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The John Rylands Research Institute

The Syriac Galen Palimpsest

Dr Grigory Kessel is working on a project that aims to produce the first critical edition and translation of the so-called ‘Syriac Epidemics’.

The unique Syriac manuscript of the “Syriac Epidemics” preserved in the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate, Damascus
The unique Syriac manuscript of the “Syriac Epidemics” preserved in the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate, Damascus.

Dr Grigory Kessel, Associate

The 'Syriac Epidemics' is a commentary on book six of the Hippocratic 'Aphorisms' and is by far the largest extant Syriac medical treatise surviving from the pre-Islamic period, and an invaluable witness to the fact that Syriac medicine was influenced by late Alexandrian medical tradition.

Despite its importance to the study of the transmission of classical medicine, the Syriac Epidemics remains relatively unknown, even among specialists.

The project will improve our understanding of late antique Alexandrian medicine, offer a glimpse into the lost works of the iatrosophist Gesius, and generate awareness of the transmission of classical medicine to the East and of its effect on the Islamic medical tradition.