Venice, the New Alexandria

Santorio’s Venice, the Venice of the end of the Renaissance, was at the zenith of its splendour and could be rightly considered as a ‘New Alexandria’, whilst ‘Padua’ could be seen as its ‘Museum’.

While the ‘floating city’ promoted a large-scale book editing and trading throughout Europe – to such an extent that it overtook any other city for the amount of books issued each year – Padua was the propulsive centre in which this knowledge was shaped. Professors of the so-called ‘Gymnasium Patavinum’, among whom were the extremely influential figures (such as Matteo Realdo Colombo, Gabriele Falloppia, Jacopo Zabarella, Galileo Galilei, Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente and, of course, Santorio Santorio), were actively engaged in recovering ancient knowledge of experience and practice gained through experiment and dissection. They took seriously the advice of Aristotle and Galen to look at the opinions of predecessors as suggestions in need of being developed and verified, rather than dogmas to be blindly trusted.

Above all, Padua at the turn of the century was particularly interested in the restoration of the ancient Methodic School of Medicine (reawaken by Propsero Alpini’s work De medicina methodica, Padua 1611) which was built on the same idea that, as we have already seen, captured the mind of Erasistratus; that is to say all bodily processes were activated by the mechanism of emptying the void, which is the mechanism of the perspiratio insensibilis itself.

It was in this manner that problems, already raised in the Hellenistic era, were resurrected during Santorio’s time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.