Greco-Roman and Byzantine Views on Obesity

This paper focuses on the Greco-Roman views on obesity with certain extensions to the Byzantine era. The writers reported hereby are Aulus Cornelius Celsus (circa 25 BC), Dioscorides Pedanius (40–90 AD), Soranus of Ephesus (98–138 AD) whose writings on the subject survived through Caelius Aurelianus (5th c. AD), Claudius Aelianus (3rd C. AD), Oribasius (324–400 AD), Aetius of Amida (circa 450 AD), Alexander Trallianus (6th c. AD), Paulus Aegineta (7th c. AD), and Theophilus Protospatharius (9th C. AD). All of the authors treat the subject of etiology, clinical manifestations and treatment, while the Hippocratic and Galenic views seem to be taken into consideration. The most important observation made on the basis of the studied texts is the emersion of the notion of the “Mediterranean diet” that was advised as an extremely successful conservative way to treat obesity.The Greco-Roman and Byzantine writers continue the long tradition of treating obesity and set the foundations for modern methods of treatment.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. 1.

    Christopoulou-Aletra H, Papavramidou N. Methods used by the Hippocratic physicians for weight reduction. World J Surg 2004; 28: 513–7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Papavramidou N, Papavramidis S, Christopoulou-Aletra H. Galen on obesity: etiology, effects and treatment. World J Surg 2004; 28: 631–5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Polychronopoulos E, Eftychiades A, Panagiotakos DB et al. Obesity in Byzantine and in modern era from a public health perspective. Cent Eur J Public Health 2004; 12: 228–30.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Celsus. De medicina. Book 2, ch. 1, sect. 5. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1971: 89.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Celsus. De medicina. Book 2, ch. 10, sect. 5. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1971: 157.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Celsus. De medicina. Book 1, ch. 3, sect. 16. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1971: 57–9.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Celsus. De medicina. Book 1, ch. 3, sect. 17–8. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1971: 59.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Celsus. De medicina. Book 1, ch. 3, sect. 19–20. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1971: 59–61.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Spandagos V, Spandagou R, Travlou D. The physicians and pharmacologists of Ancient Greece. Athens: Aithra 1996: 189.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Dioscorides Pedanius. De material medica. Book 5, ch. 141. Athens: Georgiadis 2003: 808–9.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Dioscorides Pedanius. De material medica. Book 2, ch. 71. Athens: Georgiadis 2003: 45.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Ibid. ch. 182. pp 293–4.

  13. 13.

    Spandagos V, Spandagou R, Travlou D. The physicians and pharmacologists of Ancient Greece. Athens: Aithra 1996: 218–20.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Caelius Aurelianus. On acute and on chronic diseases. Book 5, Ch. 11. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1950: 993–1001.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Soranus. On women. Book 4. Athens: Kaktos: 109–111.

  16. 16.

    Kroh P. Dictionary of ancient writers, Greeks and Latin. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press 1996: 36.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Bevegni C, Adami GF. Obesity and obesity surgery in ancient Greece. Obes Surg 2003;13: 808–9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Spandagos V, Spandagou R, Travlou D. The physicians and pharmacologists of Ancient Greece. Athens: Aithra 1996: 239–40.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Oribasius. Synopsis ad Eustathium. In: Bussemaker-Daremberg eds. Oeuvres d’Oribase. Vol. 5, book 5, ch. 44. Paris: L’imprimérie nationale 1873: 243.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Ibid. ch. 40. page 239.

  21. 21.

    Ibid. ch. 40. page 237.

  22. 22.

    Ibid. ch. 40. page 238.

  23. 23.

    Kroh P. Dictionary of ancient writers, Greeks and Latin. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press 1996: 33.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Aetius of Amida, Olivieri A, ed. Aetii amideni libri medicinales I–IV. Book 4, Lipsia: BG Teubneri 1885: 394–5.

  25. 25.

    Aetius of Amida. Olivieri A, ed. Aetii amideni libri medicinales I–IV. Book 4, Lipsia: BG Teubneri 1885: 376–7.

  26. 26.

    Paulus Aegineta. Adams F, ed. The seven books of Paulus Aegineta. Vol. 3, book 1, London: Syndenham Society of London 1844: 80–1.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Kroh P. Dictionary of ancient writers, Greeks and Latin. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press 1996: 48.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Galen. On the natural faculties. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1991: 17–9.

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Alexandre Tralliani. Therapeutica: medici libri duodecim graeci et latini. Liber 7, Basiliae: Swiss 1556: 320–3.

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Theophilus Protospatharius. Comments in the Hippocratic Aphorisms by Theophilus Protospatharius and Damaskius. In: Thesaurus Linguae Graecae [Cd–Rom] Vol. 2. California: 1992–5: 258.

  31. 31.

    Galen. De Temperamentis. Book II, Vol. I. Hildesheim, New York: G. Olms 2001: 607–11.

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Pilkington TRE. Diet and disease, Obesity. J Biosoc Sci 1976;8: 201–4.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Nestle M. Mediterranean diets: historical and research overview. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61(6 suppl): 1313s–1320s.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Keys A, Keys M. How to eat well and stay well the Mediterranean way. New York: Doubleday & Company 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Keys A, Aravanis C, Blackburn H et al. Seven countries: a multivariate analysis of death and coronary heart disease. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Simopoulos A. The Mediterranean food guide. Nutrition today 1995; 30: 54–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Sapala J. Is the fast food industry becoming the next tobacco industry? Obes Surg 2002; 12: 1–2.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Helen Christopoulou-Aletra PhD.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Papavramidou, N., Christopoulou-Aletra, H. Greco-Roman and Byzantine Views on Obesity. OBES SURG 17, 112–116 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11695-007-9017-2

Download citation

Key words

  • Greco-Roman
  • Byzantine
  • Mediterranean diet
  • history of obesity