Nothing is known about the life of Aulus Cornelius Celsus (AW-luhs kohr-NEEL-ee-uhs SEHL-suhs) except that he wrote a number of scientific and scholarly treatises in Latin during the reign of the emperor Tiberius (14-37 c.e.). The subject matter of these works was far-reaching and included rhetoric, law, and philosophy as well as agriculture, military science, and medicine. Except for a few fragments, the only surviving work is his treatise on medicine, De medicina (c. 30 c.e.; The Eight Books of Medicine, 1830; better known as De Medicina, 1935-1938). Whether the scholar Celsus was also a practicing physician is disputed.
Celsus’s eight books on medicine are arranged according to types of treatment (such as diet, drugs, and surgery) and include a brief but important history of Greco-Roman medicine. Celsus’s descriptions of conditions such as inflammation, insanity, and heart disease are remarkably accurate. Also noteworthy is his emphasis on cleanliness in the treatment of wounds and the use of antiseptics.
Although Celsus’s medical work was not well known in antiquity, its rediscovery by Pope Nicholas V (1397-1455) marked an important stage in the development of modern medicine, and his writing style was often imitated by Renaissance admirers.
Allbutt, Sir Thomas C. Greek Medicine in Rome: The Fitzpatrick Lectures on the History of Medicine Delivered at...
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