Call for Papers: Collection and Fragmentation: Medical Compilations from the Orient and Occident and their Sources

fasti congressuum
Deadline – 25 May 2017
Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin

From the early Byzantine period, a fundamental change in scientific writing is apparent: Instead of argument-based discursive writing, compilations from older treatises viewed as exemplary are found, compilations that have “encyclopaedic” and paedagogic rather than scientific aims. The most comprehensive writings of this genre are the thematically arranged collections of excerpts (“encyclopaedias”) compiled by Oribasius, Aetius and Paul of Aegina (4th-7th century AD). In contrast to later compilations with purely didactic aims these preserve not only fragments from the works of Galen, but also fragments from lost writings by physicians of the pneumatic school of medicine. Later a similar “encyclopaedia” of excerpts is created in the Arabic language: Rhazes’ Liber Continens (ar-Rāzī, Kitāb al-Ḥāwī, 9th / 10th century AD). Unlike the Byzantine works mentioned above, this vast treatise was not initially intended as an encyclopaedia of excerpts: it lacks a final touch, was not originally intended for publication and was published posthumously by a third party. However, like these compilations, the Continens, too, is a treasure trove preserving fragments of many lost works, not only of Greek, but also of Arabic, Indian, Persian, etc. medicine. Quite recently a renaissance of research on the Continens as a source of lost ancient texts and of their textual transmissions has taken place.

The trend towards compilation outlined above continues in the Arabian Middle Ages, a period, when medical authors tend to use a “theological” manner of argumentation in which authorities of the past and their quotations are regarded more important than facts and logical arguments.


The conference will focus mainly on four compilations; those of Oribasius, Aetius, Paul and Rhazes. Since many writings of ancient medicine are transmitted only fragmentarily, they have to be reconstructed via “textual archeology”, through collections of fragments from these compilations (and quotations preserved in other sources, e.g. the writings of Galen). The compilations mentioned above have traditionally been regarded as epigonic works of little inherent worth and have been used mainly as quarries for fragments of lost ancient writings. In contrast, recent scholarship has put emphasis on the intrinsic value of these compilations: through the didactically motivated selection of excerpted passages as condensed, edited and arranged, works in their own right were created that testify the interests of the compilers as well as the intellectual climate of their time.

The three-day conference is intended to illumine the two aspects of the compilations indicated above: (1) Value as a source of fragments; here editorial and interpretative problems will be discussed of the type associated with editing fragments preserved in compilations. (2) Intrinsic worth of the compilations: here, the scopes and compositional principles of the authors will be considered, and their relation to comparable excerpt collections of other disciplines will be discussed.

Potential areas of investigation thus include:

  • text critical and editorial questions associated with medical compilations;
  • textual dependencies of different compilations;
  • pre-Byzantine precursor compilations and their possible traces in the transmitted texts;
  • the relationship of medical pandects to the later Byzantine “encyclopaedism” of the 9th and 10th century; parallels to earlier and later compilations of other disciplines (law, agriculture, etc.);
  • the compilers’ intentions and scopes;
  • collections of medical fragments from Greek and / or Arabic sources and the editorial and content-related problems involved;
  • questions regarding the author indications in the compilations, including the scholia to Oribasius;
  • separation of identified fragments by stylistic and stylometric criteria, the question of literacy and editing / rewording by the compilers;
  • Rhazes’ Liber Continens, its manuscript tradition, fragment collections from this work, editorial problems and prospects;
  • editions of Greek texts and the use of fragments from Rhazes’ Continens for textual criticism;
  • any other topics concerning medical compilations in antiquity and Middle Ages.

Papers should be of 25 minutes length and can be presented in the following languages: German, French, English, Spanish, Italian, Latin.
Please submit your proposal of a topic (with or without abstract), including your name, academic affiliation and contact details, to:

Further Information

Further details are available at:—Berlin-Germany