liver nourished
the heart, lungs and other organs, including the brain. Waste materials were
also thought to be removed by the blood. Thus, blood circulation and
metabolism are critical elements of galenic physiological theory, and Galen
was the first person to suggest a relationship between food, blood and air.

Interestingly, later medical and church authorities considered Galen's work
to be based upon divine inspiration and therefore infallible, dubbing him
Divinus Galenus (Galen the Divine). Those who dared call Galen's theories
into question often ended their lives burnt at the stake.

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