The substance of de spiritu

Pavel Gregoric, Orly Lewis, Martin Kuhar

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8 Scopus citations


The aim of this paper is to depict the anatomical and physiological doctrines of the treatise entitled or De spiritu. By closely examining the contents of the treatise on its own accord, rather than through its Aristotelian or Hellenistic contexts, we attempt to overcome the aporetic and often disconnected style of the author, and to present a coherent picture of his doctrine of pneuma, its roles in the body, the anatomical structures in which it acts, and its relation to the soul. We argue that the author envisions three main systems in the body: arteriai, by which external air is taken in, turned into pneuma and distributed to different parts of the body; phlebes, by which blood is produced and distributed; bones and neura, which support the body and effect locomotion. Pneuma is shown to run through the system of arteriai, whereby it performs vital activities such as thermoregulation, digestion and pulsation. It is also engaged in activities such as perception and locomotion, in the form of the "connate pneuma," which, we propose, is a component of bodily parts. The author connects pneuma very closely with soul, and although he is familiar with Aristotle's doctrine of the soul, he does not see to embrace it.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)101-124
Number of pages24
JournalEarly Science and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 12 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 koninklijke brill nv, leiden.


  • Aristotle
  • Erasistratus
  • Herophilus
  • Praxagoras
  • anatomy
  • arteries
  • blood
  • connate pneuma
  • early Hellenistic medicine
  • neura
  • physiology
  • pneuma
  • vascular system


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