HIPPOCRATES: Volume XI (LCL 538)

Ed. and tr. by Paul Potter

Loeb Classical Library (2018) h/b/ 491pp £19.95 (ISBN 9780674996571)

This volume completes Loeb’s invaluable edition of the Hippocratic texts. It was begun by W.H.S. Jones in 1923; he published volume IV in 1931. It had to wait till 1988 for Paul Potter’s volume V to appear. With the exception of volume VII by W.D. Smith, Potter (Western Ontario), who completed a seven-year medical training from 1961 before taking up Greek properly, has been responsible for the rest of the series. His experience of dissection during his medical training enabled him to make sense of much ancient Greek work which also depended on the anatomy of animals.

Volume XI contains Diseases of Women I and II, and concentrates on the pathology of the female reproductive organs. Some of this material also occurs in IX and X, but P. wisely ignores questions about their original composition and simply points out that, since their first mention in the 1st C AD, they have always been seen as a pair. He provides a brief history of the text, a note on two technical medical terms ἰκμάς and καταρρηγνύναι (cross-referring to other technical terms used in XI that are explained in volumes VIII and X, e.g. προστίθημι ‘plug’), a full bibliography, and an extremely useful, brief summary of the contents of each of the texts under their main headings and sub-headings (so in I ‘A. Menstrual disorders 1-2 Dysmenorrhea in the nullipara, 3 Amenorrhea with pain, 4 Oligomenorrhea , B. Barrenness 10, 14-15 Failure to conceive, …’ etc; in II ‘A. Vaginal Discharges 1, 4 Red flux, 2 General factors affecting moistness … 3 Flux’, and so on). 

The texts are supplemented by an alphabetical list of ‘Lexicon of Therapeutic Agents’ in English, with Greek and Latin equivalents, and a reverse alphabetical list of the agents in Greek. This is invaluable. While the Greek is structurally simple, the vocabulary is not the sort of thing one meets every day in Homer or Thucydides. θλάσπις, κωβιός and σίδιον, anyone?

The translation itself is as clear as it can be. Inevitably, the texts are sometimes technically rather difficult to understand. In these cases P. adds an explanatory footnote alongside the textual variants.

P.’s is an outstanding achievement in bringing this important series to a close with such close scholarly attention and promptness. He is to be warmly congratulated.

Peter Jones

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