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Study information

Galen and Galenism

Module titleGalen and Galenism
Module codeCLAM081
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr David Leith (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The physician Galen of Pergamum (AD 129 – ca. 216) was one of the most influential intellectual figures of Graeco-Roman antiquity. He was extraordinarily prolific, and his surviving writings account for some 10% of all extant ancient Greek literature, with further treatises being regularly rediscovered to this day. There has been an explosion of scholarly interest in recent years, revealing a much more complex and remarkable figure than had previously been assumed. In this module, you will explore the many facets of Galen and his work: not only Galen as doctor, but also as philosopher, polemicist, associate of the Imperial family, Greek intellectual under the Roman Empire, theologian, and scientist. You will also evaluate his legacy up the present day, when forms of his medical system are still being practised in various parts of the world. All texts will be studied in translation, and no prior knowledge is required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to:

  • Takes a variety of approaches – historical, scientific, philosophical, literary, etc. – to a central intellectual figure of Graeco-Roman antiquity
  • Give a well-rounded and critically informed picture of Galen, whose life, career and thought can be documented and analysed in greater detail than almost any other ancient personage
  • Examine a range of literary sources and evaluate their significance in a broader historical and intellectual context, casting light on wider themes, such as why certain parts of ancient literature have survived at the expense of others, the role of religion in science, anxieties about authority and professional rivalry in antiquity, etc.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Engage critically with a wide range of source material pertaining to Galen and his context in the second century AD
  • 2. Demonstrate understanding of Galen’s broader historical significance and impact

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Collate and analyse widely different types of evidence, much of which is incomplete and ambiguous in its significance
  • 4. Collate and analyse widely different types of evidence, much of which is incomplete and ambiguous in its significance

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Apply key bibliographical skills, the latest forms of information retrieval, as well as word-processing skills
  • 6. Think autonomously and analytically on the basis of written and visual sources and secondary literature
  • 7. Construct and defend a sustained argument (both in written form and orally)
  • 8. Collaborate with others in a constructive and responsive way

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:

  • Navigating the Galenic Corpus
  • Galen and the medical market-place
  • Galen and Hippocrates
  • Galen and the Second Sophistic
  • Galen the philosopher
  • Galen, anatomy, and creationism
  • Galen and Christianity
  • Galen in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

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 Teaching15Intensive seminar and reading group teaching
Guided Independent Study135Working independently and in groups in preparation for seminars and essays

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Close study of key primary and secondary texts in class, with broader discussions of issuesIn-class1-8Oral feedback in class from lecturer and peers

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
Essay804000 words1-8Mark; written and oral feedback
Oral Presentation (individual)2015-20 minutes1-8Mark; written and oral feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Referral/deferral period
Oral presentation (individual)Essay (2000 words)1-8Referral/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 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • P. Adamson, R. Hansberger & J. Wilberding (eds.), Philosophical Themes in Galen.Supplement to the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies (London 2014)
  • C. Gill, T. Whitmarsh & J. Wilkins (eds.), Galen and the World of Knowledge (Cambridge 2009)
  • R.J. Hankinson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Galen (Cambridge 2008)
  • S.P. Mattern, The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Oxford 2013)
  • V. Nutton, Galen. On Prognosis. Corpus Medicorum Graecorum V 8,1 (Berlin 1979)
  • ---, Ancient Medicine. 2nd edn. (London 2013)
  • C. Petit (ed.), Galen’s Treatise Περ? ?λυπ?ας (De Indolentia) in Context (Leiden 2019)
  • P.N. Singer (trans.), Galen: Selected Works (Oxford 1997)
  • --- (ed.), Galen: Psychological Writings (Cambridge 2013)
  • P.N. Singer & P.J. van der Eijk (eds.), Galen: Works on Human Nature. Volume I (Cambridge 2019)
  • W.D. Smith, The Hippocratic Tradition (Ithaca–London 1979)
  • O. Temkin, Galenism. Rise and Decline of a Medical Philosophy (Ithaca–London 1973)
  • ---, Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians (Baltimore 1991)

Key words search

Galen, ancient medicine, philosophy, science, Greek

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date