Tufts University  |  School of Arts and Sciences  |  Find People  | 


Joanne H. Phillips
Associate Professor
Contact Info:
Tufts University
Department of Classics
318 Eaton Hall
Medford, MA 02155

Office: 617.627.2039
Fax: 617.627.2896
Email Prof. Phillips

Ph.D. Harvard University, Classical Philology
A.M. Harvard University, Classical Philology
A.B. Boston University, Classics, summa cum laude, phi beta kappa

Greek and Latin Languages, Ancient Greek and Roman Medicine, Lucretius

Joanne H. Phillips joined the department in 1977 to bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences, developing one of the first courses on the history of ancient Greek and Roman medicine to be taught in a classics department in the United States. The course (Classics 146, History of Ancient Greek and Roman Medicine), designed as a rigorous upper-level elective specifically for pre-medical, pre-dental, and pre-veterinary students, is taught annually. In 1990 she introduced an annual seminar in ancient medicine (Classics 176, Topics on the Transmission of Ancient Medicine) for students who excelled in Classics 146and wanted to pursue "capstone" research on topics of medical history interest. 150 undergraduates have pursued and presented public lectures on their research in the seminar since its founding. The seminar, emphasizing not only the mastery of research methodologies, but also presentation skills, became the model for the creation in 1999 of the annual interdisciplinary Tufts University Research Symposium in which students from all disciplines at Tufts come together to present publicly an overview of their research in the humanities and sciences.

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s there was a concerted effort in Europe by a dedicated community of classical scholars and medical historians to establish the modern textual foundations for one of the most hitherto neglected areas in the Classics—namely, ancient medicine as evinced by the Greek and Latin medical texts. It was a period of research and scholarship that focused on the editing, translation and elucidation of Greek and Latin medical texts, as well as the sharing of the evolving knowledge by the establishment of periodic international colloquia and symposia. Phillips presented invited papers at colloquia on ancient medicine throughout Europe, as well as serving as chair and commentator of select sessions. In 1987 she was the United States representative for the planning of the 1989 and 1992 international colloquia «Textes médicaux latins antiques» under the sponsorship of the Centre Jean Palerne, Université de Saint-Étienne, France. At this time she also assumed the responsibility, as the American Correspondent to the Centre Jean Palerne (1987-1992), for the writing of an annual report on American research activity for Informations, the then leading and sole international newsletter devoted to the history of ancient Greek and Roman medicine.

Phillips' publications are diverse in subject including such topics as early Greek medicine in the poetry of Solon, the importance of astronomy for the Hippocratic physician, the emergence of the Greek medical profession in the Roman Republic, and the medical textual sources of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. From the mid-late 1980s Phillips' research and publication has and continues to focus on the Liber Medicinalis Quinti Sereni, a Latin medical poem of obscure provenance in Late Antiquity, but read widely in the Medieval Ages and the Renaissance.