Medicine and philosophy in ancient protreptic literature: socio-cultural contexts, dialogue and polemics


Project abstract and objectives

This project aims to provide a contribution to contemporary research on ancient medicine and its relation with philosophy. While inspired by recent scholarship, my research distinguishes itself from existing studies to the extent that it explores the points of contact between ancient medicine and philosophy by paying attention, primarily, to the writings belonging to the protreptic genre. Three major working hypotheses will guide my research: a) authors of philosophical protreptics (including Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus and others) used a wide range of medical concepts and analogies as rhetorical devices to attract people to philosophy and promote their discipline over other competing technai; b) conversely, there are some important medical texts, many of them preserved in the so-called Hippocratic Corpus, which display features characteristic to philosophical protreptics; c) both medicine and philosophy have provided a specific vocabulary, style, and literary topoi which have been used in works of protreptic intent, other than those of ancient medicine and philosophy: Clement of Alexandria’s Protrepticus to the Greeks may be a good case in point.

The Project has four main objectives:

  • O1 is to analyze the medical concepts and analogies used in ancient philosophical protreptics;
  • O2 consists of interpreting the Hippocratic treatises On the Art, On Ancient Medicine and On the Nature of Man in the light of the categories of the protreptic genre;
  • O3 is to assess the extent to which the tradition of the philosophical protreptic has exerted an influence upon Galen’s Protreptic to Medicine;
  • O4 is to analyze the use and functions of the medical imagery and protreptic arguments in Clement of Alexandria’s Protreptic to the Greeks.

Through my research I intend to address several controversial issues in recent scholarly literature, such as the reconstruction of Aristotle’s Protrepticus, the dating of some Hippocratic treatises, advancing new answers to old questions and taking part in contemporary scholarly debates.

The Project team

  • CS III dr. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI – Project Manager, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, Department of Social-Sciences and Humanities;
  • CS III dr. habil. Florin Marius CRÎȘMĂREANU – Mentor, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași, Faculty of Philosophy and Socio-Political Sciences

Dissemination of scientific results:

Conferences and scientific events

1.Constantin-Ionuț Mihai, „Medicină și filosofie în scrierile protreptice antice”, Simpozionul Antichitatea și moștenirea ei spirituală, ediția a XVI-a, Iași, 14-15 noiembrie 2020 (via ZOOM),

2. Constantin-Ionuț Mihai, „Medical language and imagery in Origen’s Contra Celsum”, International Conference in Classics and Ancient History, Panel 5: Ancient Greek Medicine in the European Context, June, 22-25th 2021, Coimbra, Portugal,

3. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Pagan Students in Christian Schools: Origen and His Circle in Alexandria and Caesarea of Palestine”, Studia Classica et Christiana Iassiensia IV: Storiografia tardoantica e patristica, Iași, 24-25 mai 2021,

4. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „New Light on Old Texts: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Ancient Medical Literature”, Perspectives in Humanities and Social Sciences, 7th Edition: Interdisciplinarity as Aggregator, Iași, 28 octombrie 2021,

5. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Aspecte ale relației dintre medicină și filosofie în Grecia antică: Platon, Aristotel și literatura hipocratică”, Simpozionul național cu participare internațională Valorile educației – educația valorilor, din Antichitate până azi. Abordări teoretice, soluții practice, ediția a VII-a, Iași, 29-30 octombrie 2021,

6. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Portretul filosofului în dialogurile platoniciene: de la critică la elogiu”, Simpozionul național Antichitatea și moștenirea ei spirituală, ediția a XVII-a, Iași, 12-13 noiembrie 2021,

7. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Philosophical topoi and Rhetorical Strategies in Galen’s Treatise De indolentia”, XII Convegno Romeno-Italiano: Tradizione e innovazione tra antichità classica e cristianesimo, Bari – Iași, 13-15 decembrie 2021,

8.Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Imaginarul medical în scrierile lui Clement din Alexandria: exegeză biblică şi protreptic filosofic”, Simpozionul internațional Explorări în tradiția biblică românească și europeană, ediția a XI-a, Iași, 16-18 iunie 2022.

9.Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „The hierarchy of technai in Aristotle’s Protrepticus”, II International Congress on Ancient Medicine. In the Shadow of Hippocrates: Medicine in the Arts and Its Survival in the West, University of Granada, 22-24 iunie 2022 (on-line)

Scientific articles

1.Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Protreptic and Medicine in Plato’s Early Dialogues”, în Hermeneia. Journal of Hermeneutics, Art Theory and Criticism, 26, 2021, pp. 14-26.

2. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Filosofia ca medicina animi în scrierile protreptice antice”, în vol. Surse și valori ale educației. Perspective pluridisciplinare (coord. Emanuela Ilie & Claudia Tărnăuceanu), Editura „Universității Alexandru Ioan Cuza”, Iași, 2021, pp. 41-53.

3. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Galen of Pergamum on the Limits of Practical Philosophy”, în Meta. Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy, vol. XIV, no. 1, 2022, pp. 125-144.

4. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Treptele convertirii. Exegeză biblică și protreptic filosofic la Clement din Alexandria”, Teologie și Viață, nr. 5-8, mai-august 2022, pp. 74-91, doi:

5.Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, „Seneca medicus. Practici terapeutice și protreptic filosofic în Consolatio ad Helviam”, Analele Universității din Craiova. Seria Filosofie, nr. 50: 2, 2022, pp. 24-40.

Funding authority: Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI)(


Project code: PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2019-0519

Contract: PD 170 / 2020

Time frame: 1.09.2020 – 31.08.2022

Approved budget: 246.854,00 lei

Project Manager: CS III dr. Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI