On the Properties of Foodstuffs

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GALENOn the Properties of FoodstuffsThis book presents a translation of and detailed commentary onGalens De alimentorum facultatibus, his major work on the dynamicsand kinetics of various foods. It is thus primarily a physiological trea-tise rather than a materia medica or a work on pathology. Galen com-mences with a short section on the epistemology of medicine, witha discussion on the attainment, through apodeixis, or demonstration,of scientic truth a discussion which reveals the Aristotelian rootsof his thinking. The text then covers a wide range of foods, bothcommon and exotic. Some, such as cereals, legumes, dairy productsand the grape, receive an emphasis that reects their importanceat the time; others are treated more cursorily. Dr Powell, a retiredphysician, discussesGalensterminologyandthebackgroundtohis views on physiology and pathology in his introduction, whileJohn Wilkinss foreword concentrates on the structural and culturalaspects of the work.ovrxrovrrr is anHonorary ResearchFellowinthe Departmentof Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland.He is a retired physician who worked as Medical Superintendentfor sixteen years at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane andsubsequently as Director of Research and Planning at the Queens-land Department of Health. He is a Fellow of the Royal Collegeof Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal Australasian College ofPhysicians. onxvi rki xs isReaderinGreekLiteratureattheUniversityof Exeter. He has published The Boastful Chef: the Discourse of FoodinAncient GreekComedy(.ooo) and, withShaunHill, producedatranslation and commentary on the surviving work of Archestratusin The Life of Luxury: Europes Oldest Cookery Book (:oo). He has alsoco-edited, with David Harvey and Mike Dobson, Food in Antiquity(:oo). He is currently producing a newtext of Galens De alimentorumfacultatibus for the Bud e classical texts series.GALENOn the Properties of Foodstuffs(De alimentorum facultatibus)i x+nontc+i ox. +n\xsr\+i ox \xn coxxrx+\nv nvOWENPOWELLDepartment of Classics and Ancient History,The University of Queenslandvi +n \ ronrvonn nvJOHNWILKINSUniversity of ExetercaxniiociuxiviisiryiiissCambridge,NewYork,Melbourne,Madrid,CapeTown,Singapore,SoPauloCambridgeUniversityPressThe Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cn: :iu, United KingdomFirst published in print format isbn-13 978-0-521-81242-9hardbackisbn-13 978-0-511-06462-3 eBook (NetLibrary)CambridgeUniversityPress20032003Informationonthistitle:www.cambridge.org/9780521812429This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision ofrelevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take placewithout the written permission of Cambridge University Press.isbn-10 0-511-06462-4 eBook (NetLibrary)isbn-10 0-521-81242-9hardbackCambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy ofuiis for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does notguarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.PublishedintheUnitedStatesofAmericabyCambridgeUniversityPress,NewYorkwww.cambridge.orgisnx-:+isnx-:cisnx-:+isnx-:c+,,To the memory of my parentsHerman Powell (.88o.o,)andMary Powell nee Eaton (.8o. .o,,)coticv:c ,cp tcoc:tcv, co9tv ot tcinoc ccicv :cvotnp,utvcv otopcstv, co: ti cotiti. Arist. EN ..b:o.ContentsForeword by John Wilkins page ixPreface xxiiiAcknowledgements xxviIntroduction Galens medical and scientic terminology Translation Commentary Appendix I List of plants Appendix II List of shes Ancient sources References Index viiForewordJohn WilkinsOwen Powell is the latest in a long line of scholarly doctors who haveinterpreted the works of Galen for later practitioners and readers. Orib-asius in the fourth century and K uhn in the nineteenth are two of themostfamous,butbehindthesetwoliemanyotherswhocommentedupon, translated or commissioned treatises or excerpts that still, in somecases, survive as manuscripts and printed books. All these doctors con-tinue the work that Galen himself set in place as he tried to make thetexts of the Hippocratic and Hellenistic doctors work for his own time.Powell in his introduction and commentary describes clearly the phys-iology of Galens digestive system, and how that system compares withhuman digestion as now understood by medical science. Galen does notexplain his systemin full in this treatise, but refers to it in the introductorychapter and at various later points. It is a feature of the work to dene itsterms of reference and direct the reader elsewhere if an item falls outsidethose guidelines. I return below to navigational aids provided by Galenin his text. The purpose of this foreword is to complement Powells in-troduction by exploring some points that he makes only in passing. Thetwo major areas I aim to address concern the social and cultural worldin which Galen was writing and the methods he used in attempting tocollect and