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and pangs, it ended in the birth of modern Europe-the Hercules of these days, or rather the Vulcan, who, with his incessant steam-hammer, goes on his irresistible path of conquest, subduing the whole earth and binding it in iron fetters.
Of the multitude of complex forces which resulted in modern art and science, there were four which especially affected medicine:
1st. The Church.
2nd. The prolongation of the Roman Empire.
3rd. The Arabian or Mahommedan conquests.
4th. The rise and growth of the great northern Powers. I. By the word Church, we understand not only a new form of thought and emotion, but a political organization of enormous power. It presents itself to us in several aspects, in some of which it aided, while in others it impeded, the legitimate and healthy development of medicine. We have already adverted, in the preceding chapter, to the inconveniences which a physician must have experienced when living and practising in an age of miracles. So far from abating after the times of the original apostles, this evil increased with the diffusion of Christianity to an enormous extent. We cannot see that it is such an easy thing as some would make it, to decide, at this distance, between true and false miracles. For example, what shall we make of the following? "About this time two great miracles were wrought at Hippo, in the presence of St. Augustin, in the persons of a brother and sister, named Paula and Pallida, natives of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, who were afflicted with excessive trembling in all their limbs. After long wanderings, which had spread the report of their misery in various places, they came at last to Hippo, about fifteen days before Easter, and as is supposed in the year 425. They daily visited the church, and in the place where St. Stephen's relics (some blood and bones) had been deposited, which had been brought there about a year
before. These two unhappy creatures drew the eyes of all upon them wherever they went; and those who had seen them in other places, and knew the cause of their tremors (a mother's curse), related it to others. On the morning of Easter Sunday, a considerable number of people being already assembled in the church, Paula was praying before the place where the relics had been deposited, and holding the rails which surrounded it; when, on a sudden, he lay down on the ground, and so remained as if asleep, but without trembling, as he had been used to do even in his sleep. The spectators were astonished; some were seized with fear, others with sorrow (thinking him dead), some wished to raise him, but others prevented them, and said they ought rather to stay and see the event. Paula rose
up, returned the gaze of those who were looking at him, no longer trembling, and perfectly healed; upon which the whole congregation began to praise God, and filled the church with shouts of joy."
What are we to make of this?
Here was a cure
of shaking palsy effected in the presence of a number of persons, and authenticated by an eye-witness, St. Augustin, who delivered a sermon on the occasion,
which is still extant, and who was
one of the most
There is nothing
learned and influential men of his day. incredible to us in a nervous trembling being cured by a powerful influence on the mind of the sufferer. Certainly, at the time, with the established facts of miracles recently preached as a part of Christianity, it would have been the height of presumption for any Christian physician to have treated such a statement as a popular superstition. In that age it would have been simply impossible for him to have done so. This is a fair sample of the kind of competition to which the successors of Hippocrates and Galen were exposed.
1 Fleury's Ecclesiast. History, Vol. XXIV. Book iv.
But the fourth century was but the evening of the dark ages; and as the night advanced, miracles of this kind, wrought by bones of saints, increased in proportion as the number of priests, whose cupidity was insatiable, multiplied, and as the superstition and credulity of the multitude grew greater. Against such a tide it would have been in vain, even for the learned, sagacious, and eloquent Greek fathers of medicine, to have contended with the faintest hope of success; and when, instead of these great masters of art, there were none but their degenerate successors, whose ignorance' and presumption had become a bye-word, we may imagine the hopeless plight into which physic had fallen. While a belief in miracles injured medicine by displacing the practitioners of the art from their legitimate sphere of human activity, the introduction of cabalistic signs, amulets, and charms, acted still more perniciously, by inoculating the art with a vicious element which corrupted its very essence. The fundamental idea of medicine is, that there exists a constant and natural relation between curative substances and curable maladies. A knowledge of this relationship is supposed to be arrived at by experiment and observation. For example, suppose a person to be affected with an ague, it is an ascertained fact that certain drugs will cure it. The belief in this fact rests on the assumption that the remedy possesses both constant and ascertainable properties. But if instead of being a constant quantity, it were to become endowed with a new set of powers by having certain words pronounced over it, or by being prepared on a special day of the week, or during some particular phase of the moon; then it would be manifestly impossible to discover how much of the subsequent effect, that is, of the cure of the ague, was due to
1 "The ignorance of the Greeks, now most notorious"-"Notissimam nunc Grecorum ignorantiam" are the
words of Petrarch.-Rerum Similium, Lib. V. Epist. 7, p. 805. Edit. Basil.
the remedy in its natural state, and how much to the method of its preparation. Suppose one grain of sulphate of quinine, along with nine cabalistic letters, was the recognized cure of a fever, how is it possible we could tell the effect of a similar dose without the addition of this mysterious and incalculable ingredient?
The belief in the efficacy of charms in giving power even to inert remedies, was almost universal during the whole of the first fifteen centuries of the Christian era. Galen, although he bravely opposed this degrading superstition, was himself not altogether free of it; for he says, "I once knew a boy who was never seized with epilepsy after he carried a large piece of fresh peony appended from his neck."1 And one of the most distinguished physicians of his age, Alexander of Tralles, gives minute details in regard to the use of amulets. Yet this Alexander is spoken of by Sprengel,2 as a practitioner who displayed more practical insight than any of the other later Greek physicians. He had the advantage, too, of belonging to a family distinguished for its ability and cultivation, being one of four brothers, all of whom have acquired a place in universal history,-the two elder, as physicians; the two younger, the one as a lawyer, the other as an orator and engineer. Besides, he was a man of travel, and of general attainment in literature and science. This great and learned physician, who lived in the fifth century, recommends as one of the most efficacious remedies for epilepsy, "the nail taken from the arm of a malefactor who had been crucified."4 For the cure of colic, he recommends "the use of a stone on which the figure of Hercules killing a Lion is engraved ; besides a verse of Homer and a gold plate, on which certain Greek words of no meaning were to be written, when the moon was waning.
1 Paulus Ægineta. Vol. I. p. 379.
2 Sprengel. Vol. II. p. 288.
3 Gibbon. Vol. VII. p. 114.
4 Paulus Ægineta. Vol. I. p. 381.
5 Sprengel. Vol. II. p. 297.
As a cure for the gout, the remedy was a plant over which the following words were to be pronounced :
"Jao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloi."
He prescribes for a quotidian ague, an amulet consisting of an olive leaf, on which were written in ink the following letters:
"KA. POJ. A."
Such being the practice of one of the foremost men of his age, and that not by any means the worst age, we might almost leave to the imagination the proceedings of the ignorant and vulgar practitioners of medicine.
Facts, however, here as elsewhere, exceed the powers of fiction to invent. For example, when a man got a splinter in his eye, he was to lay his hand on the injured organ, and repeat three times, "Tetuno resonco bregan gresso," and after each time to spit on the ground. If a bone stuck in a person's throat three times, nine times "Os gorgonis basio" was to be repeated, and then the bone was to be plucked out. To cure a stye on the eyelids, the points of nine barleycorns were to be rubbed upon the part, and on each application the words "Fuge, fuge, krithe se diokei," were to be ejaculated. When the stye was on the right eye, it was to be rubbed with the three fingers of the left hand; three times the patient was to spit, and three times he was to utter "Nec mula parit, nec lapis lanam fert: nec huic morbo caput crescat, aut si creveret tabescat." For the cure of enlarged uvula, a grape was to be given, with the following sentence thrice uttered, “ Uva uvam emendat.” As an efficacious cure of the colic, a gold plate was to be worn, with the following characters inscribed upon it :—