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Letter of Diocles—The Rude School— Christ's Miraculous Cures, Christianity
and Medicine—Medical Practice in Rome-Ghost Story from Pliny — Asclepiades' Homeopathy-His Travels—Pneuma again—The Pulse-Contraria contrariis curantur,
In medicine, as in politics, the defects of a system or theory may be so effectually concealed by a first-rate administrator, as to escape detection, so long as such an one is at the helm ; but when the vessel is made over to less-competent successors, then the flaws become manifest.
The physicians who succeeded the great Hippocrates furnish a striking illustration of this general remark. One of the first and most celebrated of these was Diocles, who lived between three and four hundred years before the Christian era. There exists a letter which he wrote to Antigonus, the general, who, on the death of Alexander the Great, became master of the greater part of Asia Minor. The date of this epistle is probably about the year 312 B.C., and it is headed_“On the Preservation of Health." The following extracts will show what his notions upon Pathology and Therapeutics were :-“We divide the human body into four
· Ex vetůssimo codice Dioscoridiano Bibliothecæ Cæs.: Vindob.: from a work entitled, “Veterum illustrium philosophum, poetarum, rhetorum et oratorum
imagines ex vetustis nummis, gemmis," &c. Desumptæ a P. Bellario, &c. Romæ. 1685.
parts. When a disease is about to fix in the head, it is usually announced beforehand by a vertigo, pain in the head, heaviness in the eyebrows, noise in the ears, and throbbing of the temples ; the eyes water in the morning, attended with dimness of sight ; the sense of smell is lost, and the gums become swelled. When any such symptoms occur, the head ought to be purged; not, indeed, by any strong medicine, but, taking the tops of hyssop and sweetmarjoram, pound them and boil them in a pot with half a hemina of must or rob; rince the mouth with this in the morning before eating, and evacuate the humours by gargling." Quite Hippocratic !--evacuate the humours out of the head, where they are doing mischief, by gargling with marjoram tea! “ The head also should be warm, by covering it in such a manner as that the phlegm may be readily discharged. Those who neglect these symptoms are apt to be seized with the following disorders :-Inflammations of the eyes, cataracts, pain of the ears as from a fracture, strumous affections of the neck, sphacelus of the brain, catarrh, quinsey, running ulcers called achores, caries, enlargement of the uvula, defluction of the hairs, ulceration of the head, pain in the teeth. When some disease is about to fall upon the chest, it is usually announced by some of the following symptoms :—there are profuse sweats over the whole body, and particularly about the chest,, the tongue is rough, expectoration bitter or bilious, pain suddenly seizing the sides or shoulder-blades, frequent yawning, watchfulness, oppressed respiration, thirst after sleep, despondency of mind, coldness of the breast and arms, trembling of the hands. These symptoms may be relieved in
LETTER OF DIOCLES.
the following manner :-Procure vomiting after a moderate meal without medicine ; vomiting also when the stomach is empty will answer well ;—to produce which, first swallow some small radishes, cresses, rocket, mustard and purslain, and then, by drinking warm water, procure vomiting. Upon those who neglect these symptoms the following diseases are apt to supervene :-pleurisy, peripneumonia, melancholy, acute fevers, frenzy, lethargy, ardent fevers, attended with hiccough.” When we read this singular
' document, we can scarcely believe that it was written by a man whose reputation endured for four hundred years. Galen mentions Diocles, along with his idol Hippocrates, as the greatest of medical authorities. Coelius Aurelianus ? quotes him more frequently than he does Hippocrates ; and in giving an account of the opinions, he generally places the two names in immediate conjunction. In regard to the authenticity of the letter, Dr. Adams says, “ All we shall say on this point is, that the evidence against the authority of this epistle appears to us to be very inconclusive.” .
