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Study information

Ancient Sources (Written Evidence) Ancient Medicine

Module titleAncient Sources (Written Evidence) Ancient Medicine
Module codeCLA1307
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr David Leith (Convenor)

Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module, you will be introduced to the medical practices and practitioners of the Greek and Roman worlds, ranging from the fifth century BC to the second century AD. As well as examining the medical texts themselves, you will also examine literary and non-literary sources of medical content. You will work through key topics such as ancient medicine before Hippocrates, the Hippocratic Corpus, and the work, impact and influence of Galen. You will be encouraged to engage with the texts to understand and appreciate the diverse range of medical art. You will consider the extent to which the social and cultural environment of Greece and Rome impact the role of the healer and vice versa.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of the module are:

  • To work through a representative sampling of set medical texts, comprising the authors of the Hippocratic Collection, the medical works of A. Cornelius Celsus, Soranus, and Galen.
  • To evaluate others, such as midwives, oculist and herbalists, who formed part of the mainstay of the art of medicine.
  • To consider non-medical literary and non-literary sources.
  • To understand and appreciate the diverse range encompassed by the medical art, and to what extent the role of the healer impacted upon, and was embedded within, the wider cultural and social environment of Greece and Rome

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a broad and detailed knowledge of the primary texts (in English translation)
  • 2. Demonstrate a general understanding of the role of medicine and its impact in Greek and Roman society
  • 3. Demonstrate an engagement with modern scholarship on ancient medicine

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Analyse and critically evaluate ancient texts in translation
  • 5. Demonstrate advanced academic and library skills in Classics and Ancient History

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate independent and group study skills in seminar research and presentation
  • 7. Demonstrate an ability to critically select and organise relevant material
  • 8. Demonstrate an ability to present a strong argument both in oral and written form
  • 9. Foster confidence and clarity in oral communication
  • 10. Develop the ability to work and critically discuss issues in a peer group

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introducing Ancient Medicine: medicine before Hippocrates
  • Hippocrates and the Hippocratic Corpus
  • Hellenistic Medicine: expansion and innovation
  • Greek Medicine and Rome
  • Galen: work, impact and influence

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study123Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in seminarsWithin seminars1-10Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay402000 words1-5,7-8Mark and written comments
Examination602 hours1-5,7-8Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-5, 7-8Referral/deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-5,7-8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary reading:

  • King, H., Greek and Roman Medicine (Classical World Series), Bristol Classical Press, 2001.
  • Porter, R., Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine, Penguin, 2003.
  • Selections of Primary Texts will be distributed by the Module Convenor.

Secondary Reading:

  • Conrad, L., Neve, M., Porter, R., Wear, A., (eds.), The Western Medical Tradition, 800 BC to AD 1800,
  • Cambridge, 1995, chapters 1-3.
  • Nutton, V., Ancient Medicine, Routledge, 2004.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Ancient sources, Hippocrates, Galen

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date