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Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (131-201 AD), better known as Galen, was an ancient Greek physician. His views dominated European medicine for over a thousand years.

Table of contents
1 Life
2 External links
3 Books


Galen was born in Pergamum (modern-day Bergama, Turkey) to an architect's family. His interests were eclectic - agriculture, architecture, astronomy, philosophy - until he concentrated on medicine.

By the age of 20 he had become a therapeutes ("attendant" or "associate") of the god Asclepius in the local temple for four years. After his father's death in 148 or 149 he left to study abroad. He studied in Smyrna and Corinth and at Alexandria. He studied medicine for a total of twelve years. When he returned to Pergamum in 157, he worked as a physician in a gladiator school for three or four years. During this time he gained experience of trauma and wound treatment. He later regarded wounds as "windows into the body".

From 162 he lived in Rome where he wrote extensively, lectured and publicly demonstrated his knowledge of anatomy. He gained a reputation as an experienced physician and his practice had widespread clientele. One of them was consul Flavius Boethius who introduced him in court where he became a court physician to emperor Marcus Aurelius. Later he also treated Lucius Verus, Commodus and Septimius Severus. Reputedly he spoke mostly Greek, which was a more respected language of medicine than Latin at the time. He briefly returned to Pergamum in 166-169.

Galen spent the rest of his life in royal court, writing and experimenting. He performed vivisections of numerous animals to study the function of the kidneys and the spinal cord. His favorite subject was the barbary ape. Reportedly he employed 20 scribes to write down his words. In 191, fire in the Temple of Peace destroyed some of his records. His exact date of death has traditionally been placed around the year 200, based on a reference from the 10th century Suda Lexicon. Some, however, have argued for dates as late as 216.

External links