Historical evidence for this project will be drawn from Scribonius Largus, a first century CE Roman physician and author of a work entitled Compositiones medicamentorum (Compound Drugs or Recipes for Remedies). The text predominantly consists of medicinal recipes for a variety of ailments, but also incorporates comments on the importance of medical ethics and the value of drug-based treatment. Scribonius’ text demonstrates the plurality of Greco-Roman medicine in terms of approaches, practitioners, and therapeutic methods. It draws attention to the diverse range of individuals involved in healing - lay and expert, mortal and divine - and utilises diet, surgical operations, and even the applications of living electric fish in addition to pharmacological treatments. Although plants and plant-derived products form the predominant part of his therapeutic arsenal, minerals feature prominently as components of plasters, ointments, or collyria (eye salves). As such, Scribonius provides a representative example of the use of minerals in Greco-Roman medicine, and a valuable insight into ancient medicine more generally.
Images clockwise from top left: Dioscorides, De medicinali materia libri sex (i.e. Materia medica), edition Joannes Ruellius (1543), p. 338 depicting various medical plants; Asclepius and Hygieia. Marble, Italy, 1st century AD. This representation of Asclepius and his 'pet' snake with raised head has been the inspiration for the Gr-Ams logo; a modern apothekary' and herb seller's shop on Athinas Str, central Athens, June 2016; Images courtesy the Wellcome Trust, Wikimedia Commons (Asclepius and Hygieia); images by Ianto Jocks and Effie Photos-Jones.