ISAW Professor Claire Bubb Publishes First Book with Cambridge University Press

By Lily Wichert

ISAW Assistant Professor Claire Bubb recently published her first book, Dissection in Classical Antiquity: A Social and Medical History, with Cambridge University Press. The book offers the first comprehensive history of dissection in classical antiquity, from the fifth century BCE to Late Antiquity, incorporating evidence from texts, papyri, inscriptions, and archaeological finds. The first half covers the practice of dissection from the Hippocratic authors of the fifth century BCE, through Aristotle and the Hellenistic doctors Herophilus and Erasistratus, to Galen in the second century CE. It focuses on dissection’s material concerns and social contexts, from the anatomical subjects (animal or human) and how they were acquired, to the motivations and audiences of dissection, to its place in the web of social contexts that informed its reception, including butchery, sacrifice, and spectacle. 

The second half of the book analyses the anatomical literature of these periods. Many of these texts have been lost, but enough evidence remains to piece together a comprehensive picture. This section combines discussion of the surviving texts with the reconstruction of the contents and characters of the lost anatomical literature that surrounded them, revealing the outlines of a robust and varied genre, deep in conversation with itself and often—but not always—with the practice of dissection. Finally, an epilogue broaches the topics of dissection and anatomy in Late Antiquity.