1st Edition

A Cretan Healer's Handbook in the Byzantine Tradition Text, Translation and Commentary

By Patricia Ann Clark Copyright 2011

    In 1930 the Cretan healer Nikolaos Konstantinos Theodorakis of Meronas re-copied a notebook containing medical lore passed down through his family over generations. The present volume offers an edition of this notebook together with an English translation, the first of its kind. It belongs to the genre of iatrosophia, practical handbooks dating mainly to the 17th to 19th centuries which compiled healing wisdom, along with snippets of agricultural, meteorological and veterinary advice, and admixtures of religion, astrology and magic. Both fascinating and of critical importance, iatrosophia allow glimpses of classical and Byzantine medical sources and illustrate the vitality and resilience of Greek traditional medical and botanical knowledge. From years spent exploring local healing customs in Crete's Amari region, Patricia Clark is able to present Theodorakis' iatrosophion against a rich historical, geographical and social background. Introductory essays and explanatory notes to the translation give context to the iatrosophion and provide the specialized information necessary for a good understanding of the text. The abundant materia medica of the notebook is treated in a substantial appendix. Each animal, mineral, plant or product is provided with an overview of its various names through the millennia. Such entries are not only a key to understanding the Greek medical legacy, but also a vivid illustration of its usage from antiquity to the present day.

    Contents: Foreword; Iatrosophia; Historical background: Crete and iatrosophia; Crete's Amari: social and geographical context; Theodorakis: the man and his work; Text, translation and notes; Preface to the appendix; Appendix: materia medica; Bibliography; Preface to the indices; Indices; General index.


    Patricia Ann Clark is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies, University of Victoria, Canada

    'This is a valuable and important work of scholarship that looks back to Greek medicine of earlier centuries, as well as subsequent Turkish and Italian influences. Clark has done scholars, of both medieval and early modern medicine, a great service in recording and defining the historical and geographical context of this collection, and the work of its compiler, the village healer Nikolaos Theodorakis.' Bulletin of the History of Medicine '[The book] represents a most valuable addition to the little studied area of iatrosophia... it provides the essential material for future studies on the reception of Byzantine medicine, as well as contemporary medical, social and cultural history.' Social History of Medicine 'Ce qui rend ce cahier intéressant pour l’historien est qu’on y retrouve un grand fonds de matériel présent dans les iatrosophia d’époque byzantine, augmenté au cours des siècles mais gardant les mêmes caractéristiques: c’est en quelque sorte de la médecine byzantine continuata. D’autre part, il peut aussi constituer un document appréciable pour l’étude des plantes médicinales, des procédés médicaux, de la flore crétoise. ['What makes this book interesting for the historian is the large collection of material present in the iatrosophia of the Byzantine period, augmented over the centuries but keeping the same characteristics: it is a kind of ongoing Byzantine medicine. On the other hand, it may also be a document useful for the study of medicinal plants, medical procedures, and Cretan flora.'] Revue des études byzantines 'As Professor Alain Touwaide (Smithsonian Institution and Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions) states in the foreword of the book, Patricia Ann Clark’s contribution is an extra-temporal key to unlock the universe of the many extant Byzantine iatrosophia in the context of the emerging field of ethnopharmacology and the global history of folk medicine.' Alphaomega