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Kizhan
MuhammadDr.
Jeff Rydberg-CoxAncient
Greek and Roman Medicine 30
January 2018Rhetorical Situation of “The Prince
of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire”            Susan P. Mattern’s novel about
Galen, a cultural icon and ancient physician, delivers a social-historical biography.
His works were the heart of western medicine until the Renaissance. Her book is
the first to offer an authoritative biography of such a brilliant, audacious,
and profoundly influential figure. Mattern’s book offers the first
authoritative biography of this brilliant, audacious, and profoundly
influential figure. She has also appeared to have written many other books
based on Galen and his era throughout her writing career. My personal
impression of the book’s purpose is to inform the reader about the life of a
Greek physician, a surgeon, and philosopher in the prodigious Roman Empire as
well as his influence upon many other physicians in his time. This book does
cost a bit more than other textbooks, as its price ranges from around $25.00 to
$30.00. The cover of this book physically looks like one that would target the
understanding of the human anatomy in the ancient times. The printed pages of
this book are similar to any other novel or story rather than a history or
science textbook. The writing style can also be comparable to any other
biography of an ancient figure. Susan P. Mattern and her book seem to target adult
readers that may be interested in medicine and/or ancient literature.             The prologue to Mattern’s book
conveys a notion to the reader about Galen’s outlook on medicine. The book
provides a specific example on Galen’s perspective with the occurrence of
treating a patient having chalk stones with his own combination of “rancid
cheese and pickled pig’s leg” as a fixative over the joint. This specific act
portrays the antiquity of his thinking, in some ways different from our own.
This perspective helps the reader contrast this way of thinking, present only
in ancient times, to the understanding and lens of our own. In addition to the
prologue, the first chapter begins by describing the city of Pergamum. The
reader immediately learns how Galen always called this city home, in spite of
the speculation of him living in Rome for many years. The rivalry and contrast
between Pergamum and Rome is heavily addressed as well as the society he grew
up until reaching the point where Galen’s beliefs and background comes to our
focus. Being very affluent in the medical field, Galen continuously considered
the god of medicine, Asclepius, to be of his ancestry. When he was 16
years-old, his father had a dream in which the Greek god of medicine told him
that Galen must divert his efforts to medicine and healing. The reader also
learns that Galen most resembled his humble and “magnanimous” father, Nicon, a
very prosperous architect and mathematician. His mother, however, was
remembered to be petulant and “irascible.” The book mentions that no
relationship with other women was known in his life besides that of his mother.
His father died when he was 19 years-old, ad unfortunately did not see the
remarkable career his son had directed afterwards.            In my opinion, the author began this
book in an appropriate manner. I think that Mattern felt the need to organize
the book this way to help the reader understand the condition and way of life
in the ancient Greek times. She found it necessary for the reader to keep in
mind of Galen’s environment before she can go further and give information
about anything else, to prevent confusion, in a way. As for an example, if
there were a situation to be explained further in the book, and it might have
not been acceptable to Galen’s society and surroundings at the time, as the
readers, we would grasp the reason why. The first chapter depicts society as
one that practices sanitization and distillation very dejectedly and poorly.
The average life span was even said to be around the mid 30’s. To include this
in the beginning of the book, it strengthens the author’s attempt in fulfilling
her purpose for her audience, which I believe, is to inform the reader about
the life of a Greek medical professional in the Roman Empire, as well as his
influence on other physicians during his time. It strengthens her effort
because this chapter gives basic information about an era that did not regard
sanitation highly and didn’t think that it contributed to all of the occurrence
of disease back then. Whereas the audience today understands that sanitation is
common sense. Her purpose connects the two eras together to help compare and
contrast, thus informing the reader on how Galen and many other medical
professionals of the time played a big role.

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