« ForrigeFortsæt »
were ultimately converted. The temples of Epidaurus, Cos, Tricca, according to Strabo, were always filled with patients; and along their walls the tablets were suspended upon which were recorded the history and treatment of the individual cases of disease.*
The choice of situation, and internal management of the temples, show with what care the priest of Esculapius, while observing the rites of his religion, provided for the well-being of the sick. They usually occupied some elevated or retired and healthy locality, not far removed from the cities, surrounded by shady groves, or in the neighborhood of thermal springs, or fountains of medicated water. They were sacred from intrusion, and accessible to the sick only after suitable preparation. The invalid, on his arrival, submitted to purification, by fasting, ablution, and inunction. He afterwards passed the night within the Hicetas or common-hall of the temple. During this ceremony of incubation, the presiding deity is supposed to appear before him in the silence of the night, and, by voice or otherwise, announce to him the means of cure; which, on the following day, the priest in attendance also ascertained, and afterwards undertook the supervision of the treatment.
The fees of these priests were the free-will offerings of the sick. It was consequently to the interest of the priests to cherish the superstitions of the people. Their devices for this purpose, Aristoph
* Ibid, p. 9, from Strabo, book viii.
anes has humorously portrayed in his comedy of Plutus:
"Having bathed Plutus in the sea," says the servant Cario, "we went to the temple of Esculapius; and when our wafers and preparatory sacrifices were offered on the altar, and our cakes on the flame of Vulcan, we laid him on a couch, as was proper, and made ready our own mattresses. * * * When the priest, had extinguished the lights, he told us to go to sleep, adding that if any of us heard the hissing we should by no means stir.. We therefore all remained in bed, and made no noise. As for myself, I could not sleep, on account of the odor of a basin of savory porridge which an old woman had at the side of her bed, and which I longed for amazingly. Being, therefore, anxious to creep near it, I raised my head, and saw the sacristan take the cakes and dried figs from the sacred table, and going the round of the altars, put all that he could find into a bag. It occurred to me that it would be meritorious in me to follow his example, so I arose to secure the basin of porridge, ** fearing only that the priest might get at it before me, with his garlands on. * * The old woman, on hearing me, stretched forth her hand. But I hissed, and seized her fingers with my teeth, as if I were an Esculapian snake; then, drawing back her hand again, she lay down and wrapped herself up quickly, *** while I swallowed the porridge, and, when full, retired to rest."
The serpent to which Aristophanes here refers, was the usual emblem of the presiding Numen, or
divinity of the temple; though other animals, as the cock and the dog, were occasionally employed for the same purpose. The figure of the serpent sculptured in stone, met the eye of the devotee at the entrance of the temple; and the animal itself was cherished and preserved within the sacred precincts. The Esculapian serpent, according to Pausanias, was of a peculiar variety, of a yellowish or brown color, and found only at Epidaurus. At the founding of new temples, it was always transferred from the old to the new abodes. Such was the ceremony, as we learn from Livy, when in the year of Rome, 461, for arresting the progress of pestilence in that city, commissioners were sent to transfer the sacred serpent from Epidaurus to the Island of the Tiber, where the first temple to Esculapius was erected among the Romans.
Esculapius himself was usually represented as a bearded and aged man; sometimes bare-headed, sometimes crowned; seated, standing erect, or leaning on his staff, around which the serpent is seen winding in spiral folds; occasionally he is bearing a strobile of the pine; sometimes he is seen alone, but more frequently accompanied by one of his daughters, usually Hygeia, who is robed in white, with a serpent in one of her hands and a shallow patella or cup in the other, to which the serpent is directing its attention. 'Not unfrequently between the figures of Esculapius and Hygeia, a child is seen standing, the infant Telephorus or the Harpocrates of the Egyptians;* and the cock is usually seen at the feet of
Schulze, P. 126, 181, et seq.
Esculapius. By the serpent, the Asclepiada are supposed to have symbolized circumspection and vigilance, and as Schulze supposes, the power of rejuvenescence; by the cock, their bird of sacrifice, they are thought also to have represented vigilance; and by the dog, fidelity and honesty. The Egyptian symbols of Serapis, or of Isis and Osiris, and the infant Harpocrates, were occasionally associated with the emblems more properly belonging to the Greeks-a custom adopted after the settlement of Alexandria. For it was a belief among the Ægyp tians, that infants had at times the power of divination; and in the sacred ceremonies of their temples, the sports and gambols of young children were often introduced.* But in the temples of Isis and Osiris the genius of medicine was sometimes also represented by the figure of Silence. "Et quoniam vero in omnibus templis ubi colebantur Isis et Serapis erat etiam simulacrum quod, digito labiis impresso, admovere videretur ut silentium fieret; hoc significere, ut homines illós fuisse taceretur."+
The Asclepions, however, were not the only temples to which the Greeks resorted for relief from sickness. The temples of Apollo, and of the other gods, were also open to them, but only as places for consulting the gods; not, as at the Asclepions, to be subjected to treatment.
4. It is supposed that the priests of Esculapius,
* Schulze (on the authority of Plutarch and others), p. 126.
+ Ibid (from St. Augustine), p. 126.
Herodotus, lib. i. c. 16 and 25; and Xenophon, Memoir of Socrates, book iii, chapter 13. N. Y. edition, p. 576.
in the exercise of their art, were originally restricted to these institutions. If such ever were the rule, it must have soon been set aside, or often disregarded.. Hippocrates and his disciples practiced as periodeutæ, or itinerants, in different parts of Greece. Apollonides of Cos, practiced at the court of the elder Artaxerxes. Euryphon, of Cnidos, in consultation with Hippocrates, attended Perdiccas, son of Alexander, king of Macedon.+ Euryximachus is introduced by Plato, among the friends of Socrates, as one of the wits and men of learning of his time; and at the banquet is made to descant upon the doctrines of his 'profession, to enforce the virtue of temperance in the use of wine, and, at table, to prescribe for the sudden illness of Aristophanes. Again, we learn from Xenophon,§. that by the laws of Lycurgus, the Lacedæmonian physicians were 'obliged to accompany the army, to associate with the officers, sooth-sayers, and musicians; and, to be at the immediate service of the king on the battlefield. Xenophon himself, in the memorable expedition into Persia, was accompanied by Ctesias of Cnidos, who, on the defeat of the younger Cyrus, was taken prisoner, and who subsequently rose to great distinction as physician to the court of Persia; and more so as the historian of that country. In fur
* Le Clerc, Histoire de la Medecine. Lib. ii. chap. 7, from Ctesias. Soranus, in his Life of Hippocrates. See Kuhn's Hippocrates, vol. iii.
See the Protagoras and Banquet of Plato, Bohn's edition, vol. ii. p. 244, and vol. iii. p. 482-500.
§ Lacedæmonian Republic, chapter xiii. See also, Memoir of Socrates, book i. chapter ii., N. Y. edition, p. 527-8.