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Vespasian at first laughed at their importunity; but so far yielded to their wishes as to consult the medical faculty. The physicians, like skillful courtiers, deemed the cure by the means proposed, not impossible. The experiment was attempted before an assembled multitude. It was probably as successful as the royal touch of the kings of England and France in later times; and the flatterers of the Emperor declared that he had healed the maimed, and restored the blind to sight.
But the brightest era of medical science at Alexandria thus far, was the earliest. Under the first associates of the Museum, anatomy and physiology. were cultivated with spirit and success; and from the turn given to medical education by these teachers, the character of the school for ages afterwards was definitely determined. The Asclepiade of Cos and Cnidos had dwelt upon the phenomena of disease without attempting to demonstrate its structural relations; like the sculptors of their own age, they studied the changing expression of vital action almost wholly from an external point of view. They meddled not with the dead. For, by their own laws, no one was allowed to die within the temple. But the early Alexandrians were subject to no such restrictions; and turning to good account the discoveries of Aristotle in natural history and comparative anatomy, they undertook for the first time to describe the organization of the human frame from actual dissections; and by applying the knowledge thus acquired to the pathological studies of their predecessors, they struck upon the course
which, if followed out by their immediate successors, might have led to many early and brilliant improvements.
But their successors were slow in discovering the road that had been opened to them. Occupied in teaching what had already been surmised or ascertained, few of them were ambitious of adding much to the general stock of knowledge. The dissection of the human body was soon abandoned, and the improvements in pharmacy and additions to the materia medica introduced by them, were as much due to the commercial intercourse of Alexandria with India and southern Asia, as to. the scientific, enterprise of its physicians. So that medicine, losing the independent and progressive character which it had received at the hands of Hippocrates and his early followers, was again reduced to a mere department of speculative philosophy, involved in futile disputations, and in formulas based on no substantial facts. Hence the several sects into which the profession in course of time became divided.
Of these the Dogmatists, or Rationalists, claimed to be the followers of Hippocrates, and supporters of the academic philosophy.. The Empirics origi nated with Philinus, a pupil of Herophilus, and with Serapion, the successor of. Philinus, and were advocates of the sceptical philosophy of Pyrrho. The Methodists were of later date. They are commonly traced to Asclepiades, the founder of the Roman school; but the lessons of his instructor,
Cleophantus of Alexandria,* appear to have furnished the leading principles upon which he and his followers founded this third sect, the philosophy of which was adopted from Epicurus. The Pneumatic sect was an offset from the Dogmatists, and advocated the stoic philosophy. But of these several sects, and of the Episynthetics who attempted to reconcile the whole of them, we shall have again occa sion to speak, in connection with the school of Rome. In speaking of the profession of his own time, Galen classes them as Herophilians and Erasistratians, showing that the opinions of the founders of the Alexandrian school had not yet been superseded; and that after an interval of more than five centuries, the impression left upon it by these great men, still continued to give it character and distinction. After falling under the sway of the Romans, for a century
or more the school of Alexandria lost much of its previous celebrity, and is little spoken of during the more active period of the school of Rome. Yet even in Galen's day, it was still the center of medical science. And to have studied medicine at Alexandria, was everywhere considered a passport to the confidence and patronage of the public.
Celsus, iii. 14.
THE SCHOOLS OF MEDICINE AT SMYRNA, PERGAMUS, AND EPIDAURUS.
BUT if Alexandria was for many centuries the principal seat of medical science, there was perhaps no period in which it was, the only school open to the profession. The followers of Erasistratus, in consequence of temporary disturbance at the Museum, are said to have removed to Smyrna, and at the Asclepion of that city to have established a rival institution. It is even asserted that the school of Smyrna originated with Erasistratus rather than with his disciples, and that he there spent his latter days in teaching.
The school of Pergamus, as before remarked, had been early celebrated. Several of the Alexandrian professors also added luster to this rival institution. The older Heras, whò probably flourished during the reign of Attalus II., after whom the kingdom passed into the hands of the Romans, was of this school. He was among the earliest, if not the first, to introduce those compound confections, which, under the name of Theriaca, or antidotes, were afterwards almost in universal use. among the ancients, Acopa, or anodyne and analeptic lini
ments or embrocations, were also among his inventions; some of which he honored with the name of his sovereign.
Attalus Philometor was not only the patron of the profession, but was himself actively occupied in the cultivation and employment of medicinal plants. We are told by Plutarch, that in his gardens he planted the hyoscyamus, hellebore, cicuta, aconite, and other poisonous herbs, and collected them at the proper seasons, with his own hands, for the purpose of experimenting with their expressed juice, their fruit, and their seed, and determining their respective properties.* Attalus was not the only sovereign who, about this epoch, turned occasionally from the cares of state to mingle in the affairs of our profession. Mithridates, king of Pontus, experimented with poisonous plants upon himself, in order to habituate himself to their use, and thus to become unsusceptible to their deleterious effects. His composition, afterwards known as the Mithridaticum, and employed as an antidote, was among the most celebrated nostrums of antiquity. Pompey, after overcoming this prince, ordered diligent search to be made among the archives of his palace for the formula of this famous antidote; and supposed he had discovered it in a confection consisting of rue twenty leaves, salt a few grains, two walnuts, and a couple of dried figs, which, was to be taken fasting every morning, and followed with a draught of wine.t
*Le Clerc, part ii. liv. iii, chap. iii. p. 388-90.