How to be healthy with Galen

Figs in Winter
8 min readJun 17, 2024

Part XXIV of the Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers series

[Based on How to Be Healthy: An Ancient Guide to Wellness, by Galen, translated by Katherine D. Van Schaik. Full book series here.]

I’ve made it a personal project for a while now to read, and comment on, all of the entries in the ongoing “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers” series being put out by Princeton University Press. Besides, the editor of the series, Rob Tempio, has promised me a nice lunch out if I keep going, so…

The question can reasonably be raised, though, as to why anyone would think that ancient wisdom should, in fact, be of any use to modern readers. After all, we are talking about people who wrote stuff down two or more millennia ago, and we’ve learned a thing or two in the meantime. I have addressed this issue in a previous essay, but the current entry in this series is a particularly good test case.

We are talking about Galen of Pergamon, the personal physician of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, and arguably the best trained doctor in the entire Mediterranean world of the second century. Translator Katherine Van Schaik has carefully selected excerpts of works by Galen that are still relevant today, and she acknowledges that this was no trivial task, since medicine has made giant leaps forward in the course…

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Figs in Winter

by Massimo Pigliucci. New Stoicism and Beyond. Entirely AI free.