The Context of De Spiritu

In: Early Science and Medicine

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.


  • 19

    Friedrich Solmsen“Greek Philosophy and the Discovery of the Nerves,” Museum Helveticum18 (1961) 184–197; von Staden Herophilus 159–160 250–259.

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  • 20

    See Gregoric Lewis and Kuhar“The Substance,”Section 4.

  • 23

    In Gregoric Lewis and Kuhar“The Substance,”Section 4 we suggest with due caution that the author inclines to the latter view.

  • 38

    On these and other terms see: HarrisThe Heart244–51 397–405; von Staden Herophilus 273–288.

  • 64

    GalenDe resp. usu 1.2 (Furley and Wilkie 80 = K. 4.471).

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