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

The worthiest joint in the whole body

What aspersion more disgraceful (if one may tell the truth) could have been unfairly cast upon Nature, who is far dearer to us than Galen, than the utmost inattention to the worthiest joint in the entire body? Everybody knows that this joint is the one that will not endure a small inclination even for the smallest moment of time, much less a disjointing or dislocation which would soon make a person incapable of breathing, mute, and without motion and sense as if the root of his nerves had been affected. 50 What joint is there in the whole body, I ask you, where the head of a bone is so moved in another bone’s socket that the head no longer touches the socket? None, of course, except, if we believe Galen, the joint of the head with the first vertebra of the neck. Galen himself, believing that the head moves sideways by means of this joint, was compelled to claim in the fourth book of De anatomicis administrationibus that when the head is moved to the right side the right head of the occipital bone is pulled into the right socket of the vertebra while the left rises out of the left socket, and the opposite when the head is inclined to the left side. 51 We therefore do not attribute sidewise motion to this twin joint [articulatio atlanto-occipitalis] of the head with the first vertebra, but forward and backward flexion. Let us not so swear by the words of Galen that we impute such negligence to the infinite Author of things in the principal joint of the body; nor should we be eager in defending Galen to imagine that he understood a sidewise motion to be the one that I say is accomplished in a circle and by rotation. We also do not agree with Julius Pollux 52 that rotation takes place over the first vertebra. For besides the fact that Galen did not understand that motion, who could have been so stupid as to declare that the two oblong heads of the occipital bone, which are some distance apart and enter two similarly elongated high or deep sockets of the first vertebra, could be moved in a circle? Who ever saw a compass attached to a post by both legs move in a circle? It is impossible that someone hoping to defend Galen could imagine the heads of the occiput are low and argue that the head is for that reason able to be rotated above the first vertebra, when Galen never considered any other osseous heads worthy of the name korw/nh, “beak,” and took it only for these heads of the occiput which he calls by this name throughout (but quite incorrectly) and only rarely introduces the point which occurs in dogs rather than humans by that name. 53 Such, then, is the articulation of the head with the first vertebra, and a partial description of this vertebra. We shall now proceed with the rest of it, coming gradually to the other motion of the head.



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