n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Ancient Greek and traditional Zulu medicine : a question of balance

Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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In this paper, I would like to argue that, in contemporary South Africa, where a highly-developed scientific medical tradition rests uneasily, like a cracked Hippocratic veneer, on a centuries-old tradition of folk medicine and magico-religious healing, such a continuum is evident, although it has been dislocated and scientific medicine consciously distances itself from folk medicine and magico-religious healing. As I shall demonstrate below, the kind of process which gave rise to this fragmentation is already present in a Hippocratic text such as περί ίερής νούσυν (). To delineate the contours of ancient Greek medicine, I have focussed on the Hippocratic texts, on temple medicine and folk medicine, especially as exemplified in the corpus of magical papyri. As an example of traditional medicine in the South African context, I have chosen Zulu traditional medicine because it is well documented and because it provides fitting material for comparison and contrast with Hippocratic medicine, in particular. Such a comparative study, it is hoped, will elucidate the complex relationship between science, magic and religion in both the ancient Greek and the contemporary South African contexts.

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