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that of Hippocrates from Esculapius. The belief entertained by his contemporaries in the pedigree of Hippocrates is an important fact in medicine, a fact which we cannot justly appreciate without tracing his genealogy into the mythical period of Greek history. Indeed, we must survey this region if we wish to arrive at a correct opinion of the estimation in which the art of medicine and its practitioners were held among the Greeks.
We have already spoken of Arcadia, the land of Arkas. In this romantic district, the Switzerland of Greece, stands Mount Pelion, now described by an eye-witness as "beautifully variegated, with groves and gardens, and glittering with towns and villages; 2 but in ancient times a desolate region, full of caves and impenetrable thickets. Here lived Chiron "the wide-ruling offspring of Cronos, the son of Uranos," "the wild centaur who ruled in the glens of Pelion," who "bred Asclepios (Esculapius) the gentle artificer of freedom-from-pain, that strengthens the limbs, the demi-god that wards off diseases."4 So sings Pindar in the third Pythian ode, and then goes on to tell the same tale we quoted from Grote apropos of Arkas, of the birth of Esculapius: how he was the son of the nymph Coronis and Apollo; how both mother and child had very nearly been sacrificed to the vengeance of the gods, and how Apollo snatched the infant from the funeral pile and carried it off to this remote and secure cave, the retreat of Chiron, "the justest of all the Centaurs," 5 that he might learn to cure the manifold diseases that afflict mortals. "So he rescued those who sought his abode, some
1 Grote, Op. cit. Vol. I. p. 599.
2 Dodwell's Classical Travels, Vol. II. p. 87.
3 Hesiod. This Cronos was the youngest son of Earth and Heaven, who in their turn sprang from Chaos : Earth was the firstborn, "the secure seat of all the immortals, and Earth
bare like herself (in size) starry Heaven, that he might shelter her around on all sides, and so she might be a secure seat for the blessed gods." -Theogony, translated by Banks, pp. 7, 8.
Homer. Iliad, Book XI. line 831. 5 Pindar.
from sores of spontaneous origin, some from wounds inflicted either by the gleaming brass, or the far-hurled stone, some whose frames were wasted by the summer's fire or winter's cold. The gentle charm gave relief to some; to others he administered the soothing potions, or round their limbs he bound the plaister made from herbs; while others again, he restored to health by cutting off the limb." But he carried his skill too far, and had the imprudence to restore a dead man to life, for which he was slain by one of the gods.' We venture to affirm that the disciples of Esculapius have, by this time, amply retrieved this act of impiety, and left a handsome balance in favour of Pluto.
Esculapius was worshipped with great solemnity in various parts of Greece, such as Trikka, Cos, Cnidos, and especially at Epidaurus. In these places magnificent temples were erected to his honour, surrounded by sacred groves, and hung round with the offerings of those who had been rescued from death or suffering by his power. The remains of some of these temples are still extant.2
Although Esculapius is probably as mere a fiction of the Greek imagination as Jupiter or Neptune, yet the fact of his having two regularly-born sons at the siege of Troy, gives to him a certain air of flesh and blood reality. Not that there is any better evidence of the actual existence either of the father Esculapius, or of his sons, Machaon and Podalirius, than there is of the fabulous inhabitants of Olympus; but the genius of Homer has given so marked and interesting an individuality to his heroes, and has secured
Pindar gives, as the reason of Esculapius' restoration of a dead man, that he was tempted by the offer of a large reward. Upon this the great German critic, professor Boeckh, of Berlin, observes, "Mercede id captum Esculapium fecisse recentior est fictio; Pindari fortasse ipsius, quem tragici secuti sunt: haud dubie a medicorum
avaris moribus profecta qui Græcorum Medicis nostrisque communes sunt." This is a very sweeping charge against the medical profession, both ancient and modern. Has it any better basis of actual fact than the story of Chiron, the Centaur? I believe not.
2 Dodwell's Travels, Vol. II. p. 257. Clark's Travels, Vol. III. p. 620.
for them so permanent and positive a place in civilized tradition, that, in the teeth of the most satisfactory critical demonstration to the contrary, we cling to the old belief that Achilles, and Hector, and Troy, and the divine Scamander, were just as real as Pompey and Cæsar of Rome and the Tiber. These legends have become facts to us, because they were facts to the Greeks. And when we adduce Homer as evidence for the status and achievements of these sons of Esculapius, we are giving the best possible proof, if not of the facts themselves, at least of the universal belief in them as such, during the long period of the acceptance of the Homeric testament. Indeed it may be questioned whether, in those seminaries where classic learning is most exclusively cultivated, Homer does not exercise as powerful an influence upon the faith and feelings of the students, as the Scriptures from which they profess to derive their rules of this life, and hopes beyond it.1
The first introduction of these two sons of Esculapius occurs in the second book of the Iliad. They are represented in the account of the marshalling of the clans as the leaders or chieftains of the people of Trikka, a district in the north-west of Thessaly.
"All who in Trikka dwelt, and in Echalia, the city
Of Eurytus the Echalian, and many-knoll'd Ithone;
And thirty smoothly-hollow'd ships were ranged beneath their guidance." Thus it appears that the first military surgeons mentioned in Greek history are ranked by Homer among the great leaders in right of their birth and influence. That his skill in medicine did not prevent this son of Esculapius from fighting bravely at the head of his clan, appears from the passage in the fourth book, which describes how
1 See Gladstone's Homer.
2 Homer's Iliad, faithfully translated into unrhymed English Meter, by F.
W. Newman. 1856. Book II. lines 729 to 734.
Meneläus, the brother of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, was wounded by an arrow from the bow of Alexander, in execution of a plot contrived by the gods who sided with the Trojans. Agamemnon is in a dreadful state of alarm and distress when he sees his brother carried off the field, and bitterly reproaches himself for having placed him in a post of so much danger, and then he turns to the divine herald, Talthybius, and thus addresses him :
At whom some skilful archer-hand hath aim'd an arrow truly.
Glory to him, but woe to us,
Or Lycian or Troian."
He spake; nor disobedient
The herald heard his bidding,
Peering to see Machaon's form,
And soon espied the hero
Standing and all around were pour'd the shielded stout battalions
Of men, who with him companied from courser-feeding Trikka.
There near before his face he stood,
And winged accents utter'd:
"Rise! son of Esculapius!
King Agamemnon calleth,
Quick must thou visit Atreus' son,
The warlike Menelaus,
At whom some skilful archer-hand hath aim'd an arrow truly.
Glory to him, but woe to us,
Or Lycian, or Troian."
He spake, and strongly did bestir the hero's heart within him.
Achaia's ample army
There is an ambiguity about the word here rendered "unblemished." Sometimes it means that there was no use made of impure magic, while at other times it is used in the sense of
refined and accomplished. Perhaps in the modern language of chivalry it would have been rendered " sans reproche."
Amid the crowd. But when they came where auburn Meneläus
Was wounded, and in circle thick
Around him all the noblest
Were gather'd, and midst of them
The godlike man was standing;
First would Machaon pull the shaft
From the well-fitting girdle,
But that the pointed barbs were snapt and tangled as he drew it.
The sash, and baldric underneath,
Which smiths of copper labour'd.
But when he saw the wound, wherein lighted the stinging arrow,
He suck'd from it the blood, and spread within it mild assuagements,
That Machaon, the son of Esculapius, this knight “sans reproche" was also "sans peur" seems plain, from a passage in the eleventh book of the Iliad, in which this mighty man of war, as well as medicine, is represented as staying the advance of Hector himself, and rallying the Greeks in their extremity; and he requires to be disabled by an arrow from the bow of the skulking Alexander, who always plays the mean and shabby parts, shooting down heroes from behind rocks, and running away from a personal encounter. Alexander plants a triple-barbed arrow in Machaon's right shoulder, and effectually cripples the hero of Trikka. When the valorous Achaians saw their defender from Hector and their healer of wounds in this sorrowful plight, they were sore afraid lest the tide of battle should roll back, and their brave champion and shepherd of the people should be overtaken and slain so Idomeneus called out to godlike Nestor, who could be ill-spared at such a moment,
"O Nestor, Neleus' progeny, great glory of the Achaians,
Surely a sage chirurgeon, skilful to cut out arrows,
And overspread assuagements soft, hath many fighters' value.”1
Nestor did as he was requested, and bore away to the These are all the
Greek camp the wounded Machaon.
1 Op. cit. Book IV. lines 194 to 219.