Nicander of Colophon Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Almost nothing is known about Nicander (nuh-KAN-dur) of Colophon’s life. He wrote on medical topics in verse, mostly hexameter. Two of his books and some scholia survive. Alexipharmaca describes many types of poisonings by animals, plants, and inanimate agents and suggests antidotes and other treatments. Theriaca deals more specifically with poisonings caused by animal bites, stings, and scratches. Among the titles of Nicander’s lost works are Georgica, Melissurgica (Bee-Keeping), Heteroeumena (Metamorphoses), and Prognostica.

As a physician, he followed the empiric school of Philinus of Cos and Serapion of Alexandria. He introduced the medicinal use of the leech. This common method of phlebotomy (bloodletting) persisted into the nineteenth century.