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Author Topic: Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-century Greece: Between Craft and Cult  (Read 1902 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Topic Start: February 04, 2010, 12:14:12 pm »

Title: Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-century Greece: Between Craft and Cult
Author(s): Bronwen L. Wickkiser
Publisher:  The Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication Date: 2008
ISBN: 0801889782
ISBN-13: 9780801889783
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

From the Bryn Mawr Classic Review:
Bronwen Wickkiser's book, Asklepios, medicine, and the politics of healing in fifth-century Greece: between craft and cult, advances two main theses about the growing popularity of Asklepios worship in the classical Mediterranean. In the first half of her study, Wickkiser argues that increasing interest in the god's cult was a direct result of contemporary developments in medicine. In particular, she attributes this rise to a tendency among doctors expressed in certain Hippocratic writings to refuse to treat patients with either chronic or fatal conditions. At the same time, these works do not discourage suffering individuals from seeking divine help and healing. In the last three chapters, she argues that political factors played an important role in the introduction of the cult to the Athenian acropolis in 420 BCE. By emphasizing these political dimensions, Wickkiser challenges the scholarly position held by many of her predecessors that tends to dismiss politics as a contributing factor to the introduction of Asklepios cult to Athens and instead has tended to see the plague of 430 to 426 BCE as the main motivation behind the city's importation of the cult. In advancing this argument, Wickkiser makes her most important contribution to the study of ancient medicine and plots a course for a more general reconsideration of the growth and spread of the cult in other locations and times around the Mediterranean in antiquity. Although Wickkiser presents her two theses as partial answers to the question why interest in and patronage of the healing divinity increased in this period, one being a medical explanation, the other being a political one, she does not tie the two parts of her book together in a clear and convincing fashion, leaving her reader to wonder if it might not have been better to present these two arguments in separate works.

Read the full review at the Bryn Mawr Classic Review web site.

Additional Description:
Delving deeply into ancient medical history, Bronwen L. Wickkiser explores the early development and later spread of the cult of Asklepios, one of the most popular healing gods in the ancient Mediterranean. Though Asklepios had been known as a healer since the time of Homer, evidence suggests that large numbers of people began to flock to the cult during the fifth century BCE, just as practitioners of Hippocratic medicine were gaining dominance.

Drawing on close readings of period medical texts, literary sources, archaeological evidence, and earlier studies, Wickkiser finds two primary causes for the cult's ascendance: it filled a gap in the market created by the refusal of Hippocratic physicians to treat difficult chronic ailments and it abetted Athenian political needs. Wickkiser supports these challenging theories with side-by-side examinations of the medical practices at Asklepios' sanctuaries and those espoused in Hippocratic medical treatises. She also explores how Athens' aspirations to empire influenced its decision to open the city to the healer-god's cult.

In focusing on the fifth century and by considering the medical, political, and religious dimensions of the cult of Asklepios, Wickkiser presents a complex, nuanced picture of Asklepios' rise in popularity, Athenian society, and ancient Mediterranean culture. The intriguing and sometimes surprising information she presents will be valued by historians of medicine and classicists alike.

Special Notes:
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Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from Amazon.com and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.



Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.
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