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Adam a Physician-Darius and Democêdes-Cure of Telephus-Value of Pedigree-Esculapius and his Sons-Surgeons at the Siege of Troy-How Germans Acted-Rome versus Greece-The Wise Men-Philosophers and Atheists.
THANKS to the labours of the great modern historians, the idea of progress has now become an essential element in the very conception of history. Any period, however long it may have lasted, in which no progress was made, is beyond the pale of historical investigation. Like Chaos,
as described by Milton, it is
Illimitable ocean without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, and light,
And time, and place, are lost. ***
The womb of nature, and perhaps her grave." 2
Medicine, regarded as an art, remained in this chaotic
1 From a statue in the Louvre.
2 Paradise Lost, Book II.
condition till the dawn of the Grecian era. Le Clerk,' indeed, carries us back as far as the time of Adam, the title of his fourth chapter being "Le premier Homme a été, en certain sens, le premier Médicin." * That Adam,
when ill or hurt, employed such appliances to relieve himself as his instinct or reason suggested, may be admitted; but in this he did not differ from a dog which, when sick, eats grass; and we might just as well claim the title of Doctor for "Cæsar" or "Dash," as for our great progenitor.
Even among the Egyptians, the most civilized nation of remote antiquity, the art of medicine seems to have been kept in a state of restraint so abject, as effectually to prevent its progress. Egypt, in its very youth, seems to have had all the rigidity of old age, and where everything was regulated by stringent and severe rules, medicine was not exempted from the stiffening process. "Doctors received their salaries from the treasury; but they were obliged to conform in the treatment of a patient to the rules laid down in their books, his death being a capital crime, if he was found to have been treated in any other way." So says Herodotus. How this system worked is best illustrated by a fact related by the same unexceptionable authority. The following occurrence took place after medicine had existed as a state-art for at least five hundred years. "It happened that King Darius, as he leaped from his horse, sprained his foot. The sprain was one of no common severity, for the ancle-bone was forced out of the socket." In fact, it was a dislocation. "Now Darius had already at his court certain Egyptians, whom he reckoned. the best skilled physicians in all the world; to their aid,
1 Histoire de la Medicine, par Daniel Le Clerk, Amsterdam, 1723. This is considered by the most competent authorities a very learned and trustworthy history of the period to which it refers.
? The History of Herodotus. A new
English version, edited, with copious
therefore, he had recourse; but they twisted the foot so clumsily and used such violence, that they only made the mischief greater. For seven days and seven nights the King lay without sleep, so grievous was the pain he suffered. On the eighth day of his indisposition, one who had heard, before leaving Sardis, of the skill of Democêdes, the Crotonian, told Darius, who commanded that he should be brought with all speed into his presence. When, therefore, they had found him among the slaves of Crates, quite uncared for by any one, they brought him just as he was, clanking his fetters, and all clothed in rags, before the King. As soon as he was entered into the presence, Darius asked him if he knew medicine, to which he answered 'No,' for he feared that if he made himself known he would lose all chance of again beholding Greece. Darius, however, perceiving that he dealt deceitfully, and really understood the art, bade those who had brought him to the presence-go fetch the scourges and pricking irons (or blinding irons to put out his eyes). Upon this Democêdes made confessions, but at the same time said he had no thorough knowledge of medicine-he had but lived some time with a physician, and in this way had gained a slight smattering of the art. However, Darius put himself under his care, and Democêdes, by using the remedies customary among the Greeks, and exchanging the violent treatment of the Egyptians for milder means, first enabled him to get some sleep, and then in a very little time restored him altogether, after he had quite lost the hope of ever having the use of his foot." What a picture of the triumph of Greek intellect, in the person of a ragged slave, over Egyptian stolidity, patronised by the greatest monarch of his age, surrounded by all the pomp and terror of absolute power!
Without further comment we leave the pre-historic fossil 1 Op. cit. Vol. II. pp. 515, 516.
age, separated as it is by a vast chasm from the living present; for the old notion that the Greeks derived their legendary lore from Egypt-and it is with Greek legends we must begin our inquiry-is now well-nigh exploded; indeed, it is no less revolting to reason to ascribe to Egyptian thought the parentage of Grecian science, than it is to taste to imagine such a figure as the bright, airy, and curvilinear Apollo to have been born and bred in the land of pyramids and mummies. As Egypt was the land of rigidity and death, so Greece was the land of liberty and life. The living force there embodied itself in heroic songs and deeds during remotest ages, and afterwards took the form of philosophy and political organization; and when its original native development had been broken up by internal divisions and the rude strength of Rome, it still continued to act upon the course of the world's history, modifying all its important changes, even Christianity itself, and powerfully affecting the thought, feeling, and action, of all European civilized communities down to the present hour. Indeed, the characteristic peculiarity of this force is its continuity; and to comprehend its operation upon any part of medicine we must trace it from its source. That source is in the high table-land of legend, a land enveloped in impenetrable mist, a land of unrealities, but of infinite significance, because of real belief to the Greeks. This is the conclusion at which modern history has at length arrived; that what is of importance to determine is, not whether the beautiful tales of enterprise and adventure which constitute the mythology of Greece have any basis of actual events-an inquiry impossible to prosecute with any success-but which of these stories the Greeks believed, and how their faith in their legends affected their character and history. The function of science in this matter is to estimate and analyze the belief itself, not the thing believed in. The absurdity of attempting the
latter is well illustrated by the following example taken from the province of medicine:-"Some," says Pliny,
suppose that Achilles cured Telephus by the plant called Achilea, others think that it was by verdigris, which is much employed in plaisters; and for this reason they add that Achilles is painted scraping the verdigris off the point of the spear into the wound of Telephus." Of the fact of the cure of Telephus by Achilles, Pliny expresses no doubt. Now who was Telephus ? He was the grandson of Apheidas, king of Tegea, who was the son of Arkas, of that ilk,—that is, of Arcadia. And who was Arkas? "The beautiful Callisto, companion of Artemis (Diana) in the chase, had bound herself by a vow of chastity; Zeus (Jupiter), either by persuasion or by force, obtained a violation of the vow, to the grievous displeasure both of Héré (Juno) and Artemis. The former changed Callisto into a bear, the latter, when she was in that shape, killed her with an arrow. Zeus gave to the unfortunate Callisto a place among the stars, as the constellation of the bear: he also preserved the child Arkas, and gave it to the Atlantid nymph Mena to bring up.' What should we think of an astronomer incorporating this story in a treatise upon the constellations, as if it were an observation of an eclipse? Yet this tale of Arkas rests upon the same evidence as the cure of his great-grandson by Achilles.
Such attempts at interpretation of alleged facts in a purely fictitious story, are worse than a waste of time and labour, for they give an air of reality to what is in itself nothing. As well might a botanist, writing two thousand years hence upon the leguminous plants, attempt to account. scientifically for there once having existed a bean of enormous size, and give a learned refutation of all possible objections to its prodigious growth, and to its having been
1 Pliny, Book XXV. Chap. 5.
2 Grote's History of Greece, Vol. I. pp. 241, 242.