The distinction that Praxagoras of Cos (4th-3rd c. BC) made between arteries and veins and his views on pulsation and pneuma are two significant turning points in the history of ideas and medicine. In this book Orly Lewis presents the fragmentary evidence for this topic and offers a fresh analysis of Praxagoras’ views on the soul and the functions of the heart and pneuma. In so doing, she highlights the empirical basis of Praxagoras’ views and his engagement with earlier medical debates and with Aristotle’s physiology.
The study consists of an edition and translation of the relevant fragments (some absent from the standard 1958 edition) followed by a commentary and a synthetic analysis of Praxagoras’ views and their place in the history of medicine and ideas.
The book has been awarded the
Young Historian Prize of the
Académie Internationale d’Histoire de Sciences (2019).
This paper underlines the importance of the Pseudo-Aristotelian treatise De spiritu for our knowledge of early Hellenistic anatomical and physiological theories. We claim that the treatise verifies reports on certain 4th- and 3rd-century conceptions and debates otherwise attested only in later sources, and offers invaluable information on otherwise unknown ideas and discussions. Our claim is based on ten case-studies in which we explore the relation between the views found in De spiritu and known to us from other ancient sources, regarding ten specific topics. Following the results of our case-studies, we argue that De spiritu should be dated to the early decades of the 3rd century bc, after the circulation of the doctrines of Praxagoras of Cos, but before the discovery of the central nervous system by Herophilus and Erasistratus.
The aim of this paper is to depict the anatomical and physiological doctrines of the treatise entitled Περὶ πνεύματος, or De spiritu. By closely examining the contents of the treatise on its own accord, rather than through its Aristotelian or Hellenistic contexts, we attempt to overcome the aporetic and often disconnected style of the author, and to present a coherent picture of his doctrine of pneuma, its roles in the body, the anatomical structures in which it acts, and its relation to the soul. We argue that the author envisions three main systems in the body: artēriai, by which external air is taken in, turned into pneuma and distributed to different parts of the body; phlebes, by which blood is produced and distributed; bones and neura, which support the body and effect locomotion. Pneuma is shown to run through the system of artēriai, whereby it performs vital activities such as thermoregulation, digestion and pulsation. It is also engaged in activities such as perception and locomotion, in the form of the “connate pneuma,”which, we propose, is a component of bodily parts. The author connects pneuma very closely with soul, and although he is familiar with Aristotle’s doctrine of the soul, he does not see to embrace it.