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conquests of Alexander had dispersed Greek culture far and wide. Galen journeyed to Smyrna, where he became a pupil of Pelops, who was an authority on muscles; at Corinth he studied under the anatomist Numisianus; he traveled thru Asia Minor and Palestine, everywhere absorbing knowledge and performing autopsies with enthusiasm.
But Alexandria called to him; in those days the Hellenic capital of Egypt was the chief seat of Hellenic learning; the seeds from the tree of Hippocratism had fallen and blossomed in Pharaoh's land. In Alexandria Galen found himself engulfed in a vortex; all currents of medical thought circled around and whirled on into the eddy of dialectic subtility; dozens of sects argued violently; all schools pressed their claims in eloquent debate: dogmatists, methodists, pneumatists, eclectics. Some swore by Hippocrates; others by Herophilus; others by Erasistratus; Diocles, Praxagoras, Callimachus, Dioscorides, all had their adherents. Clinical observations were neglected for experiments in rhetoric; it was enough to make one think of the tombstone-epitaph that Pliny loved to quote: 'He died by reason of the confusion of the doctors.'
Galen was not the man to allow himself to be long perplexed by the wrangling of rival physicians. Physically buoyant and healthy, gifted with genius, contemptuous of others and with boundless confidence in himself, he selected from each sect what appealed to him, rejected the rest, and built up a system of his own. Fortunately he was wise enough to take as his model the incomparable Hippocrates. Galen's ability was vast and his industry unwearied; he soon learnt all that teachers could impart. Before he completed his teens he began to write on medical topics, and during his journeys treatise after treatise fell from his prolific pen. Galen was absent from his native place for nine years; at about the age of twenty-eight he returned, and the bronzed and cultured traveler was welcomed by the high priest of Pergamus who appointed him physician to the gladiators.
The occurrence of the gladiatorial combats was evidence that Hellas had fallen: the stern games in which strong men hewed each other with spears; the bloody battles by torchlight; the strange animals, captured from African forests, charging against their tormentors; the fantastic fighting between dwarfs and women; the whole excited assembly rising and shouting as rivers of blood flowed thru arena and amphitheater; pain and fear below, and lust and luxury above,—Ave, Cæsar; morituri te salutant! in this manner the Romans, but not the Greeks, amused themselves.
For four years Galen tended the wounded gladiators; in this employment he acquired an extensive knowledge of surgery, and his methods of treatment proved unusually successful. But Galen was not content with Pergamus; he wanted Rome. A province in lesser Asia was insufficient for a medicus who felt himself greater than all other physicians; as well have expected Aristotle - Nature's private secretary, as Eusebius called him-to hide his talents at Stagira. To show off his superior attainments, Claudius Galenus needed the center of the world's stage; aware of his power, and consumed with ambition, he hungered and thirsted for the streets of the wicked but mighty capital.
Rome, the great plagiarist, never had a medicine of her Rome was notorious for her hatred of doctors. Pliny, author of the dictum that a doctor is the only person not punished for murder, has left it on record that for six hundred years the Romans knew no physicians. But gradually Greek physicians settled in Rome, and the men of Mars seemed to grow accustomed to the extravagance. But the tradition remained, and Pliny wrote,' The dignity of the Roman does not permit him to make a profession of medicine, and the few Romans who begin to study it are venal renegades to the Greeks.' Pliny's contemporary, Valerius Martial, composed medical epigrams for the delight of his sturdy countryman:
Languid I lay, and thou camest O Symmachus, quickly to see me;
The hundred pawed me all over with hands congealed by the north wind; Ague before I had none, but now, by Apollo, I have it!
In the year 162 a stranger entered Rome - it was Galen. In the midst of the barbers, bath-keepers, midwives, magicians, plaster-spreaders, ointment-makers, bleeders, cuppers, abortionists, makers of love-philters, venders of amulets, had come a disciple of Hippocrates. Specialism was rife in Rome, as we learn from Martial's irony: 'Cascellius extracts and repairs bad teeth; you, Hyginus, cauterise ingrowing eyelashes; Fannius cures a relaxed uvula without cutting; Eros removes brand-marks from slaves; Hermes is a very Podalirius for ruptures.'
