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From iology to toxicology: A new specialization in ancient Alexandrian school


Ana María Rosso*

"From Iology to Toxicology: a new specialization in Ancient Alexandrian School", (published in Elsevier, Toxicology Reports 8, 2021, pp. 1310-1323) written by Ana María Rosso, develops the context and circumstances that led to the emergence of the Alexandria school of toxicology in the 3rd century BC, an intense period in the Ptolemaic kingdom with several prominent figures and scientists from different countries. The first Ptolemies, especially Soter with a poor health, became interested in medical science, regardless of his practical applications. Surrounded by court physicians, who finished involved in high politics, they promoted clinical and scientific investigations and specialties among the medical staff, studying new subjects and new diseases. Alexandrian medicine achieved fame thanks to an increasingly competent and dynamic team who advanced in related disciplines as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and especially toxicology, because many people were afraid of being poisoned with lethal drugs or by snakebites envenoming. Later this science that deals with toxics was named iology. However the School did not exhibit the same splendor in all the Ptolemaic period. After the 3rd century BC the weakening of the royal power produced the Greek scientific emigration and a decline in the research. The Egyptian upper classes of society took the place and were seeking the protection and influences on the royal court. In contrast, the last 50 years of Ptolemaic reign, saw a great revival of medical schools, despite the monarch’s adverse politics. In the 1st century BC with the last rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Auletes and his child Cleopatra VII, Heraclides of Tarantum and Apollonius Mys stand out as the most remarkable Herophilean pupils of the Alexandrian school. “Heraclides, specialized in iology, was responsible for putting a brilliant end to the golden age of Ptolemaic medicine which had been opened by another great Alexandrian doctor, Herophilus”.

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