Cornelius Celsus

25 BC-40 AD

Cornelius Celsus was a Roman encyclopedist who wrote a detailed account of medical practice. He is considered to be one of the most important of the Roman contributors to medicine and science. His encyclopedia entitled De artibus (AD 25-35), was made up of books on agriculture, military science, government, history, law, rhetoric, philosophy, and medicine.

The only books to survive were The Eight Books of Medicine, or De medicina Octo Libri. In these books, Celsus translated medical terms from Greek to Latin. He also offered his theories about the diseases. Some of his theories were drawn from his predecessors including Hippocrates (460-377 BC), Asclepiades (124-40 BC), and those from the Alexandrian school of medicine.

Celsus felt that accurate diagnosis must precede treatment. He depicted inflammation as a diagnostic sign, distinguishing types of inflammation such as that exhibiting heat, pain, swelling, and redness. Celsus was also the first to report symptoms of a number of diseases including epilepsy, mental illnesses such as paranoia, heart attacks, and malaria.

When diagnosing a patient’s disease, Celsus considered the weather, seasons, as well as factors about the individual, such as age. He also traced the course of diseases over time.

Celsus’s therapies included cleaning wounds with solutions such as vinegar to avoid gangrene and setting broken bones using wooden splints. He described his surgical procedures such as circumcision, thyroidectomy, removal of arrow heads, phlebotomy (bloodletting), removing cataracts, tonsillectomy, treatment of bladder stones, limb amputation, and teeth extraction. He also promoted ways to stop bleeding such as typing off arteries and ways to stop hemorrhaging. Many of Celsus’s treatments included the administration of drugs. He also advocated baths, massage, personal hygiene, diet, and exercise.

Celsus (1814/2010). Of medicine (de Medicina). Retrieved from on February 27, 2010.

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