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Abstract

In this paper we wish to combine two perspectives: an historical and philological interpretation of the style and original creation of the Hippocratic Epidemics patient cases, and a comparison with current Western clinical practices with their own use of patient reports. Children patients serve as an excellent case study to this purpose: not only as they constitute a restricted category, which makes comparison with current medicine most conspicuous, but also because infant or children patients pose problems of intra-subjectivity and communication that are arguably analogous across different historical periods. This paper is the result of an interdisciplinary dialogue between two horizons: the scope of a practicing medical doctor experienced in ancient medicine (Graumann), and the approach to case-taking in terms of cultural history and history of ancient medicine (Thumiger). Key questions are posed about the modality of case recording; its supposed didactic objectives; emotional and subjective aspects; the role played by authorial postures within the conventions of the genre. In conclusion, despite the historical and scientific gap between our two sets of sources medical casetaking remains a core medical skill and a central feature of medical learning; the variations in the importance given to therapeutical aspects and subjective features help us illumine fundamental differences between ancient medicine and our own.