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time. I stand in the midst of friends,-of brethren,
of those who for many years have been my companions in daily toil, moved by the same impulses, agitated by the same fears, excited by the same hopes, elated by the same successes as myself. With the associations of a quarter of a century clustering thick around me, on this our common hearth, I feel that I am at home, and can speak, as well as breathe, without restraint.
To the initiated, Medicine is something more than a profession. It is a world within itself. It has its history, its philosophy, its politics, its literature, of which the world at large knows nothing. It has its subsidiary arts and occupations. It has its organizations and institutions, its ranks and grades of honor. It has its polemics and dissensions, not always amenable to logic or to the learning of the schools. In ethics, traditions, and superstitions, it is older than the church. In use before the civil law, it recognizes no arbitrary enactments. Nature is its only court of equity. And who,of us shall forget its everliving charities; its moving scenes of joy and sadness; its many sunny aspects; its benignant, ennobling, liberalizing influences; which few beyond our own circle can properly appreciate, and none so well understand as ourselves!
No wonder, then, that the members of our profession, drawn together by these hallowed ties, should be disposed to band together as a brotherhood. Such has always been their course. The Druids of early Gaul and Britain, the Asclepiade of Greece, the priests of ancient Egypt, the lamas of Central
Asia, the Vaidhyas of India, the fraternities of the middle ages, and up to the present hour the countless societies and colleges of our own and other lands devoted to the healing art, are in proof of this. So that wherever social freedom has existed, or tyranny would permit, internal organization and development has been the rule of our profession.
With these facts before us, our origin and growth as an element of civilization, is a subject worthy of some attention. I propose to occupy the passing hour in contemplating it, so far at least as relates to the condition of medicine in ancient times, and among those people from whom the usages of modern society have been derived.
This subject is one which has often furnished occupation for my leisure hours. It is pleasant as well as profitable to turn, on fit occasions, from the bustle of activé life, to the study of the past,-to the origin of our art, to the principles and necessities that called it into being, to the struggles of our ancestry. We are thereby better able to understand our own position, to know how far. we have advanced, to whom we owe our progress, the labor still before us, and the places we ourselves are likely to occupy in the estimation of those who are to follow
THE CONDITION OF MEDICINE IN THE EARLIEST ORGANIZATIONS OF SOCIETY.
THE art of medicine is at the present day so universally exercised, that we can hardly suppose an organized community ever existed in which it was overlooked; and yet such appears to have been the fact.
There is reason to believe that among the Assyrians and other early Asiatics, it was never pursued as a distinct occupation. The eastern Magi must have devoted some attention to it; and the seers of Palestine may have had some pretensions to skill in the cure of diseases as a part of their divine calling. Job speaks of his counselors as "physicians of no value;" and Moses, of the preparation of the sacred oil after "the apothecary's art." King Asa, when his disease was exceeding great "sought not the Lord, but his physicians;" and Jeremiah asks, " Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?" From these and other allusions in the Old Testament, it is evident that among the Israelites there were, perhaps after the manner of the Egyptians, certain men giving their attention to medicine. But the Babylonians, as we learn from Herodotus,*
Book I. chap. 197.
were destitute of physicians, and in the custom of exposing their sick in the market-place, in order that those who had been similarly affected might communicate to them the means of cure. The kings of Persia had no physicians of their own nation; but were in the habit of obtaining them from Egypt, or luring them by rich rewards from Greece. The early Romans were in like condition. Their first attempt to secure competent medical attendance, was in the year of the city, 535; when they induced Archagathus of Peloponnesus to settle amongst them, offering him the freedom of the city, furnishing him with a residence, and providing liberally for his support at the public expense. But, as we learn from Pliny,* Archagathus proved to be their "carnifex” rather than their "vulnerarius;" so that their first effort not turning to their advantage, they were not soon again disposed to repeat it; and we find Cato, nearly a century afterwards, relying for medical assistance upon charms and superstitious observances of his own, or upon the untutored skill of his domestics.†
In the earliest stages of civilization, among most primitive people, where medicine is practiced at all, the functions of the physician are usually united with those of the priest and civil ruler.
The oak-groves of ancient Europe were as sacred to medical observances as to the other mysteries of Druidism. The blossoming of the mistletoe and the ripening of its berries, at the summer and the win
* Nat. Hist., lib. xxix., cap. vi. viii. f Cato de Re Rustica, cap. 160.
ter solstice, marked the seasons of the sacred feasts; and after adorning the ceremony of the sacrifice, the hallowed plant was carefully set aside by the ovate and physician of the tribe, to be used in case of need as a medicine.*
According to Hindoo mythology there are, besides Brahma, the creator, not less than six minor divinities skilled in the healing art. The ancientand still existing caste of Hindoo physicians, the Vaidhyas, trace their family descent from Virabhädra, the fortunate, the son of Brahma. It was to the thirteen sons of this demi-god that were first revealed the sacred sagas, by the study of which they and their descendants to the present day, have been rendered learned pundits and skillful physicians.t
Among the Tartars, the lama is the only physician. One of these people, conversing with a recent traveler‡ on the subject of the war between China and England, says, "The Chinese were everywhere protesting that we were marching to certain death. 'What can you do,' say they, 'against these seamonsters! They live in the water like fish. When least expected they appear on the surface, and throw combustible balls of iron. When the bow is bent against them they take to the water like frogs.' Thus they tried to frighten us. But we soldiers of the Eight Banners are ignorant of fear. The em
Giles, in Richard of Cirencester's Ancient Britain.
Wise, Hindoo System of Medicine. Calcutta, 8vo., 1845. Chap. ii.,
M. Huc. "Souvenirs. d'un Voyage dans la Tartarie, la Thibet, et la Chine." See Edinburgh Review, April, 1851, p. 207.