BYZANTINE BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE

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In 512 a book on plants known as Juliana’s codex was published in the Byzantine Empire.
Paulos of Aegina (Paul of Aegina) was a 7th century Byzantine Empire physician who wrote a medical encyclopedia, 2 volumes of which were on surgery. Muslim surgeon al-Zahrawi (Albucasis), whom Muslims claim was the “father of modern surgery”, obtained much of his knowledge of surgery from this Christian encyclopedia.

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viennadioscoridesfolio148vviolet

Byzantine drawing of violets


BOOK ON BIOLOGY
Dioscorides wrote a manuscript around 515 AD that contained more than 400 drawings of plants and animals done in a naturalistic style.
Some of the plants were of medicinal use.


BOOK ON PLANTS
In 512 a book on plants known as Juliana’s codex was published in the Byzantine Empire, and remained one of the best compilations of Western knowledge about plants for the next 1,000 years.


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MEDICINE
Aëtius of Amida (Aëtius Amidenus) around the year 500, was a Greek physician and medical writer. His religious beliefs are not known, but he was living in the (Orthodox Christian) Byzantine Empire. His writings, now called “Sixteen Books on Medicine”, borrowed mostly from the 2nd century medical writings of Galen of Pergamon, and the 70 volume 4th century medical encyclopedia of Oribasius of Pergamon, and long since lost books of the library at Alexandria.

Alexander of Tralles (Alexander Trallianus) was a Christian physician in 6th century Rome, Gaul and Spain after the Roman Empire collapsed. He moved to the Byzantine Empire and in his old age wrote his “Twelve Books on Medicine” about what he had learned during his long experience as a physician.


BOOK ON SURGERY
Paulos of Aegina (Paul of Aegina) was a 7th century Byzantine Empire physician who wrote a medical encyclopedia called “Medical Compendium in Seven Books”, 2 volumes of which were on surgery. Muslim surgeon al-Zahrawi (Albucasis), whom Muslims claim was the “father of modern surgery”, obtained much of his knowledge of surgery from this encyclopedia. Included in the encyclopedia were such topics as treating drooping eyelids by sewing them open, using the blunt end of a couching needle to push the cataract during eye surgery, and using breast removal surgery to treat breast cancer.
Paulos of Aegina described a narrow scalpel used for removing polyps from inside the nose and from inside the auditory canal of the ear.


FREE MEDICAL CARE FOR THE POOR
In the 8th century, Byzantine private physicians were legally required to work publicly for 6 months of the year in the free public hospitals with walk-in dispensaries being established in many cities and towns.

Image by Dioscorides, via Wikimedia Commons.
image credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ViennaDioscoridesFolio148vViolet.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

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