Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 15 On the Vertebrae of the Neck or Cervix

Galen’s opinion about the motions of the head 28

So Galen, Nature’s rare miracle and the most perfect interpreter of her works, nowhere demands so learned, intelligent, and hard-working a reader in considering a part’s construction as when he describes the motions of the head and its joints with the two highest vertebrae. What more need I say? So few, he says, will understand what he says in the twelfth book of De usu partium 29 about the motions of the head, and as it were so deters the reader by the difficulty of the subject that it should seem strange to no one that I too was very much in need of a preceptor’s aid in this part; I read through his remarks with all possible care and a mind thoroughly trained from childhood for the study of anatomy, and I carefully compared the things themselves to Galen’s text in order to understand his meaning. You will finally know whether my efforts were in vain when you learn that I not only grasped what Galen was trying to explain, but I also at last understood that Nature’s artifice in these joints and the motions of the head are incorrectly explained by him. Galen ascribes two motions to the head, explaining that one consists of nodding up and down, the other from side to side. 30 By the former, he means a forward bending or inclination of the head in a nod; when we bend the head backward or recline it, that is just the motion by which Thracians and most of the Cretans are seen to this day to move their head in a negative way. 31 Those who raise their head in refusal move their head straight backward and raise it; they do not rotate or shake it as we do when refusing. By the other motion, which Galen says is made to the sides, he understands what we do when we incline the head to the side and move it as if to the shoulders or scapuli. You will learn from the fourth book of De anatomicis administrationibus what this opinion of Galen’s is about sidewise motion and about nodding the head up and down, if you pay careful attention to the place where he says the capitula of the occipital bone (B in fig. 1) which are articulated to the first vertebra (N in fig. 2) are situated, rise above it, and press into it when the head is moved to this side or that, and when according to Galen we nod the head up or down. Without a doubt, his doctrine about the movements of the head is of this sort: he affirms that the first of the motions, which is nodding the head up and down, is accomplished by means of the second neck vertebra or over it; the latter motion, by which the head is moved to the sides, he says is performed over the first neck vertebra, as may readily be gathered from several places in Galen, particularly from the fourth book of De anatomicis administrationibus. 32 Because he wrote that work last of all, 33 he explained his opinion more succinctly and clearly there than elsewhere. You may now inquire with me whether his view there is consonant with the truth, and (restraining your feelings for a while) decide the motions of the head differently from Galen.



Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 15 On the Vertebrae of the Neck or Cervix