Medical Compendium in Seven Books

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Paul of Aegina, as depicted in a 16th-century book

The Medical Compendium in Seven Books (Greek: Επιτομής Ιατρικής βιβλία επτά, Epitomes iatrikes biblia hepta) is a medical treatise written in Greek the 7th century CE by Paul of Aegina a.k.a. Paulus Aegineta.

The work is chiefly a compilation from former writers; and the preface contains the following summary of the contents of each book:

In the first book you will find every thing that relates to hygiene, and to the preservation from, and correction of, distempers peculiar to the various ages, seasons, temperaments, and so forth; also the powers and uses of the different articles of food, as is set forth in the chapter of contents. In the second is explained the whole doctrine of fevers, an account of certain matters relating to them being premised, such as excrementitious discharges, critical days, and other appearances, and concluding with certain symptoms that are the concomitants of fever. The third book relates to topical affections, beginning from the crown of the head, and descending down to the nails of the feet. The fourth book treats of those complaints that are external and exposed to view, and are not limited to one part of the body, but affect various parts. Also, of intestinal worms and dracunculi. The fifth treats of the wounds and bites of venomous animals; also of the distemper called hydrophobia, and of persons bitten by dogs that are mad, and by those that are not mad; and also of persons bitten by men. Afterwards it treats of deleterious substances, and of the preservatives from them. In the sixth book is contained every thing relating to surgery, both what relates to the fleshy parts, such as the extraction of weapons, and to the bones, which comprehends fractures and dislocations. In the seventh is contained an account of the properties of all medicines, first of the simple, then of the compound, particularly of those I had mentioned in the preceding six books, and more especially the greater, and, as it were, celebrated preparations; for I did not think it proper to treat of all these articles promiscuously, lest it should occasion confusion, but so that any person looking for one or more of the distinguished preparations might easily find it. Towards the end are certain things connected with the composition of medicines, and of those articles that may be substituted for one another, the whole concluding with an account of weights and measures.[1]

Although Byzantine medicine drew largely on ancient Greek and Roman knowledge, however, his works also contained many new ideas as he was a teacher from Alexandria. For example, in several volumes Paul of Aegina talks about bone structure and fractures, as shown below:

The case of a broken thigh is analogous to that of the arm, but in particular, a fractured thigh is mostly deranged forwards and outwards, for the bone is naturally flattened on those sides. It is to be set by the hands, with ligatures, and even cords applied, the one above and the other below the fracture. When the fracture takes place at one end, if' at the head of the thigh, the middle part of a thong wrapped round with wool, so that it may not cut the parts there, is to be applied to the perinaeum, and the ends of it brought up to the head and given to an assistant to hold, and applying a ligature below the fracture, we give the ends of it to another assistant to make extension. If it is fractured near the knee, we apply the ligature immediately above the fracture, and give the ends to an assistant, with which to make extension upwards; and while we put a ligature round the knee to secure it, and while the patient lies thus, with his leg extended, we arrange the fracture. Pieces of bone that irritate the parts, as has been often said, are to be taken out from above; and the rest of' the treatment we have already described in the section on the arm. The thigh gets consolidated within fifty days. The manner of arranging it afterwards will be described after delivering the treatment of the whole leg.

On Fracture and Contusion of The Thigh and The Nose

The work became a standard text throughout the Arabic World for the next 800 or so years. It was the most complete encyclopaedia of all medical knowledge at the time.


  1. ^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith (1870), Volume 3, pages 152-3

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