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 (paper accepted for presentation).

Scientific articles

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