Soranus of Ephesus

Soranus of Ephesus (Greek: Σωρανός ὁ Ἑφέσιος; fl. 1st/2nd century AD) was a Greek physician. He was born in Ephesus but practiced in Alexandria and subsequently in Rome, and was one of the chief representatives of the Methodic school of medicine. Several of his writings still survive, most notably his four-volume treatise on gynaecology, and a Latin translation of his On Acute and Chronic Diseases.

Soranus of Ephesus, Gynaecology, in a Latin version of Late Antiquity: positions of the embryo in the uterus. The illustrations in this medieval manuscript are probably based on drawings by Soranus. Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, Codex 3714, fol. 28r.


Little is known about the life of Soranus. According to the Suda (which has two entries on him)[1] he was a native of Ephesus, was the son of Menander and Phoebe, and practised medicine at Alexandria and Rome in the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian (98–138). He lived at least as early as Archigenes, who used one of his medicines;[2] he was tutor to Statilius Attalus of Heraclea; and he was dead when Galen wrote his work De Methodo Medendi, c. 178.[3]

He belonged to the Methodic school,[4] and was one of the most eminent physicians of that school. Little else is known about his life, except that he passed some time in Aquitania for the purpose of treating some skin diseases which were very prevalent there at the time.[5]


His treatise Gynaecology is extant (first printed in 1838, later by V. Rose, in 1882, with a 6th-century Latin translation by one Muscio). Also extant are parts of treatises On Signs of Fractures and On Bandages. Of his most important work (On Acute and Chronic Diseases) only a few fragments in Greek remain, but there exists a complete Latin translation by Caelius Aurelianus (5th century). The Life of Hippocrates probably formed one of the collection of medical biographies by Soranus referred to in the Suda, and is valuable as the only authority for the life of the great physician, with the exception of articles in the Suda and in Stephanus of Byzantium (s.v. Κώς). The Introduction to the Science of Medicine[6] is considered spurious.

Besides these works, Soranus was the author of several others, of which only the titles and some fragments have been preserved. Galen mentions two works on Pharmacy, from which he quotes some passages.[7] Caelius Aurelianus quotes from several other works,[8] and Soranus himself refers to many additional works which have not survived.[9] Tertullian quotes a work De Anima, in four books,[10] in which Soranus divided the soul into seven parts,[11] and denied its immortality.[12] He is quoted by Paulus Aegineta,[13] as being one of the earliest Greek medical writers who had described the Guinea worm; and he appears to have enjoyed a great reputation among the ancients, as Augustine calls him "Medicinae auctor nobilissimus,"[14] and Tertullian, "Methodicae Medicinae instructissimus auctor."[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Suda, Soranos, σ 851, σ 852
  2. ^ ap. Aët. ii. 2. 55
  3. ^ Galen, De Meth. Med., i. 7. vol. x.
  4. ^ Pseudo-Galen, Introd. c. 4, vol. xiv.
  5. ^ Marcellus Empiricus, De Medicam. c. 19
  6. ^ V. Rose, Anecdota graeca, ii. 1870
  7. ^ Galen, De Compos. Medicam. sec. Loc., i. 2, vi. 7, 8, vii. 2. vol. xii., xiii. 42
  8. ^ Caelius Aurelianus, De Morb. Acut., ii. 29, 33; De Morb. Chron., i. 3, iv. 1
  9. ^ Soranus, De Arte Obst., passim.
  10. ^ Tertullian, De Anima, cc. 8, 15, 25, 44
  11. ^ Tertullian, De Anima, c. 14
  12. ^ a b Tertullian, De Anima, c. 6
  13. ^ Paulus Aegineta, iv. 59
  14. ^ Augustine, Cont. Julian, v. 51


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Soranus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 430.
  • Todman, Don (February 2008). "Soranus of Ephesus (AD 98-138) and the Methodist sect". Journal of Medical Biography. 16 (1): 51. doi:10.1258/jmb.2007.007011. PMID 18463065.
  • Gerdtz, J (May 1994). "Mental illness and the Roman physician: the legacy of Soranus of Ephesus". Hospital & Community Psychiatry. 45 (5): 485–7. PMID 8045546.
  • Malinas, Y (November 1987). "[A theory of conception (Soranus of Ephesus)]". Bull. Acad. Natl. Med. 171 (8): 1027–32. PMID 3329943.
  • DRABKIN, I E (1951). "Soranus and his system of medicine". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 25 (6): 503–18. PMID 14886677.
  • DRABKIN, M F; DRABKIN I E (1951). "Caelius Aurelianus Gynaecia, fragments of a Latin version of Soranus' Gynaecia from a thirteenth century manuscript". Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Supplements. 13: 1–136. PMID 14886684.
  • Dunn PM (1995). "Soranus of Ephesus (circa AD 98-138) and perinatal care in Roman times". Arch. Dis. Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed. 73 (1): F51–2. doi:10.1136/fn.73.1.f51. PMC 2528358. PMID 7552600.

Further readingEdit