Paul of Aegina

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Paul of Aegina, as pictured in a 16th-century woodcut.

Paul of Aegina or Paulus Aegineta (Greek: Παῦλος Αἰγινήτης; Aegina, c. 625 – c. 690) was a 7th-century Byzantine Greek physician best known for writing the medical encyclopedia Medical Compendium in Seven Books. For many years in the Byzantine Empire, this work contained the sum of all Western medical knowledge and was unrivaled in its accuracy and completeness.


Nothing is known about his life, except that he was born in the island of Aegina, and that he travelled a good deal, visiting, among other places, Alexandria.[1] He is sometimes called Iatrosophistes and Periodeutes, a word which probably means a physician who travelled from place to place in the exercise of his profession. The exact time when he lived is not known; but, as he quotes Alexander of Tralles,[2] and is himself quoted by Yahya ibn Sarafyun (Serapion the Elder),[3] it is probable that Abu-al-Faraj is correct in placing him in the latter half of the 7th century.[4]


The Suda says he wrote several medical works, of which the principal one is still extant, with no exact title, but is commonly called Medical Compendium in Seven Books (Latin: De Re Medica Libri Septem). (Digital German edition by the University and State Library Düsseldorf) This work is chiefly a compilation from earlier writers.[5]

William Alexander Greenhill wrote that his reputation in the Islamic world seems to have been very great, and it is said that he was especially consulted by midwives, whence he received the name of Al-kawabeli or "the Accoucheur."[6] He is said by the Arabic writers to have written a work, "De Mulierum Morbis," and another, "De Puerulorum Vivendi Ratione atque Curatione." His great work was translated into Arabic by Hunayn ibn Ishaq.[6]

The sixth book on surgery in particular was referenced in Europe and the Arab world throughout the Middle Ages,[7] and is of special interest for surgical history. The whole work in the original Greek was published in Venice in 1528, and another edition appeared in Basel in 1538. Several Latin translations were published.[8] Its first full translation into English, was by Francis Adams in 1834.[9]


  1. ^ Smith 1867, p. 152 cites: Paul of Aegina, iv. 49, p. 526
  2. ^ Smith 1867, p. 152 cites: Paul of Aegina, iii. 28, 78, pp. 447, 495, vii. 5, 11, 19, pp. 650, 660, 687
  3. ^ Smith 1867, p. 152 cites: Ibn Sarafyun, Pract. vii. 9, pp. 73, 74, ed. Lugd. 1525
  4. ^ Smith 1867, p. 152 cites: Abu-al-Faraj, Hist. Dynast. p. 114.
  5. ^ Smith 1867, p. 152.
  6. ^ a b Smith 1867, p. 153.
  7. ^ Pormann 2004.
  8. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Aegineta, Paulus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 254. 
  9. ^ (Aegineta.) 1834, p. v (The Editor's Prefix).


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