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5.0 von 5 Sternen A good read, 17. Oktober 2009
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum. Mittelalterliche Gesundheitsregeln aus Salerno in neue Reime gebracht. (Broschiert)
Konrad Goehl has done it again, apparently there is no end to his admirable productivity. Now this indefatigable historian of medicine has produced a new verse translation of what must be seen as the most popular medical work of the Middle Ages, nowadays generally known as the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum or "Mittelalterliche Gesundheitsregeln aus Salerno". But more about this later.
Regimina sanitatis or regimens, literally meaning `guidance on how to live a healthy life', did of course exist even in antiquity, e.g. several form part of the hippocratic corpus, and the tradition continues unabated as can be gathered from the many modern titles that purport to offer a long and healthy life to their readership. One could also see in the ubiquitous advice given in today's media, like "avoid eating too much red meat" etc., a direct continuation of this health advice tradition.
The School of Salerno, which is mentioned in the first line of our poem, is generally regarded as the institution that in the 8th century kick-started modern European learned medicine, with its geographical proximity to Arabic and Greek speaking cultures certainly playing a part. Its peak came in the 11th and 12th centuries when a veritable cornucopia of medical works were produced by a great number of medici, amongst them - unusual for the time - some women.
This peak time is probably also the period when our Regimen was composed. As with most early medieval works the authorship is deemed unknowable or is at best disputed, and if the first line of the poem is anything to go by: "tota schola Salerni scripsit", it could have been the whole Salerno school, i.e. all lecturers, who communally contributed to its composition.
Perhaps one further historical aspect is of some interest: the poem is written `Anglorum Regi', i.e. "for the king of the English". It is assumed that this was Robert, Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. Robert's nature, always spoiling for a fight be it on crusade or against his own father or brother, prevented him from ever becoming King of England, but he was considered by some people to be the rightful heir to the kingdom. And since he was as a crusader a well-liked guest at the Salerno court of his cousin, Duke Ruggiero, he may well be the dedicatee.
Our Regimen was written in up to 400 hexameter verses, the number our version has stuck to, but later manuscripts and editions have added freely and there are versions around with more than 1000 verses. Verse-clad text-booking was popular in antiquity and even more so in the Middle Ages, no doubt for mnemotechnical reasons since poems are much easier to remember than prose. This poem was not intended for the medical profession but for the layman, which explains its great popularity as witnessed by the large number of manuscripts in European libraries and the vast number of translations into most European languages, without even a mention of the imitations.
If the original is written in verse there is always the unenviable choice a translator has to face: translate in prose and preserve the meaning of the original more closely or imitate the verse and suffer all the linguistic limitations and restrictions this entails. Konrad Goehl's decision to go for a verse-translation was the right one because there are prose translations readily available.
The book is well presented, with two columns on each page, left the Latin original and right the German translation. In a personal communication Konrad has pointed out one or two peccadilloes which are unavoidable in any publication. Let me mention one before someone else makes a song and dance about it: in chapter 41 "Von den Feigen" Latin 'papaver' is translated as "Pfeffer" rather than "Mohn", `poppy', even Homer sometimes nods.
It takes a word-smith like Konrad to overcome the fore-mentioned linguistic restrictions of a verse-translation and to offer us a text that is as true as can be to the original and yet offers an easy-going readable German style. His slightly South-German flavour only contributes to the pleasure of reading. Being reasonably priced it is an absolute must for everyone who is even faintly interested in matters of history of culture.
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Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum. Mittelalterliche Gesundheitsregeln aus Salerno in neue Reime gebracht.
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