Working Papers by Subject - Ancient Science

051101 The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander
Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University and Antoinette Hayes, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals
Download PDF Abstract: Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus, Justin, and other ancient historians report that rumors of poisoning arose after the death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 B.C. Alexander’s close friends suspected a legendary poison gathered from the River Styx in Arcadia, so corrosive that only the hoof of a horse could contain it. It’s impossible to know the real cause of Alexander’s death, but a recent toxicological discovery may help explain why some ancient observers believed that Alexander was murdered with Styx poison. We propose that the river harbored a killer bacterium that can occur on limestone rock deposits. This paper elaborates on our Poster presentation, Toxicological History Room, XII International Congress of Toxicology, Barcelona, 19-23 July 2010, and Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting, Washington DC, March 2011.
This paper replaces 091008 originally published in September 2010 and 071001 originally published in July 2010.

091008 The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander
Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University
Revised May 2011. See 051101 entry.

071001 The Deadly Styx River and the Death of Alexander
Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University
Revised September 2010. See 091010 entry.

010702 Shock and Awe: The Performance Dimension of Galen’s Anatomy Demonstrations
Maud W. Gleason, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract: Galen’s anatomical demonstrations on living animals constitute a justly famous chapter in the history of scientific method. This essay, however, examines them as a social phenomenon. Galen’s demonstrations were competitive. Their visual, cognitive and emotional impact (often expressed by compounds of ѳαῦμα and ἔκπληξις) reduced onlookers to gaping amazement. This impact enhanced the logical force of Galen’s arguments, compelling competitors to acknowlege his intellectual and technical preeminence. Thus, on the interpersonal level, Galen’s demonstrations functioned coercively. On the philosophical level, Galen was using a rhetoric traditional to Greek science, a way of arguing that involved a unitary view of nature and an emphasis on homology between animals and man. But he was also using a rhetoric of power and status differentiation articulated via the body. As played out in the flesh, public vivisection resonated with other cultural practices of the Roman empire: wonder-working competitions, judicial trials, and ampitheater entertainment.
This paper has now been published as "Galen's Anatomical Performances" in C. Gill, T. Whitmarsh, J. Wilkins, eds. Galen and the World of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

120602 Aristotle's Metaphysics M3: realism and the philosophy of QUA
Reviel Netz, Stanford University
Download PDF Abstract - The article provides a new translation and interpretation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics M3, arguing that Aristotle uses there the QUA as a perspective of intellectual action: an operator on actions rather than a filter on objects. Instead of Aristotle’s mathematics being a science of “Objects QUA mathematical”, we should consider it as a science whose manner of action is “QUA mathematical”. A discussion follows as to Aristotle’s view that his QUA account salvages a realist reading of mathematics without invoking special mathematical objects. This view depends on the deceptively compelling assumption that a statement which is true QUA X is also true simpliciter. If this assumption is false – as I believe the experience of modern science suggests – then Aristotle was wrong and we must indeed either deny the reality of mathematics, or invoke special mathematical objects.