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On the life of Asclepiades of Bithynia*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 February 2012

Roberto Polito
St John's College, Cambridge


Any list of the most eminent Greek physicians must inevitably include the late Hellenistic doctor Asclepiades of Bithynia. He was both extremely successful during his lifetime, and highly influential after his death. His revolutionary pathology and therapeutic method were the objects of much discussion. His importance, however, goes beyond the history of medicine as such. In spite of the fact that most current handbooks of ancient philosophy ignore him altogether, philosophy does appear to have been a major interest of his. He was an uncompromising opponent of providentialism and teleology. He challenged the idea, at the time the dominant one, that matter is continuous. He accounted for the functioning of the body in purely mechanistic and quantitative terms, and also developed an account of the soul, unique in its time, which arguably provides the closest ancient antecedent to modern reductionism.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 1999

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