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LL studies of civilizations preceding the Christian
era must be considered as tentative only, and as
subject to repeated revisions in the future. Many original documents giving first-hand information regarding the political, religious, and social life of the early Orient have come into our possession quite recently, and a large number of them have not been critically examined or even translated; while the terms and the language used in some are not understood, nor has any key to their interpretation yet been found. Excavations yielding rich archeological returns are still in progress, others of equal promise are projected, and further important information concerning these peoples will undoubtedly be obtained in the near future. These remarks apply equally to the medicine of the ancients. Although sufficient is known from classical literature and from studies of newly discovered archeological documents to justify general conclusions regarding the therapeutic theories and practices of the ancient East, many extant medical treatises, especially of Mesopotamia and Egypt, have not been translated or adequately studied, and may easily contain statements which will materially alter our present views.
The following volume on the ancient methods of religious healing and the pagan healing gods is, therefore, presented as an introductory historical study. This particular phase of the religious and social life of the ancients is seldom considered independently, but rather in connection with an introduction to the general history of medicine, as those of Neuberger and Pagel, of Garrison, and the essay of Osler, or in papers on special aspects of the subject. Careful reviews of the origins of ancient medicine, as referred to by classical authors, are given in the older medical histories, as those of LeClerc and Sprengel, but, since these were written, much direct information has been obtained through archeological researches which has greatly broadened our knowledge of the healing practices in the cults of the pagan deities. Some part of this new material has been considered in the several brief monographs that have been published in Germany during the past forty-five years. These have not been translated; the subject has received little attention from writers of English, and as yet it has not been adequately presented to the English-speaking peoples for general study. In preparing this work from materials culled from many sources, an endeavor has been made to give a more detailed and extended exposition of the subject in a form for general survey and comparison, without attempting to cover the broader aspects of the early history of the healing art.
The author has selected for study several of those great civilizations that preceded and overlapped the Christian era, from the birth of history to the time when paganism was suppressed by the edict of Emperor Theodosius. In these nationalities, religion and healing had passed beyond the elementary stages of development and were more or less systematized under priesthoods. These civilizations had their development in an Oriental nursery, and their earliest traces are found among the IndoIranians and the peoples of Mesopotamia and Egypt, remarkable for their general learning and culture, their occult sciences, and the supposedly ineffable mysteries of their religions. Coming from various parts of the old world, these several nationalities were commingled by wars and conquests; and finally outgrowing their native environments, they overflowed westward. Filtering through channels that are now often obscure, the learning of the mysterious peoples of the East and their wondrous arts came to Greece, where they were undergoing examination when conquering Rome drew all civilizing influences to herself. The knowledge and arts of the great Orient came to the Occident as a mystic but lasting heritage; there to be appraised side by side with the native faiths and practices of Greece and Rome; to be refined and molded under new surroundings and other influences, into loftier conceptions of a new and higher civilization. The healing customs of these nations, and the beliefs that prompted them, were representative of their age and illustrate the ancient relations existing between religion and the healing art, which were continued under the Christian fathers in a more or less modified form.
The subject is approached strictly from a historical standpoint, all theories and controversial matters being avoided so far as possible. Facts, traditions, and myths have been gathered from archeological studies, the works of classical authors, and the treatises of authoritative commentators, and the subject matter of each nationality is considered independently and under two sections: the first giving a general review of the salient features of their respective religions and healing customs; and the second dealing with the personalities of their deities most intimately concerned in the cure of the sick.
Owing, chiefly, to the imperfect and fragmentary character of the ancient records, no pretense can be made to completeness, especially in the lists of the healing gods. Doubtless innumerable deities who were conceived as efficient healers served their peoples and faded, leaving no tangible record behind. The names of others were probably lost in the destruction following the fall of nations and of paganism, and still others now buried may be disclosed on monuments and in documents yet to be unearthed. In many instances, the healing function of a god is vaguely referred to, or the divinity appears to be of such minor importance that the name has purposely been omitted. A short biographical sketch is given of those deities whose curative acts are definitely noted, and it is believed that the work of their cults as herein given is fairly characteristic of the official healing practices of their respective nationalities. The period during which these deities were active is indicated when possible, but this is often so indefinite that no chronological order is feasible; and the gods are listed alphabetically.
Other kindred fields of inquiry of equal attractiveness have not been invaded. The healing deities of the postVedic religions of India, particularly the Buddhist, with its extensions into Tibet, China, and Japan; or of the great Slavic and Teutonic. races, and those of ancient America—the Incas, the Mayas, and the Aztecs—all present interesting racial types that would well repay a more detailed study than has yet been given them.
The present work has been prepared in the odd moments of leisure from the active practice of medicine; and, with a full appreciation of many shortcomings, the general fruitage of these studies is offered with the hope that it may have an interest for its readers, and perhaps stimulate further and more satisfactory researches in this by-path of early civilizations.
The author desires to acknowledge, with sincere appreciation, the courtesies and generous assistance received from many friends during the progress of these studies, without which they could not so nearly have approximated completeness. Especial thanks are due to Mrs. Martha L. Crook for her active interest and coöperation, and for her researches and translations from the German; to the late Professor Morris Jastrow, Jr., for reviewing the manuscript of the chapter on Babylonia and Assyria; to Professors Henry F. Lutz, of the University of California, and T. George Allen, of the University of Chicago, for their comments on the Egyptian chapter; to Lieutenant-Colonel Fielding H. Garrison, U.S.A., for his interest, encouragement, and advice after reading the early draft of the manuscript; and, finally, to Professor Louis H. Gray, of the University of Nebraska, for his constant advice and many valuable suggestions.