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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010

1 - Galen's library



The great fire that consumed the Temple of Peace in early AD 192 also destroyed a large part of Galen's personal library, along with his drugs and instruments. It robbed him of rare tracts by others as well as copies of several of his own books. Some of them, such as On Prognosis, he may never have been able to retrieve or recompose during the rest of his long life. For a scholar-physician who expressed himself so much through books, and whose authority depended in part on book-learning, this was undoubtedly a great blow. From being able to hand out copies of his own and others' writings to his friends and to doctors in need, he was reduced to depending largely on the generosity of others to make good what had been burnt in the fire. The loss of his library would, indeed, have caused him enormous grief, so he claimed, had not his philosophical training, in part inherited from his father and grandfather, allowed him to maintain his equanimity even in the face of such a disaster. Others, he noted, showed less self-control – and paid for it. Callistus the grammarian, who had also lost his books in the fire, could not sleep, fell into a fever and died of grief.

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