Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Brian Turner


Alexandria (Egypt) -- Civilization, Anatomy -- Study and teaching -- Ptolemaic dynasty (305-30 B.C.), Herophilus of Chalcedon (approximately 335 B.C.-approximately 280 B.C.), Medicine -- Egypt -- Alexandria--History




In a period of Ptolemaic Alexandria that has been referred to by modern scholars as a “frontier environment” for scientific achievement and discoveries, Herophilus of Chalcedon was a leader of innovation. Religious and cultural boundaries and the presence of taboos and death-based pollution should perhaps have limited his research capabilities, but under the patronage of the ruling Ptolemaic kings (Ptolemy I Soter, and Ptolemy II Philadelphus both reigned during Herophilus’ lifetime), he and his contemporaries were able to dissect and vivisect human cadavers within the pursuit of their studies. Although Herophilus’ therapeutic practices largely fell within the scope of the Hippocratic medical tradition, his research methods and his manner of writing were both in striking contrast with those of his predecessors. Rather than using limited analogies based on animal anatomy in his descriptions of human anatomical structures, Herophilus used correlations involving material objects or elements of the natural world, thus providing more accessible points of comparison for a broader range of physicians. His use of more commonplace analogies suggests that he was writing for a less specialist audience, beyond the limited scope of the elite, academic group of physicians with whom he studied within the Museum and Library of Alexandria. By examining his use of analogy and the way that this differs from that of other ancient medical authors, it is possible to reveal something about who Herophilus was as both physician and teacher.


An undergraduate honors thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in University Honors and History.

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