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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read on Galen, 12 Oct. 2013
By 
RJP the Book Boy "Book boy" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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The Prince of Medicine by Susan P Mattern

This book is not a medical book but a book on the life and personality of Galen of Pergamum from a historical point of view.

The book reads well and quickly transports the reader back to the time of Galen and his thinking along with the historical background of the time. It looks like he was a larger than life character but also a great thinker and experimenter. In this context the book is part biography and part historical time line but the approach works well and I thoroughly enjoyed it and gained a far better insight into the man I often quote in my own lectures.

I have read many books about Galen but I have found this one to be the most interesting and comprehensive about the man himself. The book contains maps, diagrams and photos to back up the text. The structure and writing style of Susan Mattern is accurate, interesting and entertaining which is a accomplishment in itself. A highly recommended read for any one interested in the man, time period or just wants a good biography to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Roman therapy, 21 Nov. 2013
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Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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The Roman author Galen has left the most substantial number of manuscripts of any classical author to survive into the modern age. For almost half of the period that Western civilisation has existed, Galen was the dominant medical authority. Readers/audiences of Christopher Marlowe's play Dr Faustus will remember the central position of Galen as one of the mediaeval authorities that Faustus expresses frustration with, listed in the same breath as Aristotle and Justinian. This book does scale in a great service by actually cementing the author firmly within his Roman context. This reviewer was unaware of the importance of Galen's involvement with the treatment of gladiators and the subsequent development of medicine. There is a pleasing structure to the book of biography, which weaves together the substantial litter of fragments that we know of Galen's life, and places it securely in the mid-Roman context. The book is sturdy and attractive and well illustrated, with an especially fascinating illustration for figure 13, of an Islamic manuscript of Galen writing about the eye with a very striking picture. This book definitely wears its academic credentials lightly, and it is an accessible and engaging read, but does perhaps need some experience of reading the classics or some light familiarity with Roman civilisation in order to benefit most fully from its account of the central subject. This is an attractive, quietly intellectual book, which might make a highly suitable gift for a keen reader of history with a medical background.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting account of Galen, 5 Oct. 2013
By 
Alan Michael Forrester "I exist." (Northampton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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"The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire" is an interesting account of the life of Galen, a doctor in the Roman Empire around who lived from 130-200AD, who wrote many books on medical issues including treatment and anatomy. His work was later used dogmatically in a way that held back the advance of medicine, but Galen helped to improve medical knowledge when he was alive and helped to save people who might otherwise have died.

Galen spent a lot of time writing and arguing with other doctors and sometimes refuted bad ideas, like the idea that veins carry air rather than blood. He was also a very skilled anatomist, who wrote a lot about where organs fit into the body and that sort of thing. Galen was a skilled surgeon too. He sometimes performed surgery publicly. He would do things like cut open an animal's artery and dare other doctors to sew it back up before the animal died. When the other doctors froze he would do it himself and save the animal. some readers might find this kind of thing distasteful but it illustrates great skill and it is useful to be reminded that people in different times sometimes had very different standard from the ones we have today. The book also explains Galen's response to various problems like the plague and how to practise medicine in places where people are very poor (you have to take advantange of what is available not wish for stuff that isn't available).

The author tries to argue that Galen sometimes anticipated knowledge we have now. This is not always successful and I think the best thing to learn from Galen is that you shouldn't take for granted things that everybody thinks are true or seem obvious.

This book is worth reading as an account of the life and work of an interesting person from a period of history very different to the present.
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5.0 out of 5 stars uniquely inspiring, 24 Oct. 2013
By 
Uenna (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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This is book was as expected very inspiring to read. If you are interested in the history of Medicine, this is one book that should be on your shelf. It tells the story of Galen of Pergamum (ad 129 - ca 216), who began his wonderful medical career tending to wounded gladiators.If you are familiar with the history of Marcus Aurelius you will recognise the name Galen as one of his famous court Physicians. A true pioneer of medicine, he was courageous, intuitive, arrogant but above all determined to find cure for his patients at all cost. He is one of the most influential figures in Western Medicine, aptly titled 'Prince of Medicine'.

It was interesting for me to see the journey of Medicine and its development in comparison to the advances in medical science today. I think most of his thoughts and methods are still valid. Take for instance the concept of 'pulse diagnosis' used very effectively in Eastern Medicine, yet Galen long ago had developed this to a significant height. A subtle diagnostic technique that is not invasive, but extremely useful in diagnosing different internal conditions if one knew how. This is a comprehensive and well written biography, interesting, inspiring and enjoyable to read. I recommend this book on a lot of levels, as an enjoyable historical biography, as a wealth of medical knowledge and innovative ideas and as a great text on the history of Medicine.
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4.0 out of 5 stars God of doctors, doctor of gods, 22 Oct. 2013
By 
J.K. Currie (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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Susan Mattern has written a very interesting and informative book about a man too easily dismissed by modern scientists. She has restored a healthy measure of respect for an irascible, opinionated but highly skilled titan of ancient medicine. Galen had a level of expertise in every aspect of medicine known to the ancients. He was a shameless self promoter of his talents; he wrote voluminously and in detail about his opinions, his cases, his rivals and, of course, himself.

