compounded of ἀρχὸς
, a chief, and ἰατρός
, a physician), a medical title under the
Roman emperors, the exact signification of which has been the subject of
much discussion; for while some persons interpret it “the chief of the
ἀρχὸς τῶν ἰατρῶν
), others explain it to
mean “the physician to the prince” (quasi
τοὐ ἀρχοὐ ἰατρὸς
). Upon the whole it
seems tolerably certain that the former is the true meaning of the word, and
for these reasons:--1. From its etymology it can hardly have any other
sense, and of all the words similarly formed (ἀρχιτέκτων, ἀρχιτρίκλινος, ἀρχιεπίσκοπος,
there is not one that has any reference to “
” 2. We find the title applied to physicians who lived at Edessa,
Alexandria, &c., where no king was at that time reigning. 3. Galen
(de Ther. ad Pis.
100.1, vol. xiv. p. 211, ed.
Kühn) speaks of Andromachus being appointed “
to rule over
” the physicians (ἄρχειν
in fact, to be
“archiater.” 4. Augustine (de Civit.
3.17) applies the word to Aesculapius, and St. Jerome to our
Saviour (xiii. Homil. in S. Luc.
), in both which cases it
evidently means “the chief physician.” 5. It is apparently
synonymous with protomedicus, supra medicos, dominus
and superpositus medicorum,
all which expressions occur [p. 1.163]
&c., and also with the title Rais ‘ala
among the Arabians. 6. We find
the names of several persons who were physicians to the emperor, mentioned
without the addition of the title archiater.
archiatri were divided into Archiatri sancti
who attended on the emperor, and Archiatri populares,
who attended on the people; so that it
is certain that all
those who bore this title were
not “physicians to the prince.
chief argument in favour of the contrary opinion seems to arise from the
fact, that of all those who are known to have held the office of Archiatri
the greater part certainly were also
physicians to the emperor; but this is only what might á priori
be expected, viz. that those who had attained
the highest rank in their profession would be chosen to attend upon the
The first person whom we find bearing this title is Andromachus, physician to
Nero, and inventor of the Theriaca (Galen. l.c.;
Erotian. Lex. Voc. Hippocr.
Praef.): but it is not known
whether he had at the same time any sort of authority over the rest of the
profession. The name does not appear in Pliny's Natural History, though he
quotes many distinguished physicians: nor does it seem to have been commonly
used in Latin till the time of Constantine. From about that date the order
appears to have been divided, and we find two distinct classes of archiatri,
viz. those of the palace and those of the
people. (Cod. Theodos. xiii. tit. 3; De Medicis et
) The Archiatri sancti
were persons of high rank, who not only exercised
their profession, but were judges on occasion of any disputes that might
occur among the physicians of the place. They had certain privileges granted
to them, e. g. they were exempted from all taxes, as were also their wives
and children; they were not obliged to lodge soldiers or others in the
provinces; they could not be put in prison, &c.: for though these
privileges seem at first to have been common to all physicians (Cod. Just.
x. tit. 52, s. 6: Medicos et maxime Archiatros
afterwards they were confined to the archiatri
of the palace, and to those of Rome. When they obtained their dismissal from
attendance on the emperor, either from old age or any other cause, they
retained the title ex-archiatri,
(Cod. x. tit. 52, s. 6.) The Archiatri populares
were established for the relief
of the poor, and each city was to be provided with five, seven, or ten,
according to its size. (Dig. 27
, tit. 1, s. 6.)
Rome had fourteen, besides one for the vestal virgins and one for the
gymnasia. (Cod. Theodos. l.c.
) They were paid by the
government, and were therefore obliged to attend their poor patients gratis;
but were allowed to receive fees from the rich. (Cod. Theodos. l.c.
) The Archiatri
were not appointed by the governors of the provinces,
but were elected by the people themselves. (Dig.
, tit. 9, s. 1.) The office appears to have been more lucrative
than that of Archiatri sancti palatii,
less honourable. In later times, we find in Cassiodorus (see Meibom.
Comment. in Cass. Formul. Archiatr.
Helmst. 1668) the
title Comes archiatrorum,
“count of the archiatri,” together with an account of his
duties, by which it appears that he was the arbiter and judge of all
disputes and difficulties, and ranked among the officers of the empire as a
(See Le Clerc, and Sprengel, Hist. de
Further infórmation on the subject
may be found in several works referred to in the Oxford edition of
Theophilus, de Corp. Hum. Fabr.
p. 275; and in Goldhorn,
de Archiatris Romanis et eorum Origine usque ad finem imperii