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INTRODUCTION

1. The harms that can befall the body, which he divides into “external” (to include heating, cooling, wetting, or drying beyond what is appropriate, and other factors, among which he lists fatigue, insomnia, grief, and anxiety) and “internal,” which are due to the superfluities or residues of nutriment, divided into quantitative and qualitative abnormalities.

2. The numerical distribution of the types of constitution that may be encountered in medical practice: (a) the best constitution, as defined above, which is encountered rarely; (b) the constitution that falls somewhat short of the best, but not by enough to fall into the third category. Such bodies are the most commonly encountered and presumably include both healthy and diseased bodies, as defined by him; (c) the constitution that he describes as having “. . . already acquired a manifest and large defect.”

3. The recognition of abnormal states (i.e., those that fall short of the best constitution strictly defined), which basically depends on visual and tactile evaluation centered on certain qualities or actions that have a certain range: he lists hardness and softness, rarefaction and condensation, hairiness and hairlessness, veins that are dilated or constricted, and pulses that are large or small. Not mentioned here, but certainly relevant are hot/cold and wet/dry. On this point, Galen notes that small deviations from the mean may at times be beneficial. He gives the example of a body somewhat harder than normal being more resistant to adverse external factors.

The second treatise, On Good Bodily State (Euexia), is even briefer than the first. Galen’s chief purpose is to clarify the distinction between the term euexia when used in an absolute sense and when used with some qualification (addition—προσθήκη). The former is characterized

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INTRODUCTION

by eukrasia of all parts of the body, excellence of functions, and euchymia. There is also due proportion in the amount of blood and in body mass. In the latter, exemplified by the euexia of athletes, due to “overfilling,” there is a disproportionate amount of blood and a disproportionately large body mass. Galen briefly considers the consequences of these disproportions and cites Hippocrates’ statement on the euexia of athletes being a danger to health.

In both treatises, there is consideration of a number of terms used to describe the state of the body—specifically, “constitution” (κατασκευή), “condition” (διάθεσις), “state,” divided into that which is stable and relatively permanent (ἕξις) and that which is unstable and relatively impermanent (σχέσις), and “nature” (φύσις). Galen stresses, as he does in a number of other places, that the actual term is not what is important; it is the matter itself. Both these short treatises complement the major work on krasias, while the work on the best constitution is especially relevant to Galen’s Hygiene.

The Greek text for both these works is that of G. Helmreich’s 1901 edition.2 There are minor differences from the more readily available Kühn Greek text, the more substantial of which are indicated by footnotes. None of these affect meaning in any important way. There is an English translation of On the Best Constitution of Our Body by R. J. Penella and T. S. Hall (1973)3 and of both works by Singer (1997). All three were consulted.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.galen-best_constitution_body.2020