The best physician is also a philosopher.
Employment is Nature's physician, and is essential to human happiness.
That which is, grows, while that which is not, becomes.

Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129c. 200/c. 216), better known as Galen, was a Greek physician and a writer on medicine and philosophy. His theories dominated European medicine for well over a millennium. Galen was the first physician/physiologist to ever announce that blood moves.


In this section quotes are arranged alphabetically by book
  • Diogenes received an invitation to dine with one whose house was splendidly furnished, in the highest order and taste, and nothing therein wanting. Diogenes, hawking, and as if about to spit, looked in all directions, and finding nothing adapted thereto, spat right in the face of the master. He, indignant, asked why he did so? "Because," Diogenes, "I saw nothing so dirty and filthy in all your house. For the walls were covered with pictures, the floors of the most precious tessellated character — and ranged with the various images of gods, and other ornamental figures."
    • Galen, Exhortation to Study the Arts, Coxe (1846), p. 479; cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 32.
  • Diogenes the Cynic, it is related, was mighty of all people in regard to everything from self-control to endurance. He indulged in sexual lusts, not associating it with pleasure, an attractive good thing to some, but because of the harm that the retention of semen would cause if he avoided the habit of releasing it. When a prostitute who promised to visit him was delayed for some time, he rubbed his genitals with his hand, ejecting semen. After the whore arrived, he sent her away, saying: "my hand celebrated the wedding-hymn first." But it is clearly correct that, likewise, the disciplined man does not on account of pleasure indulge in lusts, but in order to relieve the hindrance acting as if this was not associated with pleasure.
    • Galen, On the Affected Parts, Alard (1813), p. 104.
  • It would be better, I think, for the man who really seeks the truth not to ask what the poets say; rather, he should first learn the method of finding the scientific premises that I discussed in the second book; then he should train and exercise himself in this method; and when his training is sufficiently advanced, then, as he approaches each particular problem, he should enquire into the premise needed for proving it, which premise he should take from simple sense-perception, which from experience, whether drawn from life or from the arts, which from the truths clearly apprehended by the mind, in order to draw out from them the desired conclusion.
    • Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato,: PHP III 8.35.1-11 translation: De Lacy, Phillip (1978- 1984) Galen, On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato, Berlin. p. 233; cited in: Christopher Jon Elliott. "Galen, Rome and the Second Sophistic." p. 147-8.
  • The fact is that those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge, but they will not even stop to learn!
    • Galen, On the Natural Faculties, Bk. 1, sect. 13; cited from Arthur John Brock (trans.) On the Natural Faculties (London: Heinemann, 1963) p. 57.
  • That which is, grows, while that which is not, becomes.
    • Galen, On the Natural Faculties, Bk. 2, sect. 3; cited from Arthur John Brock (trans.) On the Natural Faculties (London: Heinemann, 1963) p. 139.
  • A god, as I have said, commanded me to tell the first use also, and he himself knows that I have shrunk from its obscurity. He knows too that not only here but also in many other places in these commentaries, if it depended on me, I would omit demonstrations requiring astronomy, geometry, music, or any other logical discipline, lest my books should be held in utter detestation by physicians. For truly on countless occasions throughout my life I have had this experience; persons for a time talk pleasantly with me because of my work among the sick, in which they think me very well trained, but when they learn later on that I am also trained in mathematics, they avoid me for the most part and are no longer at all glad to be with me. Accordingly, I am always wary of touching on such subjects, and in this case it is only in obedience to the command of a divinity, as I have said, that I have used the theorems of geometry
    • Galen. Margaret Tallmadge May (trans.) On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body, Ithaca, New York: Cornell U. Press, 1968. p. 502.

Latter day attributions

In this section quotes are arranged in chronological by secondary source
  • Diogenes compared them to fig-trees growing over precipices; for their fruit was devoured by daws and crows, not by men.
    • Galen, on Diogenes's views on the ignorant rich, in Exhortation to Study the Arts, Wakefield (1796), p. 217; cf. Stobaeus, iv. 31b. 48.
  • Much music marreth men's manners.
    • As quoted in Garnett, Vallée, Brandl, The Universal Anthology, Vol 12 (1809), p. 192.
  • He who has two cakes of bread, let him dispose of one of them for some flowers of the narcissus; for bread is the food of the body, and the narcissus is the food of the soul.
    • Arabian Society In The Middle Ages, by Edward William Lane, (1883) citing Nowwájee, En-, Shems-ed-deen Moḥammad (died 1454), Ḥalbet El-Kumeyt, at footnote 167.
  • Employment is Nature's physician, and is essential to human happiness.
    • In: Day's Collacon: an Encyclopaedia of Prose Quotations, (1884), p. 223.
  • Triste est omne animale post coitum, praeter mulierem gallumque
    • Every animal is sad after coitus except the human female and the rooster.
    • Galen (30-200 A.D.), in: Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, (1973), p. 19.
  • Quod optimus medicus sit quoque philosophus.
    • The best physician is also a philosopher.
    • Title of a treatise; cited from Judith Perkins The Suffering Self (London: Routledge, 1995) p. 154.

Quotes about Galen

  • This misplacing hath caused a deficience, or at least a great improficience in the sciences themselves. For the handling of final causes, mixed with the rest in physical inquiries, hath intercepted the severe and diligent inquiry of all real and physical causes, and given men the occasion to stay upon these satisfactory and specious causes, to the great arrest and prejudice of further discovery. For this I find done not only by Plato, who ever anchoreth upon that shore, but by Aristotle, Galen, and others which do usually likewise fall upon these flats of discoursing causes.
  • Galen himself, who was not unacquainted with Moses's writings, and with christianity, fancy'd the earth had a certain soul or mind imparted to it by the superior bodies.
    • Robert Boyle, "A Free Inquiry into the Vulgar Notion of Nature," in The Philosophical Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle (1725) Vol.2.
  • Galen, in the third section of his book, "The Use of the Limbs," says correctly that it would be in vain to expect to see living beings formed of the blood of menstruous women and the semen virile, who will not die, will never feel pain, or will move perpetually, or shine like the sun. This dictum of Galen is part of the following more general proposition:—Whatever is formed of matter receives the most perfect form possible in that species of matter; in each individual case the defects are in accordance with that individual matter.
  • The laws of nature, as analyzed mathematically and descriptively by Ptolemy and Galen, bore an interesting, and perhaps not entirely accidental similarity to the law of nations and of nature, as discerned by a long succession of Roman jurists. ...The concept of an objective law applicable to human affairs, yet operating in accord with Nature and Reason and apart both from divine revelation and from human whim or passion, was peculiar to Rome and societies descended from Rome.
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