Galen, On Temperaments

LCL 546: 10-11

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in relation to age, place, and bodily nature. Various national characteristics are described. Finally, baldness, particularly age-related, is considered.

6. This long section begins by raising the issue of non-uniform dyskrasias. After citing a number of macroscopic examples, Galen states that evidence about the whole should not be obtained from a part. He then considers physiognomy, citing the pseudo-Aristotelian work on the subject. Again he issues the injunction against drawing conclusions on the krasias of the whole from the appearance of the part. The example is a very hairy chest associated with a high-spirited or irascible nature and a drier and hotter krasis. All the parts and structures must be considered individually, and when touch and vision cannot be used for assessment, function must suffice and the answer provided by reason. Here habitation may contribute significantly. Examples are given. Galen makes a distinction between innate and acquired heat. In summary, an assessment of the krasis of each of the parts may be made by tactile and visual examination where possible and by evaluation of function where the former is not possible. There is digression on species variation in the anatomy of the bile ducts. A third sign, the nature of the evacuations, is then considered. Galen reiterates the need to avoid drawing conclusions about the whole from the adjudged krasis of a part, providing several examples, including the eyes and the nose. He concludes this long section by commenting on two sources of error—drawing conclusions from the signs and thinking whatever heats also dries. He states his intention to devote the third book to the potency of medications in relation to the four qualities and to add a separate book on non-uniform dyskrasia.



Book 3

1. Galen examines the four elemental qualities in relation to the Aristotelian terms ἐνέργεια, δύναμις, and ὕλη (actuality, potentiality, and matter), giving examples from foods and medications and other external factors. Changing the physical state of agents to allow them to express their potential, and also massage, are considered. He speaks briefly about the four capacities (faculties, powers) of every body: attractive, retentive, transformative, and separative. These are dealt with in extenso in his work De naturalibus facultatibus, to which he refers.

2. This section deals with nutriments and medications. Nutriments must be suitable for the body being nourished but require both modification (working-up) and assimilation to a varying degree. Medications are largely of two kinds; those that overcome and change the body and those that are changed by the body and then act to putrefy and destroy. Galen mentions two other kinds: those that heat the body but do no harm and those that both act and are acted upon, the last being both medication and nutriment. Three anecdotes are interpolated describing specific instances: a house burned down due to the spontaneous combustion of pigeon excrement; Archimedes using fire sticks; and the poison devised by Medea. Galen refers to Hippocrates’ definition of nutriment and the adverse effects of excessive drinking of wine. His final statement is that all the examples given are in accord, “with the theories concerning elements and the krasias.”

3. Galen considers the different effects of certain substances, both nutriments and medications, when administered orally or applied to the skin, giving examples to explain

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.galen-temperaments.2020