21 June 2012


Lorenzo Perilli

Prof Dr Lorenzo Perilli,
Università di Roma Tor Vergata

Writing, Preserving, Circulating Scientific Knowledge in Ancient Greece

The paper addresses a few still open questions concerning the formation and the spreading of corpora of knowledge, mainly focusing on scientific "texts" and manuscripts. The main issue regards how scientific knowledge was preserved and circulated in archaic and classical Greece, and involves also some remarks on the role of written vs. oral transmission, arguing for the need of written texts and for the existence of special manuscript- libraries, although we often only have scraps of information. Ancient Greek medicine offers the best examples, to be seen in the archaeological remains of ancient shrines of the god of medicine Asclepius as well as in inscriptions recording the healings of the god. Mathematics and philosophy also play a role in our understanding of the conditions of ancient knowledge, and a comparison with Egyptian and Near-Eastern testimonies could perhaps contribute to a better understanding of the overall situation in ancient times.