LCL 546: xii-xiii
they are influenced by a variety of factors, both internal and external. Eukrasia of the whole body, he claims, is the ideal state, but how often it can be reached and sustained in the individual body is a moot point. Dyskrasia, most simply defined as any departure from eukrasia, is a common state and, while theoretically abnormal, only becomes a disease state when of such magnitude as to interfere with bodily function. In this form, it represents a major cause of disease, being one of the three components of Galen’s tripartite division of the causes of diseases: (a) dyskrasias; (b) dysfunction of compound structures (organs): (c) dissolution of continuity.3 All three are more or less susceptible to correction aimed at the cure of disease and the restoration of health, as defined by Galen.
The three works in the present volume comprise the major statement of Galen’s theory of krasis: On Krasias (Temperaments, Mixtures) and two ancillary works. The first of these is On Non-Uniform Dyskrasia (Distemperment), a short work, a mere twenty Kühn pages, dealing briefly with different dyskrasias existing simultaneously, either in the whole body or in a part or parts thereof. The second, The Soul’s Traits Depend on Bodily Krasis (Temperament), puts the case for the application of the concept of krasis and its variants to the rational soul, accepting the latter as, in effect, a corporeal entity situated in the brain. Two other short works have been added as an appendix.
These are On the Best Constitution of Our Body and On Good Bodily State, both recommended by Galen as supplementary reading to his main treatise on the subject of krasias.
There were practical and theoretical questions pertaining to Galen’s concept of krasis as a highly relevant medical formulation even at the time of its articulation. Not all of these were satisfactorily addressed, either at the time or subsequently. It was contentious then and is outmoded now. Nonetheless, it proved a firm and clear component of the theory underlying medical practice and, along with the whole body of Galen’s medical teaching and practice, held sway not only in Greece and Rome but also in the Near East and later in Western Europe until very recent times. Indeed, the idea of temperaments is still alive today.4 This makes this triad of books of particular interest not only in relation to Galen specifically but also to the history of medicine generally.
This introduction begins with a brief survey of the antecedents of Galen’s definitive concept of bodily structure and the place of the four elements/four qualities therein. Then follows a summary of the three translated treatises and four other works by Galen that are especially germane to the subject. Finally, enumeration of the chief points of views on krasis and its variants will be attempted. The four additional works are: (a) the group of four treatises on the classification and causation of diseases and symptoms; (b)