A newly discovered text by Galen

David Wilmshurst has drawn my attention to a find.  It seems that a French scholar discovered a lost work by Galen in a monastery in Thessalonika, not long ago!  Apparently there was a Times Literary Supplement article which mentioned it, and I found this word document — apparently abstracts from a 2007 Classical Association of South Africa conference — which contained the following item.  It seems that Veronique Boudon-Millot is the discoverer:

Véronique Boudon-Millot (Paris IV) 


The Galenic treatise Peri alupias (On the avoidance of pain) was regarded as entirely lost, as well in Greek as in Arabic or Latin. The recent discovery of this treatise in an unknown manuscript of Thessaloniki furnishes some new and important material about the workshop and the library of a Greek scholar in Rome in the 2nd century. The aim of this paper is to present the different aspects of the activity of Galen as scholar, physician and surgeon as well as philosopher and to give some details about his main centres of interest.

In other words, this is not merely a new text, but one that is of wide interest to people like ourselves who are interested in how the ancient world of books worked!

I need to find out more about this.  There ought to be papers on this, I would think.  More later.

UPDATE: There is also an article in PDF here about Galen’s Library by the same scholar, who clearly is the discoverer.  She refers to:

a new manuscript of Galen’s works, Vlatadon 14, which was recently discovered in the Vlatades monastery in Thessaloniki, … it is a 281-folio5 manuscript, measuring 305 x 220 mm, dating from the 15th century and probably coming from Constantinople. Written by a number of copyists, it contains about thirty Galenic or pseudo-Galenic treatises. Apart from Peri alupias which can be found in folios 10v to 14v …

4. See V. Boudon-Millot, ‘Un traité perdu de Galien miraculeusement retrouvé, le Sur l’inutilité de se chagriner: texte grec et traduction française’, in V. Boudon-Millot, A. Guardasole & C. Magdelaine (edd.), La science médicale antique. Nouveaux regards. Etudes réunies en l’honneur de J. Jouanna (Paris 2007) 72-123.

The article contains English versions of much of the interesting material. 

UPDATE: It seems that Veronique Boudon is a very busy Galen scholar indeed!  Her home page here lists many articles, including these two:

« Galen’s On my own Books : New Material from Meshed, Rida, Tibb. 5223 », in The Unknown Galen, Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Unknown Galen : Galen beyond Kühn (Thursday & Friday 25-26 November 1999), London, Institute of Classical Studies, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplement 77, 2002, p. 9-18 [NF4 P520.b.87.68]

« Deux manuscrits médicaux arabes de Meshed (Rida tibb 5223 et 80) : nouvelles découvertes sur le texte de Galien », CRAI 2001, fasc. II (avril-juin), p. 1197-1222.  (Perhaps this is Comptes rendus de l’Academie des Inscriptions et Belles- Lettres?)

This is some Arabic new discovery on the most interesting of Galen’s works, On my own books (a work which she has edited and translated into French).  Mmmm.  I so want to read all this material!  Isn’t it daft, tho, that it’s all offline?

Then there are these:

« Un nouveau témoin pour l’histoire du texte de l’Ars medica de Galien : le Vlatadon 14 », in L’Ars medica (Tegni) de Galien : lectures antiques et médiévales, textes réunis et édités par N. Palmieri, Publications de l’Université de Saint-Etienne, Centre Jean Palerne, Mémoires XXXIII, 2008, p. 11-29. 

« Un traité perdu de Galien miraculeusement retrouvé, le Sur l’inutilité de se chagriner : texte grec et traduction française », in La science médicale antique : nouveaux regards, Etudes réunies par V. Boudon-Millot, A. Guardasole et C. Magdelaine en l’honneur de J. Jouanna, Paris, Beauchesne, 2007, p. 72-123.

« The Library and the Workshop of a Greek Scholar in the Roman Empire: New Testimony from the recently discovered Galen’s treatise Peri alupias », in Asklepios. Studies on Ancient Medicine, Acta Classica Supplementum II, edited by Louise Cilliers, 2008, p. 7-18.

« A Recently Discovered Consolation: Galen’s On the Futility of Grieving », in H. Baltussen (ed.), Acts of Consolation: Approaches to Loss and Sorrow from Sophocles to Shakespeare, A collection of papers presented at the International Colloquium (London, 14-15 December 2007), Cambridge University Press.

I suspect the Asklepios article is the one I found online.  Again, I want to read them all.  And I can’t even access them!


13 thoughts on “A newly discovered text by Galen

  1. That’s a new name. Yes, please do write up anything you remember.

    What tends to happen is that all the human interest side of these discoveries gets omitted from the formal publications. But the process, how the finds get made, the “Indiana Jones” element, is of great public interest. It’s also useful to see what kind of approaches to text-hunting are producing results.

    So anything you can tell us would be helpful!

