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Authorial Strategies in P.Oxy. 5231, an Empiricist Commentary on Hippocrates

Marquis Berrey

University of Iowa

P.Oxy. 80.5231 (editio princeps 2014), a lemmatic commentary on Hippocrates Epidemics I of two columns dating to the first or second century CE and written on the back of a Greek/Latin glossary, is a substantial addition to our knowledge of ancient medical Empiricism.  In the first column, after the final quotation of the Hippocratic case (2.684.10-688.8 L), the papyrus preserves the polemic of an unnamed author against Asclepiades of Bithynia, followed by the lemmatic commentary, of which the half lines of the second column preserve initial remarks.  Whereas Asclepiades set out the condition (κατα]σκευήν) and the cause (αἰτίαν) of the disease (col.i.9-10), the author is concerned only with therapy (ἡμῖν δὲ θεραπεί|αν] αὐτὸ μόνον προθεμένοις col.i.13-14).  David Leith, editor of the papyrus, suggests that the author is the influential Empiricist Heraclides of Tarentum.  In support of Leith's argument this paper identifies and contextualizes the papyrus' authorial strategies within the broader medical and literary goals of Hellenistic Empiricist commentators.

            Ancient medical commentaries organized contextual information and sometimes promoted a distinct sectarian viewpoint.  Although only one named Empiricist testimonium on Epidemics I survives (Erotian σ2) because of Galen's non-specific citations of his predecessors in his commentary (van der Eijk 2012), Galen elsewhere claims (Hipp.Med.Off. 18B.631K) that Heraclides and another Empiricist wrote commentaries on all Hippocratic books, presumably including Epidemics I.  Our sources on Empiricist commentaries show that the Empiricists' reading strategies of trust in the institutions of the ancient writing system turned the accuracy, patience, and honesty of the author of the Epidemics into an image of Hippocrates as an empiricizing physician (Berrey 2015).  Intensively reading the Epidemics and its commentators was historia, the second part of the Empiricist methodological tripod in their therapeutic focus on the individual, disease, and treatment.  That medical authority did not follow sectarian authorship explains why the papyrus' Empiricist author exerts pains (col.i.13-24, 38-col.ii.4) to combat Asclepiades' Rationalist image of Hippocrates (col.i.24-38).

            It is possible, although unlikely, that this papyrus text may belong with Heraclides' commentary on Epidemics III, since Epidemics I and III circulated together in antiquity until they were broken into two treatises well before Erotian (Jouanna 2016: xxvi).  Thanks to the history of the markings discussed in ancient manuscripts of these cases (ἱστορία τῶν χαρακτήρων apud Galen Hipp.Epid.III 27-28, 46-47, 75-95 Wenkebach) we have significant information about Heraclides' commentary.  Reading strategies from testimonia or quotation of Heraclides' commentaries on Epidemics II, IV, and VI includes his pursuit of older readings, critical engagement with other commentators, promotion of Hippocrates' biographical persona, and close attention to Hippocratic style and organization (Berrey 2015, Guardasole 1997): aspects of these appear in the papyrus.

            Finally, the papyrus' text |φιλιατρουσιν[ (col.ii.3) likely indicates the author's goals of readership.  Heraclides' Empiricist contemporary uses the compound (Apollonius Citiensis 10.3, 38.11, 80.15 K-K) to designate lay patrons who will read his discussion of Hippocratic surgery, in contrast to its later designation of amateur physicians (e.g. Oribasius Ad Eunapium 317-318 Raeder).  If, as Leith suggests, the owner of the papyrus was not a physician, the papyrus' author achieved his goal of a widely circulating technical text.

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Ordering Information in Greco-Roman Medicine

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