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First Posted: Jan 31, 2014
Nov 7, 2014

The Horse: A Mirror of Man

The US National Library of Medicine has a wonderful section on The Horse: A Mirror of Man. "The horse has been one of the most important animals throughout human history, and healing horses has had an important place in veterinary and medical literature. Theories about equine physiology and health often mirrored theories about humans, and the literature of both was inherently linked. Bloodletting, astrology, and ancient texts were used by both physicians and veterinarians to heal their patients, and many discoveries, including the circulation of the blood, developed in tandem.

The Hippiatrica: Ancient Texts

Medieval and Renaissance veterinary medicine looked to ancient veterinary texts for its inspiration, just as physicians for human healing did. In the case of horses, veterinarians relied on a set of Classical and Byzantine Greek texts called the 'Hippiatrica,' which was based strongly on ancient Greek texts by physicians like Hippocrates. The most noted of these veterinary authors was Apsyrtos, a military veterinarian in the service of the Roman Emperor Constantine I (306-337).

Page of Greek text by Apsyrtos from his Hippiatrica (Basileae: Valderum, 1537). NLM Call number: WZ 240 H6664 1537. Title page in Greek and Latin of Apsyrtos' Hippiatrica (Basileae: Valderum, 1537). NLM Call number: WZ 240 H6664 1537.

This Website was created to accompany a mini-exhibition held in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine, December 5, 2005 to April 28, 2006. The show was curated by Michael North, Head, Rare Books and Early Manuscripts at NLM. ...".


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