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Philometor, the author of a treatise on herbs ; of which he speaks in alphabetical order, treating of their agricultural as well as of their medicinal uses. Compiling from Hermes Ægyptiacus, the great medical authority of the early Egyptians, he dwells upon the use of charms, amulets, and incantations for increasing the power of herbs. Nicander, who flourished in the same reign, and spent part of his days at Pergamus, wrote in verse a treatise on poisons and the bites and stings of venomous animals.
Among the surgical writers of this school, were several able professors, particularly Philoxenus, who treated of this branch fully, and with great accuracy, in several volumes. Gorgias also, and Sostratus, the two Herons, the two Apollonii, and Ammonius Alexandrinus, were all improvers in this department. Ammonius was the inventor of an instrument for the crushing of stone in the bladder, where the stone was too large to be extracted in the ordinary way. Apollonius of Cittium, who lived in the time of Ptolemy Auletes the father of Cleopatra, was the author of a work on the diseases of the joints, which, though never printed, is said to be still extant. Philotimus, Nileus, and Heraclides of Tarentum, coinciding with Hippocrates and Dioles, declare that they had perfectly succeeded in reducing luxations at the hip joint, a fact which others had called in question. Andreas, Nymphodorus, and Protarchus, as well as some of those already mentioned, were inventors of machines for reducing dislocations; diagrams of which are still extant in several of the older systems of surgery, as well as in Galen and Oribasius.
Among the later writers of this school who preceded Galen, and whose works have descended to modern times, were Dioscorides of Anazarba, Ruffus of Ephesus, and probably also Aretæus of Cappadocia. But of these we shall have again occasion to speak, in connection with their contemporaries of the Roman school.
The business of teaching, at Alexandria, was never wholly confined to the professors. In medicine, as in other departments of science, there were independent instructors. Beyond the schools, the student of medicine appears to have had access to the temple of Serapis * which served in part as an asylum and place of refuge for the sick, and was used as such in the same way as the Asclepions in other parts of Greece. Nor were the devices of the priests here less politic than at the more ancient temples of Æsculapius.
As Vespasian was one day walking through the streets of Alexandria a man with a diseased eye threw himself at his feet, begging to be cured, and declaring he had been told by Serapis that his sight would be restored if the emperor would but spit upon his eyelids. Soon afterwards another who had lost the use of his band, preferred the same petition; having been told by Serapis that the emperor might heal him by trampling him under his feet. Vespasian at first laughed at their importunity; but so far yielded to their wishes as to consult the medical faculty. The physicians, like skillful courtiers, deemed the cure by the means proposed, not impossible. The experiment was attempted before an assembled multitude. It was probably as successful as the royal touch of the kings of England and France in later times; and the flatterers of the Emperor declared that he had healed the maimed, and restored the blind to sight.
* Le Clerc (Histoire de la Médicine, liv. i. chap. xx. p. 66–7, on the authority of Tacitus, Ælian and other writers), cites several instances to show that the sick resorted for relief to the temple of Serapis.
But the brightest era of medical science at Alexandria thus far, was the earliest. Under the first associates of the Museum, anatomy and physiology were cultivated with spirit and success; and from the turn given to medical education by these teachers, the character of the school for ages afterwards was definitely determined. The Asclepiadæ of Cos and Cnidos had dwelt upon the phenomena of disease without attempting to demonstrate its structural relations ; like the sculptors of their own age, they studied the changing expression of vital action almost wholly from an external point of view. They meddled not with the dead. For, by their own laws, no one was allowed to die within the temple.
, But the early Alexandrians were subject to no such restrictions; and turning to good account the discoveries of Aristotle in natural history and comparative anatomy, they undertook for the first time to describe the organization of the human frame from actual dissections; and by applying the knowledge thus acquired to the pathological studies of their predecessors, they struck upon the course which, if followed out by their immediate successors, might have led to many early and brilliant improvements.
But their successors were slow in discovering the road that had been opened to them. Occupied in teaching what had already been surmised or ascertained, few of them were ambitious of adding much to the general stock of knowledge. The dissection of the human body was soon abandoned, and the improvements in pharmacy and additions to the materia medica introduced by them, were as much due to the commercial intercourse of Alexandria with India and southern Asia, as to the scientific, enterprise of its physicians. So that medicine, losing the independent and progressive character which it had received at the hands of Hippocrates and his early followers, was again reduced to a mere department of speculative philosophy, involved in futile disputations, and in formulas based on no substantial facts. Hence the several sects into which the profession in course of time became divided.
Of these the Dogmatists, or Rationalists, claimed to be the followers of Hippocrates, and supporters of the academic philosophy. The Empirics originated with Philinus, a pupil of Herophilus, and with Serapion, the successor of Philinus, and were advocates of the sceptical philosophy of Pyrrho. The Methodists were of later date. They are commonly traced to Asclepiades, the founder of the Roman school; but the lessons of his instructor,
Cleophantus of Alexandria,* appear to have furnished the leading principles upon which he and his followers founded this third sect, the philosophy of which was adopted from Epicurus. The Pneumatic sect was an offset from the Dogmatists, and advocated the stoic philosophy. But of these several sects, and of the Episynthetics who attempted to reconcile the whole of them, we shall have again occasion to speak, in connection with the school of Rome. In speaking of the profession of his own time, Galen classes them as Herophilians and Erasistratians, showing that the opinions of the founders of the Alexandrian school had not yet been superseded ; and that after an interval of more than five centuries, the impression left upon it by these great men, still continued to give it character and distinction. After falling under the sway of the Romans, for a century or more the school of Alexandria lost much of its previous celebrity, and is little spoken of during the more active period of the school of Rome. Yet even in Galen's day, it was still the center of medical science. And to have studied medicine at Alexandria, was everywhere considered a passport to the confidence and patronage of the public.
* Celsus, iii. 14.