Fascinating, well-researched, and easily read books about ancient Roman medicine are rare. The last one directed to a wide audience, written 20 years ago by John Scarborough, is out of print. Yet the subject of classical medicine's struggle to fly the nest of philosophy is still instructive today. It remains relevant to reflect that throughout medical history absurd theories have often rubbed shoulders with sensible measures.
Unlike the works of Celsus and Pliny the Elder, this modern De Medicina employs the best archaeological research to augment what ancient medical writers said about doctors and diseases in the Roman Empire. For example, analyses of the actual drugs and plants found while excavating the Roman military hospitals are used to amplify our knowledge about the classical pharmacopoeias. Papyrus documents, letters, and inscribed tombstones shed light on the personal, social, and legal aspects of medicine. The remains of hospitals and healing sanctuaries demonstrate