  2. I wonder how often new discoveries of ancient manuscripts come along? I am aware of the huge number of manuscripts found in that ancient Egyptian rubbish heap. I think I remember that they discovered some math stuff by Aristotle using infrared to bring out the text that was erased for reuse among the manuscripts discovered there. As I understand most of the material still hasn’t been cataloged much less gone under infrared scanning.

    Closer to where you live, I wonder any classical stuff has turned up at Vindolanda? If any shows up it would likely be quotes in a letter to or from a medic or possibly a high ranking officer.

    It’s interesting to read your blog and find out how much has actually survived.

  3. As far as I know, all the material at Vindolanda is documentary. But I confess that I haven’t looked into it.

    The Archimedes palimpsest is, I think, the one you’re thinking of.

    I’ve written to the lady who discovered the Galen, asking how she did it!

  4. The Vlatadon Monastery is located inside the urban core of Thessaloniki. According to a website probably written by the Church of Greece its library has been looted twice, once in the 14th and once in the 19th century. Very catastrophic for all of Thessaloniki was the 1917 fire. How that manuscript managed to survive these catastrophes and remain undetected in such a busy environment up to 4 years ago is a miracle.

    Now on manuscript discovery: This happens all the time. As that article (in Greek) I sent here last year said, in the Vatican Library about 2 new (=uncatalogued) manuscripts or fragments get discovered every day and about 1 per week is actually of some importance. Now the classical age of new text discovery ends at about the time of the Napoleonic Wars: by that time most libraries in Europe and even beyond that had been combed. For the next century new texts kept being discovered in manuscripts either from more exotic locations or as palimpsests. Since WWI most new texts discovered are through papyrology. Since the major excavations of the 1890’s more papyri get discovered every year than published leading to an ever growing backlog estimated today to be at about 1 to 1.5 million papyri. CEDOPAL data shows that 14% of papyri published so far are literary though this number is expected to drop: literary papyri get published first compared to documentary papyri. Something like 30-40% of literary papyri published are Homer, preferably the first 100 verses of the first book of the Iliad (the primary school text). But even if we assume that 10% of unpublished papyri are literary and 10% of those are new texts, we are talking about 100.000 new literary texts, often very fragmentary and difficult to understand

  5. Thanks for the notes on the Vlatadon monastery — that’s useful to know. Yes, it’s amazing that it exists — but it should give us hope. I think a lot of these “fires” get overstated. A lot of manuscripts are supposed to have been destroyed in Turin in 1905, and some were, but I have heard that many of them just got a bit singed. Always got to verify these things.

  6. No hassle!

    Thanks for details of the conference. I’m already slated for one conference in August, but I will try to bear this one in mind.

  7. As far as I know, the discoverer of the manuscript in the library of the monastery was Antoine Pietrobelli, at that time a PhD candidate, now at Reims Champagne-Ardennes University. Prof. Veronique Boudon was the one who, reading the text, discovered that it was by Galen. Here is the link to the article in History Today:

    IF you are interested in the discovery itself, how it happened in the library of the Monastery, you should probably contact Antoine Pietrobelli…
    Hope this helps.

  8. I forgot to mention that in the book edited by Louise Cilliers, Asklepios: Studies on Ancient Medicine. Bloemfontein: Classical Association of South Africa, 2008, the first article is:

    Véronique Boudon-Millot, The Library of a Greek Scholar in the Roman Empire: New Testimony from Galen’s Recently Discovered Peri Alupias, pp. 7-18.

  9. “Galen’s De indolentia
    Essays on a Newly Discovered Letter

    “In 2005 a French doctoral student discovered the long-lost treatise De indolentia (Περὶ ἀλυπησίας/ἀλυπίας) or On the Avoidance of Distress in a monastic library in Thessalonica. De indolentia is a letter from Galen to an unspecified addressee in which he describes how he responded to the fire that destroyed much of his library and medicines in 192 CE. The manuscript, catalogued in the Vlatadon monastery as codex 14, is of unspeakable value to scholars of antiquity. Vivian Nutton characterizes the discovery as “one of the most spectacular finds ever of ancient literature.” Scholarly consensus has established 192-193 CE as the most probable date of composition that,according to Galen, belonged to a group of writings he classified as moral philosophy. De indolentia provides important evidence for second-century literary culture covering a range of topics in this area of study, including Galen’s aptitude for distinguishing genuine from false texts, his nuanced lexical debates with other physicians, and his prolific scholarly activity. The treatise also offers information about ancient library culture. Too often neglected in comparative studies of Early Christian literature, Galen’s writings, particularly on moral philosophy, treat many of the same topics. Of particular interest to scholars of early Christian texts, De indolentia specifically addresses second-century use of parchment codices to preserve valuable texts, preserves some standard epistolary elements in the absence of others, has both private and publication aims in mind, and denotes a ‘hermeneutics of self-interpretation’ as crucial for understanding the text. This volume includes a brand new English translation of the text, a collation of all discrepancies among the leading critical editions of the Greek text, and essays by eminent Classicists and scholars in the field of early Christianity on different aspects of this fascinating new text.”


Leave a Reply