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Aurelia'nus, Cae'lius

or COE'LIUS, a very celebrated Latin physician, respecting whose age and country there is considerable uncertainty. Some writers place him as early as the first century of the Christian era, while others endeavour to prove that he was at least a century later. This opinion is founded principally upon the circumstance of his not mentioning, or being mentioned by, Galen, indicating that they were contemporaries or rivals. Numidia has been generally assigned as his native country, but perhaps without any direct evidence; it may, however, be concluded, from the imperfection of his style and the incorrectness of some of the terms which he employs, that he was not a native either of Greece or Italy.


But whatever doubts may attach to his personal history, and whatever faults of style may exist in his writings, his work affords us much valuable information respecting the state of medical science. He was a professed and zealous member of the sect of the Methodici, and it is principally from his work that we are able to obtain a correct view of the principles and practice of this sect. In his descriptions of the phaenomena of disease, he displays considerable accuracy of observation and diagnostic sagacity; and he describes some disorders which are not to be met with in any other ancient author. He gives us a very ample and minute detail of the practice which was adopted both by himself and his contemporaries; and it must be acknowledged that on these points his remarks display a competent knowledge of his subject, united to a clear and comprehensive judgment.

He divides diseases into the two great classes of acute and chronic, nearly corresponding to diseases of constriction and of relaxation, and upon these supposed states he founds his primary indications; but with respect to the intimate nature of these states of the system, as well as of all hidden or recondite causes generally, he thinks it unnecessary to inquire, provided we can recognise their existence, and can discover the means of removing them. Hence his writings are less theoretical and more decidedly practical than those of any other author of antiquity; and they consequently contributed more to the advancement of the knowledge and actual treatment of disease than any that had preceded them. They contributed in an especial manner to perfect the knowledge of therapeutics, by ascertaining with precision the proper indications of cure, with the means best adapted for fulfilling them. The great defect of Caelius Aurelianus (a defect which was inherent in the sect to which he belonged), was that of placing too much dependence upon the twofold division of diseases, and not sufficiently attending to the minute shades by which they gradually run into each other; which is the more remarkable in one who shews so much attention to the phaenomena of disease, and who for the most part allows himself to be so little warped by preconceived hypotheses. This view of the subject leads him not unfrequently to reject active and decisive remedies, when he could not reconcile their operation to his supposed indications; so that, although his practice is seldom what can be styled bad, it is occasionally defective.

His work consists of three books On Acute Diseases, Celerum Passionum, (or De Morbis Acutis,) and five books On Chronic Diseases, Tardarum Passionum (or De Morbis Chronicis).


The books On Chronic Diseases were first published in folio, Basil. 1529; those On Acute Diseases in 8vo. Paris, 1533. The first edition of the whole work was that published at Lyons in 8vo. 1566; perhaps the best is that by Amman, Amstel. 1709 4to., which was several times reprinted. The last edition of the whole work is that by Haller, Lausan, 1774, 8vo. 2 vols. A new edition was begun at Paris by Delattre, 1826, 8vo., but only one volume was published.

Further Information

Some academical dissertations on Caelius Aureiianus were published by C. G. Kühn, which are reprinted in his Opuscula Academica Medica et Philologica, Lips. 1827, 1828, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 1, &c. For further information respecting Caelius Aurelianus, see Haller's Biblioth. Medic. Pract. vol. i.; Sprengel's Hist de la Méd. vol. ii.; Bostock's Hist. of Med.; and Choulant's Handbuch der Bücherkunde für die Aeltere Medicin, Leipzig, 8vo. 1841, from which two latter works the preceding account has been taken.


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