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naturalist, brought up to the bar, an intimate friend of Tacitus, addicted to the study of philosophy and history, and mixing in the most refined and learned society of his day,—if from any one we might expect humanity, liberality, and freedom from superstition, it was from the younger Pliny. In Letter CVII. of Book X., there occurs the celebrated passage wherein the blamelessness of the lives of the Christians in his province is narrated. He then adds::"From these circumstances, I thought it more necessary to try to gain the truth, even by torture, from two women who were said to officiate at their worship; but I could discover only an obstinate kind of superstition, carried to great excess." These women, whom this elegant scholar exposed to the indignity and horrible anguish of public torture, were the deaconesses of the Christian church“honorable ladies," in the eyes of St. Paul.
One would naturally expect that a gentleman so indignant at "obstinate superstition," would be remarkably free from it himself; on the contrary, in various passages scattered through his correspondence with his friends, there is abundant evidence of his belief in the most absurd dreams and omens of all kinds; and he relates, without an expression of doubt, the following ghost story, which is interesting, not only as an evidence of Pliny's superstition, but as an example of the unchangeable form of what we may call the ghost-legend; for the following tale is exactly like what we find current among ghost-believers at the present day:"There was at Athens, a very large and spacious house, but of evil report and fatal to the inhabitants. In the dead of night the clanking of iron, and upon a closer attention the rattling of chains, was heard; first at a great distance, and afterwards very near. A spectre immediately appeared, representing an old man, emaciated and squalid, his beard long, his hair staring,
bolts upon his legs, chains upon his hands, which he rattled as he carried. From these circumstances, the inhabitants, in all the agonies of fear, continued watching during several melancholy and dreadful nights. Such constant watchings brought on distempers, illness was increased by fear, and death ensued; for even in the day, when the spectre was not visible, the representation of the image wandered before their eyes; so that the terror was of longer continuance than the presence of the spectre. At length the house was deserted, and left entirely to the presence of the apparition. A bill, however, was posted up to signify that the house was either to be sold or let, in hopes that some person ignorant of the calamity might offer for it. Athenodorus, the philosopher, came at that time to Athens; he read the bill, the price surprised him ; he suspected some bad cause to occasion the cheapness; and upon enquiry, was informed of all the circumstances, by which he was so little deterred, that they were stronger inducements to hire it. When the evening came on, he ordered a bed to be prepared for him in the chief apartment. He called for lights, his table, book, and pen. He sent all his servants into the further parts of the house, and applied his eyes, his hands, and his whole attention to writing, lest, as he had heard of apparitions, his mind, if unemployed, might suggest to him idle fears, and represent false appearances. The beginning of the night was as silent there as in other places. At length the iron clanked and the chains rattled. Athenodorus neither lifted up his eyes nor quitted his pen, but collecting his resolution stopped his ears. The noise increased; it approached, as it was now heard at the threshold of the door, and immediately after within the room. The philosopher turned back his head and saw the figure, which he observed to answer the description that he had received of it. The
A GHOST STORY FROM PLINY.
apparition stood still, and beckoned with a finger, like a person who calls another. Athenodorus signified, by the motion of his hand, that the ghost should stay a little, and again immediately applied himself to writing. The spectre rattled his chains over the head of the philosopher, who, looking back, saw him beckoning as before, and immediately taking up a light, followed him. The ghost went forward in a slow pace, as if encumbered with the chains, and afterwards, turning into a court belonging to the house, immediately vanished, leaving the philosopher alone; who, finding himself thus deserted, pulled up some grass and leaves, and placed them as a signal to find the spot of ground. The next day, he went to the magistrates, informed them of the event, and desired that they would order the place to be dug up. Human bones were found buried there, and bound in chains. Time and the earth had mouldered away the flesh, and the skeleton only remained, which was publicly buried; and after the rites of sepulture, the house was no longer haunted. I give credit to these circumstances, as reported by others."
