Historical iatrosophia texts and monasteries on Cyprus
Contact: Andreas Lardos
Status: completed project.
The iatrosophia (Greek ‘medical wisdom’) are a type of historical medical texts in Greek which contain recipes and therapeutic advice. The texts developed in hospitals of the Byzantine Empire where they served as handbooks for the daily medical practice. Later examples originating from the times of the Ottoman Empire were mainly produced in Greek Orthodox monasteries in today’s Greece and Turkey as well as on Cyprus. During this period several of these monasteries had dedicated premises for the nursing of the sick. In these monastic ‘hospitals’ monks or nuns prepared remedies based on the iatrosophia texts and dispensed them to their patients.
Emanating from this background the principle aim of this PhD project was the investigation of historical iatrosophia texts produced in Cyprus from a botanical and pharmacological point of view and the comparison of this knowledge to the present-day use of plants as food or medicine in the island’s monasteries.
To this end a multi-disciplinary research approach was adopted which included ethnobotanical, pharmacognostic, pharmaceutical, botanical-systematic and pharmaco-historical methods. For analysing iatrosophia texts a multi-step procedure was developed which included the identification of the mentioned plant drugs and their uses as well as the classification of this information into pre-established categories for enabling the intended subsequent comparative analysis with other data. The knowledge on plant usage of the monasteries was assessed in a field study which involved the identification and collection of plants and the documentation of their uses. To supplement the data gathered in the field study a written questionnaire survey was additionally conducted. In a diachronic approach the data from the historical texts were compared to the data from the 21 monasteries taking part in this study by using quantitative ethnobotanical methods.
This research contributes not only to a better understanding of the development of herbal medicines in the Eastern Mediterranean but also highlights the suitability of the iatrosophia texts as a potential source for natural product research and has a share in documenting local systems of plant knowledge.
- Lardos A., Prieto J., Heinrich M. (2011). Resins and gums in historical iatrosophia texts from Cyprus – a botanical and medico-pharmacological perspective. Frontiers in pharmacology 32 (2), 1-26.
- Lardos A, 2006. The botanical materia medica of the Iatrosophikon – a collection of prescriptions from a monastery in Cyprus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 104: 387-406