Pelagonius -

Pelagonio era un autore latino che fu tradotto in greco, come chiarisce Diane Ménard: “Pelagonius était en réalité un auteur latin qui fut traduit en grec. Deux éléments nous permettent de le situer dans la deuxième moitié du IVème siècle: d'une part, l'identification probable de deux destinataires de ses lettres (il écrivit, comme Apsyrtos, sous forme épistolaire), d'autre part, le fait que Végèce le cita dans son terminus post quem, traité rédigé entre 383 et 455. Pelagonius a pratiquement recopié le texte de Columelle pour le sujet qui nous intéresse, à savoir la conformation du cheval. Son traité est également conservé en latin.”

Per maggiori dettagli vedi Ippiatri.

Pelagonius (4th century A.D) was an influential Latin writer on veterinary medicine, especially on horses. He is one of the authors of Hippiatrica. Remains of his texts still exist in Latin and Greek. One of his sources was Columella. He was used by Vegetius. There is an edition of his texts in Teubner (1980), De veterinaria medicina, by K.D. Fischer.

Book Reviews

K. D. Fischer (editor), Pelagonius, Ars Veterinaria, Leipzig, Teubner, 1980, 8vo, pp. xlv, 203, M60.00.

Pelagonius the horse-doctor is not the most approachable of ancient medical authors, but Dr. Fischer, by his excellent edition with its full indexes and commentary, has made his remedies more accessible and comprehensible. The text, which is based on a single MS., supplemented by fragments in Latin and (a rare honour for a Latin writer) Greek, is full of strange spellings, and the editor has rightly refrained from precipitate classicizing emendation. The commentary, written in a clearer and wittier Latin, is particularly good on the identification of drugs and diseases. Printing errors are almost non-existent: one strangely occurs in the inserted corrigenda slip.

I subjoin a few points of doubt and criticism. § 5, 6: more is needed on these high officials of the late fourth century A.D. with a passion for horses (and also on Falerius, Festianus, and Emeritus the mule-doctor). § 77, 460: read "viatorium", despite the note, for § 461 "aliud viatorium" needs a precedent. § 118: delete "faciliorque .... asperseris" as a gloss? § 121ff.: a long list of chants and charms: with this folk medicine, cf. also the occasional specification of marble mortars (e.g. § 71).§ 134: add after "est", from the alternative version preserved in the MS. at § 138 "-[hos carachtheres facies in] cartha pura [et] combures". Two striking passages of  more general interest need more comment: § 163: what are the "curules equi" (not in TTL)? and how are their chariots fixed and driven? by a collar strapped round the neck? § 397: "lethe daemonis" implies that the author sees some evil spirit at work in horses that behave wildly.

Vivian Nutton
Wellcome Institute

J. N. Adams, Pelagonius and Latin veterinary terminology in the Roman empire, Studies in Ancient Medicine 11, Leiden, E J Brill, 1995, pp. viii, 695, Nlg. 342.00, $195.00 (90-04-10281-7).

This is one of the most important books to have been published on ancient medicine for some time, and it would be unfortunate if its title, its size, and its organization were to deny it the readership it deserves. Although primarily a philological enterprise aimed at Latin philologists, it has wider implications for students of Greek and for historians of medicine.

In the first part, chapters I to IH, the focus is on the practice of veterinary medicine, carried on by a range of persons, from farmers and the owners of race-horses to a small number of elite specialists. Other healers frequently combined treating humans with treating animals, and as in human medicine, the boundary between the interested layman and the vet was small indeed. Adams provides a useful discussion of the epigraphic and papyrological references to vets, although I miss the very strange Greek vet, a mulophysi[kos, published by R P Wright, Britannia, 1977, 8: 279 (cf. also Zeitschr. f Papyrologie u. Epigraphik, 1976, 22: 93, for a more doubtful example).

Chapters IV to V study Pelagonius and his Ars veterinaria, written in the late fourth century AD, and its relationships with two other tracts, the Mulomedicina Chironis, perhaps written about the same time, and the Mulomedicina of Vegetius, written in the first half of the fifth century. But there are also illuminating comments on earlier veterinary authors, including Celsus, and a long section on Greek influence on Pelagonius.

Adams suggests that he himself translated one major Greek vet, Apsyrtus, and incorporated passages from him into his book. There are also here important notes on the consequences of the recent (re)discovery of a very early manuscript of Pelagonius for the reconstruction of the text and, in general, for an understanding of the ways in which medical texts were transmitted in Antiquity. At least one long section of the Ars is shown to come from a different source. From an individual's life and times we pass in chapters VI and VII to a survey of Pelagonius' (and others') names for disease and for anatomy. Adams ranges widely, especially in Latin, to show how gradually a technical vocabulary was being created and transmitted. He notes apparent changes over time in certain key words; e.g., morbus and passio, or causa taking on the meaning of "medical case".

What is striking is not just the development of technical terms, but the wide range of influences that bear on this development, from popular words to more specific Greek-based formulations. Adams' methodology here can with profit be extended to all aspects of Greek medicine, not just that confined to animals.

The final section, over 200 pages long, deals with the language of Pelagonius, syntax, word order, word formation, and vocabulary. Adams concentrates largely on two questions; the extent to which Pelagonius' Latin can be classed as "vulgar", or, alternatively, as "technical". His conclusion, based on a substantial revision of Fischer's Teubner edition, is that Pelagonius, far from writing vulgar Latin, carefully employs a variety of stylistic tricks, although inevitably using at times some popular terms that could be understood by his potential audience of healers and horse-lovers.

Adams has some sound words about the use of metaphor in the creation of new technical terms, as well as about their fluidity. A short epilogue (perhaps too short) brings together many of the more general points argued in the rest of this long book. Adams believes that Pelagonius was, like Celsus, on the borderline between professional and layman, familiar with some technical writing and with some experience of dealing with sickness. But he had substantial limitations. His use of Apsyrtus suggests that he had little interest in anatomical technicalities, and in his copying from earlier writers he often sacrificed accuracy for brevity.

There was a growing technical veterinary vocabulary, although little that suggests a veterinary profession in any meaningful modern sense, and even those technical terms would have been widely accessible to laymen keen on horses. This is a big book (almost a series of books, for even Adams admits to two) in every sense of the word. It is thus a pity that its index, of Latin words, Greek words, and subjects, is slight, and that its list of chapters, save for that to chapter VIII, is confined solely to the initial chapter headings, and gives little indication of the riches to be found within them. A list of subheadings would have served as a more useful guide to what is a major piece of scholarship on ancient medicine in general, and on veterinary medicine in particular.

Vivian Nutton
Wellcome Institute