Neoplatonic asclepius: Science and religion at the crossroads of aristotelian biology, hippocratic medicine and platonic theurgy

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Abstract

In the first part of the paper, I will briefly discuss certain peculiarities of the medical profession in antiquity. In his Philosophical History (fr. 80-84 Athanassiadi) Damascius narrates about a philosopher, named Asclepiodotus, whose interests ranged from Platonic philosophy to Aristotelian natural sciences. Asclepiodotus' instructor in medical matters, a son of a doctor from the island of Rhodos, Iacobus, is pictured by Damascius as an exemplary figure (fr. 84), who, unlike many of his contemporaries, always tested the opinions of others and gained a reputation of an extremely successful physician, although the methods of treatment, ascribed to him by Damascius, are highly reminiscent of those presented as the Pythagorean by Iamblichus (On the Pythagorean way of life 244). In this respect both Iacobus and Asclepiodotus are conformed to the best standards of medical ethics, and pass the test set by Galen in his "On examination by which the best physicians are recognized", except perhaps by the fact that they preferred to base their activities on such authorities as Aristotle and the Methodist Soranus rather than on a list of the "dogmatists" proposed by Galen. In the second part of the paper, dedicated to the cult of Asclepius in Late Antiquity, I will look at various kinds of evidence taken from the Neoplatonic philosophers. Having discussed first the principal philosophical interpretations of Asclepius found in Apuleius, Aelianus, Macrobius, Julian, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Damascius, etc., we turn to Proclus' attitude to Athena and Asclepius as reflected in Marinus' Vita Procli and finally discuss the cult of Eshmun as found in Damascius. The textual data are supported by archaeological evidence from the "House of Proclus" in Athens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-349
Number of pages17
JournalStudia Antiqua et Archaeologica
Volume23
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • Classical archaeology
  • Damascius
  • Medical ethics academy at athens
  • Medicine in late antiquity
  • Neoplatonism
  • Proclus
  • The aristotelian tradition

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