Food as a Source of Healing and Power

  • Bonnie Effros
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


When Christians in Gaul became ill, a variety of options were available to them in the sixth and seventh centuries. Some families, mainly those residing in cities south of the Loire or those presumably of means in more isolated locations, sought the assistance of physicians.1 Severe maladies required visits by doctors who diagnosed diseases by means of patients’ urine and pulse, and then chose the appropriate course of action from among a variety of techniques, including bleeding, cauterization, pharmaceutical remedies, dietetic regimens, the application of prosthetic devices, and surgery. While there is plentiful evidence of practicing physicians throughout late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the number of theoreticians in western Europe with extensive knowledge of classical medicine had declined dramatically.2 The last major compilation written in Gaul based on the work of ancient and contemporary Greek authors before the high Middle Ages was the Gallo-Roman Marcellus of Bordeaux’s De medicamentis, written for the sons of the Emperor Theodosius II circa 408.3 This treatise gave extensive attention to the role of herbs in healing as had been done most famously in the first century by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History and Dioscorides in his De materia medica. The latter was a Greek pharmaceutical text translated to Latin some time before the sixth century.4


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


Notes to Chapter 4

  1. 1.
    Christian Pilet, La nécropole de Frénouville: étude d’une population de la fin du IIIe à la fin du VIIe siècle 1, BAR International series 83(i) (Oxford: BAR, 1980), pp. 145–147.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Katharine Park, “Medicine and Society in Medieval Europe, 500–1500,” in Medicine in Society: Historical Essays, edited by Andrew Wear (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 65–70.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Marcellus, De medicamentis liber, edited by Max Niedermann, translated by Julia Kollesch and Diethard Nickel, Corpus medicorum latinorum 5 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1968), pp. 2–4;Google Scholar
  4. Katherine Fischer Drew, “Marcellus Empiricus,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters 6 (Munich: Artemis Verlag, 1993), pp. 221–222.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 21–24;Google Scholar
  6. John M. Riddle,“Pharmacy,” in Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World, edited by G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 641–642.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Danielle Gourevitch, “Présence de la médecine rationelle gréco-romaine en Gaule,” in La médecine en Gaule:Villes d’eaux, sanctuaires des eaux, edited by André Pelletier (Paris: Picard, éditeur, 1985), pp. 74–81.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Gerhard Baader, “Early Medieval Latin Adaptations of Byzantine Medicine in Western Europe,” in Symposium on Byzantine Medicine, edited by John Scarborough, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 38 (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1984), pp. 251–256;Google Scholar
  9. Gerhard Baader, “Die Entwicklung der medizinischen Fachsprache in der Antike und im frühen Mittelalter,” in Medizin im mittelalterlichen Abendland, edited by Gerhard Baader and Gundolf Keil, Wege der Forschung 363 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1982), pp. 423–426.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    André Finot,“Les médecins des rois mérovingiens et carolingiens,” Histoire des sciences médicales 4 (1970), pp. 41–42.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    Klaus-Dietrich Fischer, “Zur Entwicklung des ärztlichen Standes im römischen Kaisserriech,” Medizin-historisches Journal 14 (1979), pp. 169–170;Google Scholar
  12. Rebecca Flemming, Medicine and the Making of Roman Women: Gender, Nature and Authority from Celsus to Galen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 35–50.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    John M. Riddle, “Theory and Practice in Medieval Medicine,” Viator 5 (1974), pp. 158–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 10.
    Bruno Krusch, ed., Vitae Caesarii episcopi Arelatensis libri duo 1.41, in MGH: SRM 3 (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1896), p. 473.Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    Gerhard Baader, “Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und ärztlicher Stand im frühen und hohen Mittelalter,” Medizin-historisches Journal 14 (1979), pp. 178–179.Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    Marcellus, De medicamentis liber, introduction, p. 4.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    Valerie I. J. Flint, “The Early Medieval ‘Medicius,’ the Saint—and the Enchanter,” Social History of Medicine 2 (1989), p. 133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 14.
    Darrel W. Amundsen,“Visigothic Medical Legislation,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 40 (1971), pp. 553–565.Google Scholar
  19. 15.
    Gregory of Tours, Libri historiarum X 5.35, edited by Krusch, MGH: SRM 1.1, pp. 241–242Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    Flint, “The Early Medieval ‘Medicus,’” pp. 131–133.Google Scholar
  21. 17.
    J.-N. Biraben and Jacques Le Goff, “The Plague in the Early Middle Ages,” in Biology of Man in History: Selections from the “Annales: Économies, sociétés, civilisations,” edited by Robert Forster and Orest Ranum (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), pp. 57–77.Google Scholar
  22. 18.
    Valerie I. J. Flint, The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 252–253.Google Scholar
  23. 19.
