Billeder på siden

ing their vast number they are mostly written in polished style. He professes to be the admirer and disciple of Hippocrates. Yet no two writers on medicine were ever in style and substance more dissimilar. Hippocrates wrote with the terseness of a philosopher; Galen, with the flowing redundancy of the rhetorician, allowing nothing to remain unsaid, and adorning his discourse with criticism, biography, anecdote, sarcasm, vain-glorious boasting, personal narrative, and incidental allusions of every sort. But his brilliant errors no less than his sterner truths, gave popularity and influence to his writings. It does not appear that among the Latins he was at first received as favorably as among his own countrymen. He is mentioned neither by Serenus Sammonicus, who immediately succeeded him; nor by Marcellus Empiricus, who wrote two centuries afterwards. But the next writer of celebrity among his own nation, Oribasius, who was a contemporary of Marcellus, appropriated nearly the whole of Galen's doctrines; and Alexander Trallianus calls him the divine. But authority, however transcendent, to be enduring must be founded on truth alone. The authority of Galen was not thus founded; and after a reign of more than twelve centuries, he has fallen from his high estate. He who looked upon himself as superior to Hippocrates, who held that the latter had merely commenced what he himself had been able to carry to completion, lies buried in the accumulations of his own labors; whilst Hippocrates, drawing his inspiration from the developments of nature, still

lives, to be studied with as much edification by the physicians of the present day as by his own immediate disciples.



WITH GALEN closes all that remains of the school of medicine at Rome, and all that was aggressive in the scientific advancement of the ancients. Most of those who had practiced or taught the art at Rome, up to this period, as we have already seen, were Grecians who had received the elements of their education at Alexandria or other eastern institutions. With the decadence of the Roman school, that of Alexandria again acquired its former rank. The intestine commotions and misrule, the religious and other wars of the empire, from the death of Marcus Aurelius to the accession of Constantine, left but little opportunity at the capital for cultivating the arts of peace. During this long interval, Italy had but few attractions for men of learning. And after the removal of the imperial court to Constantinople, the scholars that still lingered about the palace of the Cæsars, were attracted from the Latin portion of the empire; so that, from the time of Galen to the final overthrow of the empire of the West, Latin literature can boast of only four or five medical authors whose works have been deemed worthy of

preservation. The first of these was Serenus Sammonicus, a junior contemporary of Galen; the second was Theodore Priscian; the third, Marcellus Empiricus, physician to the elder Theodosius; the fourth was Vegetius; and the last, if properly belonging to the ancients, was Macer Floridus, our notice of whom must be reserved to a subsequent chapter.

Quintus Serenus Sammonicus was the author of a medical poem of considerable literary merit,* which is said to have often furnished amusement for the leisure hours of Geta and Septimus Severus. In this work he treats of several diseases and their cure, after the manner of the other medical writers of that period, but with more than their usual taint of superstition. He affects a peculiar veneration for the numbers three, seven, and nine; and, though he condemns the use of incantations, he recommends an amulet which he calls the Abracadabra,t to be sus

* Sereni Sammonici de Medicina Præcepta. 8vo. Paris, 1845; also, the same work in the Medicina Artis Principes, as collected by H. Stephanus Fol. Venice, 1567.

This word is said, by Selden, to have been the name of one of the Syrian divinities. The written form of the amulet was as follows:

A br a c ad a bra

abr a c a d a b r

a br a c ad a b

a br a c ad a

a br a c a d

a br 8 c a

a D r a c

a br &

a b r

a b

The Talmudists used the word Abraclan after the same manner.

Le Clerc, partie i. liv. i. chap. xii. p. 41.


pended by a string and worn as a necklace for the cure of hemitritic fever. This amulet consisted in writing on cloth or parchment, the word Abracadabra in full on the upper line, and on every succeeding line omitting a single letter until the initial letter was at length the only one remaining to be written on the last line. Thus making, by means of these letters, a triangular figure. During the reign of Caracalla, the use of charms and amulets had become so alarming that an imperial ediet was issued against them. Serenus Sammonicus gave offense to the tyrant by disregarding this injunction; and he is said to have paid for his temerity with his life. The belief in charms and incantations, which became so common towards the downfall of the empire, has been attributed by some writers to the influence of the false philosophy of Persia and the East. But mysticism and credulity have their source in the human heart, and are everywhere the natural offspring of ignorance and intellectual debasement.

Theodore Priscian, a pupil of Vindician, physician to Valentinian, flourished at the Eastern capital, and was the author of a work on the use of indigenous medicines. He appears also to have paid much attention to the diseases of women. A digest of his opinions on all that relates to the obstetric art in connection with those of his predecessors, Cleopatra and Moschion, is to be found in the Harmonia Gynæciorum of Casper Wolphius.* A Latin poem

* Constituting one of the works in the collection entitled Gynæciorum, sive de Mulierum Affectibus Commentarii Græcorum Latinorum Barbarorum, in tres tomas digesti. Published in 4to. at Bâle, 1586.

on weights and measures, sometimes ascribed to Q. Rhemnius Fannius Palæmon, is also attributed to Priscian.*

Marcellus Empiricus flourished about the close of the fourth century, some time after the struggle for the supremacy of Christianity in the empire had been crowned with complete success. He was by birth a Gaul, a native of Bordeaux, and as already stated, physician to the elder Theodosius. From the dedication, and other passages scattered through his book, De Medicamentis,† it is evident he was a Christian. In the preparation of his works, which he inscribes to his sons, he has consulted some few of the Greek, but more of the early Latin authors; among whom he refers to Pliny, Apuleius, Cornelius Celsus, Apollinaris, and Designatianus. Among the illustrious men who were of his own city, and whom he speaks of as his contemporaries or immediate predecessors, were Siburius, Eutropius, and Ausonius. He furnishes a lengthy quotation translated from a Greek work falsely attributed to Hippocrates, but makes no allusion whatever to Galen, a proof that the prince of physicians had not yet acquired his authority among the Latin schools. Marcellus was a writer of no originality. What he has not borrowed of other writers, he admits to have been derived from the people of the rural districts. He gives a sort of introduction, consisting of translations or lengthy quotations from earlier writers, and

*Priscianus, Panckoucke's edition of his poems. Paris, 8vo. 1845. See the Medicinæ Artis Principes of Stephanus.

« ForrigeFortsæt »