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*)Aretai=os), one of the most celebrated of the ancient Greek physicians, of whose life, however, no particulars are known. There is some uncertainty respecting both his age and country ; but it seems probable that he practised in the first century after Christ, in the reign of Nero or Vespasian, and he is generally styled " the Cappadocian" (Καππάδοξ). He wrote in Ionic Greek a general treatise on diseases, which is still extant, and is certainly one of the most valuable reliques of antiquity, displaying great accuracy in the detail of symptoms, and in seizing the diagnostic character of diseases. In his practice he followed for the most part the method of Hippocrates, but he paid less attention to what have been styled " the natural actions" of the system; and, contrary to the practice of the Father of Medicine, he did not hesitate to attempt to counteract them, when they appeared to him to be injurious. The account which he gives of his treatment of various diseases indicates a simple and sagacious system, and one of more energy than that of the professed Methodici. Thus he freely administered active purgatives; he did not object to narcotics; he was much less averse to bleeding; and upon the whole his Materia Medica was both ample and efficient. It may be asserted generally that there are few of the ancient physicians, since the time of Hippocrates, who appear to have been less biassed by attachment to any peculiar set of opinions, and whose account of the phenomena and treatment of disease has better stood the test of subsequent experience. Aretaeus is placed by some writers among the Pneumatici (Dict. of Ant. s. v. Pneumatici), because he maintained the doctrines which are peculiar to this sect; other systematic writers, however, think that he is better entitled to be placed with the Eclectics. (Dict. of Ant. s. v. Eclectici.


His work consists of eight book, of which four are entitled Περὶ Αἰτιῶν καὶ Σημείων Ὀξέων καὶ Χρονίων Παθῶν, De Causis et Signis Acutorum et Diuturnorum Morborum; and the other four, Περὶ Θεραπείας Ὀξέων καὶ Χρονίων Παθῶν, De Curatione Acutorum et Diuturnorum Morborum. They are in a tolerably complete state of preservation, though a few chapters are lost.


Latin Edition

The work was first published in a Latin translation by J. P. Crassus, Venet. 1552, 4to., together with Rufus Ephesius.

Greek Edition

The first Greek edition is that by J. Goupylus, Paris, 1554, 8vo., which is more complete than the Latin version of Crassus. In 1723 a magnificent edition in folio was published at the Clarendon press at Oxford, edited by J. Wigan, containing an improved text, a new Latin version, learned dissertations and notes, and a copious index by Maittaire. In 1731, the celebrated Boerhaave brought out a new edition, of which the text and Latin version had been printed before the appearance of Wigan's, and are of less value than his; this edition, however, contains a copious and useful collection of annotations by P. Petit and D. W. Triller. The last and most useful edition is that by C. G. Kühn, Lips. 1828, 8vo., containing Wigan's text, Latin version, dissertations, &c., together with Petit's Commentary, Triller's Emendations, and Maittaire's Index. A new edition is preparing for the press at this present time by Dr. Ermerins, of Middelburg in Zealand. (See his preface, p. viii., to Hippocr. De Vict. Rat. in Morb. Acut. Lugd. Bat. 1841.)


The work has been translated into French, Italian, and German; there are also two English translations, one by J. Moffat, Lond. 1785, 8vo., and the other by T. F. Reynolds, Lond. 1837, 8vo., neither of which contains the whole work.

Further Information

Further information respecting the medical opinions of Aretaeus may be found in Le Clerc's Hist. de la Méd. ; Haller's Bibl. Medic. Pract. vol. i.; Sprengel's Hist. de la Méd. ; Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. vol. iv. p. 703, ed. Harles; Isensee, Gesch. der Med. See also Bostock, Hist. of Med., and Choulant's Handbuch der Bücherkunde für die Aeltere Medicin, from which two works the preceding article has been chiefly taken.


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