The Itinerancy of the Ancient Physician

13 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2007

Date Written: May 2007


In all modern discussions of the ancient medical career physicians are described as itinerant, but this is not stated explicitly in any ancient text. There are a number of texts in which doctors move from one place to another, but the idea that relocation was a common and recurring aspect of the lives of most iatroi is only one way of interpreting this evidence and, I shall argue, not the most convincing one. The motif of itinerancy has remained unquestioned because it dovetails so well with the current view of rational medicine as a newcomer struggling to find acceptance in the medical market place of the classical world. In this paper I shall examine the texts which are most commonly cited as evidence for itinerancy and demonstrate that not only do they not entail nomadic iatroi but they often indicate that a physician was expected to have a well established and enduring base of operations.

Keywords: ancient medicine, Hippocratics, doctors, itinerancy, techne, Epidemics

Suggested Citation

Dean-Jones, Lesley, The Itinerancy of the Ancient Physician (May 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Lesley Dean-Jones (Contact Author)

The University of Texas at Austin ( email )

1 University Station, C3400
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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