Systems of Classification in Premodern Medical Cultures : Sickness, Health, and Local Epistemologies book cover
1st Edition

Systems of Classification in Premodern Medical Cultures
Sickness, Health, and Local Epistemologies

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after August 10, 2020
ISBN 9781138571129
August 10, 2020 Forthcoming by Routledge
384 Pages - 12 B/W Illustrations

SAVE ~ $31.00
was $155.00
USD $124.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country

Book Description

Systems of Classification in Premodern Medical Cultures puts historical illness concepts in cross-cultural perspective, investigating perceptions, constructions and experiences of health and illness, from antiquity to the 17th century.

Focusing on the systematisation and classification of illness in its multiple forms, manifestations and causes, this volume examines case studies ranging from popular concepts illness through to specialist discourses on it. Using philological, historical and anthropological approaches, the contributions cover perspectives across time from East Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures, spanning ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome to Tibet and China. They aim to capture the multiplicity of illness concepts and medical traditions within specific societies, and to investigate the historical dynamics of stability and change linked to such concepts.

Providing useful material for comparative research, the volume is a key resource for researchers studying the cultural conceptualisation of illness, including anthropologists, historians, and classicists, amongst others.

Table of Contents


Introduction: sickness, cultural classifications and local epistemologies  Ulrike Steinert (in consultation with Elisabeth Hsu)

Part I: Disease concepts and healing systems: approaches to knowledge and practice in medical anthropology and the history of medicine

1. Distinctive issues in the history of medicine in antiquity  Geoffrey E.R. Lloyd

2. How to read a recipe? Working backwards from the prescription to the complaint  Elisabeth Hsu

3. Experiencing the dead in ancient Egyptian healing texts  Rune Nyord

Part II: Disease classifications: historical analyses of medical texts and traditions from the Near East, Mediterranean and East Asia

4. Types of diagnoses in Papyrus Ebers and Smith  Susanne Radestock

5. Ancient Egyptian prescriptions for the back and the abdomen and their Mesopotamian and Mediterranean counterparts  Juliane Unger

6. Disease concepts and classifications in ancient Mesopotamian medicine  Ulrike Steinert

7. Classification of illnesses in the Hippocratic Corpus  Elizabeth Craik

8. The delicacy of the rabbinic ‘asthenes’: sickness, weakness or self-indulgence?  Aaron Amit

9. The Paradise of Wisdom: streams of tradition in the first medical encyclopaedia in Arabic  Lucia Raggetti

10. The Tree of Nosology in Tibetan medicine  Katharina Sabernig

Part III: Mental illness in ancient medical systems

11. Disturbing disorders: reconsidering the problem of ‘mental diseases’ in ancient Mesopotamia  M. Erica Couto-Ferreira

12. Classification, explanation and experience: mental disorder in Graeco-Roman antiquity  Peter N. Singer

View More



Ulrike Steinert is a senior researcher in the Department of History and Cultural Studies at the Freie Universitat Berlin. Her research focuses on the Akkadian language as well as the cultural history, anthropology and medicine of Ancient Mesopotamia from an intercultural perspective. Her current research in the BabMed project aims at an historical and comparative approach to Assyrian and Babylonian gynaecology.