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Soranus (1st/2nd century) was a Ancient Greek physician from Ephesus. He practiced in Alexandria and subsequently in Rome, and was one of the chief representatives of the Methodic school of medicine. Several of his writings still survive, most notably his four-volume treatise on gynaecology, and a Latin translation of his On Acute and Chronic Diseases.


Little is known about the life of Soranus. According to the Suda (which has two entries on him)[1] he was a native of Ephesus, was the son of Menander and Phoebe, and practised medicine at Alexandria and Rome in the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian;[2] he was tutor to Attalus; and he was dead when Galen wrote his work De Methodo Medendi, c. 178.[3]

He belonged to the Methodic school,[4] and was one of the most eminent physicians of that school. Little else is known about his life, except that he passed some time in Aquitania for the purpose of treating some skin diseases which were very prevalent there at the time.[5]

On mental healthEdit

He was one of the first to speak out against the usual practice of keeping people with severe mental health problems locked up in chains and subjected to bloodletting and fasting. He suggested they should be able to "exercise" their minds by philisophical discussion and he recognised the limitation of "love" and "sympathy" as therapeutic factors. It has been argued that his stance was an early forerunner of many contemporary psychological therapies [6]

Other worksEdit

His treatise Gynaecology is extant (first printed in 1838, later by V. Rose, in 1882, with a 6th-century Latin translation by one Muscio). Also extant are parts of treatises On Signs of Fractures and On Bandages. Of his most important work (On Acute and Chronic Diseases) only a few fragments in Greek remain, but we possess a complete Latin translation by Caelius Aurelianus (5th century). The Life of Hippocrates probably formed one of the collection of medical biographies by Soranus referred to in the Suda, and is valuable as the only authority for the life of the great physician, with the exception of articles in the Suda and in Stephanus of Byzantium (s.v. Κώς). The Introduction to the Science of Medicine[7] is considered spurious.

Besides these works, Soranus was the author of several others, of which only the titles and some fragments have been preserved. Galen mentions two works on Pharmacy, from which he quotes some passages.[8] Caelius Aurelianus quotes from several other works,[9] and Soranus himself refers to many additional works which have not survived.[10] Tertullian quotes a work De Anima, in four books,[11] in which Soranus divided the soul into seven parts,[12] and denied its immortality.[13] He is quoted by Paulus Aegineta,[14] as being one of the earliest Greek medical writers who had described the Guinea Worm; and he appears to have enjoyed a great reputation among the ancients, as Augustine of Hippo calls him "Medicinae auctor nobilissimus,"[15] and Tertullian, "Methodicae Medicinae instructissimus auctor."[13]


  1. Suda, Soranos, σ851, σ852
  2. ap. Aët. ii. 2. 55
  3. Galen, De Meth. Med., i. 7. vol. x.
  4. Pseudo-Galen, Introd. c. 4, vol. xiv.
  5. Marcellus Empiricus, De Medicam. c. 19
  6. Millon, T. (1999). Personality Guided Therapy.New York Wiley p6.
  7. V. Rose, Anecdota graeca, ii. 1870
  8. Galen, De Compos. Medicam. sec. Loc., i. 2, vi. 7, 8, vii. 2. vol. xii., xiii. 42
  9. Caelius Aurelianus, De Morb. Acut., ii. 29, 33; De Morb. Chron., i. 3, iv. 1
  10. Soranus, De Arte Obst., passim.
  11. Tertullian, De Anima, cc. 8, 15, 25, 44
  12. Tertullian, De Anima, c. 14
  13. 13.0 13.1 Tertullian, De Anima, c. 6
  14. Paulus Aegineta, iv. 59
  15. Augustine, Cont. Julian, v. 51

See alsoEdit


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Further readingEdit

  • Greek text
    • Johannes Ilberg, Sorani Gynaeciorum libri IV, De signis fracturarum, De fasciis, Vita Hippocratis secundum Soranum, Corpus medicorum Graecorum 4, Berlin, 1927.
    • Paul Burguière, Danielle Gourevitch, and Yves Malinas, Maladies des femmes (with French translation), Collection Budé, 1988-.
  • English translation
    • Owsei Temkin et al., Soranus' Gynaecology, Johns Hopkins Press, 1956.
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