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From the Tigris to the Tiber: A Case of Babylonian ‘Astro-Medicine’ in Pliny the Elder

Posted on January 13, 2014

Maddalena Rumor (Doctoral Candidate, Freie Universität, Berlin),
Wednesday, February 19 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM in Mather House 100.

This talk will present and compare two texts – a puzzling late Babylonian Kalendertext written on a cuneiform tablet in Uruk by a scholar named Iqīšâ (late fourth century BCE), and a passage from the Natural History of Pliny the Elder (first century CE) concerning fever therapies. While at a first glance these two testimonies seem to have nothing in common, a closer examination of them reveals that Pliny was commenting on the specific tradition of pairing animal products with calendric/zodiac information as found in Iqīšâ’s text, and thus each is useful for the interpretation of the other.

This finding represents the only identified direct proof of the sharing of astro-medical knowledge between the lands of cuneiform writing and the Greco-Roman world. As such, it has far-reaching implications for the history of ancient medicine and/or astrology.

Co-sponsored by the CWRU Classics Department, History Department and Dittrick Museum of Medical History

For any questions, please contact Professor Paul Iversen, paul.iversen@cwru.edu or 216-368-2352.

Page last modified: August 19, 2014