Reference edition :
Cassius Felix, De la médicine, éd. par A. Fraisse, Paris 2002 (Collection des Universités de France).
Cassius Felix' treatise De medicina is divided into 82 chapters. It lists illnesses and therapies following the order a capite ad calcem (Sabbah). The treatise clearly aims at offering therapeutic advice: it offers a very concise description of symptoms and causes of each illness, and focuses on presenting the relevant therapies. Most chapters are arranged according to a recurring pattern. The author starts discussing the name of the illness, listing synonyms and offering a brief etymological explanation. He then illustrates the characteristic symptoms of the illness, its aetiology and, in abundant detail, possible remedies. The text describes with scientific rigour how to prepare drugs; this suggests that the treatise was aimed at specialists, such as young doctors or, perhaps, medical students. The text also offers scrupulous descriptions of surgical operations, a unique feature in the corpus of Latin medical literature of this age. The author lingers on the description of incisions doctors have to perform (18.5), suggests cauterising in order to achieve haemostasis of bleeding skin surfaces, recommends using scalpels for scarification, and cannulae for phlebotomy (8.2). As for the sources of the treatise, in his preface Cassius Felix declares that he aims at giving a complete Latin presentation of the theories of Greek authors of the 'Logical' school. Hippocrates and Galen are the most frequently quoted authors. Cassius Felix apparently accepts some principles of the 'Methodic' school as well (Fraisse), such as categorising illnesses on the basis of common symptoms (18.6) and dividing the clinical course into phases (7, 21, 46). Cassius Felix' language is, on the whole, morphologically and syntactically correct, if one takes into account the date of the text and its technical and scientific character. The text of the De medicina is however of special interest from a linguistic point of view, since it transmits a large number of otherwise unattested words. It is possible that these are neologisms coined by the author, but they may also be vestiges of fifth century AD medical lexicon that is otherwise lost. Greek words are also very extensively used, including both classically attested words from the lexicon of pathology and later Greek terms, which entered Latin medical language starting from the fourth or fifth century AD. The editio princeps (Rose 1879) was based on three manuscripts: Sangallensis 105, Parisinus Latinus 6114, and Cantabrigiensis Gg III. Scholars have later been able to locate other manuscripts transmitting this work: Vaticanus Latinus 4461, Monacensis clm 29136, and Parisinus Latinus 6882. To these manuscripts one must add a large number of excerpta and the quotations in the indirect tradition. Anne Fraisse edited the work in 2002 for the Belles Lettres collection, revising Rose's edition, and completing the stemma codicum with the addition of the newly discovered manuscripts. [M. Ferroni; translation L. Battezzato]