But Galen was a specialist in all branches, and panted only for an opportunity to diagnose the disease of a senator or prætor — and thus win fame and fortune at a stroke. Among his first patients was Eudemus, a peripatetic philosopher of renown. The wife of the consul Boethus was sick; Galen cured her, and received the consul's friendship, four hundred gold pieces, and a reputation. A noble Roman matron, the wife of Justus, could not sleep; her case baffled all the physicians; but Galen traced her insomnia to her love for the dancer Pylades.
Galen did not make diagnoses merely by feeling the pulse; he studied not only the disease, but the patient, and he took considerable pleasure in proclaiming that much of his success was due to his ability to take advantage of an opportunity: he would observe what was in a vessel that a servant was carrying out, or what was contained in the jar that stood near the invalid. Evidently he was the spiritual ancestor of that physician who berated his patient for eating horse-flesh, and when questioned by his assistant how he knew this to be the case, answered, 'I saw the harness under the bed.'
It was not long before Galen became the most distinguished practitioner in Rome. He was called the wonder-worker Paradoxopœus. Galen did not accept the title with blushing cheek and downcast eye. The conceit which enabled him
to say, 'Whoever seeks fame need only become familiar with all that I have achieved,' was thick enough to protect him from embarrassment at any compliment. Not only did the boastful Galen praise himself unceasingly, but he mocked all his rivals with a scornful tongue; he called them fools and asses, and told them they did not know anything.
'I have done as much to medicine,' wrote Galen, 'as Trajan did to the Roman Empire, in making bridges and roads thruout Italy. It is I alone that have pointed out the true method of treating diseases: it must be confessed, that Hippocrates had already chalked out the same road, but as the first discoverer, he has not gone so far as we could wish; his writings are defective in order, in the necessary distinctions; his knowledge in some subjects is not sufficiently extensive; he is often obscure after the manner of the ancients, in order to be concise; he opened the road, but I have rendered it passable.' Some figures of antiquity appear hardly human: the whiterobed Plato, broad of brow and ever-thoughtful, slowly pacing down the shadeful aisles of the Academic Grove, seems more like a personification of philosophy than a man, but Claudius Galenus had qualities like our next-door neighbors.
The leaders of Roman society requested Galen to establish a course of lectures on Anatomy and Physiology, which he gladly did, illustrating them with experiments on goats and pigs. The élite crowded to these demonstrations, and were pleased to be informed that they possessed more common sense than the physicians.
At Alexandria Galen had been fortunate enough to witness two human skeletons, and he strongly urged all who intended to study osteology to go to Africa. But at his lectures a human skeleton was never exhibited, for the good reason that there was not a single one in all Rome. So bloodthirsty were the Romans of this period, that neither the populace nor the fashionables could enjoy a holiday unless contending ranks of gladiators were butchered for their sport, but they recoiled with horror at the notion of permitting a scientist to examine
the murdered corpse. In this respect the Romans resembled a small and persecuted sect- despised by Galen - which was just rising into prominence at this time, but which was later to overrun all Europe and forbid dissection on the ground that it was impious to mutilate the image of God, and yet showed no hesitancy in crushing the bones or burning the bodies of thousands of heretics. The psychology of inconsistency is tragically interesting.
For four years Galen resided at Rome, writing many of the works which have perpetuated his name: he worked as hard as he bragged. There are many physicians,' declared Galen, ' like the athletes, who would like to win prizes in the Olympic games, and yet will not take the pains necessary to gain them. For they are loud in their praises of Hippocrates, and place him in the highest rank among physicians; yet never think of imitating him themselves. It is certainly no small advantage on our side to live at the present day, and to have received from our ancestors the arts already brought to such a degree of perfection; and it would seem an easy thing for us, after learning in a short time everything that Hippocrates discovered by many years of labor, to employ the rest of our lives in investigating what still remains unknown.'
In the year 166 it was practically certain that he was to be admitted into the imperial court. Yet it was at this very time that he secretly left the capital. Galen claimed he so acted because he feared his envious rivals had decided to assassinate him. But the truth seems to be that he left Rome because an epidemic had come. Rome, with its usual intrigues, was bad enough; but Rome, with an eastern pestilence added, was too much for the Pergamene physician. Galen was too selfish to die for others. In those days there were real plagues: this one spread over Europe, infected everything in its wide path, and remained for fifteen years, slaughtering men and animals by the million, terrorizing the world into a mad-house and a morgue. Esculapius must have been sleeping.
Galen set his face toward home, studying all the way; from