The Physician in Italy between Late Antiquity to Early Middle Age. Social Typologies and Forms of Cultural Representation.

Salvatore Cosentino


The imperial legislation of Theodosian and Justinian codes pays attention above all to the archiatri sacri palatii and to the Roman archiatri. Her lexicon is ambiguous and it is difficult to understand by the legislation what the term archiater really means in Late Antiquity. Prosopographical analysis allows to outile various social figures of medical doctors: archiatri of the sacred palace, iatrosophistai, civic physicians, statal physicians, military and ecclesiastical ones. By some epitaphs of the 5th century emerges that physicians were conscious of the social role of medicine, and they were proud of it. Medicina was thought in contemporary culture as ars honesta; this fact implies that, on the average, her practicioners were placed on the same level of craftsmen and tradesmen (i. e. viri honesti). In spite of the christian thought increased her attention on medical assistance of the poors, the physician's position lost his own visibility in our sources between the 5th to the 7th century. This fact is due to the change in thinking the concept of sickness: in christian world, sickness is not only a physical deficiency but becomes also a spiritual deficiency. Consequently the saint, and not the physician, becomes the symbolic figure whom people entrusts his own anxiety of salvation. 


Key words: Physician - Late Antique Italy - Byzantine Italy - Social History 

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