The practical application of ancient pulse-lore and its influence on the patient-doctor interaction

Orly Lewis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This paper examines the effects of the emergence of pulse measurement as an essential diagnosis and prognosis method used on Graeco-Roman patients. It argues that the introduction of this diagnostic tool brought about changes to the encounter between patients and their doctors and may have also increased intimacy and patients’ forthcomingness during these encounters. The paper demonstrates that the popularity and conspicuity of the practical and theoretical engagement with the pulse afforded many opportunities for the transmission of professional knowledge from doctors to patients. It argues that this transmission of knowledge was often actively encouraged by doctors for the sake of self-promotion and promotion of the medical profession as a whole. At the same time, doctors also attempted to restrict this transmission of knowledge in order to use their exclusive competence in the pulse as means for establishing their authority and superiority over patients.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationHomo Patiens - Approaches to the Patient in the Ancient World
EditorsGeorgia Petridou, Chiara Thumiger
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789004305557
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameStudies in Ancient Medicine
ISSN (Print)0925-1421

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* This research was made possible by the generous support of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation and Philip van der Eijk, to whom I am grateful for the ongoing assistance. I have benefited from comments made on earlier versions of this paper by audiences in Berlin and Tel-Aviv. I am grateful to Heinrich von Staden for his assistance with Marcellinus’ work, to Marquis Shane Berrey of the University of Iowa for making his enlightening dissertation available to me and to the editors of the volume for their patience and assistance during the revision of the paper. A special thanks also to Christine Salazar of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for her helpful advice and to Ann Ellis Hanson for her useful comments. All mis-takes remain, nevertheless, my own.

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2016.


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