When we recollect that of the upper ten thousand a very considerable number were successful military adventurers, who had returned to Rome enormously rich from extortion in the provinces over which they had been placed; that they were idle, ignorant, and given up to every kind of debauchery, the fruitful source of distempers; and that, besides the permanent residents, there were computed to be about 50,000 strangers in the city, we cannot wonder that Rome should be the paradise of quacks. The extravagance of some of these gentry is almost incredible. Athenæus 2 mentions one who styled himself Jupiter,
1 Pliny's Letters, translated by Lord Orrery. Vol. II. p. 172.
2 Athenæus, Vol. II. p. 454. compelled all who came to be cured by
him of what is called the Sacred Disease, to enter into a written agreement that if they recovered they would be his slaves. And they followed him,
and made it a
the event of his
condition with his patients that in curing them they should submit to his
will in all things. He dressed some up as the lesser gods, and so used to hold a court of Olympus in Syracuse. was the fashion in Rome for physicians to make their rounds attended by a retinue of followers, and Martial describes how his doctor came with his disciples to see him "A hundred frozen hands are laid upon me; I had no fever-now I have!" he exclaims.'
Even in men of great renown, who exercised a long and powerful, and on the whole beneficial influence on medicine, there was a sad dash of the quackish element, and in none more than in Asclepiades. He was born in Bithynia, and after practising a while in Alexandria, he finally settled in Rome, where he acquired enormous fame by his general talents, especially his eloquence, to which his friend Cicero bears witness. He was evidently a very bold and independent thinker as well as practitioner. He maintained that the body was formed out of corpuscules which were endowed with the power of motion, and that out of the action and reaction of these arose the vital phenomena, while the imperfect performance of their career produced disease; so that all Hippocrates had written about Nature and critical discharges was little better than nonsense, for that Nature did harm as well as good. And as for a soul, he saw no necessity for it at all. To him we are indebted for the brief exposition of
one wearing the dress of Hercules, and being called Hercules; another in the dress of Mercury, with cloak, and caduceus, and wings. But Jupiter Menecrates himself, clad in purple, and having a golden crown upon his head, and holding a sceptre, and being shod with slippers, went about with his choruses of gods."
1 "Languebam: sed tu comitatus protinus ad me
Venisti, centum Symmache, discipulis,
Centum me tetigere manus Aquilone gelatæ.
Non habui febrem-Symmache! nunc habeo."
Martial. Lib. V. Ep. 9.
2 De Oratore. Lib. I. Medico amicoque.
"Non semper prodest natura sed etiam nocet."-Cœlius Aurel. p. 110.
A. D. 200.
a physician's duty-"To cure safely, promptly, and pleasantly."
Rejecting the Hippocratic theory of disease, with logical consistency he abandoned the practice founded on it, and maintained that the administration of powerful drugs, instead of expelling the evil from the body, induced an unnatural noxious condition. He trusted much to diet and the proper use of friction and exercise. He was also skilled in various modes of bathing, and was the first who employed the shower-bath. His choice of medicines seems sometimes to have been dictated by the homoeopathic formula; for example, he used to give wine in cases of lethargy, although he also gave it in phrenitis to produce sleep. His knowledge of homoeopathy, however, was probably of the vague and popular character expressed by the following lines of Antiphanes, who lived B.C. 404, and whose poem contains the fullest and earliest announcement of the doctrine we have met with. One would almost suppose it must have been known to Shakespere when he wrote his famous passage to the same effect. Antiphanes' lines are as follow:
"Take the hair, it is well written,
Of the dog by which you're bitten;
And one labour with another;
Horns with horns, and noise with noise;
One crier with his fellow's voice;
Insult with insult; war with war;
Faction with faction; care with care;
Cook with cook, and strife with strife;
Business with business, and wife with wife." 2
The name of GALEN is probably better known in connection with medicine, than that of any other man. His influence has been enormous, extending paramount over a period of fifteen hundred years at the least. He was born 2 Athenæus. Op. cit.
"Tuto, cito, jucunde."-Celsus, p. 110.