Name: Galen


From: Pergamum (western coast of Turkey)

Son of: Nikon

    Occupation: Architect (=leader of builders) and geometer

Dates: AD 129-c.210 or later

Brief Biography: Started medical education at c.16 years old in Pergamum under Saturus. Writings included On medical experience, prompted by debate between Pelops and Philippos at Smyrna. Father died when Galen 20. Galen left Pergamum to become student of Pelops at Smyrna. Studied also Platonic philosophy with Albinus. Moved to Korinth to study medicine with Numisianus. Moved to Alexandria. Returned to Pergamum aged 28, became physician to the gladiators in the city arena. Stayed several years. Went to Rome in 161, stayed until 37. During this time contact with and influenced by Second Sophistic. His prolixity, vainglory and polemic are abiding testimony to this experience. Summoned to Aquileia (N Italy) by Marcus Aurelius, became physician to Commodus. Stayed in contact with Commodus after he became emperor (180), and friend of Septimius Severus, who became emperor in 193. Lost much of his library in a fire in 192.


Works: There are hundreds of treatises containing millions of words. Approximately 10% of all surviving Greek literature before 300 AD was written by Galen. For a list see Texts and Translations.

References: F Kudlien DSB 5.227-37.


T E Rihll

Last modified: 11 March 2003