classify foods in the treatise.The work is divided into three books: the rst contains cereals andpulses, thesecondotherplantsandthethirdanimalsandsh. Thelargest number of items is to be found in the plant book. How did Galendecide on his order and what to include and what to leave out? Value(something chresimos, literally useful, is the term Galen uses) appears tobe the main criterion. Dietetics as a whole is declared the most valuableform of medicine (K. ), and wheat the most valuable (that is, widelyused) food (K. ). At the beginning of the second book (K. ), Galenexplains that some authors move on from cereals and pulses to considermeat fromanimals, birds and sh, placing other plants last, since they areixx Forewordthe least valuable nutritionally. One of those authors was the Hippocraticauthor of Regimen II , on which more below. Galen elects to differ, andhas plants follow the seeded plants of cereals and legumes.It is not always clear what belongs where. There is a revealing chapternear the beginning of book i i i (K. 66o;o):On the snail. It is quite clear that we should count this animal among neitherthe wingednor the aquatic creatures. But if we do not include it among terrestrialanimals either, we shall be saying absolutely nothing about the food from it. Noragain is it sensible to ignore it as we ignore woodworms, vipers and other reptilesthat they eat in Egypt and some other countries. For none of those people willread this, and we ourselves would never eat any of what to them are foods. Butall Greeks eat snails on a daily basis . . .The comment onsnail consumptionis only part of the interesting contentof this passage. In trying to nd a place for the anomalous snail, Galenreviewsothercreatureswhichdonotcomeintoconsiderationatall,namelywoodwormsandreptiles. Thistreatiseisnomoreaworkofzoology than of botany, so Galen does not explore the classication ofthe snail any further. He might have cited a zoological source, just ashe resorts to a botanical source, Theophrastus, for problematic plants inK. :6 and elsewhere. For Galen, though, in this treatise, the key questionis not biological but cultural, in two senses: do we eat this? Who arewe, the community of writer and readers? Woodworms and vipers arebeyond the pale, since they belong to another culture, namely Egypt,whose people, apparently, will not be reading Galens book. There isno sharing of cultural practice, whether of food or of text, with theseEgyptians. Galen has other problematic cases for the received diet in theworld of the eastern Roman Empire in the second century \n. Again,these help to shape his terms of reference. At K. 6: we read:On carobs. Carobs [keratia], which have the third syllable spoken and writtenwith the letter tau, are nothing like cherries [kerasia], with the letter sigma. Theyare a food that is unwholesome and woody, and necessarily difcult to concoctfor nothing woody is easy. But the fact that they also are not excreted quickly isa considerable defect with them. So that it would be better for us not even toimport them from the eastern regions where they are produced.Carobsareabadfood, nottoberecommendedbythedoctor; but,because people do eat them, they are included. The comment on thespelling of the term I address below. A third example will complete thepicture (K. 66):Foreword xiHowever,somepeoplealsoeattheeshofveryolddonkeys,whichismostunwholesome, very difcult to concoct, bad for the stomach, and, still more, isdistasteful as food, like horse and camel meat; which latter meats men who areasinine and camel-like in body and soul also eat!Some people even eat bear meat, and that of lions and leopards, which isworse still, boiling it either once only, or twice. I have said earlier what twice-boiled is like.As to dogs, what must I also say? That in some parts very many people eatyoung plump dogs . . .These extraordinary foods, the carob, donkeys, camels, bears and dogs,dene the limits of the civilized diet as far as Galen is concerned. Thesefoods are eaten, but are all open to question. To eat old donkeys andcamels betrays less than full human faculties. Bears, lions and leopardsare somuchwildanimals that they needtopass throughthe civilizing pro-cess of cooking twice before they are suitable for human consumption. Itis not quite clear who the dog-eaters are. Galen refers to certain ethne, butwhere these tribes or peoples live and whether they are Greek-speaking isnot made clear. The dog-eating peoples may be outside the Greek worldaltogether, like those Egyptians who eat woodworms. Galen is attempt-ing to set boundaries, even though they cannot be clearly dened, sincethe Roman Empire included so many peoples and languages. Alexandriawas largely civilized in its diet (K. 86, donkey- and camel-eating; K. :o,a young man on an uncooked vegetarian diet; K. o, consumption oflathyroi (grass peas); K.6:., pistachios; K.6:6, sycamore fruit; K.6:;,persea-fruit),someotherpartsofEgyptapparentlywerenot.Galenisnot muchinterestedinwhat might betermede