Talk:Aulus Cornelius Celsus

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Removed link to Encarta[edit]

Mostly because (at least as given), it led to a page that was visible only to subscribers; but also because I've seen Encarta articles, usually far poorer than other information online. If you have access to that Encarta URL, compare it to the information on Celsus on the LacusCurtius link ("the Introduction to the Loeb edition" under "The Author") on that page.

In general also, it's best to give the best sources of information first, and such things as essays by college students (though sometimes they're very good) second. In matters dealing with Antiquity, it's easy, and customary among scholars: "Primary sources" first, "Secondary material" next. For a full example of how this works, see the Links at the bottom of Julius Caesar.

Finally there is, as with many ancient historical figures, rather little known about Celsus, so that this article will either be something brief (but that can't be marked a stub, because WYSIWYG), or in fact a discussion of the De Medicina rather than of the man Celsus: which would then presumably deserve its own article. Bill 11:00, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Agree. Encarta doesn't link to us either. JFW | T@lk 23:10, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)


The article states it is not likely Celsus was a medical man, then says he was a precursor of human experimentation (sic....). Leaving aside the bad writing, Wikip. needs to make up its mind one way or the other: either he was a doctor (and an early experimenter), or he was not: he could not be an experimenter if he was just the writer of an encyclopedia. I have no opinion. Bill 13:17, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

The main objection to regarding Celsus as a physician is the breadth of topics said to have been treated at length in what amounted almost to an encyclopaedia: not only medicine but agriculture, rhetoric and the arts of war. This leads to the idea that he compiled his work from a number of pre-existing treatises, most likely first translating them from Greek. However these sources were not identified in antiquity.

Another classical writer (Quintilian) referred to Celsus as a man of mediocre talents, which is usually taken to fit better with the translator than the writer of "De Medicina." However, the full comment indicates the opposite, since it came at the end of an argument that it was possible to master several fields of study without needing several lifetimes:

"But why should I multiply examples, when even Cornelius Celsus, a man of but moderate ability, has not only written on all literary studies, but has besides left treatises on the military art, on husbandry, and on medicine? Well worthy was he, if only for the extent of his design, to enjoy the credit of having known everything on which he wrote." Institutes of Oratory, Book 12, Ch. 11, para. 23, translated by Rev. John Selby Watson (1856) and transcribed by Lee Honeycutt of Iowa State University at

The third argument against his having been a physician is that in places he seems more squeamish than a regular practitioner would have been. But those who write at length are not the same as those who devote all their time to practice: and still more different would be those who write on many subjects.

Also, in his time some medical knowledge was required by the head of a Roman family, unless he was to employ Greek physicians frequently, in much the way that a farmer today would have some veterinary knowledge. Celsus seems to have covered the topics that a landed gentleman of his time would have known about, but taken his studies to an extreme degree for an amateur.

As regards animal and human experiments, Celsus discusses this topic at length in the introduction to his medical work, but does not give any indication that he has performed any himself. NRPanikker 15:25, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Other people called Celsus[edit]

I should note here that I removed yesterday a piece by Jedediah M. Grant (placed by Artbulla) attacking the "heathen philosopher" Celsus for his impious attacks on the founders of Christianity. The Victorian writer has mistakenly conflated Aulus Cornelius Celsus with the 2nd century polemicist who goes by the name of Celsus. NRPanikker 15:20, 26 October 2007 (UTC)


The following three sources assert that Celsus was almost certainly not a practicing physician:

  • Thayer, Bill (2005-03-19). "Introduction, Celsus, On Medicine". Penelope. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  • Simmons, John Galbraith (2002). Doctors and Discoveries: Lives that Created. Houghton Mifflin Reference Books. ISBN 0618152768. 
  • Prioreschi, Plinio (1996). A History of Medicine. Horatius Press. ISBN 1888456035. 

Is there strong evidence to the contrary? Thanks.—RJH (talk) 16:57, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

Quotation on vivisection[edit]

"It is not cruel to inflict on a few criminals sufferings which may benefit multitudes of innocent people through all centuries." (De Medicina, Prooem. 26) - I disagree with ascribing this view to Celsus himself. Certainly, it is controversial, and would arouse strong emotions. However, it appears in the section on the empiricists, and Celsus proceeds to discuss vivisection from several standpoints, all still in the same Prooemium.
I suggest the following passage, in Prooem. 74, be treated as the author's personal view (and, therefore, be inserted instead of the current quote): "I am of opinion that the Art of Medicine ought to be rational, but to draw instruction from evident causes, all obscure ones being rejected from the practice of the Art, although not from the practitioner's study. But to lay open the bodies of men whilst still alive is as cruel as it is needless; that of the dead is a necessity for the learner, who should know positions and relations, which the dead body exhibits better than does a living and wounded man." [1]
This quote seems to me much more telling of Celsus as authority, and as a man. It is also proof of his progressive-mindedness - Jankus 14:38, 18 January 2009 (UTC)