Billeder på siden

may have referred to the mutilating process of castration, which had been from time immemorial in use among the Asiatics, as it was afterwards among the Greeks and Romans, and which was in the hands of a special class of manipulators, as it is known also to have been in Southern Europe, in comparatively recent times.* The remarks of Paulus Ægineta in reference to this operation, are somewhat in confirmation of M. Littré's views. Again, the prohibition against the sale and administration of poisons, is clearly in reference to those who are known to have been engaged in such traffic,--particularly the Agurtæ, itinerant mountebanks, or pedler-priests as Plato calls them, who went about imposing on the unwary, and cheating them by lying prophecies.t

But some of these restrictions doubtless arose from the suggestions of prudence. It has been remarked by Mr. Adams, that professional virtue among the ancients never arose to the degree of disinterestedness recommended by Sydenham; who maintains that the physician ought to be always ready to serve his patient, even at the risk of his own reputation. I Sydenham, however, wrote as a member of a Christian community, and knew that where his motives were unimpeachable, and his conduct that of an honorable, attentive, and skillful physician, his want of success in the management of a critical case, was not likely to injure his reputation

But the physician of early Greece had more at risk than reputation, sometimes even life.* By custom, if not by written law, he was in some, measure personally accountable for the want of success in what he undertook. The usages of the times imposed upon him circumspection, as well as forecast. Hence the injunction which he was required to observe, not to undertake the care of unmanageable diseases ; or, if induced to take charge of them, to give timely notice of their probable result. There was no want of liberality in this; and it is not for us to complain of that habitual caution which led to the close and attentive study of prognostics, a class of studies for which we have still reason to be thankful to the Greeks.

as a man.

* Renouard. Histoire de la Medicine. Paris, 1846, tome 2, p. 288. + Republic. Book ii. c. 7. † Adams's Hippocrates, vol. ii. p. 641.

With regard to social rank among the Asclepiadæ, it was in proportion to personal merit, rather than to any artificial status. But owing to the great number of pretenders, the regularly initiated were, then as now, disposed to look upon themselves as sufferers by the consideration occasionally bestowed upon impostors. “Medicine,” says Hippocrates, "is of all the arts, the most noble; but, owing to the ignorance of those who practice it, and of those who inconsiderately form a judgment of these, it is at present far behind all other arts. Their mistake," he adds, “appears to me to arise principally from this, that in the cities there is no punishment connected with the practice of medicine, and with it alone, except disgrace; and that does not hurt those

[ocr errors]

* Plato. Laws, book xi. c. 12. Galen, vol. xiv., p. 602, Kuhn's edition. Corpus Juris Civilis. Julii Paulii Recept. Sentent. Lib. v. tit. xxiii., § 13. * The Law. Adams's Hippocrates, vol. ii., p. 784.

who are familiar with it. Such persons are like the figures which are introduced in tragedies : for, as they have the shape, and dress, and personal appearance of actors, and are not actors, so also physicians are many in title, but very few in reality.*

Such, then, was the condition of our profession in Greece up to the period at which it fairly emerged from the traditionary lore of the temples, and assumed its position as a rational and progressive science. The honor of effecting this change, the world has ascribed to Hippocrates.




Of the personal history of Hippocrates, we know but little. He was born in the year 460 before the birth of Christ, and was, consequently, a few years older than Plato, and younger than Socrates. He received his professional education under his father, Heraclides, at the Asclepion of Cos; and we are told that in his youth, at Athens and elsewhere, he had the benefit of the ablest masters in science and philosophy; among whom were the sophist Gorgias, and the hygienist Herodicus, of Selymbria. It is also said that he studied under Democritus of Abdera; or, as some suppose, Heraclitus. After the death of his father, in accordance with the custom of the philosophers and physicians of that epoch, he traveled over many countries; and afterwards, in the pursuit of his profession, spent much time in the cities of Macedonia, Thrace, and other parts of Greece. At Athens, about the time of the Peloponnesian war, his reputation was such, either for the professional services rendered to that city in relieving it of an epidemic, or for having refused to assist the enemies of his country when solicited to do so by Artaxerxes, that it was decreed that he should be initiated into the Mysteries of Eleusis, that he should enjoy the right of citizenship, that he should be supported in the Prytaneum at the public expense, that he should be honored with a golden crown, and that all the children born at Cos, his native island, might pass their youth at Athens, where they should be treated as the offspring of Athenian citizens. IIow much of his time may have been spent in the city where he was thus distinguished, has not been ascertained ; but his most protracted residence was at Larissa and other cities of Thessaly, where he spent his latter days, and where he died, at the advanced age

of eighty-five or ninety years.*

Many speculations have been offered, to account for the rapid advancement of medicine in the hands of this great father of the profession. According to Celsus, his principal credit was in removing the teaching of medicine from the schools of philosophy, where it had always received some attention, and

* Soranus. Genus et Vita Hippocratis. See Kuhn’s Hippocrates, vol. iii., p. 850.

[merged small][ocr errors]

treating of it apart, as a distinct department of practical knowledge. Pliny,* after Varro, supposes that he was the first to institute clinical instruction, "hanc quo Clinico vocatur," that he was led to this after the burning of the temple of Cos, and that the materials of his course were supplied mainly by the votive tablets which had been there accumulating. But his claim to our respect rests on higher ground.

The great among mankind are not merely those who set the first examples. Examples are often the result of accident; and the best of them, in a practical point of view, rarely the result of forethought. He who detects the rising spirit of the age, who first gives expression and embodiment, or the power of progress and endurance, to the wisdom, feelings, aspirations, customs, or hitherto undivulged opinions of his times, is even more worthy of regard than the innovator. Such a man was Hippocrates. He lived in an age of progress. The earliest historians, the earliest and ablest dramatists, the profoundest philosophers, the wisest legislators, the ablest generals, the greatest architects, painters, and sculptors of Greece, were all men of the same epoch. And while other arts and sciences were thus springing into life, and rising at once to maturity, it is not surprising that some man of genius should appear in the ranks of medicine, to give to its principles form and utterance. This man was Hippocrates.

He was not, then, the inventor of the healing art, nor of the modes of teaching it. He was not the

* Hist. Nat. Lib. xxix., cap. i.

« ForrigeFortsæt »