Farmaci ed amuleti: al confine del razionale nella medicina antica

Daniela Fausti


The aim of this study is to shed light on the interaction between rational and magic-popular medicine, using two different types of evidence. First, using literary texts we can reconstruct the framework of the activities of vendors of drugs and charlatans, but "official" medicine programmatically ignores these people and their methods of treatment, except in a specific area such as pharmacology, which can give a good indication as some remedies (especially of plant origin) had a twofold medical, but also magical meaning, like amulets with a protective function. Authors such as Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Galen (in the pharmacological works) reveal an interest in recording these beliefs, but as a tribute to the spirit of rationality and verification distance themselves from this tradition. Sometimes, however, a rational justification of the usefulness of amulets is given, as, for example, by Soranus, who also opposes any form of superstition, because they can bring benefits to psychological level. In the sixth century A.D. with Alexander of Tralles the process of acceptance is complete who, though respecting the principles of the medical art, advises various amulets to help patients.

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