Galen’s Theory of Black Bile

Hippocratic Tradition, Manipulation, Innovation


In Galen’s Theory of Black Bile: Hippocratic Tradition, Manipulation, Innovation Keith Stewart investigates Galen’s writing on black bile to explain health and disease and shows that Galen sometimes presented this humour as three substances with different properties that can either be harmful or beneficial to the body. Keith Stewart analyses the most important treatises for Galen’s physical description and characteristion of black bile and challenges certain views on the development of this humour, such as the importance of the content of the Hippocratic On the Nature of Man. This analysis allows us to understand how and why Galen defines and uses black bile in different ways for his arguments that cannot always be reconciled with the content of his sources.

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Keith Andrew Stewart, Ph.D. (2017), University of Exeter, UK, is a teacher and tutor. He began his career as a scientist with a B.Sc. in Physics (1998), but has transferred to the humanities, teaching Classics and Ancient History.
"With admirable clarity, Stewart states explicitly at the beginning of the book both the shortcomings of the (considerable) prior scholarship on black bile he seeks to remedy (5) and his plan for doing so (6). (...) Readers already interested in the subject will find Stewart’s treatment clear and ecumenical, while those new to the questions surrounding black bile will benefit from the introductory literature review." Courtney Roby, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.08.53
1 Galen and the History of Black Bile  1  The Origins of Black Bile and Humoral Theory  2  Galen’s Doxographical Explanation for the History of Black Bile  3  Summary
2 Key Influences on Galen’s Writing on Black Bile  1  The Importance of Philosophy in Galen’s Interpretation of the Hippocratic Corpus  2  The Influence of Galen’s Teachers on His Views Concerning Medical Theory  3  Galen’s Opinion on the Authenticity of the Hippocratic Writings  4  Galen’s Polemic against Those He Considers to be Opposed to Humoral Theory  5  Summary
3 Galen’s Qualitative and Structural Characterisation of Black Bile  1  The Essential Properties of Black Bile  2  Physical Descriptions of Black Bile  3  Summary
4 Galen’s Distinction of Different Types of Black Bile  1  The Different Types of Black Bile in Galen’s Writing  2  A Question of Consistency in Galen’s Characterisation of Black Bile  3  Summary
5 Galen’s Explanation of Harmful Black Bile  1  The Properties of Altered Black Bile and How This Makes It a Potentially Harmful Substance in the Body  2  Summary
6 The Cleansing of Harmful Black Bile from the Body  1  The Importance of the Liver for the Origin of Black Bile in the Body  2  The Relationship between the Structure of the Spleen and Its Function  3  Galen’s Attack on Asclepiades and Erasistratus on the Function of the Spleen to Cleanse the Body of Black Bile  4  Diseases of the Spleen in Relation to the Harmful Nature of Black Bile  5  Summary
7 The Diseases Caused by Black Bile  1  Melancholy, the Black Bile Disease  2  Quartan Fever, the Black Bile Fever  3  Cases where the Presence of Black Bile Indicates a Terminal Disease  4  Summary
8 Conclusion
Bibliography Index Index of Sources
All interested in the development of early Greek and Roman medical theory, and anyone concerned with the origins of humoral theory that influenced later medical writers.