    Caesarius of Arles, Sermones 52.5, edited by Germain Morin, revised edition, CCSL 103 (Turnhout: Typographi Brepols editores pontificii, 1953), p. 232.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    Frederick S. Paxton, “Anointing the Sick and the Dying in Christian Antiquity and the Early Medieval West,” in Health, Disease and Healing in Medieval Culture, edited by Sheila Campbell, Bert Hall, and David Klausner (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), p. 94.Google Scholar
  25. 21.
    Flint, “The Early Medieval ‘Medicus,’” pp. 137–143.Google Scholar
  26. 22.
    Loren C. MacKinney, “An Unpublished Treatise on Medicine and Magic from the Age of Charlemagne,” Speculum 18 (1943), pp. 494–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 23.
    Richard Kieckhefer, “The Specific Rationality of Medieval Magic,” American Historical Review 99 (1994), pp. 818–819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 24.
    Charles de Clercq, ed., Conc. Narbonense a.589 c.14, in Concilia Galliae a.511-a.695, CCSL 148a (Turnhout: Typographi Brepols editores pontificii, 1963), pp. 256–257.Google Scholar
  29. 25.
    Gregory of Tours, Libri historiarum X 9.6, edited by Krusch, MGH: SRM 1.1, p. 417Google Scholar
  30. 26.
    Benedict of Nursia, Regula 36, edited by Rudolph Hanslik, CSEL 75 (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1977), pp. 104–105.Google Scholar
  31. 27.
    Loren C. MacKinney, “Medical Ethics and Etiquette in the Early Middle Ages:The Persistence of Hippocratic Ideals,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 26 (1952), pp. 3–5.Google Scholar
  32. 28.
    Venantius Fortunatus, Opera poetica 4.1, edited by Friedrich Leo,MGH:AA 4.1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1881), pp. 79–80Google Scholar
  33. 29.
    Loren C. MacKinney, Early Medieval Medicine, with Special Reference to France and Chartres (Baltimore:The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937), pp. 42–44.Google Scholar
  34. 30.
    Einar Molland, “Ut sapiens medicus: Medical Vocabulary in St. Benedict’s Regula monachorum,” Studia monastica 6 (1964), pp. 274–287.Google Scholar
  35. 31.
    Frederick S. Paxton, “Sickness, Death and Dying:The Legacy of Barbarian Europe in Ritual and Practice,” in Minorities and Barbarians in Medieval Life and Thought, edited by Susan J. Ridyard and Robert G. Benson (Sewanee: University of the South Press, 1996), pp. 225–227.Google Scholar
  36. 32.
    Antoine Chavasse, étude sur l’onction des infirmes dans l’église latine du IIIe au XIe siècle 1, doctoral dissertation (Lyon: Faculté de théologie de Lyon, 1942), pp. 40–48, 76–78.Google Scholar
  37. 33.
    Frederick S. Paxton, Christianizing Death:The Creation of a Ritual Process in Early Medieval Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), pp. 50–51.Google Scholar
  38. 34.
    Bruno Krusch, ed., Vita Eligii episcopi Noviomagensis 2.16, in MGH: SRM 4 (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1902), p. 707.Google Scholar
  39. 35.
    Peregrine Horden, “The Death of Ascetics: Sickness and Monasticism in the Early Byzantine East,” in Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Tradition: Papers Read at the 1984 Summer Meeting and the 1985 Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, edited by W. J. Sheils, Studies in Church History 22 (Oxford: Ecclesiastical History Society, 1985), pp. 41–52.Google Scholar
  40. 36.
    Flint, “The Early Medieval ‘Medicus,’” p. 139.Google Scholar
  41. 37.
    Jerome, Adversus Jovinianum 2.6, edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, in PL 23, reprint edition (Turnhout: Brepols, 1983), pp. 306–307Google Scholar
  42. 38.
    Edward James, “A Sense of Wonder: Gregory of Tours, Medicine and Science,” in The Culture of Christendom: Essays in Medieval History in Commemoration of Denis L.T. Bethell, edited by Mark Anthony Meyer (London: The Hambledon Press, 1993), pp. 52–59.Google Scholar
  43. 39.
    Peter Brown, “Sorcery, Demons and the Rise of Christianity from Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages,” in Witchcraft, Confessions and Accusations, edited by Mary Douglas (London:Tavistock Publications, 1970), pp. 35–36.Google Scholar
  44. 40.
    Bruno Krusch, ed., Vita Iuniani confessoris Commodoliacensis 6–7, in MGH: SRM 3 (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1896), pp. 378–379;Google Scholar
  45. Flint,“The Early Medieval ‘Medicius,’” pp. 134–135.Google Scholar
  46. 41.
    Friedrich Prinz, Frühes Mönchtum im Frankenreich: Kultur und Gesellschaft in Gallien, den Rheinlanden un Bayern am Beispiel der monastischen Entwicklung (4. bis 8. Jahrhundert), second edition (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1988), pp. 274–275.Google Scholar
  47. 42.