He was doctor to the emperor Marcus Aurelius and to his son and successor, the `gladiator' emperor, Commodus.

You will read here of the Roman east and Pergamum, Galen's home town; Rome itself and the illnesses rife in the city of the time; Galen's thoughts and practice of anatomy, bleeding, women's complaints, plagues, madness and all sorts of other medical matters. You will learn of his rivals and how he outsmarted them. There is much discussion of his method, what he got right as well as what he got wrong and why.

There is also a good concluding chapter on his reputation in late antiquity and the early modern world, as well as the survival of his writings, which make up a full 20% of all that survives from ancient times.

A good, readable, scholarly book - recommended.

Post scriptum: for Galen in fiction, try Amanda Prantera's 'The side of the moon'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable read, 6 Nov. 2013
By 
Emile Zola reader "Gervaise" (Hants, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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This book is written by a respected historian but is not at all highbrow; Susan Mattern's style is perfect for the non-academics too.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Galen, The Prince of Medicine, and learned not only about the man himself but also about the Roman politics and social conditions of the time.

Galen was a fascinating figure, doctor to both Marcus Aurelius and Commodus; he also provided treatment to gladiators. He was once accused of using witchcraft when one of his diagnoses proved startlingly accurate. I read that right up until the 20th century, Galen's work was still regarded as very influential in the medical world - a relative of mine who is a surgeon had heard about him as a medical student.

I would highly recommend this book even if you have no interest in medical matters; there are lots of fascinating anecdotes about people from all levels of society and Galen is a study in both brilliance and self-promotion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography, 21 Nov. 2013
This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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Galen of Pergamum was a prodigious polymath but it is largely for his works in the field of medicine that he is remembered today. Indeed, it is estimated that his surviving body of work (some 150 titles) represents a significant fraction of all surviving classical Greek literature. His career in this area began treating wounded gladiators and continued for another 50 years through the reigns of some nine Roman emperors.

I first came across Galen while studying the history of medicine as part of my history O level and it was nice to be given the opportunity to be re-acquainted with one of the most famous names from ancient Rome. I thoroughly enjoyed this biography which is very well written and although academic is also accessible to the general reader. Overall, a really decent biography of the man and a fascinating insight into his life and the world that he inhabited - definitely recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars It is worth persevering with, 28 Oct. 2013
By 
Victor Meldrew Mk2 "stefan morawiec" (Dorset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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I must admit to having a love of Roman history but to the degree that makes me an expert on the subject. I chose to read this book, partly because of my interest in things Roman, but also as I have worked for many years in a medical environment. This book at first I struggled to really get into, but with a little perseverance I was able to see the hard work and skill that Susan Mattern had undertaken to produce the book.

It is an interpretation of the work of probably the most skilled clinician of his time, both as a surgeon and physician. Not since I visited the Leonardo exhibition at the Buckingham Palace Mews have I been so impressed by a master of his profession. Like Leonardo, he was a zealot, pursuing his goals remorselessly in the search of achieving excellence in the field.

I really found this an excellent read and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Rome.
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5.0 out of 5 stars His own best publicist..., 14 Nov. 2013
By 
John "John75222" (Leeds, Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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If you read a lot of historical mystery/crime novels then sooner or later you will come across the name Galen. Mattern in her book appears to take the view that ego was all and Galen was driven as a self publicist to take on all comers and prove them to be wrong in their views, stupid or charlatans. He is reputed to have written an enormous number of texts of which few survive, again with the intention of promoting his reputation. He was, however, hugely influential right the way through to the renaissance. Galen's texts on anatomy were only revised in the 16th century. This is an excellent study of a complicated man. Mattern has managed to strip away some of the bluff and bluster of the man and present a very readable account of Galen as a man driven by pushing forward the boundaries of medicine, whilst at the same time allowing Galen to show the contempt he had for his less competent contemporaries.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A reference work of some magnitude, 10 Oct. 2013
By 
M. Taplin "mikekoi" (Weston-super-Mare, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
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I expected a narrative story of Galen and his life, instead there is a scholarly chronology accounting for each document or book he wrote and is so dry that you need to be a scholar to follow it sufficiently to make use of it. On balance I think the author was writing for a smaller select readership than I had imagined. Hence my disappointment.
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The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire
The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire by Susan P. Mattern (Hardcover - 25 July 2013)
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