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GALEN AND GREEK MEDICINE
I have long since finished, divine Cæsar, the abridgement of the books of Galen, which you charged me to make, during our residence in the nearer Gaul. You deigned to express your satisfaction on the subject, and you enjoined upon me, at the same time, another work- that of reducing to a single volume, all that the most illustrious physicians have taught, of utility, on the Healing Art. I have, therefore, resolved to gratify you according to my abilities. I shall be careful to omit nothing of what Galen has said, because he is, of all those who have written on these matters, the one who has treated his subjects with most clearness, reason, and method. Moreover he shows himself the faithful interpreter of the principles and sentiments of Hippocrates.
ORIBASIUS: to Julian the Apostate.
WE may judge a man by the company he keeps, by the books he reads, perhaps even by the clothes he wears, but not by the woman he marries. Take Nikon, for instance: a quiet man, a mathematician and a philosopher, asking for nothing but to be left in peace among his parchments - but what a wife he had! Such a bawling virago, biting her maids and tormenting her husband, that all who saw her declared Xantippe a paragon of patience by comparison. And Xantippe had reason for her lip-labor, because Socrates made no money, while Nikon was a wealthy man.
But Nikon had one consolation: his son, Claudius Galenus, It is true, at times the lad exhibited a hasty temper, but above all he was studious. Galen hated his noisy mother, but loved his thoughtful father. Nikon fed the boy on a stimulating diet that has never been equaled: Greek philosophy. Geologists tell us that the earth has cooled-so has the hu-' man mind. The ancient Greeks will forever remain the intellectual wonders of the world. It was not sufficient to tell young Epicurus that all things came from Chaos, for he then asked, 'And whence came Chaos?'
When a Greek philoso
pher gazed at the sea or the sky, he uttered epigrams which
will be repeated by the lips of time till the waters go dry and the firmament passes away.
By the time Galen was seventeen years of age he knew the stoic, platonic, peripatetic and epicurean systems, and had already composed a commentary on the dialectics of Chrysippus; he resolved to consecrate himself to the pursuit of knowledge, and when he read how a citizen of Megara risked his life in order to listen to Sacrates, he hoped that some day he too would be able to sacrifice something for the sake of philosophy, or at least be able to exclaim with Anaxagoras, 'To philosophy I owe my worldly ruin, and my soul's prosperity.'
But one night Esculapius appeared to Nikon and warned. him that his son must devote himself to medicine. It seems that a mathematician, may be a mystic, for Nikon believed in dreams; the son likewise accepted the omen, and henceforth Hippocrates meant even more to him than Plato; Claudius Galenus thus fulfilled Aristotle's maxim,The philosopher should end with medicine - the physician commence with philosophy.'
In Pergamus, Asia Minor, where the family of Nikon lived, was a school of medicine, and a library that made Alexandria envious. Indeed, the second Ptolemy was ignoble enough to decree that no more papyrus should be exported from Egypt in order to keep Pergamus from adding more manuscripts to its archives, but the Pergamene people took splendid revenge by inventing parchment.
But Pergamus was chiefly celebrated for its shrine to the healing god. According to Lucian, Jupiter was complaining that his altars were deserted since Apollo set up his oracle at Delphi, and Æsculapius opened shop at Pergamus. At Epidarus and Cos the Asklepions were equally successful — in spite of the satires of Aristophanes. Always craftier than the populace, the priests built the temples of Esculapius in spots favored by nature in the midst of a health-giving forest, by the side of a medicinal spring, on the brow of a lofty hill. The sight alone often served to bring the first smile of hope to the
weary invalid and patients who seemed too sick were not permitted to approach the sacred precincts. All the glories of Greek art were there lovely Venus and laughing Bacchus, Zeus serene on his golden throne, and Esculapius sorrowing for the ills of mankind. Fountains played in the shaded groves, and shelter-seats were arranged in semi-circles of pure marble. And when hidden music floated over the southern flowers the mingling of rhythm and perfume, the marriage of fragrance and melody—many sufferers raised their heads to repeat the prophecy of the Delphic sibyl: Oh, Æsculapius, thou art born to be the world's great joy.
Only after he had undergone a course in dietetics and hygiene, did the gates of the temple open for the pilgrim; but that night he lay at the foot of the statue of Æsculapius, awaiting and expecting a cure. At times, when the snores of the patient were echoed back by the marble walls, the priests would steal noiselessly forth and bind a broken limb or anoint a wounded organ. Of course every temple rang with tales of wonderful cures. Who ever heard of a shrine tho it be built above the bones of an ass that did not report miracles, and exhibit abandoned crutches and votive offerings as proof? A mortal like Socrates refused remuneration for his teachings, but Esculapius demanded silver and gold for his services at least so the priests claimed. Indeed, on one occasion, the god so far forgot himself as to say aloud to a patient, Thou art healed, now pay the fee.'
But an Asklepion afforded excellent opportunities to the right man, and during an epidemic of carbuncles, when ulceration laid bare the structures beneath, Galen studied anatomy. But what did this intelligent and well-trained youth think of the wonder-tales of divine cures which were bruited about? He believed these stories implicitly, for credulity, like tuberculosis, is universal.
In his twentieth year Galen learnt the limits of the physicians' power: they could not save his father. He then left Pergamus, to pursue his studies in various cities, for the