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of a physician was, we are not informed, but we may be sure, that unless these lawless soldiers were restrained by personal fears or superstition, they would think as little of putting their medical attendant to death, as of hanging a cat. Indeed, we have an historical illustration of it. In the year 565, the Queen of Burgundy died of the plague, as most people did at that time. Her most Christian Majesty, to exhibit her perfect acquaintance with the Gospel of the forgiveness of injuries, asked her husband, King Guntrum, as her dying request, to put her physician to death, for not being sufficiently attentive to her. This pious wish the royal widower punctually fulfilled, after the obsequies of the deceased queen had been performed according to the ritual of the Christian Church.'
We cannot more effectually delineate the state of medicine at this period, than by quoting one of the laws by which its practice was restrained, and which were in general force over Europe till the eleventh century. "If a physician injure a nobleman by blood-letting, he shall pay a fine of a hundred solidos; but if the nobleman die after the operation, the physician shall be given up to his relatives, to do with him what they please!" They might impale, flay, or crucify him, without a word of remonstrance from public law or opinion. From this point there can be no further descent for medicine in the social scale; and before we proceed to inquire into the technical development of the art at this period, we may repeat the observation forced upon our attention in every page of history, that the feudal system was essentially the power of the sword, as opposed to the power of the law; and it is, we may add, the prolongation of this antiquated and unchristian institution into modern civilization, which has displaced the medical art
1 Gregory of Tours. Quoted by Sprengel, Vol. II., p. 274.
2 Lindenbrog, Col. Legg. Antiq.
Wisogoth, lit. 1., p. 204.
from the lofty position it held among the refined Athenians, who considered it a disgrace to be seen with weapons on their persons, except on a field of battle.
If we confine the term technical in medicine, to the administration of medicine, the whole of the period we are now surveying is represented by one nameDIOSCORIDES. What Galen was to the art as a whole, to its theories and practice, Dioscorides was to its Materia Medica. For more than fifteen hundred years his was the only work upon the subject held as an authority; and Dioscorides was no less slavishly copied in his department, than was Galen servilely obeyed in the other branches of the art of medicine. It was the fashion to find everything in Dioscorides. It was a firm belief, as late as the sixteenth century, that not a plant grew in Germany, France, or England, which had not been described by Dioscorides. Even when potatoes were introduced into Europe, the learned found no difficulty in discovering them in Dioscorides. Dioscorides is supposed to have lived in the first century of the Christian era. He was a Cilician by birth, and wrote in corrupt Greek, which had this great advantage over a pure idiom, that it was impossible to fix with certainty the exact meaning of many phrases. This gives a latitude to the interpretation without which the book would have been deficient in the requisite elasticity. The ambiguity of the language was improved by rude delineations of the plants described; and between the two, we can easily understand that there could be no possible difficulty in recognizing the likeness of the potato, tea, tobacco, coffee, or any other plant, from the hyssop of the wall to the cedar of Lebanon. The book is in the form of a dictionary, arranged according to the order of the Greek alphabet; and, under the initial letter, we have first the different names of the plant, then a description of its appearance, and lastly, its medicinal uses. In the last
division, there is a specification of its "qualities," as hot or cold, and its appropriateness, accordingly, for cold or hot disorders. For example, the article Iris consists of a list of synonyms, next a description of the sword-like leaf, the variegated flower from which it derives its name, the root and other parts of the plant; then follow directions for its use, derived from its being of a warming character, and therefore fitted to relieve coughs and to attenuate humours difficult to get rid of.1
The characteristic features of the Therapeutics of these fifteen centuries were these: medicines were selected in accordance with purely arbitrary assumptions of their being in their nature either hot or cold, or moist or dry, and the confidence in a composition was, for the most part, in direct ratio to the number, variety, and what we may call, the out-of-the-wayness of its ingredients. The more difficult any substance was to get, the more good it was sure to do. Like barbaric kings, the trust of physicians was in the multitude of their forces, however motley, confused, and unknown. One of the most favourite of their preparations, which went by the name of Theriacum, was composed of the following substances :-Squills, hedychroum, cinnamon, common pepper, juice of poppies, dried roses, water-germander, rape seed, Illyrian iris, agaric, liquorice, opobalsam, myrrh, saffron, ginger, rhaponticum, cinquefoil, calamint, horehound, stone-parsley, cassidony costus, white and long pepper, dittany, flowers of sweet rush, male frankincense, turpentine, mastich, black cassia, spikenard, flowers of poley, storax, parsley seed, seseli, shepherd's pouch, bishop's weed, germander, ground pine, juice of hypocistis, Indian leaf, Celtic nard, spignel, gentian, anise, fennel-seed, Lemnian earth, roasted chalcitis, amomum, sweet flag, balsamum, Pontic valeriam, St. John's wort, acacia, gum, cardamom, carrot seed, galbanum, saga
