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some portion of his early education in attendance upon the lectures of Appion at Rome. He was occupied, during the greater portion of his life, in the service of the state, in civil offices among the provinces, and in military enterprises in Germany and elsewhere, under Vespasian, who was attached to him as an intimate friend, and under Titus in Palestine. But notwithstanding the number and importance of his public duties, he found leisure for extensive reading, and for the exercise of his talents as a writer. He was the author of numerous works on history, on military affairs, and other subjects; but all that now remains of these is his Natural History, the last of his literary performances, compiled, A. D. 78, only two years before his death. He, perished by suffocation, from venturing too near to Mount Vesuvius while in a state of active eruption.
This work of Pliny* is not merely a natural history in the present restricted meaning of the expression, but, as rendered by an old English translator, the natural history, of the world, consisting of thirty-seven books, and treating of: cosmography, astronomy, geography, physics, agriculture, commerce, medicine, the useful and fine arts, the moral constitution of man, and the history of nations, as well as natural history proper. The compass of the
: work, of necessity, included numerous topics with which the author was not personally familiar. He has, therefore, not aimed at originality, and has
* Caii Plinii Secundi Historiæ Naturalis libri xxxvii. vols. 5, Lipsiæ, 1830.
mostly restricted" himself to condensing and transcribing from other writers. Nor has he in this labor evinced much talent as a discriminating compiler. He is neither choice in his selections, accurate in his quotations, 'nor unbiased in his judgment. But he has condensed his materials from more than two thousand authors, and from the reading of his whole life; and has thus furnished us with one of the most valuable of the literary remains of the ancients.
Like many of his countrymen, Pliny has not concealed his prejudice against the profession. He was friendly to the art rather than to those who practiced it. But, from his medical reading he has given ten . books on the history of plants, including their 'uses in domestic economy and the arts; five books on the medical uses of plants; and fire others on medicines derived from the animal kingdom. We are indebted to him for an account of several epidemics and new diseases“; particularly, for, his graphic history of Mentagra, a disease which appeared at Rome for the first time, during the reign of Claudius, and spread extensively among the nobility, sparing women and persons in humble life
; communicated from one individual to another by the act of kissing; appearing first upon the chin, lips, and' face, and afterwards extending over the surface of the body, in the form of eruptions, which degenerated into foul and offensive ulcers. The close analogy of this disease to that which first appeared in the south of Italy near the close of the fifteenth century, led many at first to the belief, that
, the Mentagra, or Lichen, of Pliny, was identical with
the venereal disease; and this disease, from first appearing on the pudendum, was, by Gasper Torrella and others, for a time called Padendagra. Another interesting point in Pliny's history of the Roman epidemic, is that he distinctly alludes to the subject of contagion. The disease, he tells us, had previously existed in the East, where it was called by the Greeks, Lichen; and its contagion, he adds, was imported by a Roman knight, who communicated the infection to the inhabitants of the capital. This, it is true, is not the earliest allusion to the subject. Thucydides, as already shown, speaks of the plague as an infectious disease; and Aristotle, of rabies as spreading from one animal to another. Some of the medieval historians, as Evagrius,* allude to the contagiousness of plague. But the medical writers and teachers of Greece and Rome were too deeply involved in humoral pathology
and the doctrine of the four elements, or too much disposed to reject the study of occult and remote causes altogether, to understand the exact bearing of this important subject, which appears never to have seriously entered into their discussions, and which was equally overlooked by the Arabic, and with the exception of Bernard Gordon, by most of the European medieval writers on 'medicine. Pliny's allusion to contagion is merely inci
Ecclesiastical History, book iv. chapter xxix. + Gordon's list of contagious diseases is summed up in the following distich:
Febris acuta, phthisis, pediculi, scabies, sacer ignis,
117. And when we remember that Gordon wrote in the year 1305, nearly 'two
dental; yet, it is the announcement of a truth, not of a speculation, derived from popular observation and belief; a truth long unheeded, but which no one at the present day would venture to call in question.
Pliny also enters fully into the history of ancient wines, and in speaking of the strong Falernian varieties, says they are inflammable: "Nec ulli in vino major auctoritas ; solo vinorum flamma accendi
; tur.”+ The modern wines, with only their natural supply of alcohol, are not of strength equal to this. It is therefore reasonable to infer that the art of distillation must have been known to the vintners of antiquity. If so, it must have been confined to some single fraternity of them, and practiced as one of their secret mysteries, only for the purpose of fortifying their wines; and thus kept secret until alcohol was discovered anew by the alchymists of the middle age, and the art of distilling it made public, for the first time, as is commonly believed, by Arnold de Villa Nova, in the latter part of the thirteenth century.
From what has now been stated of the progress of medicine at Rome, we may safely infer that the interval between Asclepiades and Galen, a period of about two hundred and fifty years, was, in the
centuries before the venereal disease is usually supposed to have originated in Europe, the following passage from his Lilium Medicinæ (Particula . i. cap. i. p. 107) is worthy of special observation :
Quædam comitissa leproşa .venit ad Montem pessulanum, eratque tandem in cura mea, cui cum quidam Bacchalarius in medicina ministraret ei, coïens cum ea, eam imprægna vit, et perfectissime leprosus factus est.”
+ Lib. xiv. c. viii. § 2.
number and ability of its writers'; .in the advance' ment of its teachers in anatomy, physiology, materia medica, therapeutics, hygiene, pathology; in the study of nature, and in the philosophy of medicine, one of the most active periods in the whole history of our art. As such, it is more worthy of notice, from the fact that the native Romans were never seriously devoted to the cultivation of the sciences. But, quick discoverers of the useful, they knew how: to improve upon the suggestions or discoveries of the Greeks. Their immense cloacae, for the drainage of the city, their public baths, their care in the selection of sites for new towns, villas, and private residences, their improvements in architecture, and the domestic arrangement of their dwellings, as set forth by Vitruvius and others, are sufficient to show that the lectures of their Grecian masters on the rules of health, had been properly appreciated, and the information thus diffused amongst them, turned to good account. But these improvements in the arts of civil life, were of comparatively short continuance; so that Galen, who flourished during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, and as late as Septimus Severus, was the last, as he is also acknowledged to have been by far the most distinguished, of the medical teachers of the Roman school. But before alluding further to this great master of our art, we must for a moment return to the provincial institutions.