Article ID: CBB048401610

Du bon médicament selon Marcellus Empiricus (IVe siècle apr. J.-C.) : préparation, présentation, prescription (2020)


About effective medicine according to Marcellus Empiricus (4th century AD) : preparation, presentation, presciption – Must it be repeated that the big handbook of practical medicines entitled De medicamentis and written by Marcellus of Bordeaux falls within the scientific tradition of a Scribonius Largus and of a Dioscorides which aims to use many native plants ? Nevertheless there’s nothing stopping Marcellus – in the treatment of varicose veins for example – from advising patients, as an alternative of a surgical operation, to take preventive or curative medicines consisting of folk remedies. Otherwise the Gallic therapist remains faithful to a general, syncretic, conception of medicine. It’s true that Marcellus, famous especially as an ophthalmologist, carries out all medical treatments. On the first place of the therapeutic actions recommended by Marcellus of Bordeaux appears the resort to medical baths and their ancillary services. The fact remains nonetheless that for the doctor and pharmacist Marcellus, very interested in science of remedies and medicines, the essential preoccupation lay in the art of making up and checking them. But the production of preparations needs a sharp knowledge of weights and measures as well as of their combinations. Even then it is right to specify the functional classification of medicines formulated by Marcellus. Designed as «medical auxiliaries of the body» , connected to the system of «treatments» , the standard medicines or therapies pertain – in his opinion – to a general physiology of the disease and the health. The fact is that in Marcellus Empiricus the medicinal category can be defined by its «attractive – repulsive» function. Moreover Marcellus’ presentation of medicines is closely linked to the way of administering them and to the method of their composition – depending on whether the medicine is administered orally or through the rectum, or in case an external medication is applied in poultice or in plaster form. Finally in the pharmacopoeia of the oculist Marcellus from Bordeaux - immensely rich and which the historians of Roman medicine sometimes consider to be «selective» – it is important to remember particularly some collyriums – those topical medicines applied to the eyes. But it is also necessary to wonder about the mention by Marcellus – beside basic patent medicines – of other specialities clearly minor which have a concern with the most frenzied charlatanism. At last there is cause to integrate Marcellus’ issue of good medicine into a resolutely increased perspective – this of a plea for Hippocratic medical ethics.

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Authors & Contributors
Beneduce, Chiara
Fragu, Philippe
Carpenter, Kenneth J.
McNabney, Justin
Paschal, Ashley
Hanson, Bryan
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Pharmacy in History
Health and History
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Social History of Medicine
Edizioni ETS
Therapeutic practice; therapy; treatment
Disease and diseases
Hutchings, William D.
Buridan, Jean
Great Britain
Soviet Union
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, late
20th century, early

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