Making medicine in post-tridentine Rome : Girolamo Mercuriale's "De Arte Gymnastica" : a different reading of the book
Title: Making medicine in post-tridentine Rome : Girolamo Mercuriale's "De Arte Gymnastica" : a different reading of the book
Author: KAVVADIA, Maria
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2015
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
Western medical tradition, resting on Hippocrates and Galen, has been divided into two parts: hygiene (or dietetics) – the conservative/preventive part, and therapeutics – the curative part. Historians and sociologists of medicine have shown an unparalleled interest in the curative side of medicine, an interest that possibly reflects the focus of modern western medicine on curing disease. Conversely, the conservative side of medicine and prevention as a medical method and process has attracted far less scholarly attention in the studies in the history of medicine. Nonetheless, in both the Hippocratic and Galenic works that dominated medical thought and practice until well into the seventeenth century, medicine was not only conceptualized as the art of curing disease but also as the art of preserving health – the art of wellbeing. The Renaissance in Italy saw the recovery and revival of the classical dietetic literature by the medical humanists, which had a profound impact on the organisation of academic medicine and brought developments in the preventive paradigm. During the sixteenth century the genre of preventive literature flourished, with numerous medical writings being published in both Latin and the vernacular. These medical writings (academic treatises, health manuals, books of secrets, etc.), which were shaped by historical events and socio-cultural parameters, reflect contemporary perceptions of and attitudes to health and disease. In this historical background the present study examines the De arte gymnastica (Venice, 1569), a medical treatise by the humanist physician Girolamo Mercuriale of Forlì (1530-1606). In his De arte gymnastica Mercuriale promotes the medical gymnastics as an ideal method for the conservation and/or obtainment of health based on the benefits of exercise in the maintenance of health and the treatment of disease. Providing a reading of Mercuriale's work in terms of a medical discourse, the present study aims to throw additional light on the historical understanding of Mercuriale's De arte gymnastica as a sixteenth-century medical treatise and his medical gymnastics as a method of preventive medical treatment, addressing Mercuriale's claims regarding aspects of medical theory and practice. In this endeavour the present study identifies Mercuriale's De arte gymnastica as a product of the sixteenth-century Roman context, taking into consideration Mercuriale's professional post as the personal physician of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520- 4 1589), a leading Churchman and one of the richest and most powerful patrons of his day. In this context the present study demonstrates how Mercuriales' medical discourse as a court physician addressing the elite audience of Rome corresponded to contemporary medical needs, issues, debates but as well as to social-cultural demands and aspirations as these emerged in a time of religious and spiritual crisis that was marked by the Council of Trent.
LC Subject Heading: Mercuriale, Girolamo, 1530-1606. De arte gymnastica; Medicine -- History -- 16th century -- Italy; Science -- History -- 16th century; Science, Renaissance
Defence date: 22 September 2015; Examining Board : Professor Antonella Romano, EUI; Professor Luca Molà, EUI; Professor Andrea Carlino, University of Geneva; Professor Conceta Pennuto, University of Geneva.
Type of Access: openAccess