Poets, doctors, and the rhetoric of money

Nigel Nicholson, Nathan R. Selden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Greek poets from the archaic and early classical periods frequently depicted doctors alongside political and military leaders and victorious sportsmen. The mythology of ancient physicians found in such sources may give us clues as to how doctors could be viewed and represented by other segments of society, then and now. METHODS: Pindar's Third Pythian Ode from the first quarter of the 5th century BCE was investigated with reference to other classical sources to understand the contemporary portrayal of ancient physicians. RESULTS: The Greek hero Asclepius is often recognized as the mythical father of surgery. Pindar's portrayal of Asclepius as a heroic but morally flawed physician and surgeon provides clues to the ambivalent role and identity of physicians in the late archaic period. In particular, the primacy of the moral framework surrounding different types of exchange in late archaic society is identified as a key factor influencing the perception of physicians, poets, and other professionals. CONCLUSION: The portrayal of physicians in ancient poetry and sculpture may inform modern neurosurgery and organized medicine about strategies by which we may best serve our patients and elevate our profession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-187
Number of pages9
JournalNeurosurgery
Volume64
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

Keywords

  • Asclepius
  • Money
  • Physicians
  • Pindar
  • Poets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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