This essay seeks to provide a framework for the four articles that follow. While the employment of medical metaphors by the writers of Late Antiquity has long been recognized, for medical historians the domains to which the metaphors are applied have remained largely in the background. Attention has tended to focus on the metaphors themselves and on the degree to which they reflect actual historical medical thought and practice. More recently attention has focused on the cultural, conceptual, and moral purpose of medical metaphors and how their employment might in itself be therapeutic. This article addresses three recent shifts in the way the role of medical metaphor is viewed, including its cognitive implications for the hearer.

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