1 Pedaccii Dioscorida Anazarbei de Materia Medicâ, Lib. V. Colon. 1529.
pen bitumen, oposonax, castor, centaury, clematis, Attic honey, and Falernian wine. Sixty-six ingredients composed this mixture, and with the exception of the last, we may safely affirm that the physicians who prescribed it, were entirely ignorant of the effects of any one of them, either taken by those in health, or given to the sick. The reputed virtues of this compound were commensurate with its multifariousness.
1st. It was to be taken twice a-day for seven years, by those bitten by venomous animals, or who had taken poison.
2nd. It was to be taken by people in a dangerous state from some obscure cause resembling poisoning.
3rd. For coughs and pains in the chest.
4th. In Hæmoptysis.
5th. For flatulence, tormina, and celiac affections.
6th. It removes rigors, coldness, and vomiting of bile. 7th. It promotes menstruation.
8th. For loss of voice.
9th. For diseases of the liver.
10th. For diseases of the spleen.
11th. For cancerous affections of these organs.
12th. For nephritic complaints.
13th. For dysenteric attacks.
14th. For dimness of vision.
15th. It is also used as a dentifrice, and many take it at new moon after digestion, for the sake of prophylaxis.'
This is a fair specimen of the compound remedies in ordinary use at the time of which we speak; and in proportion as physicians confided in these, did they distrust the simple powerful substances which may be said to form the staple of the medicine of to-day. Of mercury, a substance as important in the practice of modern medicine as gunpowder in modern warfare, and as destructive, Paulus
1 Paul. Ægin. Vol. III., p. 511.
Ægineta says, that "when swallowed, it brings on the same symptoms as litharge, and the same remedies are to be used in this case. Avicenna says, that "Mercury which has been killed (that is, oxidated) or sublimated, (that is to say, attenuated,) produces grave symptoms, such as pain of the bowels, bloody flux, and so forth."2
We may sum up the history of this period in a few words it took its Psychology, Physiology, and Anatomy, from Aristotle as represented by Galen and Avicenna, its theories of the practice of physic from Galen, and its Materia Medica from Dioscorides.
Let us remember that this is orthodox medicine. This is the only system which can put forward a claim to be tried by the great rule of Catholic faith, "Quod semper, quod ubique, et quod ab omnibus traditum est.” It was semper,
that is, it endured for fifteen hundred years; it was ubique, it extended from the wall of China to the western shores of Spain; it was ab omnibus traditum, in so far, that where the greatest of Galen's successors ventures in the mildest way to differ on the most insignificant point from the sovereigns of medicine, this difference is picked out by modern historians as a feat of heroic independence; was, besides, the system of legal authority in the Roman provinces, any controversion of it entailing most serious penalties. The systems which have sprung up since are of mushroom growth. Not one of them has had the slightest pretension to any one of the three requisites of Catholic orthodoxy. So far from having been always believed in, a new one has displaced its predecessor before the latter had obtained the prescriptive right of a generation of believers, and this new one has had to give way to its successor, after even a shorter reign. As for the ubique, that generally meant one school, or at the most, one country,--never the whole civilized world; and the term omnibus is more 2 Ibid., Lib. IV., p. 112.
1 Paulus Ægineta, Vol. II., p. 238.