    Janet L. Nelson, “Queens as Jezebels: Brunhild and Balthild in Merovingian History,” in Politics and Ritual in Early Medieval Europe (London:The Hambledon Press, 1986), pp. 17–23Google Scholar
  48. Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms 450–751 (London: Longman, 1994), pp. 198–202.Google Scholar
  49. 43.
    Bruno Krusch, ed., Vita sanctae Balthildis A.12, in MGH: SRM 2, new edition (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1956), p. 497Google Scholar
  50. 44.
    Wilhelm Levison, eds., Visio Baronti monachi Longoretensis 2, in MGH: SRM 5 (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1910), p. 378.Google Scholar
  51. 45.
    Paxton, Christianizing Death, pp. 57–59.Google Scholar
  52. 46.
    Venantius Fortunatus, De vita sanctae Radegundis libri II 1.19, edited by Bruno Krusch, in MGH: SRM 2, new edition (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1956), pp. 370–371.Google Scholar
  53. 47.
    Raymond Van Dam, Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 88–89Google Scholar
  54. 48.
    Gregory of Tours, De virtutibus beati Martini episcopi 2.57, edited by Bruno Krusch, in MGH: SRM 1.2 (Hanover: Impensis bibliopolii Hahniani, 1885), p. 178.Google Scholar
  55. 49.
    Jerome Kroll and Bernard Bachrach, “Sin and the Etiology of Disease in Pre-Crusade Europe,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 41 (1986), pp. 405–407.Google Scholar
  56. 50.
    Peter Brown, The Cult of Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 113–120Google Scholar
  57. Peter Brown, “Relics and Social Status in the Age of Gregory of Tours,” in his Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (London: Faber & Faber, Ltd., 1982), pp. 228–230.Google Scholar
  58. 51.
    Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” in his Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity, pp. 139–141;Google Scholar
  59. Joan M. Petersen, “Dead or Alive? The Holy Man as Healer in East and West in the Late Sixth Century,” Journal of Medieval History 9 (1983), pp. 91–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 52.
    Giselle de Nie, Views from a Many-Windowed Tower: Studies of Imagination in the Works of Gregory of Tours, Studies in Classical Antiquity 7 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1987), pp. 218–223.Google Scholar
  61. 53.
    Isabel Moreira, Dreams, Visions and Spiritual Authority in Merovingian Gaul (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), pp. 131–135.Google Scholar
  62. 54.
    Biraben and Le Goff, “The Plague in the Early Middle Ages,” pp. 60–61.Google Scholar
  63. 55.
    Frederick S. Paxton, “Power and the Power to Heal:The Cult of St. Sigismund of Burgundy,” EME 2 (1993), pp. 95–97;Google Scholar
  64. Karl Heinrich Krüger, Königsgrabkirchen der Franken, Angelsachsen und Langobarden bis zur Mitte des 8. Jahrhunderts, Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften 4 (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1971), pp. 63–64.Google Scholar
  65. 56.
    Aline Rousselle, Croire et guérir: La foi en Gaule dans l’antiquité tardive (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1990), pp. 185–200.Google Scholar
  66. 57.
    Frederick S. Paxton, “Liturgy and Healing in an Early Medieval Saint’s Cult: The Mass in honore sancti Sigismundi for the Cure of Fevers,” Traditio 49 (1994), pp. 23–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Robert Folz, “Zur Frage der heiligen Könige: Heiligkeit und Nachleben in der Geschichte des burgundischen Königtums,” Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 14 (1958), pp. 324–326.Google Scholar
  68. 58.
    Park, “Medicine and Society,” pp. 73–74.Google Scholar
  69. 59.
    Aline Rousselle, “La sage-femme et le thaumaturge dans la Gaule tardive: Les femmes ne font pas de miracles,” in La médecine en Gaule:Villes d’eaux, sanctuaires des eaux, edited by André Pelletier (Paris: Picard, éditeur, 1985), pp. 249–250.Google Scholar
  70. 60.
    Park, “Medicine and Society,” p. 69.Google Scholar
  71. 61.
    Gregory of Tours, Libri historiarum X 6.35, edited by Krusch, MGH: SRM 1.1, pp. 305–306.Google Scholar
  72. 62.
    Petersen, “Dead or Alive?,” pp. 93–94.Google Scholar
  73. 63.
    Rudolph Arbesmann, “Fasting and Prophecy in Pagan and Christian Antiquity,” Traditio 7 (1949), pp. 69–70.Google Scholar
  74. 64.
    Veronika E. Grimm, From Feasting to Fasting, the Evolution of a Sin: Attitudes to Food in Late Antiquity (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 162–170.Google Scholar
  75. 65.
