Galen, On Non-Uniform Distemperment

LCL 546: 282-283

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INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

This short work, a sort of addendum to the main work, De temperamentis, is mentioned by Galen in both his On the Order of My Own Books1 and in the list of works at the end of Art of Medicine.2 In the first case, he advises reading De inaequali intemperie after reading either the first two books of De temperamentis or all three. In the latter, he refers to “another small book which follows the first two on krasias (i.e., Books 1 and 2 of De temperamentis) and was written on the non-uniform dyskrasias.” In fact, the short work is an essential addition to the major work on krasias, clarifying what was left unclarified in the latter. Indeed, the two works were presented together by Thomas Linacre in particular in his Latin translation of the two, which ran to seven editions between its initial publication in 1521 and the end of the sixteenth century.

Prior to Linacre, there were Latin translations of the De inaequali intemperie alone by Pietro d’Abano (ca. 1300) and Niccolò da Reggio (1310–1320) and then by Giorgio Valla in 1498. Durling, in his census of Renaissance translations and editions, lists other sixteenth-century

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INTRODUCTION

Latin translations by N. Leoniceno, L. Fuchs, and J. Lalamantius. Garcia Novo lists in addition ten commentaries on the Greek text from the sixteenth century and four earlier commentaries on the Arabic version from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There is also the late nineteenth-century edition of Linacre’s Latin of both works. All in all, this short work received considerable attention from translators and commentators during the second millennium, although it was not included in the Summaria Alexandrinorum along with the De temperamentis.

As for content, the work begins with a description of what a non-uniform dyskrasia is, the essence of the distinction from a uniform dyskrasia, and some examples of the former. There is, however, no formal definition. After a brief digression on the necessity of having a sound knowledge of the parts of the body, the focus turns to several important points pertaining to non-uniform dyskrasias, exemplified first by inflammation and second by fevers, which numerically are prominent components of this class of diseases. The points are as follows:

  • 1. Non-uniform dyskrasias are caused by either focal primary changes in the krasis of a part or parts, similar to the systemic changes that cause uniform dyskrasias, or by an influx of material into the affected part (predominantly one of the four humors), which alters the krasis of the part.
  • 2. The importance of localized pain as evidence of ongoing change in the affected part.
  • 3. The factors determining whether or not a non-uniform
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.galen-nonuniform_distemperment.2020