Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Philosophy - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Ricarda Gäbel

Thesis: Aetius of Amida on Diseases of the Head: A Translation and Commentary of Libri medicinales, Book VI

Ricarda GäbelMy dissertation project aims at translating and commenting on the sixth book of the Libri medicinales (ἰατρικοὶ λόγοι) of Aetius of Amida, which deals with diseases of the head.

Aetius lived in the first half of the sixth century AD and presumably worked as a court physician in Constantinople. His Libri medicinales, comprising sixteen books, provide a diligent compilation of theories and doctrines of earlier scholars dealing with nearly all important areas of medicine including for example dietetics, prognostics, diagnostics, pharmacology, gynecology, ophthalmology, and diseases of the digestive tract. Besides Galen, Aetius’ sources are primarily Archigenes, Poseidonius, Rufus, Soran, Dioscorides and Philumenos.

Most of the books of the Libri medicinales (including book six) have never been translated into or commented on in a modern language.

The sixth book of the Libri medicinales is especially interesting because dealing with diseases of the head doesn’t only involve notions which one could refer to as exclusively “medical”. It also involves investigating the causes and consequences of potential dysfunctions of mental faculties such as imagination, reasoning and memory, which have often been located in the head.

There are other, more general reasons why Aetius’ work is worth studying: on the one hand, it provides us with excerpts of authors which are only preserved in his work. On the other hand – and this aspect hasn’t received much attention in the past – it has to be considered as an independent piece of literature: Aetius modified his sources, added new ideas, arranged them in a specific way and hence really created an independent work. Which ideas originate from Aetius himself? What literary techniques did he use? How did he guide his readers? Why did he arrange the excerpts in this special way and why did he cite exactly these authors? These are only few questions I want to pay attention to within my commentary.


After receiving her Abitur at the Gymnasium am Kaiserdom in Speyer, Ricarda Gäbel (1989) studied Classics at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin from 2008 to 2013: She attained her Bachelor of Arts in 2011 writing a thesis entitled “Soul, Pneuma and Phrenitis – Ancient Theories on the cavities of the brain” and then her Master of Education in 2013 with a thesis on Aetius of Amida. During her studies Ricarda Gäbel worked as a studentische Hilfskraft for Professor Philip van der Eijk and held tutorials for first-year students of Greek at the Institut für Klassische Philologie of the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

In October 2013 she started her dissertation project at the Graduate School of Ancient Philosophy under the supervision of Professor Philip van der Eijk. In 2018 she finished her PhD.