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Bill Thayer

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Celsus: De Medicina

The Text on LacusCurtius

The Latin text is that of the Teubner edition by F. Marx, 1915, as reprinted in the Loeb edition, 1935 (Vol. I) and 1938 (Vols. II and III).

As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

The transcription is being minutely proofread. In the table of contents below, the Books that I have completely proofread are shown on blue backgrounds; any red backgrounds indicate that the proofreading is still incomplete. The header bar at the top of each webpage will remind you with the same color scheme. In either case of course, should you spot an error, please do report it. Proofreading is deadly dull, but I do plan on completing it.


The English translation is that by W. G. Spencer, first published in 1938 as part of the Loeb Classical Library. It is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1966 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

You can toggle back and forth from text to translation at any specific section by clicking on the nearest flag; the [Vatican flag]Latin text and the [American flag]English translation will display in separate windows. In the unproofread books, this toggling may be absent or erratic.

The Author

We know next to nothing about Celsus; for these bare bones, as well as a basic appraisal of his work, the Introduction to the Loeb edition is about as good as can be got.

Latin original
English translation

Chapter and Section Numbering, Local Links

Both chapters (large numbers) and sections (small numbers) mark local links, according to a consistent scheme; you can therefore link directly to any passage. Similarly, for citation purposes, the Loeb edition pagination is indicated by local links in the sourcecode.


Although the Loeb edition occasionally notes a textual difficulty or an alternative reading, it provides no systematic apparatus criticus. I have not actually seen the Teubner edition, but I'm almost certain it must. At some point I may go to that edition and reproduce it, but for now, in view of diminishing returns in terms of its slight use to the overwhelming majority of Web users, I've decided not to.

As elsewhere on my site, to streamline display of the text and simplify searches, editorial [square brackets] signifying text to be deleted are rendered in a paler color; and <angled brackets> signifying added emendations are shown in a brighter color, shown in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">.

Inconsistencies in the English Translation

One of the cardinal rules of translation has been disregarded in the English text: that, barring exceptional circumstances, the same word in the source text should always be translated by the same word in the target translation. When this rule is not observed, not only does it set up doubt as to the accuracy of the whole, but it creates two (or several) ideas in the mind of the reader where there was only one in that of the writer.

Where this happens just once, I've made the correction, attaching a bullet like this one:º by hovering your cursor over it, my note will pop up. Examples are:

In most cases, however, Spencer shifts translations partway through the work, so that each of the competing renderings appears many times. I've let them stand, but the reader should be aware of them. Those I noticed:

Medical Disclaimer

In our litigious society, it is probably best to add that you should not try Celsus' remedies or surgery at home, folks. It should be obvious that this text is provided here for its historical interest rather than for any therapeutic purpose: many of the substances recommended by Celsus are extremely toxic, and the procedures are all dangerous, not least because the best antiseptic available and known to him was honey. In sum, please do not medicate or infibulate yourself, and see a medical doctor instead.

[image ALT: A 16c engraving of the head of an old man with a beard. It is supposed to represent A. Cornelius Celsus, the Roman encyclopedist and medical writer.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is an adaptation of the frontispiece to the 1478 Florence edition of the De Medicina by Nicolaus Laurentii, from a webpage at Harvard University that has now vanished. (The innocent should be advised, though: this is the 15c engraver's purely imaginative portrait of the Roman author; as with almost all ancient authors, we have no idea what he looked like.)

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Site updated: 21 Feb 06