How Medicalised Were Byzantine Hospitals?

Peregrine Horden


The nature of hospitals in medieval Byzantium has become a surprisingly controversial topic among historians. Were Byzantine hospitals in general highly medicalised in the sense of having learned physicians on their staffs, and thus of being the prime centres of medical excellence in the Empire? Or has too much weight been given to the limited evidence of one undoubtedly impressive twelfth-century establishment, blinding scholars to the lower levels of care and therapy available in the average hospital? This paper steers a middle course between the 'optimists' and the 'pessimists' in the debate. It adds important new manuscript evidence, while also questioning the terms in which the debate has been conducted. It reviews the distinction usually drawn between physicians and lay attendants, and even between personal and impersonal forms of therapy.

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