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Material Texts: Ralph Rosen (Classics, Penn): “Books and Textual Practice in Galen’s Newly Recovered Treatise, On Avoiding Distress”
Monday, December 12, 2016 - 5:15pm to 6:30pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion
Sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

Please join us Monday, December 12th, for this semester’s final meeting of the Workshop in the History of Material Texts. We will convene at our usual time and place: 5:15pm in the Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center on the 6th Floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. 

We will be welcoming own own Ralph Rosen for a talk entitled: "Books and Textual Practice in Galen’s Newly Recovered Treatise, On Avoiding Distress” 

In 2005, a work previously known only by its title (‘On Avoiding Distress’) by the Greek medical writer, Galen (2nd C. CE), was discovered in the library of a monastery in Thessaloniki. This short work takes the form of a letter sent from Rome to a friend in Pergamum (Galen’s home city) in which Galen discusses how he managed to avoid depression after he lost all his possessions in a major fire in central Rome in 192 CE. The fire began in the Temple of Peace and swept through the Via Sacra where Galen had leased repositories to store his books (papyrus rolls), medical instruments and pharmacological supplies. Part consolatio, part self-help manual, part historical narrative, On Avoiding Distress is most remarkable for the detail it offers about the books Galen lost in fire. In recounting these losses, Galen touches on various aspects of Roman libraries (which were also destroyed in the fire), his philological goals and methods, his anxieties about authorship and authenticity of manuscripts, and the material problems of papyrus rolls. I will discuss the new information that the treatise offers about such topics, and its importance for our understanding of book culture, philology and textual dissemination in the second century.


Ralph M. Rosen is Vartan Gregorian Professor of the Humanities in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He publishes broadly in various areas of Greek and Roman literature, with special interests in comic and satirical literary genres, ancient aesthetics, ancient philosophy and medicine, especially Galen. He is co-founder of the Penn-Leiden Colloquia on Ancient Values, and co-editor of six published volumes (Brill) based on these events. His most recent book is Making Mockery: The Poetics of Ancient Satire (Oxford, 2007). He is currently involved in various research projects on Hippocrates, Galen and Greek comedy.