About our staff
Dr Petros Bouras-Vallianatos
MPharm, BA, MSt, PhD, AFHEA
Wellcome Lecturer in History of Medicine
Born and raised on Cephalonia (Greece), I studied Pharmacy (MPharm) at the University of Athens and Classics & Ancient History (BA) at King’s College London. I then read Late Antique & Byzantine History and Literature at the University of Oxford (MSt) and took my doctorate in the History of Medicine at King’s College London in 2015 with a thesis on Late Byzantine medical theory and practice. My doctoral thesis was awarded the Elsevier Outstanding PhD Thesis Prize.
I spent time as a Junior Research Fellow at John Kluge Research Center of the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. (2012-2013) and taught medical history as a Visiting Lecturer in History at Royal Holloway, University of London (2013-2014). I then held a Wellcome Research Fellowship in the Department of History, King’s College London (2016-2019), before joining the School of History, Classics and Archaeology as a Wellcome Lecturer in History of Medicine in March 2019.
Contributing Editor of the Pharmacy in History
Research Collaborator, Lactating Breasts: Motherhood and Breastfeeding in Antiquity and Byzantium
Member of the Scientific Committee, Series Médica Graecolatina
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Comparative & Global History
- Language & Literature
- Medicine, Science & Technology
- Medieval & Renaissance
Separation of Siamese twins by Byzantine physicians in tenth-century Constantinople, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Matritensis Vitr. 26-2, f. 131r
I am a specialist in the history of medicine in the medieval Mediterranean, with a particular focus on Byzantium and on the cultural exchanges between the Christian and Islamic worlds. I have published extensively on medieval medicine and pharmacology, offering editions of previously unpublished texts; the reception of the classical medical tradition in the Middle Ages; and palaeography, including the first descriptive catalogue of the Greek manuscripts at the Wellcome Library.
Current research activities
My research to date makes use of a wide variety of sources in Greek, Latin, and Arabic, and provides a critical reassessment of Byzantine medical theory and practice, decisively overturning the derogatory view that Byzantine medical works were merely compilations of earlier material. My Oxford University Press monograph highlights John Zacharias Aktouarios’ (ca. 1275-ca. 1330) innovative contributions to the fields of physiology, diagnosis, and therapeutics. My forthcoming Routledge monograph provides the editio princeps and an English translation of four significant, previously unpublished, medieval Greek recipe books dated to between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries (authors: Philip Xeros and Euphemios of Sicily, Benjamin the Jew, Andreiomenos, Nikephoros Blemmydes). It also includes a long examination of late Byzantine pharmacology, showing that it was far more open to outside influence than has hitherto been thought and that Byzantine physicians were eager to inform their material with observations derived from their daily contact with patients.
I have also produced three edited volumes, including Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Galen, which constitutes the first reference work on this important but neglected subject.
“Making and Consuming Drugs in the Italian and Byzantine Worlds (12th-15th c.)”
Wellcome Trust University Award (2019-2024), Principal Investigator
This project aims to examine the significant cultural interaction between the Italian and the Byzantine worlds between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries by focusing on the making, selling, and administration of drugs, using a wide variety of literary and archaeological sources. It will also provide the first-ever complete edition and English translation of previously unpublished unique examples of Byzantine hospital recipe manuals, the so-called xenōnika. It will shed light on: the emerging profession of the apothecaries and their interaction with customers and other health professionals; the role of state and peer groups in managing and controlling health services; the importance of drug therapy compared to dietetics and surgery; the transfer and exchange of pharmacological knowledge; the impact of the rapidly disseminating Arabic pharmacology and the use of new exotic substances. It takes a comparative approach informed by the methodological perspective of ‘entangled history’, examining interferences and interdependencies between the two regions, with the ultimate aim of offering a critical re-assessment of medieval pharmacy and pharmacology in the wider Mediterranean world. On another level, the project aims to inspire future comparative studies on other aspects of daily life between the Italian and Byzantine worlds.
Knowledge Exchange and Impact
I have organised successful public engagement events in association with the Wellcome Library, including a broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (Early Music Show: ‘Why Music? The Key to Memory’).
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Link|
|Masayuki Fukushima||PhD||Acute Diseases in the Corpus Hippocraticum and after||Joint|
Currently accepting research student applications : Yes
Areas accepting Research Students in:
- Ancient & Medieval Medicine & Science
- Late Antique & Byzantine History & Literature
- Reception of the Classical Tradition
- Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Middle Ages
I am keen to sponsor PhD candidates for a Wellcome PhD Studentship in the wider area of Medical Humanities
Orthopaedic surgery, restoration of vertebra, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 74.7, f. 200r
Books - Authored
1. Innovation in Byzantine Medicine: The Writings of John Zacharias Aktouarios (c.1275-c.1330), Oxford University Press (Oxford, 2020).
2. Medieval Greek Recipe Books: Four New Medical Witnesses in Context, Routledge (London; New York, forthcoming).
Books - Edited
1. Greek Medical Literature and its Readers: From Hippocrates to Islam and Byzantium, co-edited with Sophia Xenophontos, Routledge (London; New York, 2018).
2. Brill's Companion to the Reception of Galen, co-edited with Barbara Zipser, Brill (Leiden, 2019).
3. Exploring Greek Manuscripts in the Library at Wellcome Collection in London, Routledge (London; New York, 2020).
1. 'Cross-Cultural Transfer of Medical Knowledge in the Medieval Mediterranean: The Introduction and Dissemination of Sugar-Based Potions from the Islamic World to Byzantium,' Speculum 96 (2021). [30,000 words]
2. 'An Unrecorded Use of the Word Κλῖμαξ,' Classical Quarterly 68 (2018): 739-740.
