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Founding Gods, Inventing NationsConquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam$
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William F. McCants

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151489

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151489.001.0001

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“The Sciences of the Ancients”: Speculation on the Origins of Philosophy, Medicine, and the Exact Sciences

“The Sciences of the Ancients”: Speculation on the Origins of Philosophy, Medicine, and the Exact Sciences

Chapter:
(p.120) Five “The Sciences of the Ancients”: Speculation on the Origins of Philosophy, Medicine, and the Exact Sciences
Source:
Founding Gods, Inventing Nations
Author(s):

William F. McCants

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691151489.003.0006

This chapter discusses the attempts to explain the origins of science, philosophy, and medicine. In classical Greece, medicine and philosophy were held to be Greek inventions, whereas the mathematical, or exact, sciences were believed to have originated in the ancient Near East, usually Egypt or Babylon. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, the “barbarian” nations also laid claim to medicine and philosophy, with some Greek and Roman agreement. Jews in particular focused on philosophy when advancing their claims to civilizational priority rather than laying claim to the other sciences or civilization in general. This was for at least two reasons. First, soon after Alexander's conquests, Greeks promulgated the image of Jews as a philosophical race; when Greek and Roman authors later started to portray Jews as misanthropic outsiders, Jewish scholars sought to reinforce the earlier positive, transconfessional image. Second, once the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, Greek-speaking Jews could read their scriptures and note parallels with Greek philosophy.

Keywords:   civilization, ancient Greece, Romans, Jews, Greek philosophy, science, philosophy, medicine, origin

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