Review of Flügel, Spätantike Arztinschriften

Reviewed in BMCR 2007.09.49:

Christian Flügel, Spätantike Arztinschriften als Spiegel des Einflusses des Christentums auf die Medizin. Beihefte zum Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft Band 20. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006. Pp. 410. ISBN 978-3-89744-258-0. €59.00.

Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus, Hilpoltstein (t.j.kraus@web.de)

This is a relatively short review of a 2005 dissertation focussing on late antique doctors’ epitaphs and attempting to trace the influence of Christianity on this period of medicine’s history. Kraus is apparently not terribly impressed by the historical (nor by the attempted inter-disciplinary) research in this volume, although he does concede that the conclusions–including the claim that there is enough evidence of Christianity’s influence on medicine to warrant further studies–are sensible and welcome.

Among his complaints:

More serious, and consequently more of a problem, is that [Flügel] mostly refrains from contextualizing the inscriptions with relevant sources from the same period of time (papyri, literary sources, and other epigraphic artifacts). Therefore, the pictures he paints for the backgrounds of most of the inscriptions remain pale, and the socio-cultural settings he describes are vague.

It is not uncommon of course for historians to abuse epigraphy, and Kraus points out in this review that the author’s grasp of late antique religious and medical history is far from unsophisticated.

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