3. ‘Modelled on Archigenes theiotatos: Alexander of Tralles and his Use of Natural Remedies (physika),’ Mnemosyne 69 (2016): 382-396.
4. ‘Miraculous Fish Therapy for Leprosy (‘Elephant Disease’) and other Skin Diseases in Byzantium,’ Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 40 (2016): 170-175.
5. ‘Η Ιατρική Τέχνη στο Βυζάντιο,’ Neusis 24 (2016): 189-223.
6. ‘Greek Manuscripts at the Wellcome Library in London: A Descriptive Catalogue,’ Medical History 59 (2015): 275-326.
7. ‘A New Witness to Michael Psellos’ Poem On Medicine (De Medicina),’ Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 65 (2015): 9-12.
8. ‘Galen’s Reception in Byzantium: Symeon Seth and his Refutation of Galenic Theories on Human Physiology,’ Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 55 (2015): 431-469.
9. ‘Clinical Experience in Late Antiquity: Alexander of Tralles and the Therapy of Epilepsy,’ Medical History 58 (2014): 337-353.
1. 'Theories on Pneuma in the Work of the Late Byzantine Physician John Zacharias Aktouarios,' in The Concept of Pneuma After Aristotle, eds. Sean Coughlin, David Leith, and Orly Lewis, Berlin (Edition-Topoi, 2019), 365-399.
2. ‘Galen in Byzantine Medical Literature,’ in Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Galen, eds. Petros Bouras-Vallianatos and Barbara Zipser, Brill (Leiden, 2019), 86-110.
3. ‘Galen in Late Antique Medical Handbooks,’ in Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Galen, eds. Petros Bouras-Vallianatos and Barbara Zipser, Brill (Leiden, 2019) 38-61.
4. ‘Enrichment of the Medical Vocabulary in the Greek-Speaking Medieval Communities of Southern Italy: The Lexica of Plant Names,’ in Life Is Short, Art Long: The Art of Healing in Byzantium-New Perspectives, eds. Brigitte Pitarakis and Gülru Tanman, Istanbul Research Institute (Istanbul, 2018), 155-184.
5. ‘Reading Galen in Byzantium: The Fate of Therapeutics to Glaucon,’ in Greek Medical Literature and its Readers: From Hippocrates to Islam and Byzantium, eds. Petros Bouras-Vallianatos and Sophia Xenophontos, Routledge (London, 2018) 180-229.
6. ‘Case Histories in Late Byzantium: Reading the Patient in John Zacharias Aktouarios’ On Urines,’ in Homo Patiens: Approaches to the Patient in the Ancient World, eds. Georgia Petridou and Chiara Thumiger, Brill (Leiden, 2016), 390-409.
7. ‘Medizinisches Shrifttum,' in Byzanz: Historisch-kulturwissenschaftliches Handbuch [Der Neue Pauly, Supplemente 11], ed. Falko Daim, J. B. Metzler (Stuttgart, 2016), 1025-1031.
8. ‘Häufige Krankheiten,' in Byzanz: Historisch-kulturwissenschaftliches Handbuch [Der Neue Pauly, Supplemente 11], ed. Falko Daim, J. B. Metzler (Stuttgart, 2016), 1035-1038.
9. ‘Contextualizing the Art of Healing by Byzantine Physicians,’ in ‘Life Is Short Art Long’: The Art of Healing in Byzantium, ed. Brigitte Pitarakis, Pera Museum Publication (Istanbul, 2015), 104-122.
10. ‘Simon of Genoa’s Clavis Sanationis: A Study of Thirteenth-Century Latin Pharmacological Lexicography,’ in Simon of Genoa’s Medical Lexicon, ed. Barbara Zipser, W. de Gruyter (Berlin, 2013), 31-48.
1. Review of Lennart Lehmhaus and Matteo Martelli (ed.), Collecting Recipes: Byzantine and Jewish Pharmacology in Dialogue, (De Gruyter, 2018), Bulletin of the History of Medicine 93 (2019): 272-274.
2. Review of Alain Touwaide, A Census of Greek Medical Manuscripts. From Byzantium to the Renaissance, (Routledge, 2016), Plekos 21 (2019): 153-176.
3. Review of Emmanuel Paschos and Christos Simelidis. Introduction to Astronomy by Theodore Metochites (Stoicheiosis Astronomike 1.5-30), (World Scientific, 2017), Early Science and Medicine 23 (2018): 279-280.
4. Review of Andreas K. Demetriades (ed.), iatrosophikón. Folklore Remedies from a Cyprus Monastery: Original text and parallel translation of Codex Machairas A.18, (A. G. Leventis Foundation, 2015), Byzantina Symmeikta 27 (2017): 485-498.
5. Review of Demetrios Michaelides (ed.), Medicine and Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean World, (Oxbow, 2014), Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2015) 20.12.
6. Review of Timothy S. Miller and John W. Nesbitt, Walking Corpses: Leprosy in Byzantium and the Medieval West, (Cornell University Press, 2014), Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2015) 26.01.
7. Review of Patricia Ann Clark, A Cretan Healer’s Handbook in the Byzantine Tradition: Text, Translation and Commentary, (Ashgate, 2011), Social History of Medicine 26 (2013): 809-811.