Vivisection, Medicine, and Bioethics: A Case Study from Ancient Rome

Leonardo Costantini, Antonio Stramaglia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

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This paper will first give an overview of ancient approaches towards vivisection and its ethical implications; then it will focus on a fictive plea entitled The Sick Twins, falsely ascribed to Quintilian, the celebrated Roman rhetorician. That speech revolves around a delicate issue: a father of two sick twins is formally charged by his wife with ill-treatment, since he hired a doctor to save at least one of the twins by vivisecting – and consequently killing – the other son, in order to find a cure. A closer look at this rhetorical piece will afford a better insight into human anatomization in Greco-Roman antiquity and the ethical issues involved therein.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRead-Watch-Listen
Subtitle of host publicationUsing stories to improve health care
EditorsPeter Barta, Michael Phy
PublisherUniversity of Nebraska Press
Number of pages14
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2022

Publication series

PublisherUniversity of Nebraska Press
ISSN (Print)1092-0625


  • ancient medicine
  • vivisection
  • Roman rhetoric
  • declamation
  • Pseudo-Quintilian
  • Declamationes Maiores


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