When Greece fell into subjection under Philip and Alexander, Mind went into exile; and its first asylum was the city of the latter conqueror. Alexandria had a civilization quite different from that of Athens. When the sun sinks in the desert, there is at first total darkness; after a brief interval, a pale light shimmers over its surface before night comes on: this strange appearance is called the after-glow. Alexandria was the after-glow of Athens. Literature and science were cultivated under patronage, and produced corresponding fruits, rich and corrupt. The Ptolemies were the first of
· Paul. Ægineta, Book i., Sect. C. neta, translated from the Greek, with
2 Caelii Aureliani, Siccensis, medici a Commentary embracing a complete vetusti, secta Methodici, de Morbis View of the Knowledge possessed by Acutis et Chronicis. Lib. VIII. Soli the Greeks, Romans, and Arabians, on ex omnibus methodicorum scriptis su- all Subjects connected with Medicine perstites. J. Conradus Amman, M.D. and Surgery. G. Fran. Adams. Vol. I. Amsterdam, 1709.
3 The Seven Books of Paulus Ægi
royal patrons. They formed libraries and museums, and collected men of learning; they did all they could to increase knowledge ; and had it been possible to rear philosophers as prize-cattle are bred, Alexandria would have been unrivalled. Here, for the first time, those addicted to literature lived in clover; they were fed and lodged out of the royal exchequer; they were treated like silk-worms, and they spun their cocoons. They were great in criticism and burlesque, but the spirit was either dead or corrupt. Medicine took to the prosecution of anatomy. Herophilus and Erasistratus are spoken of by Galen and Celsus as possessing a more accurate knowledge of the human frame than any physicians that lived before their time. It was thus acquired : “They procured criminals out of prison by royal permission, and, dissecting them alive, contemplated, while they were yet breathing, the parts which nature had before concealed—examining their position, colour, figure, size, order, hardness, softness, smoothness, and roughness. In short, they dissected living men,-criminals, perhaps, in the eye of the law, or a lawless tyrant, but probably political offenders, and at all events men of like feeling with themselves. Tertullian? says of one of these
2 celebrated anatomists, that "in order to know men he hated them”-a very devilish initiation! Celsus reports the practice, without reprobation, “as being considered far the best method."
The natural result of this brutal proceeding, combined with an entire laxity of morals and excessive voluptuousness, was the utter degradation of the art and practitioners of medicine. Indeed, how could men who had been taught to look upon a human being undergoing the agonies of various prolonged surgical operations, for the amusement or instruction of the operator, be very much concerned about the fate of their patients—so long as they were paid. I Celsus. Pref. p. 7.
scrutaretur, qui hominem odit ut nos2 “ Herophilus ille, medicus aut la- set.”—Tertullian de Anima, c. 10. nius, qui sexcentos exsecuit ut naturam Quoted by Sprengel.
71 And we find a characteristic reply of one of the most distinguished physicians of this school put upon record. He was asked by a man whom he was attending, if there was any hope. He quoted the answer of Achilles to Lycaon, who had piteously touched the knees of the ferocious hero, and implored him to spare his life :
“Die also thou ! why thus to wailing yield thee ?
Dead also is Patroclus, who than thee was greatly better.” This answer was given by Kalianax, who may be looked upon as the founder of the “rude school -a school which has had several most successful disciples in England, and is far from extinct there now.?
In Alexandria, at this period, was introduced the distinction between Physicians and Surgeons. The practice of the latter, if it included lithotomy, was sometimes of rather an equivocal character, although highly remunerative. For when, in 144 B.C., Tryphon aspired to the throne which, two years previously, he had secured for Antiochus VI., he was induced to consult a celebrated lithotomist, who, under the pretext of giving him relief, contrived to operate so dexterously as to make a vacancy in the succession."
We are now coming in sight of that great event from which human history takes a fresh departure. Christianity at first must have acted injuriously upon medicine. The divine Founder of our Faith appeared not only in the character of a preacher, or prophet, but very conspicuously in that of a Healer, or, in fact, of a MEDICAL MAN,use the expression with all reverence. One of his appellations, that of Saviour, is translated into German, by the word Heiland, or Healer ; and to the common eye of the time, his work was the curing of the sick. Most of the deeds recorded of Him in the Gospels, were instances of 1 Homer's Iliad, Book XXI.
tedious, to desire them “to put out ? A professor of the practice of their tongues !" physic in a northern university teaches 3 Liv. Lib. 55. his students, when they find patients