    Grimm, From Feasting to Fasting, pp. 177–181.Google Scholar
  76. 66.
    Augustine of Hippo, Opera omnia Ep. 211.8–9, edited by Jacques-Paul Migne, in PL 33 (Paris: Apud editorem in via dicta d’Amboise, 1845), pp. 960–961.Google Scholar
  77. 67.
    Grimm, From Feasting to Fasting, pp. 184–189.Google Scholar
  78. 68.
    Venantius Fortunatus, Opera poetica 11.4, edited by Leo,MGH:AA 4.1, p. 269.Google Scholar
  79. 69.
    Riddle, “Theory and Practice,” pp. 158–163.Google Scholar
  80. 70.
    Cassiodorus, Variarum libri duodecim 6.19, edited by Theodor Mommsen, MGH: AA 12 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1894), pp. 191–192.Google Scholar
  81. 71.
    M. Wlaschky, “Sapientia artis medicinae: Ein frühmittelalterliches Kompendium der Medizin,” Kyklos 1 (1928), pp. 103–113.Google Scholar
  82. 72.
    Mark Grant,“Introduction,” in Anthimus, De observatione ciborum (Blackawton: Prospect Books, 1996), pp. 12–21.Google Scholar
  83. 73.
    MacKinney, Early Medieval Medicine, pp. 42–44Google Scholar
  84. 74.
    S. J. B. Barnish, “Introduction,” in The Variae of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, Translated Texts for Historians 12 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1992), pp. xiv-xvii.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. 75.
    MacKinney, Early Medieval Medicine, pp. 44–45.Google Scholar
  86. 76.
    Valentin Rose, “Die Diätetik des Anthimus an Theuderich König der Franken,” in his Anecdota graeca et graecolatina: Mitteilungen aus Handschriften zur Geschichte der griechischen Wissenschaft 2, reprint edition (Amsterdam: Verlag Adolf M. Hakkert, 1963), pp. 49–50.Google Scholar
  87. 77.
    Wlaschky, “Sapientia artis medicinae,” 3.2, p. 108.Google Scholar
  88. 78.
    Anthimus, De observatione ciborum ad Theodoricum regem francorum epistola, edited and translated by Eduard Liechtenhan, Corpus medicorum latinorum 8,1 (Berlin: In aedibus academiae scientiarum,1963), p. 1.Google Scholar
  89. 79.
    Anthimus, De observatione ciborum, edited by Liechtenhan, p. 2.Google Scholar
  90. 80.
    Carl Deroux,“Des traces inconnues de la Dietétique d’Anthime dans un manuscrit du Vatican (Reg. Lat. 1004),” Latomus 33 (1974), p. 685.Google Scholar
  91. 81.
    Galen, On the Powers of Food 3, translated by Mark Grant, in Galen on Food and Diet (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 163–164.Google Scholar
  92. 82.
    Anthimus, De observatione ciborum c.15, edited by Liechtenhan, p. 10.Google Scholar
  93. 83.
    Anthimus, De observatione ciborum c.14, edited by Liechtenhan, p. 9.Google Scholar
  94. 84.
    Deroux, “Des traces inconnues,” pp. 680–682.Google Scholar
  95. 85.
    Bruno Laurioux, “Cuisiner à l’antique: Apicius au moyen âge,” Médiévales 26 (1994), pp. 17–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. 86.
    Jean Lestocquoy,“épices, médecine et abbayes,” in Études mérovingiennes:Actes des journées de Poitiers, 1er3 mai 1952 (Paris:A. et J. Picard, 1953), pp. 179–186.Google Scholar
  97. 87.
    Gordon M. Messing, “Remarks on Anthimus, De observatione ciborum,” Classical Philology 37 (1942), pp. 150–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. 88.
    Eugen Ewig, Die Merowinger und das Frankenreich, Urban-Taschenbücher 392 (Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1988), pp. 34–35.Google Scholar
  99. 89.
    Peter Heather, The Goths (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), pp. 222–227.Google Scholar
  100. 90.
    Grant, Anthimus, De observatione ciborum, pp. 29–30.Google Scholar
  101. 91.
    Patrick Amory, People and Identity in Ostrogothic Italy 489–554 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 112–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. 92.
    Herwig Wolfram, The Roman Empire and its Germanic Peoples, translated by Thomas Dunlap (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 218–222;Google Scholar
  103. Thomas S. Burns, A History of the Ostrogoths (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), pp. 128–130.Google Scholar
  104. 93.
    Liechtenhan, “Ad lectorem praefatio,” in Anthimi, De observatione ciborum, pp. ix-xx.Google Scholar
  105. 94.
    Raymond Van Dam, Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 82–115.Google Scholar
  106. 95.
    Flemming, Medicine and the Making of Roman Women, pp. 111–112.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bonnie Effros 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bonnie Effros

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations