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Title: The Origin and Growth of the Healing Art

Author: Edward Berdoe

Release date: April 22, 2019 [eBook #59331]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Turgut Dincer, Les Galloway, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by Internet Archive (



E-text prepared by Turgut Dincer, Les Galloway,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See







A Guide to the Study of the Works of Robert Browning, with copious Explanatory Notes and References on all difficult passages. Second Edition. Pp. xx., 572. Price 10s. 6d.

Some Opinions of the Press.


His Religion, Philosophy, and Science. With Portrait and Facsimile Letters. Third Edition. Price 3s. 6d.
[Dilettante Library.]

Opinions of the Press.

“Full of admiration and sympathy.”—Saturday Review.

“Should have a wide circulation; it is interesting and stimulative.”—Literary World.

“We have no hesitation in strongly recommending this little volume to any who desire to understand the moral and mental attitude of Robert Browning.... We are much obliged to Dr. Berdoe for his volume.”—Oxford University Herald.




Title Page




Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh; Member of the Royal College of
Surgeons, England; Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, London, etc., etc.
Author of “The Browning Cyclopædia,” etc., etc.



Butler & Tanner,
The Selwood Printing Works,
Frome, and London.



The History of Medicine is a terra incognita to the general reader, and an all but untravelled region to the great majority of medical men. On special occasions, such as First of October Addresses at the opening of the Medical Schools, or the Orations delivered before the various Medical Societies, certain periods of medical history are referred to, and a few of the great names of the founders of medical and surgical science are held up to the admiration of the audience. From time to time excellent monographs on the subject appear in the Lancet and British Medical Journal. But with the exception of these brilliant electric flashes, the History of Medicine is a dark continent to English students who have not made long and tedious researches in our great libraries. For it is a remarkable fact that the History of Medicine has been almost completely neglected by English writers. This cannot be due either to the want of importance or interest of the subject. Next to the history of religion ranks in interest and value that of medicine, and it would not be difficult to show that religion itself cannot be understood in its development and connections without reference to medicine. The priest and the physician are own brothers, and the Healing Art has always played an important part in the development of all the great civilisations. The modern science of Anthropology has placed at the disposal of the historian of medicine a great number of facts which throw light on the medical theories of primitive and savage man. But most of these have hitherto remained uncollected, and are not easily accessible to the general reader.

Although English writers have so strangely neglected this important field of research, the Germans have explored it in the most exhaustive manner. The great works of Sprengel, Haeser, Baas, and Puschmann, amongst many others of the same class, sustain the claim that Germany has created the History of Medicine, whilst the well-known but incompleteviii treatise of Le Clerc shows what a great French writer could do to make this terra incognita interesting.

Not that Englishmen have entirely neglected this branch of literature. Dr. Freind, beginning with Galen’s period, wrote a History of Physic to the Commencement of the Sixteenth Century. Dr. Edward Meryon commenced a History of Medicine, of which Vol. I. only appeared (1861). In special departments Drs. Adams, Greenhill, Aikin, Munk, Wise, Royle, and others have made important contributions to the literature of the subject; but we have nothing to compare with the great German works whose authors we have mentioned above. The encyclopædic work of Dr. Baas has been translated into English by Dr. Handerson of Cleveland, Ohio.

Sprengel’s work is translated into French, and Dr. Puschmann’s admirable volume on Medical Education has been given in English by Mr. Evan Hare.

None of these important and interesting works, valuable as they are to the professional man, are quite suitable for the general reader, who, it seems to the present writer, is entitled in these latter days to be admitted within the inner courts of the temple of Medical History, and to be permitted to trace the progress of the mystery of the Healing Art from its origin with the medicine-man to its present abode in our Medical Schools.

With the exception of an occasional note or brief reference in his text-books of medicine and surgery, the student of medicine has little inducement to direct his attention to the work of the great pioneers of the science he is acquiring.

One consequence of this defect in his education is manifested in the common habit of considering that all the best work of discoverers in the Healing Art has been done in our own times. “History of medicine!” exclaimed a hospital surgeon a few months since. “Why, there was none till forty years ago!” This habit of treating contemptuously the scientific and philosophical work of the past is due to imperfect acquaintance with, or absolute ignorance of, the splendid labours of the men of old time, and can only be remedied by devoting some little study to the records of travellers who have preceded us on the same path we are too apt to think we have constructed for ourselves. Professor Billroth declared, “that the great medical faculties should make it a point of honour to take care that lectures on the history of medicine are not missing in their curricula.” And at several Germanix universities some steps in this direction have been taken. In England, however—so far as I am aware—nothing of the sort has been attempted, and a young man may attain the highest honours of his profession without the ghost of an idea about the long and painful process through which it has become possible for him to acquire his knowledge.

Says Dr. Nathan Davis,1 “A more thorough study of the history of medicine, and in consequence, a greater familiarity with the successive steps or stages in the development of its several branches, would enable us to see more clearly the real relations and value of any new fact, induction, or remedial agent that might be proposed. It would also enable us to avoid a common error of regarding facts, propositions, and remedies presented under new names, as really new, when they had been well known and used long before, but in connection with other names or theories.” He adds that, “The only remedy for these popular and unjust errors is a frequent recurrence to the standard authors of the past generation, or in other words, an honest and thorough study of the history of medicine as a necessary branch of medical education.”

In these times, when no department of science is hidden from the uninitiated, especially when medical subjects and the works of medical men are freely discussed in our great reviews and daily journals, no apology seems necessary for withdrawing the professional veil and admitting the laity behind the scenes of professional work.

Medicine now has no mysteries to conceal from the true student of nature and the scientific inquirer. Her methods and her principles are open to all who care to know them; the only passport she requires is reverence, her only desire to satisfy the yearning to know. In this spirit and for these ends this work has been conceived and given to the world. “The proper study of mankind is man.”


Tynemouth House,
Victoria Park Gate,
London, April 22nd, 1893.


Sprengel gives the following Table of the Great Periods in the History of Medicine:—

I. Expedition of the Argonauts. 1273-1263 B.C. I. First traces of Greek Medicine.
II. Peloponnesian War. 432-404 B.C. II. Medicine of Hippocrates.
III. Establishment of the 30 A.D. III. School of the Methodists. Christian Religion.
IV. Emigration of the hordes of Barbarians. 430-530 IV. Decadence of the Science.
V. The Crusades. 1096-1230 V. Arabian medicine at its highest point of splendour.
VI. Reformation. 1517-1530 VI. Re-establishment of Greek medicine and anatomy.
VII. Thirty Years War. 1618-1648 VII. Discovery of the circulation of the blood and reform of Van Helmont.
VIII. Reign of Frederick the Great. 1640-1786 VIII. Haller.

Renouard2 arranges the periods of the growth of the art of medicine as follows:—1st. The Primitive or Instinctive Period, lasting from the earliest recorded treatment to the fall of Troy. 2nd. The Sacred or Mystic Period, lasting till the dispersion of the Pythagorean Society, 500 B.C. 3rd. The Philosophical Period, closing with the foundation of the Alexandrian Library, B.C. 320. 4th. The Anatomical Period, which continued till the death of Galen, A.D. 200.


Expelling the Disease-Demon Frontispiece
The Medicine-Dance of the North American Indians To face p. 32
Examples of Ancient Surgery 204
Ancient Surgical Instruments 246
Interior of a Doctor’s House 340



I. Primitive Man a Savage 3
The Medicine and Surgery of the Lower Animals.—Poisons and Animals.—Observation amongst Savages.—Man in the Glacial Period.
II. Animism 7
Who discovered our Medicines?—Anthropology can assist us to answer the Question.—The Priest and the Medicine-man originally one.—Disease the Work of Magic.—Origin of our Ideas of the Soul and Future Life.—Disease-demons.
III. Savage Theories of Disease 12
Demoniacal.—Witchcraft.—Offended Dead Persons.
IV. Magic and Sorcery in the Treatment of Disease 26
These originated partly in the Desire to cover Ignorance.—Medicine-men.—Sucking out Diseases.—Origin of Exorcism.—Ingenuity of the Priests.—Blowing Disease away.—Beelzebub cast out by Beelzebub.—Menders of Souls.—“Bringing up the Devil.”—Diseases and Medicines.—Fever Puppets.—Amulets.—Totemism and Medicine.
V. Primitive Medicine 33
Bleeding.—Scarification.—Use of Medicinal Herbs amongst the Aborigines of Australia, South America, Africa, etc.
VI. Primitive Surgery 40
Arrest of Bleeding.—The Indian as Surgeon.—Stretchers, Splints, and Flint Instruments.—Ovariotomy.—Brain Surgery.—Massage.—Trepanning.—The Cæsarean Operation.—Inoculation.
VII. Universality of the Use of Intoxicants 46
Egyptian Beer and Brandy.—Mexican Pulque.—Plant-worship.—Union with the Godhead by Alcohol.—Soma.—The Cow-religion.—Caxiri.—Murwa Beer.—Bacchic Rites.—Spiritual Exaltation by Wine.
VIII. Customs connected with Pregnancy and Child-bearing 51
The Couvade, its Prevalence in Savage and Civilized Lands.—Pregnant Women excluded from Kitchens.—The Deities of the Lying-in Chamber.
I. Egyptian Medicine 57
Antiquity of Egyptian Civilization.—Surgical Bandaging.—Gods and Goddesses of Medicine.—Medical Specialists.—Egyptians claimed to have discovered the Healing Art.—Medicine largely Theurgic.—Magic and Sorcery forbidden to the Laity.—The Embalmers.—Anatomy.—Therapeutics.—Plants> in use in Ancient Egypt.—Surgery and Chemistry.—Disease-demons.—Medical Papyri.—Great Skill of Egyptian Physicians. xii
II. Jewish Medicine 73
The Jews indebted to Egypt for their Learning.—The only Ancient People who discarded Demonology.—They had no Magic of their own.—Phylacteries.—Circumcision.—Sanitary Laws.—Diseases in the Bible.—The Essenes.—Surgery in the Talmud.—Alexandrian Philosophy.—Jewish Services to Mediæval Medicine.—The Phœnicians.
III. The Medicine of Chaldæa, Babylonia, and Assyria 86
The Ancient Religion of Accadia akin to Shamanism.—Demon Theory of Disease in Chaldæan Medicine.—Chaldæan Magic.—Medical Ignorance of the Babylonians.—Assyrian Disease-demons.—Charms.—Origin of the Sabbath.
IV. The Medicine of the Hindus 96
The Aryans.—Hindu Philosophy.—The Vedas.—The Shastres of Charaka and Susruta.—Code of Menu.—The Brahmans.—Medical Practitioners.—Strabo on the Hindu Philosophers.—Charms.—Buddhism and Medicine.—Jíwaka, Buddha’s Physician.—The Pulse.—Knowledge of Anatomy and Surgery in Ancient Times.—Surgical Instruments.—Decadence of Hindu Medical Science.—Goddesses of Disease.—Origin of Hospitals in India.
V. Medicine in China, Tartary, and Japan 125
Origin of Chinese Culture.—Shamanism.—Disease-demons.—Taoism—Medicine Gods.—Mediums.-Anatomy and Physiology of the Chinese.—Surgery.—No Hospitals in China.—Chinese Medicines.—Filial Piety.—Charms and Sacred Signs.—Medicine in Thibet, Tartary, and Japan.
VI. The Medicine of the Parsees 141
Zoroaster and the Zend-Avesta.—The Heavenly Gift of the Healing Plants.—Ormuzd and Ahriman.—Practice of the Healing Art and its Fees.
I. The Medicine of the Greeks before the Time of Hippocrates 147
Apollo, the God of Medicine.—Cheiron.—Æsculapius.—Artemis.—Dionysus.—Ammon.—Hermes.—Prometheus.—Melampus.—Medicine of Homer.—Temples of Æsculapius.—The Early Ionic Philosophers.—Empedocles.—School of Crotona.—The Pythagoreans.—Grecian Theory of Diseases.—School of Cos.—The Asclepiads.—The Aliptæ.
II. The Medicine of Hippocrates and his Period 172
Hippocrates first delivered Medicine from the Thraldom of Superstition.—Dissection of the Human Body and Rise of Anatomy.—Hippocrates, Father of Medicine and Surgery.—The Law.—Plato.
III. Post-Hippocratic Greek Medicine.—The Schools of Medicine 187
The Dogmatic School.—Praxagoras of Cos.-Aristotle.—The School of Alexandria.—Theophrastus the Botanist.—The great Anatomists, Erasistratus and Hierophilus, and the Schools they founded.—The Empiric School.
IV. The Earlier Roman Medicine 205
Disease-goddesses.—School of the Methodists.—Rufus and Marinus.—Pliny.—Celsus. xiii
V. Later Roman Medicine 227
The Eclectic and Pneumatic Sects.—Galen.—Neo-Platonism.—Oribasius and Ætius.—Influence of Christianity and the Rise of Hospitals.—Paulus Ægineta.—Ancient Surgical Instruments.
VI. Amulets and Charms in Medicine 247
Universality of the Amulet.—Scarabs.—Beads.—Savage Amulets.—Gnostic and Christian Amulets.—Herbs and Animals as Charms.—Knots.—Precious Stones.—Signatures.—Numbers.—Saliva.—Talismans.—Scripts.—Characts.—Sacred Names.—Stolen Goods.
I. Medicine of the Druids, Teutons, Anglo-Saxons, and Welsh 269
Origin of the Druid Religion.—Druid Medicine.—Their Magic.—Teutonic Medicine.—Gods of Healing.—Elves.—The Elements.—Anglo-Saxon Leechcraft.—The Leech-book.—Monastic Leechdoms.—Superstitions.—Welsh Medicine.—The Triads.—Welsh Druidism.—The Laws of the Court Physicians.—Welsh Medical Maxims.—Welsh Medical and Surgical Practice and Fees.
II. Mohammedan Medicine 287
Sources of Arabian Learning.—Influence of Greek and Hindu Literature.—The Nestorians.—Baghdad and its Colleges.—The Moors in Spain.—The Mosque Schools.—Arabian Inventions and Services to Literature.—The great Arab Physicians.—Serapion, Rhazes, Ali Abbas, Avicenna, Albucasis, and Averroes.
III. Rise of the Monasteries 300
Alchemy the Parent of Chemistry.
IV. Rise of the Universities 303
School of Montpellier.—Divorce of Medicine from Surgery.
V. The School of Salerno 308
The Monks of Monte Cassino.—Clerical Influence at Salerno.—Charlemagne.—Arabian Medicine gradually supplanted the Græco-Latin Science.—Constantine the Carthaginian.—Archimatthæus.—Trotula.—Anatomy of the Pig.—Pharmacopœias.—The Four Masters.—Roger and Rolando.—The Emperor Frederick.
VI. The Thirteenth Century 319
The Crusades.—Astrology.
VII. The Fourteenth Century 325
Revival of Human Anatomy.—Famous Physicians of the Century.—Domestic Medicine in Chaucer.—Fellowship of the Barbers and Surgeons.—The Black Death.—The Dancing Mania.—Pharmacy.
VIII. The Fifteenth Century 333
Faith-healing.—Charms and Astrology in Medicine.—The Revival of Learning.—The Humanists.—Cabalism and Theology.—The Study of Natural History.—The Sweating Sickness.—Tarantism.—Quarantine.—High Position of Oxford University.
IX. Medicine in Ancient Mexico and Peru 341
Hospitals in Mexico.—Anatomy and Human Sacrifices.—Midwives as Spiritual Mothers.—Circumcision.—Peru.—Discovery of Cinchona Bark. xiv
I. The Sixteenth Century 345
The Dawn of Modern Science.—The Reformation of Medicine.—Paracelsus.—The Sceptics.—The Protestantism of Science.—Influenza.—Legal Recognition of Medicine in England.—The Barber-Surgeons.—The Sweating Sickness.—Origin of the Royal College of Physicians of London.—“Merry Andrew.”—Origin of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.—Caius.—Low State of Midwifery.—The Great Continental Anatomists.—Vesalius.—Servetus.—Paré.—Influence of the Reformation.—The Rosicrucians.—Touching for the Evil.—Vivisection of Human Beings.—Origin of Legal Medicine.
II. The Seventeenth Century 377
Bacon and the Inductive Method.—Descartes and Physiology.—Newton.—Boyle and the Royal Society.—The Founders of the Schools of Medical Science.—Sydenham, the English Hippocrates.—Harvey and the Rise of Physiology.—The Microscope in Medicine.—Willis and the Reform of Materia Medica.
III. Skatological Medicine and the Reform of Pharmacology 394
Loathsome Medicines.—Sympathetical Cures.—Weapon Salve.—Superstitions.
IV. Baths and Mineral Waters 400
Miraculous Springs.—The Pool of Bethesda.—Herb-baths.
V. Witchcraft and Medicine 403
Comparative Witchcraft.—Laws against Sorcery.—Magic in Virgil and Horace.—Demonology.—Images of Wax and Clay.—Transference of Disease.—Witchcraft in the Koran.—White Magic and Black.—Coral and the Evil Eye.—“Overlooking” People.—Exorcism in the Catholic Church.
VI. Medical Superstitions 413
Death and the Grave.—Sorcerer’s Ointment.—Teeth-worms.—Disease Transference.—Doctrine of Signatures.
VII. The Eighteenth Century 418
The Sciences accessory to Medicine.—The Great Schools of Medical Theory.—Boerhaave and his System.—Stahl.—Hoffman.—Cullen.—Brown.—Hospitals.—Bichat and the New Era of Anatomy.—Mesmer and Mesmerism.—Surgery.—The Anatomists, Physiologists, and Scientists of the Period.—Inoculation and Vaccination.
I. The Nineteenth Century.—Physical Science Allied to Medicine 443
Exit the Disease-demon.—Medical Systems again.—Homœopathy.—The Natural Sciences.—Chemistry, Electricity, Physiology, Anatomy, Medicine and Pathology.—Psychiatry.—Surgery.—Ophthalmology.
II. Medical Reforms 464
Discovery of Anæsthetics.—Medical Literature.—Nursing Reform.—History of the Treatment of the Insane.
III. The Germ Theory of Disease 471
The Disease-demon reappears as a Germ.—Phagocytes.—Ptomaines.—Lister’s Antiseptic Surgery.—Sanitary Science or Hygiene.—Bacteriologists.—Faith Cures.—Experimental Physiology and the Latest System of Medicine.
On Some of the More Important Minerals Used in Medicine 486






The Medicine and Surgery of the Lower Animals.—Poisons and Animals.—Observation amongst Savages.—Man in the Glacial Period.

There is abundant proof from natural history that the lower animals submit to medical and surgical treatment, and subject themselves in their necessities to appropriate treatment. Not only do they treat themselves when injured or ill, but they assist each other. Dogs and cats use various natural medicines, chiefly emetics and purgatives, in the shape of grasses and other plants. The fibrous-rooted wheat-grass, Triticum caninum, sometimes called dog’s-wheat, is eaten medicinally by dogs. Probably other species, such as Agrostis caninia, brown bent-grass, are used in like manner.3

Mr. George Jesse describes another kind of “dog-grass,” Cynosurus cristatus, as a natural medicine, both emetic and purgative, which is resorted to by the canine species when suffering from indigestion and other disorders of the stomach. Every druggist’s apprentice knows how remarkably fond cats are of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis). This strong-smelling root acts on these animals as an intoxicant, and they roll over and over the plant with the wildest delight when brought into contact with it. Cats are extravagantly fond of cat-mint (Nepeta cataria). It has a powerful odour, like that of pennyroyal. There is no evidence, however, that these plants have any medicinal properties for which they are used by cats, they are merely enjoyed by them on account of their perfume.

Dr. W. Lauder Lindsay, in his Mind in the Lower Animals, says that the Indian mongoose, poisoned by the snake which it attacks, uses the antidote to be found in the Mimosa octandra.4


“Its value both as a cure and as a preventive is said to be well known to it. Whenever in its battles with serpents it receives a wound, it at once retreats, goes in search of the antidote, and having found and devoured it, returns to the charge, and generally carries the day, seeming none the worse for its bite.”5 This, however, is probably a fable of the Hindus.

“A toad, bit or stung by a spider, repeatedly betook itself to a plant of Plantago major (the Greater Plantain), and ate a portion of its leaf, but died after repeated bites of the spider, when the plant had been experimentally removed by man.”6

The medicinal uses of the hellebore were anciently believed to have been discovered by the goat.

“Virgil reports of dittany,” says More, in his Antidote to Atheism, “that the wild goats eat it when they are shot with darts.” The ancients said that the art of bleeding was first taught by the hippopotamus, which thrusts itself against a sharp-pointed reed in the river banks, when it thinks it needs phlebotomy.

If man had not yet learned the medicinal properties of salt, he could discover them by the greedy licking of it by buffaloes, horses, and camels. “On the Mongolian camels,” says Prejevalsky, “salt, in whatever form, acts as an aperient, especially if they have been long without it.” Rats will submit to the gnawing off of a leg when caught in a trap, so that they may escape capture (Jesse). Livingstone says that the chimpanzee, soko, or other anthropoid apes will staunch bleeding wounds by means of their fingers, or of leaves, turf, or grass stuffed into them. Animals treat wounds by licking—a very effectual if tedious method of fomentation or poulticing.

Cornelius Agrippa, in his first book of Occult Philosophy, says that we have learned the use of many remedies from the animals. “The sick magpie puts a bay-leaf into her nest and is recovered. The lion, if he be feverish, is recovered by the eating of an ape. By eating the herb dittany, a wounded stag expels the dart out of its body. Cranes medicine themselves with bulrushes, leopards with wolf’s-bane, boars with ivy; for between such plants and animals there is an occult friendship.”7

Some interesting observations relating to the surgical treatment of wounds by birds were recently brought by M. Fatio before the Physical Society of Geneva. He quotes the case of the snipe, which he has often observed engaged in repairing damages. With its beak and feathers it makes a very creditable dressing, applying plasters to bleeding wounds, and even securing a broken limb by means of a stout ligature. On one occasion he killed a snipe which had on the chest a large dressing com5posed of down taken from other parts of the body, and securely fixed to the wound by the coagulated blood. Twice he has brought home snipe with interwoven feathers strapped on to the site of fracture of one or other limb. The most interesting example was that of a snipe, both of whose legs he had unfortunately broken by a misdirected shot. He recovered the animal only the day following, and he then found that the poor bird had contrived to apply dressings and a sort of splint to both limbs. In carrying out this operation, some feathers had become entangled around the beak, and, not being able to use its claws to get rid of them, it was almost dead from hunger when discovered. In a case recorded by M. Magnin, a snipe, which was observed to fly away with a broken leg, was subsequently found to have forced the fragments into a parallel position, the upper fragment reaching to the knee, and secured them there by means of a strong band of feathers and moss intermingled. The observers were particularly struck by the application of a ligature of a kind of flat-leafed grass wound round the limb in a spiral form, and fixed by means of a sort of glue.

Le Clerc thought that the stories of animals teaching men the use of plants, herbs, etc., meant that men tried them first upon animals before using them for food or medicine. There is no probability of this having been so. If men had observed with Linnæus that horses eat aconite with impunity, and had in consequence eaten it themselves, the result would have been fatal. Birds and herbivorous animals eat belladonna with impunity,8 and it has very little effect on horses and donkeys. Goats, sheep, and horses are said by Dr. Ringer to eat hemlock without ill effects, yet it poisoned Socrates. Henbane has little or no effect on sheep, cows, and pigs. Ipecacuanha does not cause vomiting in rabbits,9 and so on.

Probably from the earliest times man would be led to observe the behaviour of animals when suffering from disease or injury. If he could not learn much from them in the way of medicine, they could teach him many useful arts. In savage man we must seek the beginnings of our civilization, and it is in the lowest tribes and those which have not yet felt the influences of superior races that we must search for the most primitive forms of medical ideas and the earliest theories and treatment of disease.

Sir John Lubbock says:106 “It is a common opinion that savages are, as a general rule, only the miserable remnants of nations once more civilized; but although there are some well-established cases of natural decay, there is no scientific evidence which would justify us in asserting that this applies to savages in general.”

Dr. E. B. Tylor, in his fascinating work on Primitive Culture, says:11 “The thesis which I venture to sustain, within limits, is simply this—that the savage state in some measure represents an early condition of mankind, out of which the higher culture has gradually been developed or evolved by processes still in regular operation as of old, the result showing that, on the whole, progress has far prevailed over relapse. On this proposition the main tendency of human society during its long term of existence has been to pass from a savage to a civilized state. It is mere matter of chronicle that modern civilization is a development of mediæval civilization, which again is a development from civilization of the order represented in Greece, Assyria, or Egypt. Then the higher culture being clearly traced back to what may be called the middle culture, the question which remains is, whether this middle culture may be traced back to the lower culture, that is, to savagery.”

Providing we can find our savage pure and uncontaminated, it matters little where we seek him; north, south, east, or west, he will be practically the same for our purpose.

Dr. Robertson says: “If we suppose two tribes, though placed in the most remote regions of the globe, to live in a climate nearly of the same temperature, to be in the same state of society, and to resemble each other in the degree of their improvement, they must feel the same wants, and exert the same endeavours to supply them.... In every part of the earth the progress of man has been nearly the same, and we can trace him in his career from the rude simplicity of savage life, until he attains the industry, the arts, and the elegance of polished society.”12

Writing of the primitive folk, the Eastern Inoits, Elie Reclus tells us that,13 “shut away from the rest of the world by their barriers of ice, the Esquimaux, more than any other people, have remained outside foreign influences, outside the civilization whose contact shatters and transforms. They have been readily perceived by prehistoric science to offer an intermediate type between man as he is and man as he was in bygone ages. When first visited, they were in the very midst of the stone and bone epoch,14 just as were the Guanches when they were discovered; their iron and steel are recent, almost contemporary importations. The lives of Europeans of the Glacial period cannot have been very different from those led amongst their snow-fields by the Inoits of to-day.”



Who discovered our Medicines?—Anthropology can assist us to answer the Question.—The Priest and the Medicine-man originally one.—Disease the Work of Magic.—Origin of our Ideas of the Soul and Future Life.—Disease-demons.

Cardinal Newman, in his sermon on “The World’s Benefactors,” asks, “Who was the first cultivator of corn? Who first tamed and domesticated the animals whose strength we use, and whom we make our food? Or who first discovered the medicinal herbs, which from the earliest times have been our resource against disease? If it was mortal man who thus looked through the vegetable and animal worlds, and discriminated between the useful and the worthless, his name is unknown to the millions whom he has thus benefited.

“It is notorious that those who first suggest the most happy inventions and open a way to the secret stores of nature; those who weary themselves in the search after truth; strike out momentous principles of action; painfully force upon their contemporaries the adoption of beneficial measures; or, again, are the original cause of the chief events in national history,—are commonly supplanted, as regards celebrity and reward, by inferior men. Their works are not called after them, nor the arts and systems which they have given the world. Their schools are usurped by strangers, and their maxims of wisdom circulate among the children of their people, forming perhaps a nation’s character, but not embalming in their own immortality the names of their original authors.”

The reflection is an old one; the son of Sirach said, “And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them. But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten” (Ecclesiasticus xliv. 9, 10). Cardinal Newman has framed his question, so far as the healing art is concerned, in a manner to which it is impossible to make a satisfactory answer. No one man first discovered the medicinal herbs; probably the discovery of all the virtues of a single one of them was not the work of any individual. No man8 “looked through the vegetable and animal worlds and discriminated between the useful and the worthless”; all this has been the work of ages, and is the outcome of the experience of thousands of investigators. The medical arts have played so important a part in the development of our civilization, that they constitute a branch of study second to none in utility and interest to those who would know something of the work of the world’s benefactors. Probably at no period in the world’s history have medical men occupied a more honourable or a more prominent position than they do at the present time, and it would almost seem that the rewards which an ignorant or ungrateful civilization denied in the past to medical men are now being bestowed on those who in these latter days have been so fortunate as to inherit the traditions and the acquirements of a forgotten ancestry of truth-seekers and students of the mysteries of nature. As the earliest races of mankind passed by slow degrees from a state of savagery to the primitive civilizations, we must seek for the beginnings of the medical arts in the representatives of the ancient barbarisms which are to be found to-day in the aborigines of Central Africa and the islands of Australasian seas. The intimate connection which exists between the magician, the sorcerer, and the “medicine man” of the present day serves to illustrate how the priest, the magician, and the physician of the past were so frequently combined in a single individual, and to explain how the mysteries of religion were so generally connected with those of medicine.

Professor Tylor has explained how death and all forms of disease were attributed to magic, the essence of which is the belief in the influence of the spirits of dead men. This belief is termed Animism, and Mr. Tylor says: “Animism characterizes tribes very low in the scale of humanity, and thence ascends, deeply modified in its transmission, but from first to last preserving an unbroken continuity, into the midst of high culture. Animism is the groundwork of the philosophy of religion, from that of the savages up to that of civilized men; but although it may at first seem to afford but a meagre and bare definition of a minimum of religion, it will be found practically sufficient; for where the roots are, the branches will generally be produced. The theory of animism divides into two great dogmas, forming parts of one consistent doctrine: first, concerning souls of individual creatures, capable of continued existence after death; second, concerning other spirits, upward to the rank of powerful deities. Spiritual beings are held to affect or control the events of the material world, and man’s life here and hereafter; and it being considered that they hold intercourse with men and receive pleasure or displeasure from human actions, the belief in their existence leads naturally, sooner or later, to active reverence and propitiation.” There is no doubt that the belief in the9 soul and in the existence of the spirits of the departed in another world arose from dreams. When the savage in his sleep held converse, as it seemed to him, with the actual forms of his departed relatives and friends, the most natural thing imaginable would be the belief that these persons actually existed in a spiritual shape in some other world than the material one in which he existed. Those who dreamed most frequently and most vividly, and were able to describe their visions most clearly, would naturally strive to interpret their meaning, and would become, to their grosser and less poetical brethren, more important personages, and be considered as in closer converse with the spiritual world than themselves. Thus, in process of time, the seer, the prophet, and the magician would be evolved.

How did primitive man come by his ideas? When he saw the effects of a power, he could only make guesses at the cause; he could only speak of it by some such terms as he would use concerning a human agent. He saw the effects of fire, and personified the cause. With the Hindus Agni was the giver of light and warmth, and so of the life of plants, of animals, and of men; and so with thunder, lightning, and storm, primitive man looked upon these phenomena as the conflicts of beings higher and more powerful than himself. Thus it was that the ancient people of India formed their conceptions of the storm-gods, the Maruts, i.e. the Smashers. Amongst the Esthonians, as Max Müller tells us,15 prayers were addressed to thunder and rain as late as the seventeenth century. “Dear Thunder, push elsewhere all the thick black clouds. Holy Thunder, guard our seed-field.” (This same thunder-god, Perkuna, says Max Müller, was the god Parganya, who was invoked in India a thousand years before Alexander’s expedition.) We say it rains, it thunders. Primitive folk said the rain-god poured out his buckets, the thunder-god was angry.

What did primitive man think when he observed the germination of seeds; the chick coming out of the egg; the butterfly bursting from the chrysalis; the shadow which everywhere accompanies the man; the shadows of the tree; the leaves which vibrate in the breeze; when he heard the roaring of the wind; the moaning of the storm, and the strange, mysterious echo which, plainly as he heard it, ceased as he approached the mountain-side which he conceived to be its home? He could but believe that all nature was living, like himself; and that, as he could not understand what he saw in the seed, the egg, the chrysalis, or the shadow, so all nature was full of mystery, of a life that he in vain would try to comprehend. Many savages regard their own shadows as one of their two souls,—a soul which is always watching10 their actions, and ready to bear witness against them. How should it be otherwise with them? The shadow is a reality to the savage, and so is the echo. The ship which visits his shores, the watch and the compass, which he sees for the first time, are alive; they move, they must be living!

Mr. Tylor, in his chapter on Animism, in his Primitive Culture, says (vol. ii. pp. 124, 125):—

“As in normal conditions the man’s soul, inhabiting his body, is held to give it life, to think, speak, and act through it, so an adaptation of the self-same principle explains abnormal conditions of body or mind, by considering the new symptoms as due to the operation of a second soul-like being, a strange spirit. The possessed man, tossed and shaken in fever, pained and wrenched as though some live creature were tearing or twisting him within, pining as though it were devouring his vitals day by day, rationally finds a personal spiritual cause for his sufferings. In hideous dreams he may even sometimes see the very ghost or nightmare-fiend that plagues him. Especially when the mysterious, unseen power throws him helpless to the ground, jerks and writhes him in convulsions, makes him leap upon the bystanders with a giant’s strength and a wild beast’s ferocity, impels him, with distorted face and frantic gesture, and voice not his own, nor seemingly even human, to pour forth wild incoherent raving, or with thought and eloquence beyond his sober faculties, to command, to counsel, to foretell—such a one seems to those who watch him, and even to himself, to have become the mere instrument of a spirit which has seized him or entered into him—a possessing demon in whose personality the patient believes so implicitly that he often imagines a personal name for it, which it can declare when it speaks in its own voice and character through his organs of speech; at last, quitting the medium’s spent and jaded body, the intruding spirit departs as it came. This is the savage theory of demoniacal possession and obsession, which has been for ages, and still remains, the dominant theory of disease and inspiration among the lower races. It is obviously based on an animistic interpretation, most genuine and rational in its proper place in man’s intellectual history, of the natural symptoms of the cases. The general doctrine of disease-spirits and oracle-spirits appears to have its earliest, broadest, and most consistent position within the limits of savagery. When we have gained a clear idea of it in this its original home, we shall be able to trace it along from grade to grade of civilization, breaking away piecemeal under the influence of new medical theories, yet sometimes expanding in revival, and, at least, in lingering survival holding its place into the midst of our modern life. The possession-theory is not merely11 known to us by the statements of those who describe diseases in accordance with it. Disease being accounted for by attacks of spirits, it naturally follows that to get rid of these spirits is the proper means of cure. Thus the practices of the exorcist appear side by side with the doctrine of possession, from its first appearance in savagery to its survival in modern civilization; and nothing could display more vividly the conception of a disease or a mental affliction as caused by a personal spiritual being than the proceedings of the exorcist who talks to it, coaxes or threatens it, makes offerings to it, entices or drives it out of the patient’s body, and induces it to take up its abode in some other.”



Demoniacal.—Witchcraft.—Offended Dead Persons.

We find amongst savages three chief theories of disease; that it is caused by—

I. The anger of an offended demon.

II. Witchcraft, or

III. Offended dead persons.

I. Anger of Offended Demons.

Disease and death are set down to the influences of spirits in the Australian-Tasmanian district, where demons are held to have the power of creeping into men’s bodies, to eat up their livers, and sometimes to work the wicked will of a sorcerer by inflicting blows with a club on the back of the victim’s neck.16 The Mantira, a low race of the Malay Peninsula, believe in the theory of disease-spirits in its extreme form; their spirits cause all sorts of ailments. The “Hantu Kalumbahan” causes small-pox; the “Hantu Kamang” brings on inflammation and swelling of the hands and feet; the blood which flows from wounds is due to the “Hantu-pari,” which fastens on the wound and sucks. So many diseases, so many Hantus. If a new malady were to appear amongst the tribes, a new Hantu would be named as its cause.17 When small-pox breaks out amongst these people, they place thorns and brush in the paths to keep the demons away. The Khonds of Orissa try to defend themselves against the goddess of small-pox, Jugah Pensu, in the same way. Among the Dayaks of Borneo, to have been ill is to have been smitten by a spirit; invisible spirits inflict invisible wounds with invisible spears, or they enter bodies and make them mad. Disease-spirits in the Indian Archipelago are conciliated by presents13 and dances. In Polynesia, every sickness is set down to deities which have been offended, or which have been urged to afflict the sufferer by their enemies.18 In New Zealand disease is supposed to be due to a baby, or undeveloped spirit, which is gnawing the patient’s body. Those who endeavour to charm it away persuade it to get upon a flax-stalk and go home. Each part of the body is the particular region of the spirit whose office it is to afflict it.19

The Prairie Indians treat all diseases in the same way, as they must all have been caused by one evil spirit.20

Among the Betschvaria disease may be averted if a painted stone or a crossbar smeared with medicine be set up near the entrance of the residence or approach to a town.21

Amongst the Bodo and Dhimal peoples, when the exorcist is called to a sick man he sets thirteen loaves round him, to represent the gods, one of whom he must have offended; then he prays to the deity, holding a pendulum by a string. The offended god is supposed to cause the pendulum to swing towards his loaf.22

The New Zealanders had a separate demon for each part of the body to cause disease. Tonga caused headache and sickness; Moko-Tiki was responsible for chest pains, and so on.23

The Karens of Burmah and the Zulus both say, “The rainbow is disease. If it rests on a man, something will happen to him.”24 “The rainbow has come to drink wells.” They say, “Look out; some one or other will come violently by an evil death.”

The Tasmanians lay their sick round a corpse on the funeral pile, that the dead may come in the night and take out the devils that cause the diseases.25

The Zulus believe that spirits, when angry, seize a living man’s body and inflict disease and death, and when kindly disposed give health and cattle. In Madagascar, Mr. Tylor tells us, the spirits of the Vazimbas, the aborigines of the island, inflict diseases, and the Malagasy accounts for all sorts of mysterious complaints by the supposition that he has given offence to some Vazimba. The Gold Coast negroes believe that ghosts plague the living and cause sickness. The Dayaks of Borneo think that the souls of men enter the trunks of trees, and the Hindus hold that plants are sometimes the homes of the spirits of the departed. The Santals of Bengal believe that the spirits of the good14 enter into fruit-bearing trees.26 It is but another step to the belief that beneficent medicinal plants are tenanted by good spirits, and poisonous plants by evil spirits. The Malays have a special demon for each kind of disease; one for small-pox, another for swellings, and so on.27

The Dayaks of Borneo acknowledge a supreme God, although, as we have said, they attribute all kinds of diseases and calamities to the malignity of evil spirits. Their system of medicine consists in the application of appropriate charms or the offering of conciliatory sacrifices.28 Yet they are an intelligent and highly capable race, and their steel instruments far surpass European wares in strength and fineness of edge.29

The Javanese, nominally Mahometans, are really believers in the primitive animism of their ancestry. They worship numberless spirits; all their villages have patron saints, to whom is attributed all that happens to the inhabitants, good or bad. Mentik causes the rice disease; Sawan produces convulsions in children; Dengen causes gout and rheumatism.30

The religion of Siam is a corrupted Buddhism; spirits and demons (nats or phees) are worshipped and propitiated. Some of these malignant beings cause children to sicken and die. Talismans are worked into the ornamentation of the houses to avert their evil influence.31

The Rev. J. L. Wilson32 says: “Demoniacal possessions are common, and the feats performed by those who are supposed to be under such influence are certainly not unlike those described in the New Testament. Frantic gestures, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, feats of supernatural strength, furious ravings, bodily lacerations, grinding of teeth, and other things of a similar character, may be witnessed in most of the cases.”

In Finnish mythology, which introduces us to ideas of extreme antiquity, we find the disease-demon theory in all its force.

The Tietajat, “the learned,” and the Noijat, or sorcerers, claimed the power to cure diseases by expelling the demons which caused them, by incantations assisted by drugs; these magicians were the only physicians of the nation. The Tietajat and the Noijat, however, were not magicians of the same class: the former practised “white magic,” or “sacred science”; the latter practised “black magic,” or sorcery. Evil spirits, poisons, and malice were the chief aids to practice in the latter; while Tietajat, by means of learning and the assistance of benevolent supernatural beings, devote themselves to the welfare of the people. The three highest deities of Finnish mythology, Ukko, Wäinä15möinen, and Ilmarinen, corresponded to three superior gods of the Accadian magic collection, Ana, Hea, and Mut-ge. Wäinämöinen was the great spirit of life, the master of favourable spells, conqueror of evil, and sovereign possessor of science. The sweat which dropped from his body was a balm for all diseases. It was he alone who could conquer all the demons. Every disease was itself a demon. The invasion of the disorder was an actual possession. Finnish magic was chiefly medical, being used to cure diseases and wounds.33 The Finns believed diseases to be the daughters of Louhiatar, the demon of diseases. Pleurisy, gout, colic, consumption, leprosy, and the plague were all distinct personages. By the help of conjurations, these might be buried or cooked in a brazen vessel. When the priest made his diagnosis he had to be in a state of divine ecstasy, and then by incantation, assisted by drugs, he proceeded to exorcise the demon. The Finnish incantations belonged to the same family as those of the Accadians. Professor Lenormant translates from the great Epopee of the Kalevala one of the incantations:—

“O malady, disappear into the heavens; pain, rise up to the clouds; inflamed vapour, fly into the air, in order that the wind may take thee away, that the tempest may chase thee to distant regions, where neither sun nor moon give their light, where the warm wind does not inflame the flesh.

“O pain, mount upon the winged steed of stone, and fly to the mountains covered with iron. For he is too robust to be devoured by disease, to be consumed by pains.

“Go, O diseases, to where the virgin of pains has her hearth, where the daughter of Wäinämöinen cooks pains,—go to the hill of pains.

“These are the white dogs, who formerly hurled torments, who groaned in their sufferings.”

Another incantation against the plague was discovered by Ganander, and is given by Lenormant:—

“O scourge, depart; plague, take thy flight, far from the bare flesh.

“I will give thee a horse, with which to escape, whose shoes shall not slide on ice;” and so on.

The Jewish ceremony expelled the scapegoat to the desert; the Accadian banished the disease-demons to the desert of sand; the Finnish magician sent his disease-demons to Lapland.

The goddess Suonetar was the healer and renewer of flesh:—

“She is beautiful, the goddess of veins, Suonetar, the beneficent goddess! She knits the veins wonderfully with her beautiful spindle, her metal distaff, her iron wheel.


“Come to me, I invoke thy help; come to me, I call thee. Bring in thy bosom a bundle of flesh, a ball of veins to tie the extremity of the veins.”34

“All diseases are attributed by the Thibetans to the four elements, who are propitiated accordingly in cases of severe illness. The winds are invoked in cases of affections of the breathing; fire in fevers and inflammations; water in dropsy, and diseases whereby the fluids are affected; and the god of earth when solid organs are diseased, as in liver complaints, rheumatism, etc. Propitiatory offerings are made to the deities of these elements, but never sacrifices.”35

Hooker tells of a case of apoplexy which was treated by a Lama, who perched a saddle on a stone, and burning incense before it, scattered rice to the winds, invoking the various mountain peaks in the neighbourhood.

In Hottentot mythology Gaunab is a malevolent ghost, who kills people who die what we call a “natural” death. Unburied men change into this sort of vampire.36

The demoniacal theory of at least one class of disease is found in the Bible, although the New Testament in one passage distinguishes between lunatics and demoniacs. In Matthew iv. 24 we read that they brought to Jesus “those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick.” Epilepsy is evidently the disease described in Mark ix. 17-26, though the symptoms are attributed to possession by a dumb spirit.

II. Witchcraft as a Cause of Disease.

Sorcerers and magicians not only use evil words and cast evil glances at the persons whom they wish to afflict, but they endeavour to obtain possession of some article which has belonged to the individual, or something connected more closely with his personality, as parings of the nails or a few of his hairs, and through these he professes to be able to operate more effectually on the object of his malice. It is to this use of portions of the body that ignorant persons, even at the present day, insist that nail-parings, hair-cuttings, and the like, shall be at once destroyed by fire. Such superstitions are found at work all over the world. Mr. Black tells us37 that the servants of the chiefs of the17 South Sea Islanders carefully collect and bury their masters’ spittle in places where sorcerers are not likely to find it. He says also it is believed in the West of Scotland that if a bird used any of the hair of a person’s head in building his nest, the individual would be subject to headaches and become bald. Of course the bird is held to be the embodiment of an evil spirit or witch. Images of persons to be bewitched are sometimes made in wood or wax, in which has been inserted some of the hair of the victim of the enchantment; the image is then buried, and before long some malady attacks the part of the bewitched person corresponding to that in which the hair has been placed in his effigy. Disease-making is a profession in the island of Tanna in the New Hebrides; the sorcerers collect the skins and shells of the fruits eaten by any one who is to be punished, they are then slowly burned, and the victims sicken. Disease-demons are driven away from patients in Alaska by the beating of drums. The size of the drum and the force of the beating are directly proportioned to the gravity of the disease. A headache can be dispelled by the gentle tapping of a toy drum; concussion of the brain would require that the big drum should be thumped till it broke; if that failed to expel the evil spirit, there would be nothing left but to strangle the patient.

The wild natives of Australia are exceedingly superstitious. Sorcery enters into every relation of life, and their great fear is lest they should be injured by the mysterious influence called boyl-ya. The sorcerers have power to enter the bodies of men and slowly consume them; the victim feels the pain as the boyl-ya enters him, and it does not leave him till it is extracted by another sorcerer. While he is sleeping, he may be attacked and bewitched by having pointed at him a leg-bone of a kangaroo, or the sorcerer may steal away his kidney-fat, where the savage believes that his power resides, or he may secretly slay his victim by a blow on the back of his neck. The magician may dispose of his victim by procuring a lock of his hair and roasting it with fat; as it is consumed, so does his victim pine away and die.

Wingo is a superstition which some Australian tribes have, that with a rope of fibre they can partially choke a man, by putting it round his neck at night while he is asleep, without waking him; his enemy then removes his caul-fat from under his short rib, leaving no mark or wound. When the victim awakes he feels no pain or weakness, but sooner or later he feels something break in his inside like a string. He then goes home and dies at once.38

Dr. Watson thus describes the typical medicine-men:—


“The Tla-guill-augh, or man of supernatural gifts, is supposed to be capable of throwing his good or bad medicine, without regard to distance, on whom he will, and to kill or cure by magic at his pleasure. These medicine-men are generally beyond the meridian of life; grave, sedate, and shy, with a certain air of cunning, but possessing some skill in the use of herbs and roots, and in the management of injuries and external diseases. The people at large stand in great awe of them, and consult them on every affair of importance.”39

Dr. O. L. Möller, Medical Director-General of the Danish army, describes a certain wise woman near Lögstör, who used in her prescriptions for the sick people who consulted her a charm of willow twigs tied together amongst other mystic things, and whose therapeutics were of a bloodthirsty character, as she would advise her patients to strike the first person they met after returning home, until they drew blood, for that person would be the cause of the disease.40

The fact that ghosts and demons are everywhere believed to cause diseases, and that sorcery is practised more or less by most of the races of man in connection with the causation or cure of disease, has been used as a factor in the argument for the origin of primitive man from a single pair in accordance with the orthodox belief. Dr. Pickering, the ethnologist, says: “Superstitions also appear to be subject to the same laws of progression with communicated knowledge, and the belief in ghosts, evil spirits, and sorcery, current among the ruder East Indian tribes, in Madagascar, and in a great part of Africa, seems to indicate that such ideas may have elsewhere preceded a regular form of mythology.”41

There has long been practised in the West Indies a species of witchcraft called Obeah or Obi, supposed to have been introduced from Africa, and which is in reality an ingenious system of poisoning. Mr. Bowrey, Government chemist in Jamaica, connects Obeah-poisoning with a plant which grows abundantly in Jamaica and other West Indian islands, called the “savannah flower,” or “yellow-flowered nightshade” (Urechites suberecta).42

Mr. Bowrey concludes that there is some truth in the stories told of the poisoning by Obeah-men, and that minute doses, frequently administered, might cause death without suspicion being aroused. The British Medical Journal, June 18th, 1892, has the following interesting notes on Obeah (p. 1296):—


“It is difficult to obtain detailed information regarding Obeah practices. They rest largely on the credence given to superstitious practices and vulgar quackery by the uneducated in every country, but there seems little doubt that among them secret poisoning is included. Benjamin Moseley (Medical Tracts, London, 1800) states that Obi had its origin, like many customs among the Africans, from the ancient Egyptians, Ob meaning a demon or magic. Villiers-Stuart (Jamaica Revisited, 1891) says that Obeah in the West African dialects signifies serpent, and that the Obeah-men in Jamaica carry (but in greatest secrecy, for fear of the penal laws) a stick on which is carved a serpent, the emblem being a relic of the serpent worship once universal among mankind, and also that they sacrifice cocks at their religious rites. Moseley gives the following account: ‘Obi, for the purposes of bewitching people or consuming them by lingering illness, is made of grave-dirt, hair, teeth of sharks and other animals, blood, feathers,’ and so on. Mixtures of these are placed in various ways near the person to be bewitched. ‘The victims to this nefarious art in the West Indies among the negroes are numerous. No humanity of the master nor skill in medicine can relieve the poor negro labouring under the influence of Obi. He will surely die, and of a disease that answers no description in nosology. This, when I first went to the colonies, perplexed me. Laws have been made in the West Indies to punish the Obian practice with death, but they have been impotent and nugatory. Laws constructed in the West Indies can never suppress the effect of ideas, the origin of which is in the centre of Africa.’ ‘A negro Obi-man will administer a baleful dose from poisonous herbs, and calculate its mortal effects to an hour, day, week, month, or year.’ The missionaries Waddell (Twenty-nine Years in the West Indies and Central Africa, 1863) and Blyth (Reminiscences of Missionary Life, 1851) confirm this account. They are all agreed that similar practices prevail in West and Central Africa, and that Jamaican Obeah-men use poisons. Mr. Bowrey informs me that he has examined many Obeah charms, and confirms Moseley’s account of them. He thinks, however, that among the negroes the knowledge of poisons has been rapidly dying out, ‘doctor’s medicine’ and the much-advertised patent medicines having largely replaced the drugs of the native practitioners. The belief in Obeah is still, however, almost universal among the black population. According to Sir Spencer St. John (Hayti, or the Black Republic, second edition, London, 1889) secret poisoning is a lucrative occupation in the neighbouring island of Hayti, certain of the people having an intimate knowledge of indigenous poisonous plants and being expert poisoners.”20

III. Offence to the Dead as a Cause of Disease.

How comes it that all the races of man of which we have any accurate information have some belief or other in spirits good or bad, and of some other life than the actual one which they live in their waking hours? The theologian answers it in his own way, the anthropologist in his, and perhaps a simpler one. With the religious aspect of the question we are not here concerned, we have merely to consider the scientific points involved. When the most ignorant savage of the lowest type falls asleep, he is as sure to dream as his more favoured civilized brother. To his companions he appears as though he were dead, he is motionless and apparently unconscious. He awakes and is himself again. What has his spirit or thinking part been doing while his body slept? The man has seen various things and places, has even conversed with friend or foe in his slumbers, has engaged in fights, has taken a journey, has had adventures, and yet his body has not stirred. Naturally enough the explanation most satisfactory is, that his soul has temporarily left his body, and has met other souls in a similar condition. He has seen and conversed with his dead friends or relatives, has been comforted by their presence or alarmed at the visitation. Here, then, we have the anthropologist’s “theory of souls where life, mind, breath, shadow, reflexion, dream, vision, come together and account for one another in some such vague, confused way as satisfies the untaught reasoner.”43

But the savage goes further than this: he has seen his horse, his dog, his canoe, and his spear in his dream, they too must have souls; and thus he invests with a spiritual essence every material object by which he is surrounded. And so we find funeral sacrifices and ceremonies all over the world which testify to this universal belief of primitive man. The ornaments and weapons which are found with the bones of chiefs, the warrior’s horses slain at his burial place, the food and drink and piece of money left with the dead, are intelligible on this theory, and on no other. The savage’s idea of a demon or evil spirit is usually that of a soul of a malevolent dead man. The man was his enemy during life, he remains his enemy after death; or he owed some acknowledgment and reward to a spirit who had helped him, he has neglected to pay his debt, and he has offended the spirit in consequence. In cases of fainting, delirium from fever, hysteria, epilepsy, or insanity, the savage sees the partial absence of the patient’s soul from his body, or the work of a tormenting demon. Demoniacal possession and the ceremonies of exorcism are theories readily explainable by facts with which the an21thropologist is familiar. “The sick Australian will believe that the angry ghost of a dead man has got into him, and is gnawing his liver; in a Patagonian skin hut the wizards may be seen dancing, shouting, and drumming, to drive out the evil demon from a man down with fever.”44

When Prof. Bartram, the anthropologist, was in Burma, his servant was seized with an apopleptic fit. The man’s wife, of course, attributed the misfortune to an angry demon, so she set out for him little heaps of rice, and was heard praying, “Oh, ride him not! Ah, let him go! Grip him not so hard! Thou shalt have rice! Ah, how good that tastes!”

The exorcist may so delude himself that he may believe that he has power to make the demon converse with him. There may be a falsetto voice like that of the mediums of modern civilization issuing from the patient’s mouth, and the exorcist’s questions and commands may be answered, and the evil spirit may consent to leave the sufferer in peace. In nervous or mental disorders, in cases of defective power of assimilating food, such a process may exert a soothing and highly beneficial influence on the patient who is actively co-operating by his faith in his own cure, and so the error both as to the cause of the malady and its treatment is perpetuated.

Primitive folk think that life is indestructible; what is called death is but a change of condition to them; even mites and mosquitos are immortal.45

The Tasmanian, when he suffers from a gnawing disease, believes that he has unwittingly pronounced the name of a dead man, who, thus summoned, has crept into his body, and is consuming his liver. The sick Zulu believes that some dead ancestor he sees in a dream has caused his ailment, wanting to be propitiated with the sacrifice of an ox. The Samoan thinks that the ancestral souls can get into the heads and stomachs of living men, and cause their illness and death. These are examples of human ghosts having become demons.46

In the Samoan group people thought that if a man died bearing ill-will towards any one, he would be likely to return to trouble him, and cause sickness and death, taking up his abode in the sufferer’s head, chest, or stomach. If he died suddenly, they said he had been eaten by the spirit that took him. In the Georgian and Society Islands evil demons cause convulsions and hysterics, or twist the bowels till the sufferers die writhing in agony. Madmen are thought to be entered22 by a god, so they are treated with great respect; idiots are considered to be divinely inspired.47 Many other races believe in the inspiration of mentally feeble or insane persons. Amongst the Dacotas spirits of animals, trees, stones, or deceased persons are believed to enter the patient and cause his disease. The medicine-man recites charms over him, and making a symbolic representation of the intruding spirit in bark, shoots it ceremonially; he sucks over the seat of the pain to draw the spirit out, and fires guns at it as it escapes.

This is just what happened in the West Indies in the time of Columbus. Friar Roman Paul tells of a native sorcerer who pretended to pull the disease from the legs of his patients, blowing it away, and telling it to begone to the mountain or the sea. He would then pretend to extract by sucking some stone or bit of flesh, which he declared had been put into the patient to cause the disease by a deity in punishment for some religious neglect.48 The Patagonians believed that sickness was caused by spirits entering the patient’s body; they considered that an evil demon held possession of the sick man’s body, and their doctors always carried a drum which they struck at the bedside to frighten away the demons which caused the disorder.49 The Zulus and Basutos in Africa teach that ghosts of dead persons are the causes of all diseases. Congo tribes believe also that the souls of the dead cause disease and death amongst men.

The art of medicine in these lands therefore is, for the most part, merely an affair of propitiating some offended and disease-causing spirit. In several parts of Africa mentally deranged persons are worshipped. Madness and idiocy are explained by the phrase, “he has fiends.” The Bodo and Dhimal people of North-east India ascribe all diseases to a deity who torments the patient, and who must be appeased by the sacrifice of a hog. With these people naturally the doctor is a sort of priest. As Mr. Tylor says, “Where the world-wide doctrine of disease-demons has held sway, men’s minds, full of spells and ceremonies, have scarce had room for thought of drugs and regimen.”50

A forest tribe of the Malay Peninsula, called the Original People, are said to have no religion, no idea of any Supreme Being, and no priests; yet their Puyung, who is a sort of general adviser to the tribe, instructs them in sorcery and the doctrine of ghosts and evil spirits. In sickness they use the roots and leaves of trees as medicines. Amongst23 the Tarawan group of the Coral Islands, Pickering says: “Divination or sorcery was also known, and the natives paid worship to the manes or spirits of their departed ancestors.”51 Probably on careful investigation we should find that in these cases the doctrine of ghosts and the worship of spirits has some connection with the causation of disease.

The Malagasy profess a religion which is chiefly fetishism. They believe in the life of the spirit, which they call “the essential part of me,” apart from the body; and they believe that this spirit exists when the body dies. Such “ghosts” they consider can do harm in various ways, especially by causing diseases; consequently they endeavour, as the chief means of cure, to appease the offended ghost. Witchcraft and belief in charms naturally flourish amongst these people.52

Mr. A. W. Howitt says that the Kŭrnai of Gippsland, Australia, believe that a man’s spirit (Yambo) can leave the body during sleep, and hold converse with other disembodied spirits. Another tribe, the Woi-worŭng, call this spirit Mūrŭp, and they suppose it leaves the body in a similar manner, the exact moment of its departure being indicated by the “snoring” of the sleeper. As a theory of the soul, Mr. Howitt says: “It may be said of the aborigines I am now concerned with, and probably of all others, that their dreams are to them as much realities in one sense, as are the actual events of their waking life. It may be said that in this respect they fail to distinguish between the subjective and objective impressions of the brain, and regard both as real events.”53

They believe that these ghosts live upon plants, that they can revisit their old haunts at will, and communicate with the wizards or medicine-men on being summoned by them. A celebrated wizard amongst the Woi-worŭng caught the spirit of a dying man, and brought it back under his ’possum rug, and restored it to the still breathing body just in time to save his life. The ghosts can kill game with spiritually poisoned spears. Even the tomahawk has a spirit, and this belief explains many burial customs. One of the Woi-worŭng people told Mr. Howitt that they buried the weapon with the dead man, “so that he might have it handy.” Other tribes bury with the corpse the amulets and charms used by the deceased during life, in case they may be required in the spirit-world. The Woi-worŭng believe that their wizards could send their deadly magical yark, or rock crystal, against a person they desired to kill, in the form of a small whirlwind. They believe that their wizards “go up” at night to the sky, and obtain such information as24 they require in their profession. They can also bring away the magical apparatus by which some one of another tribe might be injuring the health of a member of his own tribe. It is highly probable that in these Australian beliefs we have the counterparts of those which were everywhere held by primitive man. Good spirits are very little worshipped by savages; they are already well disposed, and need no invocation; it is the bad ones who must be propitiated by an infinite variety of rites and sacrifices. “Thus,” as Professor Keane says, “has demonology everywhere preceded theology.”54

Mr. Edward Palmer, in Notes on Some Australian Tribes, says that the Gulf tribes believe in spirits which live inside the bark of trees, and which come out at night to hold intercourse with the doctors, or “mediums.” These spirits work evil at times. The Kombinegherry tribe are much afraid of an evil-working spirit called Tharragarry, but they are protected by a good spirit, Coomboorah. The Mycoolon people believe in an invisible spear which enters the body, leaving no outward sign of its entry. The victim does not even know that he is hurt; he goes on hunting, and returns home as usual; in the night he becomes ill, delirious, or mad, and dies in the morning. Thimmool is a pointed leg-bone of a man, which, being held over a blackfellow when asleep, causes sickness or death. The Marro is the pinion-bone of a hawk, in which hair of an enemy has been fixed with wax. To work a charm on him a fire circle is made round it. With this charm they can make their enemy sick, or, by prolonging their magic, kill him. When they think they have done harm enough, they place the Marro in water, which removes the charm.55

Mr. H. H. Johnstone says that the tribes on the Lower Congo bury with any one of consequence bales of cloth, plates, beads, knives, and other things required to set the deceased up in the spirit-life on which he has entered. The plates are broken, the beads are crushed, and the knives bent, so as to kill them, that they too may “die,” and go to the spirit-land with their owner.56

This is a valuable confirmation of the doctrine of animism.

As Mr. Herbert Spencer says:57 “It is absurd to suppose that uncivilized man possesses at the outset the idea of ‘natural explanation.’” At a great price has civilized man purchased the power of giving a natural explanation to the phenomena by which he is surrounded. As societies grow, as the arts flourish, as painfully, little by little, his25 experiences accumulate, so does man learn to correct his earlier impressions, and to construct the foundations of science. It is the natural, or it would not be the universal, process for primitive man to explain phenomena by the simplest methods, and these always lead him to his superstitions. It is the only process open to him. The activity which he sees all around him is controlled by the spirits of the dead, and by spirits more or less like those which animate his fellow-men.

Clement of Alexandria says that all superstition arises from the inveterate habit of mankind to make gods like themselves. The deities have like passions with their worshippers, “and some say that plagues, and hailstorms, and tempests, and the like, are wont to take place, not alone in consequence of material disturbance, but also through the anger of demons and bad angels. These can only be appeased by sacrifice and incantations. Yet some of them are easily satisfied, for when animals failed, it sufficed for the magi at Cleone to bleed their own fingers.”58

“The prophetess Diotima, by the Athenians offering sacrifice previous to the pestilence, effected a delay of the plague for ten years.”59



These originated partly in the Desire to cover Ignorance.—Medicine-men.—Sucking out Diseases.—Origin of Exorcism.—Ingenuity of the Priests.—Blowing Disease away.—Beelzebub cast out by Beelzebub.—Menders of Souls.—”Bringing up the Devil.“—Diseases and Medicines.—Fever Puppets.—Amulets.—Totemism and Medicine.

Dr. Robertson tells us that the ignorant pretenders to medical skill amongst the North American Indians were compelled to cover their ignorance concerning the structure of the human body, and the causes of its diseases, by imputing the origin of the maladies which they failed to cure to supernatural influences of a baleful sort. They therefore “prescribed or performed a variety of mysterious rites, which they gave out to be of such efficacy as to remove the most dangerous and inveterate malice. The credulity and love of the marvellous natural to uninformed men favoured the deception, and prepared them to be the dupes of those impostors. Among savages, their first physicians are a kind of conjurers, or wizards, who boast that they know what is past, and can foretell what is to come. Thus, superstition, in its earliest form, flowed from the solicitude of man to be delivered from present distress, not from his dread of evils awaiting him in a future life, and was originally ingrafted on medicine, not on religion. One of the first and most intelligent historians of America was struck with this alliance between the art of divination and that of physic among the people of Hispaniola. But this was not peculiar to them. The Alexis, the Piayas, the Autmoins, or whatever was the distinguishing name of the diviners and charmers in other parts of America, were all physicians of their respective tribes, in the same manner as the Buhitos of Hispaniola. As their function led them to apply to the human mind when enfeebled by sickness, and as they found it, in that season of dejection, prone to be alarmed with imaginary fears, or assured with vain hopes, they easily induced it to rely with implicit confidence on the virtue of their spells and the certainty of their predictions.”60

The aborigines of the Amazon have a kind of priests called Pagés,27 like the medicine-men of the North American Indians. They attribute all diseases either to poison or to the charms of some enemy. Of course, diseases caused by magic can only be cured by magic, so these powerful priest-physicians cure their patients by strong blowing and breathing upon them, accompanied by the singing of songs and by incantations. They are believed to have the power to kill enemies, and to afflict with various diseases. As they are much believed in, these pagés are well paid for their services. They are acquainted with the properties of many poisonous plants. One of their poisons most frequently used is terrible in its effects, causing the tongue and throat, as well as the intestines, to putrefy and rot away, leaving the sufferer to linger in torment for several days.61

Amongst many savage tribes their medicine-men pretend to remove diseases by sucking the affected part of the body. They have previously placed bits of bone, stones, etc., in their mouths, and they pretend they have removed them from the patient, and exhibit them as proofs of their success. The Shaman, or wizard-priest of the religion still existing amongst the peoples of Northern Asia, who pretends to have dealings with good and evil spirits, is the successor of the priests of Accad; thus is the Babylonian religion reduced to the level of the heathenism of Mongolia.

The aborigines of the Darling River, New South Wales, believe that sickness is caused by an enemy, who uses certain charms called the Yountoo and Molee. The Yountoo is made from a piece of bone taken from the leg of a deceased friend. This is wrapped up in a piece of the dried flesh from the body of another deceased friend. The package is tied with some hair from the head of a third friend. When this charm is used against an enemy, it is taken to the camp where he sleeps, and after certain rites are performed it is pointed at the person to be injured. The doctor of the tribe attributes disease to this sort of enchantment, and pretends to suck out of his patient the piece of bone which he declares has entered his body and caused the mischief. The Molee is a piece of white quartz, which is pointed at the victim with somewhat similar ceremonies and consequences. The possessors of these powerful charms take care to hide them from view. When the doctor, or Maykeeka, sucks out the Yountoo—bone chip—from his patient, he must throw it away. The Molee must be cast into water.

Mr. F. Bonney read a paper on “Some Customs of the Aborigines of the River Darling,” before the Anthropological Society of Great Britain, May 8th, 1883, in which the process of curing diseases is described. He says:28 “On one occasion, when I was camped in the Purnanga Ranges, I watched by the light of a camp-fire a doctor at work, sucking the back of a woman who was suffering from pains in that part. While she sat on a log a few yards distant from the camp-fire, he moved about her, making certain passes with boughs which he held, and then sucked for some time the place where pain was felt; at last he took something from his mouth, and, holding it towards the firelight, declared it to be a piece of bone. The old women sitting near loudly expressed their satisfaction at his success. I asked to be allowed to look at it, and it was given to me. I carelessly looked at it, and then pretended to throw it into the fire, but, keeping it between my fingers, I placed it in my pocket, when I could do so unobserved; and on the following morning, when I examined it by daylight, it proved to be a small splinter of wood, and not bone. At the time the patient appeared to be very much relieved by the treatment.” Another mode of treatment described by Mr. Bonney is that of sucking poison, supposed to have been sent into the patient by an enemy, through a string. The patient complained of sickness in the stomach; the woman doctor placed the patient on her back on the ground, tied a string round the middle of her naked body, leaving a loose end about eighteen inches long. The doctress then began sucking the string, passing the loose end through her mouth, from time to time spitting blood and saliva into a pot. She repeated this many times, until the patient professed to be cured.

The people of Timor-laut, near the island of New Guinea, scar themselves on the arms and shoulders with red-hot stones, in imitation of immense small-pox marks, in order to ward off that disease.62

Among the Kaffirs diseases are all attributed to three causes—either to being enchanted by an enemy, to the anger of certain beings whose abode appears to be in the rivers, or to the power of evil spirits.63

“Among the Kalmucks,” says Lubbock, “the cures are effected by exorcising the evil spirit. This is the business of the so-called ‘priests,’ who induce the evil spirit to quit the body of the patient and enter some other object. If a chief is ill, some other person is induced to take his name, and then, as is supposed, the evil spirit passes into his body.”64

Pritchard tells us that29 “the priests of the Negroes are also the physicians, as were the priests of Apollo and Æsculapius. The notions which the Negroes entertain of the causes of diseases are very different. The Watje attribute them to evil spirits whom they call Dobbo. When these are very numerous, they ask of their sacred cotton-tree permission to hunt them out. Hereupon a chase is appointed, and they do not cease following the demons with arms and great cries until they have chased them beyond their boundaries. This chase of the spirits of disease is very customary among many nations of Guinea, who universally believe that many diseases arise from enchantment, and others by the direction of the Deity.”65

It is interesting to note, as showing the ingenuity of the priests, that during the extremely dangerous rainy season the doctors’ remedies are of very little use; then the priests say this is because the gods at this particular season are obliged to appear at the court of the superior deity. During their absence at court, the priests cannot obtain access to them; and as without their advice they could not efficaciously prescribe, such medicines as they offer have little good effect.

The Antilles Indians in Columbus’s time went through the pretence of pulling the disease off the patient and blowing it away, telling it to begone to the sea or the mountains.

That the disease-demon may often be blown away by a plentiful supply of fresh air is now an article of every hygienist’s creed.

The Badaga folk, mountaineers of the Neilgherries, insure their children against accidents and sickness by talismans made of the earth and ashes of funeral pyres. They think the souls of the departed are so vexed at finding themselves in a novel condition that they are liable to kill people even without a motive. When an epidemic breaks out, they lay the blame on the person who died last, who is going about the country taking vengeance on his kindred.66

Monier Williams says they endeavour to induce the demon of pestilence, of typhoid fever, of the plague of rats or caterpillars, to enter into the body of a dancer, who acts as a medium and has power to exorcise the angry spirit. He has power to let loose rot or farcy amongst the flocks and herds, so the medium has to be conciliated. The Corumba of these mountain people is a wizard, the sicknesses of men and animals are all set down to his account. “Gratified by the evil reputation the Corumba enjoy, they offer to undo what they are supposed to have done, to remove the spells they are accused of having cast. The wheat is smutty, the flocks have the scab? Somebody’s head aches, some one’s stomach is out of order? One of these rogues turns up, offers to eject the demon; as it happens, the evil spirit is one of his particular cronies! He will cast out Beelzebub by Beelzebub.”67

Amongst the Western Inoits, says Elie Reclus,68 the magician of the30 people is called Angakok, signifying the “Great” or “the Ancient,” and he is guide, instructor, wonder-worker, physician, and priest. He accumulates in himself all influences; “he is public counsellor, justice of the peace, arbitrator in public and private affairs, artist of all kinds, poet, actor, buffoon.” Supposed to be in contact and close communication with the superior beings of the world of spirits, and to harbour in his body many demons of various kinds, he is supposed to be invested with omnipotence, he can chase away the disease-demons, and put even death itself to flight. The angakok defends his people from the demons who take the form of cancers, rheumatism, paralysis, and skin diseases. He exorcises the sick man with stale urine, like the Bochiman poison-doctors.69

The Cambodians exorcise the small-pox demon with the urine of a white horse.70

Thiers (Des Superstitions), quoted by Reclus, says that Slavonic rustics asperse their cattle with herbs of St. John boiled in urine to keep ill-luck away from them; and that French peasant women used to wash their hands in their own urine, or in that of their husbands and children, to prevent evil enchantments doing them harm. Reclus says: “When a diagnosis puzzles an angakok, he has recourse to a truly ingenious proceeding. He fastens to the invalid’s head a string, the other end of which is attached to a stick; this he raises, feels, balances on his hand, and turns in every direction. Various operations follow, having for their object the forcible removal of the spider from the luckless wretch whose flesh it devours. He will cleanse and set to rights as much as he is able—whence his name ‘Mender of Souls.’ A wicked witch, present though invisible, can undo the efforts of the conjurer, and even communicate to him the disease, rendering him the victim of his devotion; black magic can display more power than white magic. Then, seeing the case to be desperate, the honest angakok summons, if possible, one or more brethren, and the physicians of souls strive in concert to comfort the dying man; with a solemn voice they extol the felicities of Paradise, chanting softly a farewell canticle, which they accompany lightly upon the drum.”71

The superstitious natives of the Lower Congo have a singular custom, when anybody dies, of compelling some victim or other to drink a poison made from the bark of the Erythrophlœum guineensis. It usually acts as a powerful emetic, and is administered in the hope that it may “bring up” the devil. Their medicine-man is called nganga, and he is taught a language quite different from the ordinary tongue,31 and this is kept secret from females. “No one,” says Mr. H. H. Johnston (“On the Races of the Congo”),72 “has yet been able to examine into their sacred tongue.” The use of Latin by civilized doctors is not unlike this African custom.

The mountaineers of the Neilgherries endeavour to induce the demon they invoke to enter into the body of the “medium,” a dancer who pretends to the intoxication of prophecy. If they can persuade the demon of pestilence or typhoid fever to enter into the medium, it becomes possible to act upon and influence him.73

The people of Tartary make a great puppet when fever is prevalent, which they call the Demon of Intermittent Fevers, and which when completed they set up in the tent of the patients.

Mr. Forbes, in his account of the tribes of the island of Timor, says that the natives believe all diseases to be the result of sorcery, and they carry a variety of herbs and charms to avert its influence. He says: “I had as a servant an old man, who one morning complained of being in a very discomposed and generally uncomfortable state, and of being afraid he was going to die. He had seen, he said, the spirit of his mother in the night, she had been present by him and had spoken with him. He feared, therefore, that he was about to die. He begged of me some tobacco and rice to offer to her, which I gave him. He retired a little way to a great stone in the ground, and laying on it some betel and pinang, with a small quantity of chalk, along with a little tobacco and rice, he repeated for some eight or ten minutes an invocation which I did not understand. The rice and the chalk he left on the stone, which were very shortly after devoured by my fowls; the tobacco, betel, and pinang he took away again, to be utilised by himself.”74

When the medicine-man of these tribes calls to see a patient, he looks very closely at him, to endeavour to perceive the sorcerer who is making him ill. Then he returns to his home and makes up some medicines, which the happy patient has not however to swallow, but the drugs having been packed by the doctor into a bundle with a small stone, are thrown away as far as possible from the sick man; the stone finds out the sorcerer and returns to the doctor, who gives it to his patient and tells him it will cure him if he will wear it about his neck. This affords another illustration of the universal belief of the value of amulets in medicine.

Medicine amongst certain tribes has a connection with the adoration of particular objects and animals believed to be related to each32 separate stock or blood-kindred of human beings, and which is known in anthropology as totemism. The Algonquin Indians use the name, Bear, Wolf, Tortoise, Deer, or Rabbit to designate each of a number of clans into which the race is divided. The animal is considered as an ancestor or protector of the tribe.

In considering the institutions of “totemism” and “medicine,” we must not forget that savage “medicine” has a function somewhat different from that of medicine in our sense of the word. Some doubt if there be any real distinction between the totem and the medicine.75

Schoolcraft says that among the Sioux a clan consists of individuals who use the same roots for medicine, and they are initiated into the clan by a great medicine-dance. The Sioux and other tribes make a bag out of the skin of the medicine (totem?) animal, which acts as a talisman, and is inherited by the son. Here we have an instance of the reverence inspired by an inherited medicine. It is a little surprising that we have so few evidences of the worship of healing herbs and drugs.

Demon-worship is the explanation of the mysteries of Dionysus Zagreus and the Chthonic and Bacchic orgies. M. Reclus says: “If we knew nothing otherwise of these orgies, we could obtain a sufficiently correct idea of them by visiting the Ghâts, the Neilgherries, and the Vindhyas.”76


[Face p. 32.



Bleeding.—Scarification.—Use of Medicinal Herbs amongst the Aborigines of Australia, South America, Africa, etc.

The Healing Craft of many of the northern tribes of Australia is thus described by Mr. Palmer:—

“Among the northern tribes many devices and charms are resorted to in the cases of pains and sickness. The doctors are men who, it is supposed, possess great powers of healing, some of which they obtain from the spirits. They use stones and crystals to put away sickness from any one, and sometimes they bandage the afflicted part with string tightly till no part of the skin is visible. One common plan of alleviating pain is by bleeding, supposing that the pain comes away with the blood. For this minute cuts are made through the skin with pieces of broken flint, or the edge of a broken mussel-shell, over the part affected, and the blood is wiped off with a stick. Sometimes the doctor ties a string from the sick place, say the chest, and rubs the end of it across his gums, spitting into a kooliman of water, and passing the string through also; he then points to the blood in the water as evidence of his skill in drawing it from the sick person. Stones are sucked out with the mouth, and exhibited as having been taken from the body. A good number of plants are used in sickness as drinks, and for external application. A broken arm is cured with splints made of bark and wound round tightly. Snake-bite is cured by scarifying and sucking the wound, and by then using a poultice of box-bark, bruised and heated.”77

Mr. E. Palmer says that34 “the Australian aborigines possessed a considerable knowledge of indigenous plants, and their acquaintance with natural history was very accurate. They could only have obtained this knowledge by close observation and generations of experience. With the extermination of the blacks this information has completely died out, and it can only now be obtained in far-distant places like North Queensland, where the aborigines have not been killed off by contact with civilization. They have much experience in the healing virtues and properties of plants, as also of the kinds best suited for poisoning fish.”78 Great skill is exhibited by their mode of preparing plants by fire and water and other processes, before using them as food; if partaken of in their natural state, many of them would be very deleterious, if not actually poisonous. The Dioscorea sativa, or karro plant, has large tubers, which are first roasted, then broken in water and strained or squeezed through fine bags made of fibre into long bark troughs, then the product is washed in many waters, the sediment is well stirred while the water is poured in; by this means the bitter principle is extracted, and a yellow fecula like hominy is produced. Careya australis has a root which is used to poison fish, though its fruit is eaten uncooked by the natives. Manna is gathered from Eucalyptus terminalis. Cymbidium caniculatum is used for dysentery and other bowel disorders. The nuts of the Cycas media are very poisonous unless prepared by fire and water, and then they can be used as food. The seeds of Entada scandens are only fit for eating after baking and pounding, as is the case with many other plants cleverly manipulated by the blacks. The leaves of Ocimum sanctum are infused in water and drunk for sickness. A wash is made from the bruised bark of the gutta-percha tree, Excæcaria parviflora. The leaves of Loranthus quandong, the mistletoe of the Acacia hemalophylla, are infused in water and drunk for fevers, ague, etc.; it is doubtful whether they have any virtue, but mistletoe was once a very highly prized medicine in Europe, though now wholly obsolete. The leaves of Melaleuca leucadendron are used in infusion for headache, colds, and general sickness. The melaleuca is the cajeput tree, and cajeput oil is undoubtedly a valuable medicine. Stillé says, “It is of marked utility in cases of nervous vomiting, nervous dysphagia, dyspnœa, and hiccup.”79 Externally it is valuable in nervous headache and neuralgia.

The natives make great use medicinally of the various species of eucalyptus. The leaves of Eucalyptus tetradonta are made into a drink for fevers and sickness with headache, etc. The Eucalyptus globulus recently introduced into civilized medicine comes from Australia. Plectranthus congestus, Pterocaulon glandulosus, Gnaphalium luteo-album (several of this species are used in European medicine in bronchitis and diarrhœa, and one of them is called “Life Everlasting”), Heliotropium ovalifolium, and Moschosma polystachium, are all used in the medical practice of these despised aborigines, and are probably quite as valuable as the majority of the herbs recommended in our old herbals and pharmacopœias.


The aborigines of the north-western provinces of South America have long been famous for their extensive knowledge of the properties of medicinal plants, and even now they possess secrets for which we may envy them.80

The arrow-poison used by the Indians of the interior is made from a plant of the strychnos family. Those of the Pacific coast prepare a poison from the secretion exuding from the skin of a small frog; this by a certain process of decomposition they convert into a powerful blood-poison. It is said that when these tribes were preparing poisons for use in time of war, it was their ancient practice to test their efficacy on the old women of the tribe, and not on the lower animals, exhibiting in this respect a superior knowledge of toxicology than is shown by those pharmacologists of our own day who test on animals the drugs they propose administering to man. Mr. R. B. White, in his notes on these aboriginal tribes, says that the Indians in the State of Antioquia were in the habit of poisoning the salt springs in the time of the Spanish invasion; they covered the spring with branches of a tree called the “Doncel,” which imparted such venomous properties to the water that after a lapse of three hundred years it still retains its deadly properties; when animals now get at the water, as many as three horses have been known to be killed in one night by drinking it.81

The study of the means of capturing fish by poisoning the water—a practice which is universal amongst savages—must have led to many observations on the properties of poisonous plants. Some considerable knowledge of the risks and uses of various leaves and berries must have been acquired in this way. The people of Timor-laut intoxicate fish with rice steeped in poisonous climbing plants.82

The aborigines of the River Darling, New South Wales, feed their very sick and weak patients upon blood drawn from the bodies of their male friends. It is generally taken raw by the invalid, sometimes however it is slightly cooked by putting hot ashes in it.83

The practice is disgusting, but scarcely more so than one which was prescribed a few years ago by the great physicians of Paris, who ordered their anæmic patients to drink hot blood from the slaughtered oxen at the abattoirs. Mr. Bonney says that the aborigines referred to willingly bleed themselves till they are weak and faint to provide the food they consider necessary for the sick person.

The acacias are very abundant in Australia, in India, and Africa. This order of plants produces gum arabic and gum Senegal. The Tasmanians use the gum of Acacia sophora as a food.


The eucalyptus or blue-gum tree grows on the hills of Tasmania and in Victoria on the mainland of Australia; it was introduced into Europe in 1856, and has been very extensively used as a remedy for intermittent fever, influenza, and as a powerful disinfectant.

“As in all similar cases,” says Stillé, “the discovery of its virtues was accidental. It is alleged that more than forty years ago the crew of a French man-of-war, having lost a number of men with ‘pernicious fever,’ put into Botany Bay, where the remaining sick were treated with eucalyptus, and rapidly recovered. It is also said that the virtues of the tree were well known to the aboriginal inhabitants.”

A good illustration of the ways in which the properties of plants have been discovered, and of the relation of poisonous to harmless herbs, may be found in the practice of the American Indians in their use of the manioc, a large shrub producing roots somewhat like parsnips. They carefully extract the juice, which is a deadly poison, and then grate the dried roots to a fine powder, which they afterwards convert into the cassava bread. How was this treatment of the root discovered? It was simply due to the fact that one species of the shrub is devoid of any poisonous property, and has only to be washed and may then be eaten with impunity. No doubt this non-poisonous root was the first which was used for food; then when the supply ran short they were driven by necessity to find out the way to use the almost identical root of the poisonous variety, which when divested of its juice is even better for food than the harmless root. Probably this was only discovered after many experiments and fatalities. “Necessity, the mother of invention,” in this as in most other things, ultimately directed the natives to the right way of dealing with this article of diet.

The male fern is a very ancient remedy for tape-worm, and to the present day physicians have found nothing so successful for removing this parasite. The plant is indigenous to Canada, Mexico, South America, India, Africa, and Europe. The negroes of South America have long used worm-seed (Chenopodium anthelminticum) as a vermifuge for lumbricoid worms. The plant grows wild in the United States, and has been introduced into the Pharmacopœia as a remedy especially adapted for the expulsion of the round-worms of children. Kousso (Brayera anthelmintica) has been employed from time immemorial in Abyssinia for the expulsion of tape-worm. It has been introduced into the British Pharmacopœia.

Some tribes of the Upper Orinoco, Rio Negro, etc., have been known to subsist for months on no other food than an edible earth, a kind of clay containing oxide of iron, and which is of a reddish-brown colour.


M. Cortambert, at a meeting of the Geographical Society in 1862, described this singular food, and said it seemed to be rather a stay for the stomach than a nourishment. Some white people in Venezuela have imitated the earth-eaters, and do not despise balls of fat earth.84

Savages require much larger doses of drugs than civilized people. Mr. Bonney relates85 that he usually gave the aborigines of New South Wales half a pint or more of castor oil for a dose. Another man took three drops of croton oil as an ordinary dose.

Professor Bentley in 1862-63 contributed to the Pharmaceutical Journal a series of articles on New American Remedies which have been introduced into medical practice in consequence of their reputation amongst the Indians. Yellow-root (Xanthorrhiza apiifolia) has long been employed by the various tribes of North American Indians as a tonic, and may be compared to quassia or calumba root. It is included in the United States Pharmacopœia. Its active principle seems to be berberine.

The blue Cohosh plant (Caulophyllum thalictroides) has for ages been used by the aborigines of North America as a valuable remedy for female complaints. A tea of the root is employed amongst the Chippeway Indians on Lake Superior as an aid to parturition. The earliest colonists obtained their knowledge of the virtues of the blue cohosh from the natives, and it has for many years been a favourite diuretic remedy in the States. Its common names are pappoose-root, squaw-root, and blueberry-root. Its active principle is called caulophyllin.

Twin-leaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) is a popular remedy in Ohio and other North American States in rheumatism. It is called rheumatism-root. In chemical composition it is similar to senega.

Blood-root, or puccoon (Sanguinaria canadensis), has been used for centuries by North American Indians as a medicine. It has been introduced into the United States Pharmacopœia. It is an alterative, and is useful in certain forms of dyspepsia, bronchitis, croup, and asthma. Its physiological action, however, bears no relation to its medicinal uses (Stillé and Maisch). Its active principle is sanguinarina.

Sarracenia purpurea, Indian cup, or side-saddle plant, is a native of North America, and much used by the Indians in dyspepsia, sick headache, etc.

The valuable bitter stomachic and tonic calumba-root comes to us from the forests of Eastern Africa, between Ibo and the Zambesi. Its38 African name is kalumb; it depends for its therapeutic value on the berberine which it contains, and which is found in several other plants. The natives of tropical Africa, the North American Indians, and the semi-barbarian tribes of Hindostan and China have all been impressed with the medicinal value of berberine. Before quinine was commonly used in medicine, this valuable drug was estimated most highly for its very similar properties. There can be no doubt that it was introduced into medicine by savages.

Jalap comes to us from Mexico. It was named from the city of Xalapa.

Cinchona bark was used by the savages of Peru long before it was introduced into European medicine.

Guaiacum, so valuable in chronic rheumatism, was introduced into European medicine from the West India Islands and the northern coasts of South America.

The excellent and popular tonic, quassia-wood, reaches us from Jamaica.

Logwood, a valuable astringent, largely used in diarrhœa, is a native of Campeachy and other parts of Central America, and grows in the West India Islands and India.

Copaiba, an oleo-resin from the copaiva tree, comes from the West Indies and tropical parts of America, chiefly from the valley of the Amazon. It is one of our most valuable remedies in diseases of the genito-urinary organs.

Turkey corn, or Turkey pea (Dicentra, Corydalis formosa) grows in Canada and as far south as Kentucky. It has a reputation as a tonic, diuretic and alterative medicine, and is used in skin diseases, syphilis, etc.

The negroes use the prickly ash, or toothache shrub (Xanthoxylum fraxineum), as a blood purifier, especially in the spring. It has long been officinal in the United States Pharmacopœia, and is considered highly serviceable in chronic rheumatism.

The shrubby trefoil (Ptelea trifoliata) is a North American shrub, much valued in dyspepsia, and as a stimulant in the typhoid state. Its active principle is berberine.

The above are merely a few examples taken at random of the valuable medicinal plants used by savages and primitive peoples.

Thus, as might have been expected, the discovery of the Americas led to the introduction of many new drugs into medical practice.

Savages eat enormously.

Wrangel says each of the Yakuts ate in a day six times as many fish as he could eat. Cochrane describes a five-year-old child of this race39 as devouring three candles, several pounds of sour frozen butter, and a large piece of yellow soap, and adds: “I have repeatedly seen a Yakut, or a Yongohsi, devour forty pounds of meat in a day.”86

Yet the savage is less powerful than the civilized man. “He is unable,” says Spencer, “to exert suddenly as great an amount of force, and he is unable to continue the expenditure of force for so long a time.”



Arrest of Bleeding.—The Indian as Surgeon.—Stretchers, Splints, and Flint Instruments.—Ovariotomy.—Brain Surgery.—Massage.—Trepanning.—The Cæsarean Operation.—Inoculation.

Primitive man, from the earliest ages, must have been a diligent student of medicine; it has indeed been wisely said that the first man was the first physician. That is to say, he must have been at least as careful to avoid noxious things and select good ones as the beasts, and, as in the lowest scale, he must have been able in some degree to observe, reflect, and compare one thing with another, and so find out what hurt and what healed him, he would at once begin to practise the healing art, either that branch of it which is directed towards maintaining the health or that of alleviating suffering. When his fellow-men were sick and died, he would be led to wonder why they perished; and when other men stricken in like manner recovered, he would speculate as to the causes of their cure. It is probable that at first little attention was paid to the loss of blood when an artery was severed. Soon, however, it would be remarked that under such conditions the man would faint, and perhaps die. In process of time it would be observed that when the injured blood-vessel was by any means, natural or artificial, closed, the man quickly recovered. Then some one wiser than the other would bind a strip of fibre or a piece of the skin of a beast around the bleeding limb, and the hæmorrhage would cease, and the operator would gain credit and reward. He would then, naturally, give himself airs, and pretend, in course of time, to some importance, and so become a healer by profession. It would soon be noticed that those who, in the search for berries in the woods, ate of certain kinds, more or less promptly died, and those who had abstained from their use survived. It would be understood that such berries must not be eaten. Or again, a man suffering from some pain in his stomach would eat of a particular plant that seemed good for food, and his pain would be relieved: it might be ages before primitive man would arrive at the conclusion that there was some connection between the pain and41 its disappearance after eating of the plant in question; but in process of time the two things would be associated, and everybody would use the curative plant for the particular pain.

It is natural to suppose that many such things would happen, and we know as a fact that they have so happened in numberless instances.

Probably empirical medicine, in the most ancient times and amongst the most savage tribes, had an armoury of weapons against pain and sickness not greatly inferior to our own Materia Medica. The origin of the use of most of our valuable medicines cannot be discovered.

“As no man can say who it was that first invented the use of clothes and houses against the inclemency of the weather, so also can no investigation point out the origin of medicine—mysterious as the sources of the Nile. There has never been a time when it was not.”87

The origin of surgery is probably much older than that of medicine, if by the term surgery we mean the application of herbs to wounds, either as bandages or on account of their healing properties, and the use of medicinal baths the like. Mr. Gladstone, in an address to a society of herbalists, which was reported in the Daily News, 27th March, 1890, said that an accident which occurred to himself, when cutting down a tree, illustrated the very beginning of the healing art. He cut his finger with the axe, and found that he had no handkerchief with him with which to bind up the wound, so he took a leaf of the tree nearest to him, and fastened it round his injured finger. The bleeding stopped at once, and the wound, he declared, healed much more quickly and favourably than previous injuries treated in a more scientific manner. There is no doubt whatever that this is a good example of the primitive manner of treating cuts and other flesh wounds. The cooling properties of leaves would be recognised by the most primitive peoples; and as a cut or other wound, by the process of inflammation, at once begins to burn and throb, a cooling leaf would be the most natural thing to apply. Some leaves which possess styptic and resinous properties would staunch bleeding very effectually, and the mere act of binding round the cut an application like a leaf would serve to draw together the edges of the wound, and afford an antiseptic plaster of the most scientific nature. It was, in fact, by just such means that the valuable styptic properties of the matico leaves were first discovered by Europeans.

If, in the depths of the forest, an Indian breaks his leg or arm (said Dr. Kingston in his address at the British Medical Association meeting at Nottingham, 1892), splints of softest material are at once improvised. Straight branches are cut, of uniform length and thickness. These are42 lined with down-like moss, or scrapings or shavings of wood; or with fine twigs interlaid with leaves, if in summer; or with the curled-up leaves of the evergreen cedar or hemlock, if in winter; and the whole is surrounded with withes of willow or osier, or young birch. Occasionally it is the soft but sufficiently unyielding bark of the poplar or the bass-wood. Sometimes, when near the marshy margin of our lakes or rivers, the wounded limb is afforded support with wild hay or reeds of uniform length and thickness.

To carry a patient to his wigwam, or to an encampment, a stretcher is quickly made of four young saplings, interwoven at their upper ends, and on this elastic springy couch the injured man is borne away by his companions. When there are but two persons, and an accident happens to one of them, two young trees of birch or beech or hickory are used. Their tops are allowed to remain to aid in diminishing the jolting caused by the inequalities of the ground. No London carriage-maker ever constructed a spring which could better accomplish the purpose. A couple of crossbars preserve the saplings in position, and the bark of the elm or birch, cut into broad bands, and joined to either side, forms an even bed. In this way an injured man is brought by his companion to a settlement, and often it has been found, on arrival, that the fractured bones are firmly united, and the limb is whole again. This is effected in less time than with the whites, for the reparative power of these children of the forest is remarkable. In their plenitude of health, osseous matter is poured out in large quantity, and firm union is soon effected.

The reparative power of the aborigines, when injured, is equalled by the wonderful stoicism with which they bear injuries, and inflict upon themselves severest torture. They are accustomed to cut into abscesses with pointed flint; they light up a fire at a distance from the affected part (our counter-irritation); they amputate limbs with their hunting-knives, checking the hæmorrhage with heated stones, as surgeons were accustomed to do in Europe in the time of Ambroise Paré; and sometimes they amputate their own limbs with more sang froid than many young surgeons will display when operating on others. The stumps of limbs amputated in this primitive manner are well formed, for neatness is the characteristic of all the Indian’s handiwork.

The aborigines are familiar with, and practise extensively, the use of warm fomentations. In every tribe their old women are credited with the possession of a knowledge of local bathing with hot water, and of medicated decoctions. The herbs they use are known to a privileged few, and enhance the consideration in which their possessors are held.


The Turkish bath, in a simpler but not less effective form, is well known to them. If one of their tribe suffers from fever, or from the effects of long exposure to cold, a steam bath is readily improvised. The tent of deer-skin is tightly closed; the patient is placed in one corner: heated stones are put near him, and on these water is poured till the confined air is saturated with vapour. Any degree of heat and any degree of moisture can be obtained in this way. Europeans often avail themselves of this powerful sudatory when suffering from rheumatism.

The aborigines have their herbs—a few, not many. They have their emetics and laxatives, astringents and emollients—all of which are proffered to the suffering without fee or reward. The “Indian teas,” “Indian balsams,” and other Indian “cure-alls”—the virtues of which it sometimes takes columns of the daily journals to chronicle—are not theirs. To the white man is left this species of deception.88

Mr. E. Palmer says that there is a tribe of Australian aborigines, called “Kalkadoona,” adjoining the Mygoodano tribe of the Cloncurry, who practise certain surgical operations at their Bora initiations of youths. They operate on the urethra with flint knives. The same custom can be traced from the Cloncurry River to the Great Australian Bight in the south. The females are in some of the south-western tribes operated on in some manner to prevent conception. It is supposed that the ovary is taken out, as in the operation of spaying.89

Such operations are sometimes performed with a mussel-shell.

Sir John Lubbock says of the Society Islanders that “they had no knowledge of medicine as distinct from witchcraft; but some wonderful stories are told of their skill in surgery. I will give perhaps the most extraordinary. ‘It is related,’ says Mr. Ellis, ‘although,’ he adds with perfect gravity, ‘I confess I can scarcely believe it, that on some occasions, when the brain has been injured as well as the bone, they have opened the skull, taken out the injured portion of the brain, and, having a pig ready, have killed it, taken out the pig’s brains, put them in the man’s head and covered them up.’”90

Massage in one form or another has been practised from immemorial ages by all nations. Captain Cook tells us, in his narrative of the people of Otaheite, New Holland, and other parts of Oceania, that they practise massage in a way very similar to that which is employed by more civilized nations. For the relief of muscular fatigue they resort to a process which they call toogi-toogi, or light percussion regularly applied44 for a long time. They also employ kneading and friction under the names of Miti and Fota. African travellers inform us that the medicine-men use these processes for the relief of injuries to the joints, fractures, and pain of the muscles. Our word shampooing is said to have been derived from the Hindu term chamboning. Dr. N. B. Emerson, in 1870, gave an account of the lomi-lomi of the Sandwich Islanders. He says that, “when footsore and weary in every muscle, so that no position affords rest, and sleep cannot be obtained, these manipulations relieve the stiffness and soothe to sleep, so that the unpleasant effects of excessive exercise are not felt the next day, but an unwonted suppleness of joint and muscle comes instead.”91

When we receive a blow or strike our bodies against a hard substance, we instinctively rub the affected part. This is one of the simplest and most effectual examples of natural surgery. When the emollient properties of oil were discovered, rubbing with oil, or inunction, was practised. The use of oil for this purpose in the East is extremely ancient. Amongst the Greeks there was a class of rubbers who anointed the bodies of the athletes. The oil was very thoroughly rubbed in, so that the pores of the skin were closed and the profuse perspiration thereby prevented. After the contest the athlete was subjected to massage with oil, so as to restore the tone of the strained muscles. These aliptae came to be recognised as a sort of medical trainers. A similar class of slaves attended their masters in the Roman baths, and they were also possessed of a certain kind of medical knowledge.

Discussing the origin of the operation of trepanning, Sprengel says that “nothing is more instructive, in the history of human knowledge, than to go back to the origin, or the clumsy rough sketch of the discoveries to which man was conducted by accident or reflection, and to follow the successive improvements which his methods and his instruments undergo.”92 The name of the inventor of this operation is lost in the night of time. Hippocrates gives us the first account of trepanning in his treatise on Wounds of the Head. We know, however, that it was performed long before his time. Dr. Handerson, the translator of Baas’ History of Medicine, says that human skulls of the neolithic period have been discovered which bear evidences of trepanning.93

The operation of cutting for the stone, like many other of the most difficult operations of surgery, was for a long time given over to45 ignorant persons who make a speciality of it. Sprengel attributes this injurious custom to the ridiculous pride of the properly instructed doctors, who disdained to undertake operations which could be successfully performed by laymen.94

The Bafiotes, on the coast of South Guinea, practise cupping. They make incisions in the skin, and place horns over the wounds, and then suck out the air, withdrawing the blood by these means.95

“Felkin saw a case of the Cæsarean operation in Central Africa performed by a man. At one stroke an incision was made through both the abdominal walls and the uterus; the opening in the latter organ was then enlarged, the hæmorrhage checked by the actual cautery, and the child removed. While an assistant compressed the abdomen, the operator then removed the placenta. The bleeding from the abdominal walls was then checked. No sutures were placed in the walls of the uterus, but the abdominal parietes were fastened together by seven figure-of-eight sutures, formed with polished iron needles and threads of bark. The wound was then dressed with a paste prepared from various roots, the woman placed quietly upon her abdomen, in order to favour perfect drainage, and the task of this African Spencer Wells was finished. It appears that the patient was first rendered half unconscious by banana wine. One hour after the operation the patient was doing well, and her temperature never rose above 101° F., nor her pulse above 108. On the eleventh day the wound was completely healed, and the woman apparently as well as usual.”96

The South Sea Islanders perform trepanning, and some Australian tribes perform ovariotomy.97

The missionary d’Entrecolles was the first to inform the Western world of the method of inoculation for the small-pox, which the Chinese have followed for many centuries.98

In many countries, and from the earliest times, says Sprengel,99 it has been customary to inoculate children with small-pox, because experience has shown that a disease thus provoked assumes a milder and more benign form than the disease which comes naturally.



Egyptian Beer and Brandy.—Mexican Pulque.—Plant-worship.—Union with the Godhead by Alcohol.—Soma.—The Cow-religion.—Caxiri.—Murwa Beer.—Bacchic Rites.—Spiritual Exaltation by Wine.

One of the strongest desires of human nature is the passion for some kind or another of alcoholic stimulants. Intoxicating liquors are made by savages in primeval forests, and travellers in all parts of the world have found the natives conversant with the art of preparing some sort of stimulating liquor in the shape of beer, wine, or spirit. The ancient Egyptians had their beer and brandy, the Mexicans their aloe beer or pulque. Probably the art of preparing fermented drinks was in each nation discovered by accident. Berries soaked in water, set aside and forgotten, saccharine roots steeped in water and juices preserved for future use, have probably taught primitive man everywhere to manufacture stimulating beverages. The influence of alcoholic drinks on the development of the human mind must have been very great. If primitive man has learned so much from his dreams, what has he not learned from the exaltation produced by medicinal plants and alcoholic infusions? If the savage conceives the leaves of a tree waving in the breeze to be influenced by a spirit, it is certain that a medicinal plant or a fermented liquor would be believed to be possessed by a beneficent or evil principle or being. A poison would be possessed by a demon, a healing plant by a good spirit, a stimulating liquor by a god. Plant-worship would on these principles be found amongst the earliest religious practices of mankind, and so we find it, although not to the extent we might have expected.

Some savage peoples worship plants and make offerings to the spirits which dwell in certain trees. It would seem that it is not the plant or tree itself which is thus venerated, but the ghost which makes it its dwelling. In classic times “the ivy was sacred to Osiris and Bacchus, the pine to Neptune, herb mercury to Hermes, black hellebore to Melampus, centaury to Chiron, the laurel to Aloeus, the hyacinth to Ajax, the squill to Epimenes,” etc.100


Herbert Spencer thinks that plant-worship arose from the connection between plants and the intoxication which they produce. It is very remarkable that almost all peoples of whom we have any knowledge produce from the maceration of various vegetable substances some kind of intoxicating liquor, beer, wine, or spirit. As the excitement produced by fainting, fever, hysteria, or insanity is ascribed amongst savages and half-civilized peoples to a possessing spirit, so also is any exaltation of the mind, by whatever means produced, attributed to a similar cause. Supernatural beings they consider may be swallowed in food or drink, especially the latter.101

Vambery speaks of opium-eaters who intoxicated themselves with the drug; that they might be nearer the beings they loved so well. The Mandingoes think that intoxication brings them into relation with the godhead. A Papuan Islander hearing about the Christian God said, “Then this God is certainly in your arrack, for I never feel happier than when I have drunk plenty of it.”102

Any one who reads the sacred books of the East for the first time, especially the Vedic hymns, will be puzzled to say whether the Soma, which is referred to so often, is a deity or something to drink. If we turn up the word in the index volume of the Encyclopædia Britannica, we are astonished to find such an entry as this: “Soma, a drink, in Brahminical ritual, iv. 205; as a deity, iv. 205; vii. 249.” The soma, speaking scientifically, is an intoxicating liquor prepared from the juice of a kind of milk-weed, Asclepias acida, sometimes called the moon-plant. In the Rig-Veda and the Zend Avesta (where it is called Haoma) it appears as a mighty god endowed with the most wonderful exhilarating properties. Herbert Spencer, in the chapter of the Sociology entitled “Plant-Worship,” gives some of the expressions used in the Rig-Veda concerning this fermented soma-juice.

“This [Soma] when drunk, stimulates my speech [or hymn]; this called forth the ardent thought.” (R.V. vi. 47, 3.)

“The ruddy Soma, generating hymns, with the powers of a poet.” (R.V. ix. 25, 5.)

“We have drunk the Soma, we have become immortal, we have entered into light, we have known the gods,” etc. (R.V. viii. 48, 3.)

“The former [priests] having strewed the sacred grass, offered up a hymn to thee, O Soma, for great strength and food.” (R.V. lx. 110, 7.)

“For through thee, O pure Soma, our wise forefathers of old performed their sacred rites.” (R.V. ix. 96, 11.)

“Soma—do thou enter into us,” etc.

Dr. Muir calls Soma48 “the Indian Dionysus.”

In Peru tobacco “has been called the sacred herb.”

Markham says, “The Peruvians still look upon coca with feelings of superstitious veneration.” In the time of the Incas it was sacrificed to the sun. In North Mexico, Bancroft says that some of the natives “have a great veneration for the hidden virtues of poisonous plants, and believe that if they crush or destroy one, some harm will happen to them.” “And at the present time,” says Mr. Spencer, “in the Philippine Islands, the ignatius bean, which contains strychnia and is used as a medicine, is worn as an amulet and held capable of miracles.” The Babylonians seem to have held the palm-tree as sacred, doubtless because fermented palm-juice makes an intoxicating drink.

The Palal, the supreme pontiff of the cow-religion of the Toda people of the Neilgherries, is initiated with incantations, and the smearing of his body with the juice of a sacred shrub called the tude.103

He also drinks some of the extract mixed with water. He is purified by soaking himself with the juice of this plant, and in a week has become a god; he is the supreme being of the Todas. This transmutation is suggestive of the sacred soma.104

The aborigines of the Amazon make an intoxicating drink from wild fruits, which they use at their dances and festivals.105 The people on the Rio Negro use a liquor called “xirac” for the same purpose. The Brazilian Indians have their “caxiri,” which is the same thing; it is a beer made from mandiocca cakes. This mandiocca is chewed by the old women, spat into a pan, and soaked in water till it ferments. The Marghi people of North Africa have an intoxicating liquor called “Komil,” made of Guinea-corn, which Barth said tastes like bad beer, and is very confusing to the brain.106

The Apaches make an intoxicating liquor from cactus juice, or with boiled and fermented corn. Their drunkenness is a preparation for religious acts.107

The Kolarians of Bengal believe that the flowers of the maowah tree (Bassia latifolia) will cure almost every kind of sickness. “Not a cot,” says Reclus,108 “but distils a heady liquor from the petals; not a Khond man who does not get royally drunk.”

The people of the Nepal Himalayas make a beer from half-fermented millet, which they call Murwa; it is weak, but very refreshing. Hooker says the millet-seed is moistened, and ferments for two days; it is then put into a vessel of wicker-work, lined with india-rubber gum to make49 it water tight; and boiling water is poured in it with a ladle of gourd, from a cauldron that stands all day over the fire. The fluid, when fresh, tasted like negus.109

The fermented juice of the cocoa-nut palm makes an intoxicating toddy, of which some birds in the forests round Bombay are as fond as are the natives themselves.110

The natives of Tahiti made an intoxicating drink by chewing the fresh root of the “ava,” a plant of the pepper tribe (Piper methysticum), long before Europeans taught them to ferment the fruits of the country about the year 1796. The chewed root was rinsed in water, and by fermentation a drowsy form of intoxicating liquor was produced of which the natives were extremely fond. They now prefer gin and brandy. The effects of ava or kava intoxication are said to be somewhat similar to those of opium. The Nukahivans drink kava as a remedy for phthisis; it would seem to be of real value in bronchitis, as a chemical examination of the root shows it to contain an oleo-resin probably somewhat akin to balsam of Peru or tolu. It is an ally of the matico, and in its nature and operation closely resembles cubeb and copaiba, which are used to produce a constriction of the capillary vessels.

Cascarilla bark and other barks of the various species of croton, of the Bahama and West India Islands, have valuable stimulant properties universally recognised in modern medicine. They are used in the treatment of dyspepsia and as a mild tonic.

The Carib races were fully conversant with the valuable properties of these drugs; the native priests or doctors used the dried plants for fumigations and in religious ceremonies; and curiously enough at the present day cascarilla bark is one of the ingredients of incense. An infusion of the leaves was used internally in Carib medicine, and the dried bark was mixed with tobacco and smoked, as is often done in civilized lands.

Anacreontic poetry and Bacchic rites were merely intellectual developments of sentiments which the savage feels and expresses in a coarse animal way, just as the alderman’s sense of gratification and perfect contentment after a civic banquet is not altogether different in kind from that felt by a replete quadruped.

Alcoholic intoxication must have produced in primitive man visions far surpassing those of his pleasantest dreams, and his brain must have been filled with images, sometimes pleasant, sometimes horrible, of a more pronounced character than those which visited him in sleep. At such times would come some of the visitants from the world of imagination to the mind of primitive man which have had the most50 important influence on his intellectual development. The drinking customs of our working classes of the present day are in a great degree prompted by the longing which man in every condition has to escape for a while from the squalid, material surroundings of daily life into the ideal world of intellectual pleasures, however low these may often be. “A national love for strong drink,” says a competent authority,111 “is a characteristic of the nobler and more energetic populations of the world; it accompanies public and private enterprise, constancy of purpose, liberality of thought, and aptitude for war.” Tea, haschish, hops, alcohol, and tobacco stimulate in small doses and narcotise in larger; there have been cases known of tea intoxication.112

The desire of escaping from self into an ideal world, a world of novelty and pleasures unimaginable, had much to do with the festivals in Greece in honour of Dionysus; it was in some places considered a crime to remain sober at the Dionysia; to be intoxicated on such occasions was to show one’s gratitude for the gift of wine.



The Couvade, its Prevalence in Savage and Civilized Lands.—Pregnant Women excluded from Kitchens.—The Deities of the Lying-in Chamber.

Dr. Tylor113 gives the following account of the Carib couvade in the West Indies from the work of Du Tertre:114

“When a child is born, the mother goes presently to her work, but the father begins to complain, and takes to his hammock, and there he is visited as though he were sick, and undergoes a course of dieting which would cure of the gout the most replete of Frenchmen. How they can fast so much and not die of it,” continues the narrator,52 “is amazing to me, for they sometimes pass the five first days without eating or drinking anything, then up to the tenth they drink oüycou, which has about as much nourishment in it as beer. These ten days passed, they begin to eat cassava only, drinking oüycou, and abstaining from everything else for the space of a whole month. During this time, however, they only eat the inside of the cassava, so that what is left is like the rim of a hat when the block has been taken out, and all the cassava rims they keep for the feast at the end of forty days, hanging them up in the house with the cord. When the forty days are up they invite their relations and best friends, who being arrived, before they set to eating, hack the skin of this poor wretch with agouti-teeth, and draw blood from all parts of his body in such sort that from being sick by pure imagination they often make a real patient of him. This is, however, so to speak, only the fish, for now comes the sauce they prepare for him; they take sixty or eighty large grains of pimento or Indian pepper, the strongest they can get, and after well washing it in water they wash with this peppery infusion the wounds and scars of the poor fellow, who I believe suffers no less than if he were burnt alive; however, he must not utter a single word if he will not pass for a coward and a wretch. This ceremony finished, they bring him back to his bed, where he remains some days more, and the rest go and make good cheer in the house at his expense. Nor is this all; for through the space of six whole months he eats neither birds nor fish, firmly believing that this would injure the child’s stomach, and that it would participate in the natural faults of the animals on which its father had fed; for example, if the father ate turtle, the child would be deaf and have no brains like this animal, if he ate manati, the child would have little round eyes like this creature, and so on with the rest. It seems that this very severe fasting is only for the first child, that for the others being slight.”

Among the Arawaks of Surinam a father must kill no large game for some time after his child is born. When a wife has borne a child, amongst the Abipones, the husband is put to bed and well wrapped up and kept as though he had had the child. Among the Land Dayaks of Borneo, after the birth of his child the father is kept in seclusion indoors for several days and dieted on rice and salt to prevent the child’s stomach from swelling. All this is due to a belief in a bodily union between father and child; different persons with these savages are not necessarily separate beings.

Tylor says115 that Venegas mentions the couvade among the Indians of California; Zuccheli in West Africa; Captain Van der Hart in Bouro, in the Eastern Archipelago; and Marco Polo in Eastern Asia in the thirteenth century. In Europe even in modern times it existed in the neighbourhood of the Pyrenees. Strabo said,116 that among the Iberians of the North of Spain, the women, after the birth of a child, tend their husbands, putting them to bed instead of going themselves. Among the Basques, says Michel, “in valleys whose population recalls in its usages the infancy of society, the women rise immediately after childbirth and attend to the duties of the household, while the husband goes to bed, taking the baby with him, and thus receives the neighbours’ compliments.” Diodorus Siculus mentions the same thing of the Corsicans (v. 14). Hudibras says,117

“For though Chineses go to bed
And lie in, in their ladies’ stead,
And, for the pains they took before,
Are nurs’d and pamper’d to do more.”

On this remarks Dr. Zachary Grey118:—

“The Chinese men of quality, when their wives are brought to bed, are nursed and tended with as much care as women here, and are supplied with the best strengthening and nourishing diet in order to qualify them for future services.” This is the custom of the Brazilians, if we53 may believe Masseus, who observes, “that women in travail are delivered without great difficulty, and presently go about their household business: the husband in her stead keepeth his bed, is visited by his neighbours, hath his broths made him, and junkets sent to comfort him.”

“Among the Iroquois, a mother who shrieks during her labour is forbidden to bear other children, and some of the South American Indians killed the children of the mothers who shrieked, from the belief that they will grow up to be cowards.”119

The origin of the couvade is not to be traced to the father and mother, says Starcke; it has to do simply with the well-being of the child. The father’s powers of endurance, tested so severely as we have seen, are believed to be assured to the child.120

Max Müller traces the origin of the couvade to the derision of friends of both sexes.

Dobrizhoffen says of the Abipones:121 “They comply with this custom with the greater care and readiness because they believe that the father’s rest and abstinence have an extraordinary effect on the well-being of new-born infants, and is, indeed, absolutely necessary for them. For they are quite convinced that any unseemly act on the father’s part would injuriously affect the child on account of the sympathetic tie which naturally subsists between them, so that in the event of the child’s death the women all blame the self-indulgence of the father, and find fault with this or that act.”

Badaga nursing-women physic themselves with ashes and pieces of sweet-flag (Acorus calamus), an aromatic plant, with the idea of communicating medicinal properties to the milk. They also administer to the baby assafœtida and a certain sacred confection taken from the entrails of a bull and similar to the bezoar stones so celebrated in the middle ages.122

The Badaga folk do not permit a pregnant woman to enter the room where the provisions are kept and the fireplace stands; it would be feared that her condition, her supposed uncleanness, might lessen the virtues of the fire or diminish the nutritious value of the food.123

Pliny says, “there is no limit to the marvellous powers attributed to females.”124 At certain times, according to him, a woman can scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds, and lightnings, by going about in scanty costume. If she walk round a field of wheat at such times, the caterpillars, worms, beetles, and other vermin will fall from the ears of corn.54 If she touch “young vines, they are irremediably injured, and both rue and ivy, plants possessed of highly medicinal virtues, will die instantly upon being touched by her.” Bees, he says, will forsake their hives if she touches them, linen boiling in a cauldron will turn black, and the edge of a razor will become blunted. The bitumen that is found in Judæa will yield to nothing but this, and Tacitus says the same thing. Marvellous to say, poisonous and injurious as Pliny and other writers, and even popular belief at the present day, consider the catamenial fluid to be, a host of writers on medical and magical subjects have attributed certain remedial properties to it. Pliny says it is useful, as a topical application, for gout, the bite of a mad dog (what has not been recommended for this!), for tertian or quartan fevers and for epilepsy. Reduced to ashes and mixed with soot and wax, it is a cure for ulcers upon all kinds of beasts of burden; mixed in the same way with oil of roses and applied to the forehead, it cured the migraine of Roman ladies. Applied to the doorposts, it neutralises all the spells of the magicians—a set of men which even the credulous Pliny characterizes as the most lying in existence.

Both savages and classical peoples had the same curious notions about the touch of catamenial women. There may possibly be some foundation in bacteriology to account for them.

St. Augustine says:125 “The woman in child-bed must have three gods to look to her after her deliverance, lest Sylvanus come in the night and torment her: in signification whereof, three men must go about the house in the night, and first strike the thresholds with an hatchet, then with a pestle, and then sweep them with besoms, that by these signs of worship they may keep Sylvanus out.”

Lying-in women in Germany in the seventeenth century were simply crammed with food about every two hours, and they seem to have taken no harm from the practice.





Antiquity of Egyptian Civilization.—Surgical Bandaging.—Gods and Goddesses of Medicine.—Medical Specialists.—Egyptians claimed to have discovered the Healing Art.—Medicine largely Theurgic.—Magic and Sorcery forbidden to the Laity.—The Embalmers.—Anatomy.—Therapeutics.—Plants in use in Ancient Egypt.—Surgery and Chemistry.—Disease-demons.—Medical Papyri.—Great Skill of Egyptian Physicians.

So far as we are able to judge from the records of the past which recent investigations have made familiar to us, the civilization of Egypt is the most ancient of which we have accurate knowledge. The contending claims of India to a higher antiquity for its civilization cannot here be discussed, and for the purposes of this work the oldest place in the civilization of the world must be assigned to Egypt.

It is highly probable that the first kingdom of Egypt existed eight thousand years back. The history of Egypt as we have it in her monuments and records is far more trustworthy than the stories which the Chinese and other ancient peoples tell of their past. Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldæa have histories reaching back to the twilight of the ages; but for practical purposes we must content ourselves with tracing the rise and progress of civilization as we decipher it on the banks of the Nile. So far as medicine and chemistry are concerned, we shall discover abundant matter to interest us. We require no other proof than the mummies in our museums to convince us that the Egyptians from the period at which those interesting objects date must have possessed a very accurate knowledge of anatomy, of pharmacy, and a skill in surgical bandaging very far surpassing that possessed now-a-days by even the most skilful professors of the art. Dr. Granville says: “There is not a single form of bandage known to modern surgery, of which far better and cleverer examples are not seen in the swathings of the Egyptian mummies. The strips of linen are found without one single joint, extending to 1000 yards in length.” It is said that there is not a fracture known to modern surgery which could not have been successfully treated by the priest-physicians of ancient Egypt. The great58 divinities of Egypt were Isis and Osiris; the former was the goddess of procreation and birth. As it was she who decreed life and death, and decided the fate of men, it is not surprising to find her the chief of the divinities of the healing art; she had proved her claims as the great chief of physicians by recalling to life her son Horus.

The Æsculapius of the Egyptians was Imhotep; he was the god of the sciences, and was the son of Ptah and Pakht. The gods of Egypt were worshipped in triads or trinities, and many of the great temples were devoted to the worship of one or other of these trinities, that of Memphis consisted of Ptah, Pakht, and Imhotep. Thoth or Tauut was similar to Imhotep; he was the god of letters, and, as the deity of wisdom, he aids Horus against Set, the representative of physical evil. By many writers he is considered to be the Egyptian Æsculapius. He has some evident relationship to the Greek Hermes. “Thoth,” says Dr. Baas (Hist. Med., p. 14), “is supposed to have been the author of the oldest Egyptian medical works, whose contents were first engraved upon pillars of stone. Subsequently collected into the book Ambre or Embre (a title based upon the initial words of this book, viz. ‘Ha em re em per em hru,’ i.e. ‘Here begins the book of the preparation of drugs for all parts of the human body’), they formed a part of the so-called ‘Hermetic Books,’ from whose prescriptions no physician might deviate, unless he was willing to expose himself to punishment in case the patient died. This punishment was threatened because the substance of the medical, as well as the religious works of the Egyptians—and the science of the priests united in itself medicine, theology, and philosophy—was given, according to their view, by the gods themselves, and a disregard of their prescriptions would be nothing less than sacrilege.” The Hermetic books, says Clement of Alexandria, were forty-two in number, of which six “of the pastophor” were medical. The famous Book of the Dead is supposed by Bunsen to have been one of the Hermetic books. The papyrus of Ebers, believed by that Egyptologist to date from the year 1500 B.C., is considered to have been of the number of the medical books of Hermes Trismegistus. The Papyrus Ebers is preserved in Leipsic, and, though at present only partially deciphered, abundantly shows the great advance already made at so distant a period as the fourth millennium before the Christian era in the arts of medicine and surgery.

One of the authors mentioned in the papyrus is an oculist of Byblos in Phœnicia. This proves not only that there were specialists in diseases of the eye at that period, but that neighbouring nations contributed of their store of scientific knowledge to enrich that of the Egyptians.


Dr. Baas informs us that this papyrus describes “remedies for diseases of the stomach, the abdomen, and the urinary bladder; for the cure of swellings of the glands in the groin (buboes) and the ‘kehn-mite’; ‘the Book of the Eyes’; remedies for ulcers of the head, for greyness of the hair, and promotion of its growth; ointments to heal and strengthen the nerves; medicines to cure diseases of the tongue, to strengthen the teeth, to remove lice and fleas; remedies for the hearing and for the organs of smell; the preparation of the famous Kyphi; ‘The Secret Book of the Physician’ (the science of the movement of the heart, and the knowledge of the heart, according to the priestly physician Nebsuchet); prescriptions for the eyes according to the views of the priest Chui, a Semite of Byblos; ‘Book of the Banishing of Pains,’ recipes for mouth-pills for women, to render the odour of the mouth agreeable; the various uses of the tequem tree, etc. The papyrus has marginal notes, like nefer (good), etc., which Lauth assigns to the year B.C. 1469—an evidence that its prescriptions had been tested in practice.”126

Osiris (who would appear to be the same deity as Apis or Serapis) and the goddess Isis, who was his wife and sister, were held by the Egyptians to have been the inventors of the medical arts. A very ancient inscription on a column says: “My father is Chronos, the youngest of all the gods. I am the king Osiris, who has been through all the earth; even to the habitable lands of the Indies, to those which are under the Bear, even to the sources of the Danube, and besides to the Ocean. I am the eldest son of Chronos, and the scion of a beautiful and noble race; I am the parent of the day, there is no part of the world where I have not been, and I have filled all the world with my benefactions.” Another column has these words: “I am Isis, queen of all this country, who has been instructed by Thoth; no one is able to unbind what I have bound; I am the eldest daughter of Chronos, the youngest of the gods. I am the wife and the sister of King Osiris. It is I who first taught mankind the art of agriculture. I am the mother of King Horus. It is I who shine in the dog-star. It is I who built the city of Bubastis. Farewell, farewell, Egypt, where I have been reared.” It appears from these inscriptions that Isis and Osiris were contemporary with Thoth or Hermes.

Diodorus says that Isis was believed by the Egyptian priests to have invented various medicines and to have been an expert practitioner of the healing art, and that she was on this account raised to the ranks of the gods, where she still takes interest in the health of mankind. She was supposed to indicate appropriate remedies for diseases in dreams,60 and such remedies were always efficacious, even in cases where physicians had failed to do any good.

The inscription informs us that Osiris had filled the earth with his benefactions. The Egyptian priests believed that Thoth was the inventor of the arts and sciences in general, and the king Osiris and the queen Isis invented those which were necessary to life. Isis therefore invented agriculture, and Osiris is credited with having invented medicine. Apis, who is evidently the same person as Osiris, is said by Clement of Alexandria to have discovered medicine before Io went to Egypt.

Cyril of Alexandria says that Apis was the first to invent the art of medicine, or who exercised it with more success than his predecessors, having been instructed by Æsculapius.127

Plutarch says128 that Apis and Osiris were, according to Egyptian traditions, two names of one and the same person, and this is confirmed by Strabo and Theodoret. Others say that Serapis was a third name of Osiris, though some consider that Serapis was a name of Æsculapius.

Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, was the Egyptian sun-god, and was the same as the Apollo of the Greeks. He was born with his finger on his mouth, indicative of mystery and secrecy; and so, probably, was for this reason connected with medicine. In the mystical works of Hermes Trismegistus, he plays an important part. Diodorus attributes to Horus the invention of medicine. He says that Isis having found in the water her son Horus, who had been killed by the Titans, restored him to life and made him immortal. Diodorus adds that he was the same god as Apollo, and that he learned the arts of medicine and divination from his mother, in consequence of which instruction he had been of great service to mankind by his oracles and his remedies. It is difficult to see how on this account Horus can be considered as the inventor of medicine, a title which was surely due to his mother.

In the judgment scene in the Book of the Dead on the papyrus of Ani we have the god Thoth, under the symbol of the cynocephalus, or dog-headed ape. Anubis examines the indicator of the Balance. Before Anubis stands Destiny, behind him are Fortune and the Goddess of Birth. Above Destiny is a symbol of the cradle. The human-headed bird is the soul of the deceased. On the right of the scene, Thoth, the medicine-god and scribe of the gods (with the head of an ibis), notes the result of the trial. Behind Thoth is the monster Amemit, the devourer, with the head of a crocodile, the middle parts of a lion, and the hind-quarters of a hippopotamus. Thoth pronounces judgment:61 “The heart of Ani is weighed, and his soul standeth in evidence thereof; his case is straight upon the great Balance.” The gods reply, “Righteous and just is Osiris, Ani, the triumphant.”129

Eusebius, Psellus, and others say that Hermes Trismegistus was a priest and philosopher who lived a little after the time of Moses. He taught the Egyptians mathematics, theology, medicine, and geography. Of the forty-two most useful books of Hermes six treated of medicine, anatomy, and the cure of disease.130

Pliny says131 that the Egyptians claimed the honour of having invented the art of curing diseases. Wilkinson points out132 that “the study of medicine and surgery appears to have commenced at a very early period in Egypt, since Athothes, the second king of the country, is stated to have written upon the subject of anatomy, and the schools of Alexandria133 continued till a late period to enjoy the reputation and display the skill they had inherited from their predecessors. Hermes was said to have written six books on medicine, the first of which related to anatomy; and the various recipes known to have been beneficial were recorded, with their peculiar cases, in the memoirs of physic, inscribed among the laws, which were deposited in the principal temple of the place, as at Memphis in that of Ptah, or Vulcan.” We are told in Genesis l. 2 that “Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.” It is not probable that the embalmers were regular practising physicians. The dissectors of the human body were not held in honour amongst the Egyptians, and for sanitary reasons it is highly improbable that doctors in attendance upon the sick would have engaged in this work; but as the art of embalming demanded considerable anatomical knowledge, it is more likely that a class of men similar to our dissecting-room assistants at the medical schools and hospitals were employed for this purpose.

The art of medicine in ancient Egypt consisted of two branches—the higher, which was the theurgic part, and the lower, which was the art of the physician proper. The theurgic class devoted themselves to magic, counteracting charms by prayers, and to the interpretation of the dreams of the sick who had sought their aid in the temples. The inferior class were practitioners who simply used natural means in their profession as healers. Amongst the Egyptian Platonists, theurgy was an imaginary science, which is thus described by Murdock:62 “it was supposed to have been revealed to men by the gods themselves in very ancient times, and to have been handed down by the priests; [it was] also the ability, by means of certain acts, words, and symbols, to move the gods to impart secrets which surpass the powers of reason to lay open the future.” The higher physicians were priest-magicians, the lower class were priests who were called Pastophori; as Isis and the priests were connected with the healing art, the Pastophori were highly esteemed for their medical skill apart from magic. These officials were so called from the fact that they had to bear, in the ceremonies in the temples, the παστός, or sacred shawl, to raise it at appropriate times, and so discover the god in the adytum.134

It was their duty to study the last six of the Hermetic books, as it was that of the higher grade to study the first thirty-six.

Professor Ebers explained to Dr. Puschmann135 that the Pastophori “constituted a class of priests who held by no means so low a rank as is attributed to them in historical works. The doctors were bound to maintain a spiritual character, and allowed themselves therefore to rank with the Pastophori, although the higher priestly dignities probably remained open to them. On the other hand, the Pastophori were by no means likewise doctors, as many think, but had as a body quite other functions, as their name indeed indicates. The relation of the Pastophori to the doctors was doubtless the same as that of the scholar to the cleric in the Christian middle ages; all scholars did not belong to the clergy, but at the same time all clergymen might be considered scholars.”

The principle of authority was paramount in Egyptian medicine. So long as the doctor faithfully followed the instructions of the ancient exponents of his art, he could do as he liked with his patient; but if he struck out a path for himself, and his patient unhappily died, he forfeited his own life. Diodorus Siculus leads us to suppose that the physicians formed their diagnosis according to the position occupied by the patient in his bed. This is singularly like the method of diagnosing diseases in use amongst the ancient Hindus. Medicine in Egypt, after all, was only an art; the absurd reverence for authority prevented any real progress. Kept back by these fixed regulations, its freedom was restricted on every side; otherwise, with the unbounded facility for making post-mortem examinations, Egyptian medicine would have made immense advance.

Concerning the specialism which prevailed amongst Egyptian doctors, Herodotus says:63 “The art of medicine is thus divided amongst them: each physician applies himself to one disease only, and not more. All places abound in physicians; some physicians are for the eyes, others for the head, others for the teeth, others for the parts about the belly, and others for internal disorders.”136

With reference to the teeth, it is interesting to observe that some of the dental work found in opening mummies is equal to our own.

Sir J. Wilkinson says137 that the embalmers were probably members of the medical profession as well as of the class of priests. Pliny states that, during this process, certain examinations took place, which enabled them to study the disease of which the patient had died. They appear to have been made in compliance with an order from the government,138 as he says the kings of Egypt had the bodies opened after death to ascertain the nature of their diseases, by which means alone the remedy for phthisical complaints was discovered. Indeed, it is reasonable to suppose that a people so advanced as were the Egyptians in knowledge of all kinds, and whose medical art was so systematically arranged that they had regulated it by some of the very same laws followed by the most enlightened and skilful nations of the present day, would not have omitted so useful an inquiry, or have failed to avail themselves of the means which the process adopted for embalming the body placed at their disposal. And nothing can more clearly prove their advancement in the study of human diseases than the fact of their assigning to each his own peculiar branch, under the different heads of oculists, dentists, those who cured diseases in the head, those who confined themselves to intestinal complaints, and those who attended to secret and internal maladies. They must have possessed an intimate knowledge of drugs, to have enabled them to select those of an antiseptic character suitable for the preservation of the mummies. That their practical knowledge of anatomy must have been considerable is proved by the skill with which they removed the more perishable parts of the body in the process of embalming. The embalmers, says Ebers, were all enrolled in a guild which existed down to Roman times, as is shown in various Greek papyri.

In the wall-cases 30-33 in the upper floor of the second Egyptian room of the British Museum, there is a set of Canopic jars which held the intestines of the human body, which were always embalmed separately. They were placed near the bier and were four in number, each one being dedicated to one of the four children of Horus, the genii of the dead. The stomach and large intestines were dedicated to Amset, the smaller intestines to Hâpi, the lungs and heart to Tuamâvtef, and the liver and gall-bladder to Kebhsenuf. Poor people had to be content with mere models of these vases.139


The dissectors were the paraschistes, who cut open as much of the body as the law permitted with an Ethiopian stone. As soon as one of them had made the requisite incision he had to fly, pursued by those present, who cursed him bitterly, and flung stones at him. It was considered hateful to inflict any wound on a human body; and however necessary the act might be, the agent incurred the greatest odium.

The Egyptian doctors knew very little of anatomy as a science; they were, however, acquainted with the fact that the blood-vessels had their origin from the heart, and that the blood was distributed to the body from that organ. There is an interesting treatise on the heart in the Papyrus Ebers. In another medical papyrus we find the following anatomical details concerning the blood-vessels:—

“The head of man has thirty-two vessels; they carry the breath to his heart; they give inspiration to all his members. There are two vessels to the breasts; they give warmth to the lungs—for healing them, one must make a remedy of flour of fresh wheat, herb haka, and sycamore teput—make a decoction and let the patient drink it; she will be well. There are two vessels to the legs. If any one has a disease of the legs, if his arms are without strength, it is because the secret vessel of the leg has taken the malady,—a remedy must be made.... There are two vessels to the arms; if a man’s arm is suffering, if he has pains in his fingers, say that this is a case of shooting pains.... There are two vessels of the occiput, two of the sinciput, two of the interior, two of the eyelids, two of the nostrils, and two of the left ear. The breath of life enters by them. There are two vessels of the right ear; the breath enters by them.”

It is uncertain whether by the term vessels the Egyptians understand the arteries, the veins, the nerves, or some imaginary conduits.140

The ancient Egyptians were zealous students of medicine; yet, as Dr. Ebers tells us, they also thought that the efficacy of the treatment was enhanced by magic formulæ. The prescriptions in the famous Ebers Papyrus are accompanied by forms of exorcism to be used at the same time; “and yet many portions of this work,” says Ebers, “give evidence of the advanced knowledge of its authors.”141

Origen says142 that the Egyptians believed there were thirty-six demons, or thirty-six gods of the air, who shared amongst them the body of man, which is divided into as many parts. He adds that the Egyptians knew the names of those demons, and believed that if they invoked the proper demon of the affected part they would be cured. Magic and sorcery were arts which were forbidden to the laity.


Many magical rites and animistic customs connected with the Egyptian religion closely resemble those which prevail over the whole continent of Africa. The basis of the Egyptian religion is supposed by some authorities to be of a purely Nigritian character; on which has been superimposed certain elevated characteristics due to Asiatic settlers and conquerors. The worship of the negroes proper is simply fetishism combined with tree and animal worship and a strong belief in sorcery.

The great and peculiar feature of Egyptian magic lay in the fact that its formulæ were intended to assimilate to the gods those who sought protection from the evils of life. The incantation was not in the nature of a prayer. As M. Lenormant says:143 “The virtue of the formulæ lay not in an invocation of the divine power, but in the fact of a man’s proclaiming himself such or such a god; and when he, in pronouncing the incantation, called to his aid any one of the various members of the Egyptian Pantheon, it was as one of themselves that he had a right to the assistance of his companions.” In the Harris Papyrus is a fragment of one of the magical tracts of the medicine-god Thoth, in which is an incantation for protection against crocodiles:—

“Do not be against me! I am Amen.
I am Anhur, the good guardian;
I am the great master of the sword.
Do not erect thyself! I am Month.
Do not try to surprise me! I am Set.
Do not raise thy two arms against me! I am Sothis.
Do not seize me! I am Sethu.”144

Disease-demons recognised the power of the gods, and obeyed their commands. An inscription on a monument of the time of Ramses XII. tells how the Princess Bint-resh, sister of Queen Noferu-ra, was cured in a serious illness by the image of the god Khonsu being sent to her after the “learned expert” Thut-emhib had failed to do her any good. When the god appeared at her bedside, she was cured on the spot; the evil spirit of the disease acknowledged the superior power of Khonsu, and came out of her after making an appropriate speech.145

In the records of a trial about a harem conspiracy in the reign of Ramses III., we learn that a house steward had used some improper enchantments. In some fragments of the Lee and Rollin Papyrus, we read:66 “Then he gave him a writing from the rolls of the books of Ramses III., the great god, his lord. Then there came upon him a divine magic, an enchantment for men. He reached [thereby?] to the side of the women’s house, and into that other great and deep place. He formed figures of wax, with the intention of having them carried in by the hand of the land-surveyor Adiroma, to alienate the mind of one of the girls, and to bewitch others.... Now, however, he was brought to trial on account of them, and there was found in them incitation to all kinds of wickedness, and all kinds of villainy which it was his intention to do.... He had made some magic writings to ward off ill-luck; he had made some gods of wax, and some human figures to paralyse the limbs of a man; and he had put these into the hand of Bokakamon without the sun-god Ra having permitted that he should accomplish this,” etc.146

The actual medicaments used in Egyptian medical practice were not considered effectual without combination with magical remedies. The prescription might contain nitre, or cedar chips, or deer horn, or it might be an ointment or application of some herbs; but it would not be efficacious without some charm to deal with the spiritual mischief of the case. In administering an emetic, for example, it was necessary to employ the following appeal to the evil spirit of the disorder: “Oh, demon, who art lodged in the stomach of M., son of N., thou whose father is called Head-Smiter, whose name is Death, whose name is cursed for ever,” etc. It was not the natural remedy which called the supernatural to its aid; but in cultivated Egypt, this combination was due to the theurgic healer availing himself of natural remedies to assist his magic. Science was beginning to work for man’s benefit, but could not yet afford to discard sentimental aids which, by calming the mind of the sufferer, assisted its beneficent work. The different parts of the human body were confided to the protection of a special divinity. A calendar of lucky and unlucky days was devised, by which it could be ascertained what was proper to be medically done, or left undone, at certain times. Barth, in his Travels in Africa, in the border region of the desert, tells of a native doctor who followed such a system. He used to treat his patients according to the days of the week on which they came: one day was a calomel day, another was devoted to magnesia, and a third to tartar emetic; and everybody requiring medicine had to take that appropriate to the day.

The Egyptians distinguished between black and white magic. The learned priests practised the curative acts of magic; but it was held to be a great crime to use black magic whereby to injure men or assist unlawful passions.

Homer sings the praises of the medicinal herbs of prolific Egypt, where Pæon imparts to all the Pharian race his healing arts;147 and in67 Jeremiah,148 the daughter of Egypt is told that “in vain” she shall “use many medicines,” for she shall not be cured.

The ancient Egyptians depended greatly upon clysters in the treatment of many diseases besides those of the intestines. They were composed of a mixture of medicinal herbs, with milk, honey, sweet beer, salt, etc. The use of clysters by the Egyptians was remarked by Pliny and Diodorus Siculus, and the invention was attributed by the former to the ibis, who, with its long bill, performed the necessary operation.149

This absurd idea arose from a confusion between the hieroglyph for the ibis, and the god Thoth, the name of each having the same sign.150

A comparison of the prescriptions of the medical papyri with those of the ancient Greek physicians, especially Galen and Dioscorides, shows a considerable family likeness of the Greek system of therapeutics to that of the Egyptians. Chabas particularizes the following facts:—Honey was used in place of sugar in many recipes by Egyptians and Greeks. Wine was mixed with honey, and human milk was administered in the form of clysters by Egyptians and by Galen and Dioscorides. The use of barley drink, palm wine, nitre, or sal ammoniac, incense as an external application, blood mixed with wine, urine as a liniment, Lapis memphites, and several other drugs is prescribed for the same disorders and in the same manner in the land of the Pharaohs and in ancient Greece.

The famous “Ebers Papyrus” was purchased in 1874 by Dr. Ebers, at Thebes. “This papyrus contains one hundred and ten pages, each page consisting of about twenty-two lines of bold hieratic writing. It may be described as an Encyclopædia of Medicine, as known and practised by the Egyptians of the eighteenth dynasty; and it contains prescriptions for all kinds of diseases—some borrowed from Syrian medical lore, and some of such great antiquity that they are ascribed to the mythologic ages, when the gods yet reigned personally upon earth. Among others, we are given the recipe for an application whereby Osiris cured Ra of the headache.”151 This is the oldest of all the medical papyri hitherto discovered. It comes down to us, says Dr. Ebers,152 from the eighteenth dynasty. The “Medical Papyrus” of Berlin is second in point of antiquity; and a Hieratic MS. in London, the third.153

In the Ebers Medical Papyrus is an example of old Egyptian68 diagnosis and therapeutics: “When thou findest any one with a hardness in his re-het (pit of the stomach), and when after eating he feels a pressure in his intestines, his stomach (het) is swollen, and he feels bad in walking, like one who suffers from heat in his back; then observe him when he lies stretched out, and if thou findest his intestines hot, and a hardness in his re-het, say to thyself, this is a disease of the liver. Then prepare for thyself a remedy, according to the secrets of the (botanical) science, from the plant pa-che-test and dates; mix them, and give in water” (Ebers).154

The famous medical papyrus roll in the Museum of Berlin is described by M. Chabas in the chapter on “The Medicine of the Ancient Egyptians,” in his work entitled Mélanges Égyptologiques. From this papyrus we learn that plaisters, ointments, liniments, and friction were employed as external remedies. Many of the names of the herbs and medicaments employed cannot be translated, but are merely transcribed. We find a number of recipes for tumours of the breast, for pimples, for “dissipating divinely parts injured by bruises,” for destroying the bites of vermin, for cuts (common salt the chief ingredient), etc. The prescriptions seem very simple and brief.

Magical invocations were frequently employed in the treatment of disease. Chabas thinks that one of the maladies so treated was intestinal inflammation, with a feeling of heaviness, and hardness, and a griping pain. He translates the diagnosis of such a malady: “His belly is heavy, the mouth of his heart (os ventriculi) is sick, his heart (his stomach) is burning, ... his clothes are heavy upon him. Many clothes do not warm him; he is thirsty at night; the taste of his heart is perverted, like a man who has eaten sycamore figs; his flesh is deadened as a man who finds himself sick; if he goes to stool, his bowels refuse to act. Pronounce on his case that he has a nest of inflammation in his belly; the taste of his heart is sick, ... if he raises himself, he is as a man who is unable to walk.” The text of the papyrus gives the remedies to be used in such a case. “Apply to him the means of curing inflammation by warmth; also the means of destroying the inflammation in the belly.” The diagnosis and treatment here described apply very well to what we term peritonitis; but Dr. Baas suggests that gastric cancer may be indicated.

There is a medical papyrus in the Berlin Museum, which was discovered in the necropolis of Memphis, and which is described by Brugsch155 as containing a quantity of recipes for the cure of many diseases, including some of the nature of leprosy. There is also what the69 great Egyptologists term “a simple, childish exposition of the construction and mechanism of the body. The writing explained the number and use of the numerous ‘tubes.’” The origin of part of this work is traced to the time of the fifth king of the table of Abydos, though the composition of the whole work is of the period of Ramses II. The text says of the more ancient portion: “This is the beginning of the collection of recipes for curing leprosy. It was discovered in a very ancient papyrus, enclosed in a writing-case, under the feet (of a statue) of the god Anubis, in the town of Sochem, at the time of the reign of his majesty the defunct King Sapti. After his death, it was brought to the majesty of the defunct King Senta, on account of its wonderful value. And, behold, the book was placed again at the feet, and well secured by the scribe of the temple, and the great physician, the wise Noferhotep. And when this happened to the book at the going down of the sun, he consecrated a meat, and drink, and incense offering to Isis, the lady; to Hor, of Athribis; and the god Khonsoo-Thut, of Amkhit.”

Human brains are prescribed for a disease of the eyes in the Ebers Papyrus. Pharmacy must have made considerable progress at the time this work was written, as it contains two prescriptions for pills—one made with honey for women, and one without it for men.

Chabas says that a severe discipline reigned in the schools of the ancient Egyptians, and that the eloquence of the master was frequently supplemented by the rod of his assistants. He gives in his translations of papyri one of the exhortations to a pupil.156

“Oh, scribe,157 give not thyself to idleness, or thou shalt be smartly chastised; abandon not thy heart to pleasure, or thou wilt let thy books slip out of thy hands; practise conversation; discuss with those who are wiser than thyself; do the works of an elevated man. Yes, when thou shalt be advanced in years, thou wilt find this to be profitable. A scribe, skilful in every kind of work, will become powerful. Neglect not thy books; do not take a dislike to them.”

Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, in his Manners and Customs of the Egyptians, gives a list of plants (from Pliny) which were known to the Egyptians and used in medicine or the arts. Ladanum (Cistus ladaniferus) was introduced into Egypt by the Ptolemies. Myrobalanum (Moringa aptera?) produced a fruit from which an ointment was made. Cypros (Lawsonia spinosa et inermis) was cooked in oil to make the ointment called cyprus; the leaves were used to dye the hair.70 Elate (Abies?), palma or spathe was of use in ointments. Oil of bitter almonds. Olives and figs were much esteemed. The castor-oil plant (Ricinus communis). A medicinal oil was extracted from what was probably one of the nettle tribe (Urtica pilulifera). Tea (Triticum zea?), olyra (Holcus sorghum?), and tiphe (Triticum spelta), were used in decoctions; opium was extracted from Papaver somniferum.

Cnicus or atractylis (Carthamum tinctorium?) was a remedy against the poison of scorpions and other reptiles. Pliny says: “Homer attributes the glory of herbs to Egypt. He mentions many given to Helen by the wife of the Egyptian king, particularly the Nepenthes, which caused oblivion of sorrow.” Opium was well known to the ancients, as well as various preparations of that drug. Sir J. Wilkinson thinks that nepenthe was perhaps the burt or hasheesh, a preparation of the Cannabis sativa or Indian hemp.

The Egyptians, says Ebers, thought that the kindly healing plants sprung up from the blood and tears of the gods.158

Upon the ceilings and walls of the temples at Tentyra, Karnac, Luxor, and other places, basso-relievos have been discovered representing limbs that have been amputated with instruments very similar to those which are employed in such operations in our own time. Such instruments are also found in the hieroglyphics, and Larrey says159 that there are vestiges of other surgical operations which have been discovered in Egyptian ruins which abundantly prove that the art of surgery was practised with great skill in the land of the Pharaohs.

Mr. Flinders Petrie, excavating at the Pyramid of Medum, says of the skeletons he discovered there: “The mutilations and diseases that come to light are remarkable. One man had lost his left leg below the knee; another had his hand cut off and put in the tomb; others seem to have had bones excised, and placed separately with the body. In one case acute and chronic inflammation and rheumatism of the back had united most of the vertebræ into a solid mass down the inner side. In another case there had been a rickety curvature of the spine. To find so many peculiarities in only about fifteen skeletons which I collected is strange. These are all in the Royal College of Surgeons now, for study.”160

“Among the six hermetic books of medicine mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, was one devoted to surgical instruments; otherwise the very badly set fractures found in some of the mummies do little honour to the Egyptian surgeons” (Ebers).


Flint instruments were always used for opening bodies, for circumcision and other surgical operations. How far this was dictated by religious respect for antiquity, or by sanitary reasons, cannot be said; probably, however, the reverence for the ancient flint knife had much to do with its retention.

Our word chemistry is derived from the name of Egypt, Khem or Khemit, the “Black Land,” meaning the rich, dark soil of the Nile valley. The god Khem, also known as Min and Am, was the same as the Pan of the Greeks and Priapus of the Romans. He presided over productiveness and the kindly fruits of the earth. In this sense he was also the god of curative herbs and simples, and so became associated in the popular mind with the arts of healing.161 Thus we obtain the words chemist, chemistry, and alchemy. Plutarch says that the Greek word χημία for Egypt, was bestowed on the land on account of the black colour of its soil.

The Egyptians must have had considerable practical knowledge of chemistry, or they could not have succeeded so well in the manufacture of glass, in dyeing, and the use of mordants, etc. Metallurgy must have been understood, as is evidenced by their process of gold manufactures represented in several of the royal tombs. They made gold wire, and excelled in the art of gilding. Their methods of embalming also exhibit some chemical knowledge. Dr. Pettigrew says,162 his friend Professor Reuvens, of Leyden, examined a papyrus which contained upwards of one hundred chemical and alchemical formulæ.

In the Ebers Papyrus there are several recipes for the preparation of hair dye. “The earliest of all the recipes preserved to us is a prescription for dyeing the hair.”163

Recipes for exterminating vermin and noxious creatures are found in the same work.

In anatomy, physiology, surgery, therapeutics, and chemistry it is evident that Egypt was far in advance of any other nation of the same period of which we have authentic accounts.

The Persian kings were glad to employ the Egyptian physicians, whose skill gained them high renown in the ancient world. Dr. Brugsch, in his account of the Egyptians in the Persian service, gives a translation of the inscriptions of Uza-hor-en-pi-ris, of the period of the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses.72 “O ye gods who are in Saïs! Remember all the good that has been done by the president of the physicians, Uza-hor-en-pi-ris. In all that ye are willing to requite him for all his benefits, establish for him a great name in this land for ever. O Osiris! thou eternal one! The president of the physicians, Uza-hor-en-pi-ris, throws his arms around thee, to guard thy image; do for him all good according to what he has done, (as) the protector of thy shrine for ever.”164 The last words addressed to Osiris refer to the form of the statue. The chief physician of Saïs is standing upright, with his hands embracing a shrine which holds the mummy of Osiris.

Whether the ancient Greeks derived their knowledge of medicine from Egypt or from India has often been debated; the evidence seems to show that Greece was indebted to India rather than to Egypt in this respect.

Mr. Flinders Petrie concludes “that Europe had an indigenous civilization, as independent of Egypt and Babylonia as was the indigenous Aryan civilization of India; that this civilization has acquired arts independently, just as much as India has, and that Europe has given to the East as much as it has borrowed from there.”165

Amongst the Egyptian fellahs some curious observances, says Mr. Flinders Petrie, are connected with accidental deaths. “Fires of straw are lighted, one month after the death, around the ground where the body has lain; and where blood has been shed, iron nails are driven into the ground, and a mixture of lentils, salt, etc., is poured out. These look like offerings to appease spirits, and the fires seem as if to drive away evil influences. Funeral offerings are still placed in the tombs for the sustenance of the dead, just as they were thousands of years ago.”166

Modern Egyptians, like the ancient, wear written charms against sickness and disease. “Magical preparations of all sorts are frequently used as remedies in illness, and in even serious cases the patient is made to swallow pieces of paper inscribed with texts from the Koran, and to try various similar absurd means, before a physician is applied to.”167



The Jews indebted to Egypt for their Learning.—The only Ancient People who discarded Demonology.—They had no Magic of their own.—Phylacteries.—Circumcision.—Sanitary Laws.—Diseases in the Bible.—The Essenes.—Surgery in the Talmud.—Alexandrian Philosophy.—Jewish Services to Mediæval Medicine.—The Phœnicians.

That division of the Hebrew peoples which afterwards developed into Israel, left its home in the extreme south of Palestine some fifteen centuries before the Christian era to occupy the pasture lands of Goshen, in the territory of the Pharaohs, where they continued to retain their nomadic habits, their ancient language and patriarchal institutions. In process of time, however, the Egyptian sovereigns began to deal severely with their self-invited guests; they were forced to labour on the public works of Goshen; and though bitterly resenting this attempt to destroy their identity and reduce them to mere slavery, the proud and noble race was powerless to resist, and continued to labour on in despair until a deliverer arose in Moses, who led them out of Egypt to the land of Palestine which they had originally left. Moses was a pupil of the Egyptian priests, versed in all their wisdom, and imbued with the loftiest sentiments of the religion of Egypt. We shall expect to find in the medicine of the Jews abundant traces of their long residence in the land of the Pharaohs. Our sources for the history of the healing art and the theory of disease which obtained with the people of Israel are two—the Bible and the Talmud. Therein we shall see the influences, both external and internal, which made Jewish medicine what it was; and we shall be astonished, on comparing the theory of disease with that of all the other nations and peoples of the earth, to find that it stands by itself, is absolutely unique in its loftiness of idea, its absolute freedom from the absurd and degrading superstitions of the great and civilized nations amongst which they dwelt or by which they were surrounded. When we reflect on the religions of Egypt, Assyria, and Chaldæa, and compare their many gods with the one God of the Jews, their demonology, sorcery, and witchcraft with the pure and elevated faith of these nomads of the Sinaitic Peninsula, and re74member that in all the earth at that time there was no other nation which had formulated such a pure theism, no other people which had broken away from the degrading and corrupting demonology which possessed the whole earth, we are compelled to recognise in God’s ancient people the Jews the evidence of a teaching totally unlike anything which had preceded it. If the Bible, the Talmud, and the Koran are all three merely specimens of ancient literature, how comes it that the Bible is so infinitely superior, not only in its noble monotheism, but in its remarkable freedom from so many of the superstitions which, as we have seen, were everywhere intermixed with the noblest religious systems and the most advanced civilizations? Magic in the Bible is everywhere passed by with contempt. Whatever may be the precise date of the Psalms, they must have been written when all nations were sunk in the grossest superstition, and had resort to magical practices on the slightest pretence; yet there is a total absence of all superstition in the Psalms. Granting that the Book of Ecclesiastes is a mere piece of cynical philosophy, it contains no evidence of superstitious belief. The more ancient is a literature, the greater is the certainty that it will contain some reference to superstitious usages; yet how gloriously the oldest books of the Bible shine in their freedom from contamination with the demon-worship and conjuring arts of the nations surrounding the children of Israel.

As the author of the learned article on “Medicine” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible says: “But if we admit Egyptian learning as an ingredient, we should also notice how far exalted above it is the standard of the whole Jewish legislative fabric, in its exemption from the blemishes of sorcery and juggling pretences. The priest, who had to pronounce on the cure, used no means to advance it, and the whole regulations prescribed exclude the notion of trafficking in popular superstition. We have no occult practices reserved in the hands of the sacred caste. It is God alone who doeth great things—working by the wand of Moses or the brazen serpent; but the very mention of such instruments is such as to expel all pretence of mysterious virtues in the things themselves.” It is always God alone who is the healer: “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exod. xv. 26); “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed” (Jer. xvii. 14); “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord” (Jer. xxx. 17); “Who healeth all thy diseases” (Ps. ciii. 3); “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Ps. cxlvii. 3); “The Lord bindeth up the breach of His people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isa. xxx. 26).

The priestly caste had no monopoly of the healing art; it might be75 practised by any one who was competent to afford medical aid. Physicians are mentioned in several passages.

Although the Hebrews had no magic of their own, and notwithstanding the stern severity with which it was prohibited in their law, there would naturally be many who transgressed their law and imported the superstitious practices from the surrounding peoples.

The teraphim of Laban which were stolen by Rachel168 is the earliest example in the Bible of magical instruments. It seems that these objects were a kind of idols in the shape of a human figure; their use was condemned by the prophets, but they were for ages used in popular worship, both domestic and public. Hosea says:169 “The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.” In this passage the teraphim and ephod are classed with the sacrifice, as though equally essential for worship. Some students think that the teraphim were the Kabeiri gods;170 whatever they were, they were worshipped or used superstitiously by Micah, by the Danites, and others.171 They were used magically for the purpose of obtaining oracular answers, and were associated with the practice of divination.172

The phylacteries of the Jews were charms or amulets in writing. They were believed to avert all evils, but were especially useful in driving away demons. They put faith, also, in precious stones. To this day one may see at the door of every Jewish house the mezûza—a scrap of sacred writing—affixed diagonally on the right doorpost, enclosed in a metal case. The texts contained are inscribed on parchment, and the words are from Deuteronomy vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21. In the Targum on Canticles viii. 3, we learn that the phylactery and mezûza were supposed to keep off hurtful demons. This is merely the corruption of a perfectly innocent idea; it is an example of the way in which harmless things become degraded to superstitious uses. The scapular of little squares of brown cloth worn by Catholics originally meant no more than the investiture, in a secret and unassuming manner, with the habit of the Carmelite order, and allowed pious persons living “in the world” to feel that they were affiliated to a famous and saintly community. When the Catholic wore it, he knew that he assumed the badge of the Blessed Virgin; there was no more in it than that. Amongst the ignorant and superstitious it is now commonly believed that the wearer is protected from death by fire and drowning, and that76 Our Lady will liberate him from purgatory on the first Saturday after his arrival there.

“To the mind of the Israelite,” says Mr. Tylor, “death and pestilence took the personal form of the destroying angel who smote the doomed.”173

God is plainly declared, in Exodus xv. 26, to send diseases upon men as a punishment for the breach of His commandments, and this has been adduced to show that the Jews traced their maladies to the anger of an offended Deity; and thus it has been argued that their etiology of disease was not higher than that of the other nations. But this argument is unfair. The Mosaic law was to a great extent a sanitary code, and even in the light of modern science we are compelled to admire the wisdom of the laws which have for so many centuries made the Jews the healthiest and most macrobiotic of peoples.

The rite of circumcision was not peculiar to the Jews; and just as baptism was an initiatory rite borrowed from another religion, yet made distinctive of Christianity, so circumcision has come to be considered a peculiarly Jewish practice. It may have been with the Israelites a protest against the phallus worship which is of such remote antiquity, and which was the foundation of the myth of Osiris. Wunderbar174 asserts that it distinctly contributed to increase the fruitfulness of the race and to check inordinate desires in the individual. There are excellent surgical reasons for both these suppositions, in addition to which we may add that it contributed to cleanliness and prevented irritation. Wunderbar, moreover, seems to have established his statement that after circumcision there is less probability of the absorption of syphilitic virus, and he has instanced the fact that such specific disease is less frequent with Jewish than with Christian populations.175

“Circumcision,” says Pickering, speaking of the Polynesian practice, “was now explained; and various other customs, which had previously appeared unaccountable, were found to rest on physical causes, having been extended abroad by the process of imitation.”176

The same writer states that the practice is “common to the ancient inhabitants of the Thebaid, and also to the modern Abyssinians and their neighbours in the South.”177

Ewald178 says that circumcision was practised by various Arabian tribes, in Africa, amongst Ethiopic Christians and the negroes of the Congo. It was also practised on girls by Lydian, Arabian, and African77 tribes, as Philo and Strabo inform us. Ewald considers it originated as an offering of one’s own flesh and blood in sacrifice to God, and may have been considered as a substitute for the whole body of a human being.

Circumcision is practised amongst Australian savages on the Murray River, as also another incredible ceremonial, as Lubbock terms it.179

Castration is hinted at in Matthew xix. 12 as an operation well understood.

In hot climates extra precautions for cleanliness have to be adopted beyond those which would amply suffice in northern lands. Captain Burton says:180

However much the bath may be used, the body-pile and hair of the armpits, etc., if submitted to a microscope, will show more or less sordes adherent. The axilla hair is plucked, because if shaved the growing pile causes itching, and the depilatories are held to be deleterious.

Sometimes Syrian incense or fir-gum, imported from Scio, is melted and allowed to cool in the form of a pledget. This is passed over the face, and all the down adhering to it is pulled up by the roots. He adds that many Anglo-Indians adopt the same precautions.

Ewald, referring to the laws concerning women, says:181 “The monthly period of the woman brought with it the second grade of uncleanness, which lasted the space of seven days, but without rendering necessary the use of specially prepared water. Everything on which the woman sat or lay during this time, and every one who touched such things or her, incurred the uncleanness of the first grade.”

We find the demon-theory of disease in force in the time of Josephus. He says:182

“Now within this place there grew a sort of rue, that deserves our wonder on account of its largeness, for it was no way inferior to any fig-tree whatsoever, either in height or in thickness; and the report is that it had lasted ever since the time of Herod, and would probably have lasted much longer had it not been cut down by those Jews who took possession of the place afterward; but still in that valley which encompasses the city on the north side, there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself; its colour is like to that of flame, and towards evening it sends out a certain ray like lightning; it is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands; nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either78 οὖρον γυναικὸς ἢ τὸ ἔμμηνον αἵμα be poured upon it; nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless any one take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small; they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need any one be afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath—that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called Demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them.”

If we may consider Josephus as a fair type of the learned and liberally educated men of his time, we are compelled to admit that the theory of disease held by the Hebrews of the period was not much, if at all, in advance of the rest of the world. It was undoubtedly largely the demoniacal theory of sickness. In the Antiquities of the Jews183 Josephus, in his description of the sagacity and wisdom of Solomon, says: “God also enabled him to learn the skill that expels demons, which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons so that they never return; and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal.” He goes on to describe the process of extracting the demon from the sick man through his nostrils.

So again, in telling the story of Saul’s possession by the evil spirit from the Lord, he says:184 “The physicians could find no other remedy but this—that if any person could charm those passions by singing and playing upon the harp, they advised them to inquire for such a one.” He seems to imply that David cured Saul by an incantation; and Spanheim, commenting upon the story, says that the Greeks had such singers of hymns, and that usually children or youths were picked out for that service, and that they were called singers to the harp.185

Whether David merely influenced Saul in the natural and touching way so beautifully described by Robert Browning in his poem “Saul,” we must bear in mind that an “incantation” was precisely of the79 character of the Bible story, and that the demon theory of Saul’s malady is plainly stated.186

Herzog187 enumerates the following as the diseases of the Bible:—1. Fever and ague (Lev. xxvi. 16). 2. Dysentery (Acts xxviii. 8), with, probably, prolapsus ani, as in Jehoram’s case (2 Chron. xxi. 15, 19). 3. Inflammation of the eyes, due to heat, night dews, sea breeze, flying sand, injuries, etc. (Lev. xix. 14; Deut. xxvii. 18; Matt. xii. 22, etc.). 4. Congenital blindness (John ix. 1). 5. Disease of the liver. 6. Hypochondria. 7. Hysteria. 8. Rheumatism and gout (John v. 2, 3). 9. Consumption, a general term, including hectic, typhoid, and other fevers (Lev. xxvi. 16; Deut. xxviii. 22, etc.). 10. Phthisis (?), indicated by leanness (Isa. x. 16). 11. Atrophy of muscles, “withered hand,” being due either to rheumatism, plugging up of the main artery of the limb, or paralysis of the principal nerve, etc. (Matt. xii. 10; 1 Kings xiii. 4-6, etc.). 12. Fevers in general (Matt. viii. 14, etc.). 13. Pestilence (Deut. xxxii. 24). 14. Oriental pest, the so-called “bubonenpest,” characterised by swellings in the groins, armpits, etc.; a very fatal disorder (Lev. xxvi. 25; Deut. xxviii. 21, 27, 60, etc.). 15. Boils (2 Kings xx. 7, etc.). 16. Sunstroke (2 Kings iv. 19, etc.). 17. Gonorrhœa (Lev. xv. 2). 18. Metrorrhagia, or uterine hemorrhage (Lev. xv. 25; Luke viii. 43, etc.). 19. Sterility (Gen. xx. 18, etc.). 20. Asa’s foot disease, either œdema or gout (2 Chron. xvi. 12). 21. Elephantiasis (?) (Job ii. 7). 22. Dropsy (Luke xiv. 2). 23. Cancer (2 Tim. ii. 17). 24. Worms; may have been phthiriasis (lice) (2 Macc. ix. 5-9). 25. Leprosy. 26. Itch and other skin diseases (Deut xxviii. 27). 27. Apoplexy (1 Sam. xxv. 37, etc.). 28. Lethargy (Gen. ii. 21; 1 Sam. xxvi. 12). 29. Paralysis, palsy (Matt. iv. 24; Acts iii. 2, etc.). 30. Epilepsy, the so-called “possession of devils” (Matt. iv. 24, etc.). 31. Melancholia, madness (Deut. xxviii. 28, etc.). 32. Nervous exhaustion (1 Tim. v. 23). 33. Miscarriage (Exod. xxi. 22). 34. “Boils and blains,” erysipelatous (Exod. ix. 9). 35. Gangrene and mortification (2 Tim. ii. 17). 36. Poisoning by arrows (Job vi. 4). Poisoning from snake-bite (Deut. xxxii. 24). 37. Scorpions and centipedes (Rev. ix. 5, 10). 38. Old age, as described in Eccles. xii. I am inclined to add to this list Syphilis, which seems to me to be clearly indicated by several verses in Proverbs xii., in the warnings against the strange woman, e.g. verses 22, 23, 26, and 27.

The law forbade a Levite who was blind to act as a physician. Anatomy and pathology were not understood, as it was considered pollution even to touch the dead.

The surgical instruments of the Bible are the sharp stone or flint80 knives with which circumcision was performed, and the awl with which a servant’s ear was bored by his master (Exod. iv. 25; Josh. v. 2; Exod. xxi. 6). Roller bandages are referred to for fractures (Ezek. xxx. 21). Job used a scraper when he was smitten with boils (Job ii. 8). The materia medica of the Bible is meagre. A poultice of figs—a favourite remedy in ancient times—is ordered in 2 Kings xx. 7.

Fish galls (Tobit xi. 4-13) and fasting saliva are used (Mark viii. 23).

The only regular prescription mentioned is that in Exodus xxx. 23-25.

Midwives were regularly employed to assist Hebrew mothers.

The “bearing stool” was employed.

There is a very beautiful figurative description of the disease of old age or senile decay given by Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes:—

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

Dr. Mead, in his treatise on the diseases of old age,188 thus explains the curious figurative phrases. By the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars, he says we are to understand the obscuration of the mental faculties, which is so common in advanced life. The clouds returning after rain symbolise the cares and troubles which oppress the aged; especially when the vigour of the mind is lessened, so that they cannot cast them off. From the mind we pass to the body: “the keepers of the house shall tremble,” etc. That is to say, the limbs which support the body grow feeble and relaxed, and are incapable of defending us against injuries. The grinders are the molar teeth. The failing sight is compared to the darkness which meets those who look out of the windows. By dimin81ished appetite the mouth, which is the door of the body, is less frequently opened than in youth. The sound of the grinding of the teeth is low, because old people have, in the absence of them, to eat with their gums. The rising up at the voice of the bird signifies the short and interrupted sleep of the aged. By the daughters of music we are to understand the ears, which no longer administer to our pleasure in conveying harmonious sounds. The sense of feeling is diminished, and the aged are fearful of stumbling in the way. The early flowers of spring shall flourish in vain. The phrase, the grasshopper shall become a burden, according to Dr. Mead, is the modest Hebrew mode of describing the effects of scrotal rupture. He says the grasshopper is made up chiefly of belly, and when full of eggs bears some resemblance to a scrotum smitten by a rupture. “Desire shall be lost” is like Ovid’s Turpe senilis amor, and does not refer to appetite for food. The loosened silver cord is the vertebral column; the medulla oblongata is of a silver or whitish colour. The golden bowl expresses the dignity of the head, from which in old age come defluxions to the nose, eyes, and mouth. Incontinence of urine is a common trouble of the aged, well expressed by the figure of the pitcher broken at the fountain; and the wheel at the cistern, to those who knew nothing of the circulation of the blood, fairly describes the failing heart, no longer capable of propelling the stream of life through the vessels.

Referring to the words, “The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm cxxi. 6), Captain Burton says189 that he has seen a hale and hearty Arab, after sitting an hour in the moonlight, look like a man fresh from a sick-bed; and he knew an Englishman in India whose face was temporarily paralysed by sleeping with it exposed to the moon.

The captivity at Babylon brought the Jews into contact with a nobler and very high civilization. In many ways there is no doubt that Jewish thought was greatly developed and enlarged by association with the peoples of Babylonia and Assyria. What precise influences the Jews became subject to in this captivity we have not the means to determine; but the fact that the Greek physician Democedes visited the court of Darius, proves that Eastern lands had in some measure fallen under the influence of Greek thought, about the time of Ezra. The Book of Ecclesiasticus is supposed to belong to the period of the Ptolemies, and in that work we find practitioners of medicine held in high esteem.82 “Honour a physician with the honour due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him; for the Lord hath created him.... The skill of the physician shall lift up his head; and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.... Then give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him; let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him.”190

A very interesting but mysterious sect of the Jews was the Essenes (B.C. 150). Our knowledge of this ancient community is chiefly derived from Josephus,191 who says that they studied the ancient writers principally with regard to those things useful to the body and the soul, that they thus acquired knowledge of remedies for diseases, and learned the virtues of plants, stones, and metals. Another name for the Essenes was the Therapeutists, or the Healers.192

They lived somewhat after the fashion of monks, and had a novitiate of three years. Some of their principles and rules suggest a connection with Pythagorism and Zoroastrianism. De Quincey finds in Essenism a saintly scheme of Ethics, a “Christianity before Christ, and consequently without Christ.”193 Recent scholarship, says Professor Masson, will not accept his conclusions concerning this remarkable secret society.194

The surgery of the Talmud includes a knowledge of dislocations of the thigh, contusions of the head, perforation of the lungs and other organs, injuries of the spinal cord and trachea, and fractures of the ribs. Polypus of the nose was considered to be a punishment for past sins. In sciatica the patient is advised to rub the hip sixty times with meat-broth. Bleeding was performed by mechanics or barbers.

The pathology of the Talmud ascribes diseases to a constitutional vice, to evil influences acting on the body from without, or to the effect of magic.

Jaundice is recognised as arising from retention of the bile, dropsy from suppression of the urine. The Talmudists divided dropsy into anasarca, ascites, and tympanites. Rupture and atrophy of the kidneys were held to be always fatal. Hydatids of the liver were more favourably considered. Suppuration of the spinal cord, induration of the83 lungs, etc., are incurable. Dr. Baas195 says that these are “views which may have been based on the dissection of [dead] animals, and may be considered the germs of pathological anatomy.” Some critical symptoms are sweating, sneezing, defecation, and dreams, which promise a favourable termination of the disease.

Natural remedies, both external and internal, were employed. Magic was also Talmudic. Dispensations were given by the Rabbis to permit sick persons to eat prohibited food. Onions were prescribed for worms; wine and pepper for stomach disorders; goat’s milk for difficulty of breathing; emetics in nausea; a mixture of gum and alum for menorrhagia (not a bad prescription); a dog’s liver was ordered for the bite of a mad dog. Many drugs, such as assafœtida, are evidently adopted from Greek medicine. The dissection of the bodies of animals provided the Talmudists with their anatomy. It is, however, recorded that Rabbi Ishmael, at the close of the first century, made a skeleton by boiling of the body of a prostitute. We find that dissection in the interests of science was permitted by the Talmud. The Rabbis counted 252 bones in the human skeleton.

It was known that the spinal cord emerges from the foramen magnum, and terminates in the cauda equina. The anatomy of the uterus was well understood. A very curious point in their anatomy was the assumption of the existence of a fabulous bone, called “Luz,” which they held to be the nucleus of the resurrection of the body.196

(The Arabians call this bone “Aldabaran.”)

They discovered that the removal of the spleen is not necessarily fatal.

According to the Talmudists, the elementary bodies are earth, air, fire, and water. Pregnancy, they held, lasts 270 to 273 days (280 days is the modern calculation), and that it cannot be determined before the fourth month.

Alexandrian philosophic thought received a new impulse in consequence of the conciliatory policy which the Ptolemies pursued towards the Jews. Under Soter they were encouraged to settle in Alexandria, and soon their numbers became very great. Egypt at one time contained altogether some 200,000 Jews. Alexandria became for several centuries the centre of Jewish thought and learning. But the learning84 of the Rabbis became a shallow pedantry in the course of time, and their faith in the inspiration of their scriptures ultimately degenerated into a Cabalism, which in its turn lent itself to jugglery and magic-mongering, and infected the medicine of the Roman world, just as the healing art had emancipated itself from superstition, theurgy, and philosophical sophistries.

Kingsley has told us how this Jewish magic arose.197 “If each word [of the Scriptures] had a mysterious value, why not each letter? And how could they set limits to that mysterious value? Might not these words, even rearrangements of the letters of them, be useful in protecting them against the sorceries of the heathen, in driving away these evil spirits, or evoking those good spirits who, though seldom mentioned in their early records, had, after their return from Babylon, begun to form an important part of their unseen world?”

Jewish Cabalism formed itself into a system at Alexandria. It was there, as Kingsley goes on to say, that the Jews learnt to become the magic-mongers which Claudius had to expel from Rome as pests to rational and moral society.

According to the Jewish doctors, three angels preside over the art of medicine. Their names, according to Rabbi Elias, are Senoi, Sansenoi, and Sanmangelof.198

In the Middle Ages the Jews rendered the greatest services to the healing art, and had a large share in the scientific work connected with the Arab domination in Spain. The great names of Moses Maimonides and Ibn Ezra attest the dignity of Jewish intellectual life in the Dark Ages. The Golden Age of the modern Jews, as Milman199 designates it, begins with the Caliphs and ends with Maimonides. The Hebrew literature was eminently acceptable to the kindred taste of the Saracens, and the sympathy between Arab and Jewish practitioners and students of medicine was fraught with the greatest benefit to the healing art. The Golden Age of the Jews was at its height in the time of Charlemagne, when kings could not write their names. Their intelligence and education fitted them to become the physicians and the ministers of nobles and monarchs. During the reign of Louis the Debonnaire the Jews were all-powerful at his court. His confidential adviser was the Jewish physician Zedekiah, who was a profound adept in magic. In an age when monkish historians could relate “with awe-struck sincerity,” as Milman describes it,200 the tales of his swallowing a cartload of hay, horses and all, it is not difficult to understand that an acquaintance with the best knowledge of his time would account for the estimation in85 which a man of science was held. Maimonides lived at the court of the Sultan of Egypt as the royal physician, in the highest estimation.

The Phœnicians were devoted to phallic-worship. The instrument of procreative power was the chief symbol of their religion. Astarte was their great goddess. Baal-Zebub, the Beelzebub of the Bible, was their god of medicine, and the arbiter of health and disease. The Cabiri, or Corybantes, considered by some authorities to be identical with the Titans, by others with the sons of Noah, were considered as the discoverers of the properties of the medicinal herbs, and the teachers of the art of healing to mortals.201



The Ancient Religion of Accadia akin to Shamanism.—Demon Theory of Disease in Chaldæan Medicine.—Chaldæan Magic.—Medical Ignorance of the Babylonians.—Assyrian Disease-Demons.—Charms.—Origin of the Sabbath.

Chaldæa was probably only second to Egypt in the antiquity of its civilization. The founders of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires were a Semitic tribe, and were the first people who worked in metals, and their knowledge of astronomy proves them to have been possessed of some amount of scientific attainments. Their practice of medicine was inextricably mixed with conjurations of spirits, magic, and astrology.

The name now given to the primitive inhabitants of Babylon is Accadians. Sayce considers them to have been the earliest civilizers of Eastern Asia. From the Accadians, he thinks the Assyrians, Phœnicians, and Greeks derived their knowledge of philosophy and the arts. Their libraries existed seventeen centuries B.C.

The ancient religion of Accad was very similar to the Shamanism professed by Siberian and Samoyed tribes at the present time. There was believed to be a spirit in every object. Good or bad spirits swarmed in the world, and there was scarcely anything that could be done which might not risk demoniacal possession. These good and bad spirits were controlled by priests and sorcerers. All diseases were caused by evil spirits, and the bulls and other creatures which guarded the entrance to houses were there to protect them from their power. The priests were magicians. There were at one period of the development of the Babylonian mythology three hundred spirits of heaven and six hundred spirits of earth; the most dreadful of these latter were the “seven spirits,” who were born without father and mother, and brought plague and evil on the earth. Magic formulæ for warding off the attacks of demons were commonly used, and charms and talismans were extensively employed. The phylacteries of the Jews were talismans, and were of Accadian origin. The sorcerer bound his charm,87 “knotted with seven knots, round the limbs of the sick man, and this, with the further application of holy water, would, it was believed, infallibly produce a cure; while the same result might be brought about by fixing a sentence out of a good book on the sufferer’s head as he lay in bed.”202

Accadian literature, Mr. George Smith tells us, is rich in collections of charms and formulæ of exorcism belonging to the very earliest period of Babylonian history. There are magic formulæ of all kinds, some to ward off sorcery, some to bewitch other persons.

The following is a specimen of the exorcisms used to drive away evil spirits, and to cure the diseases which were believed to be caused by their agency:—

“The noxious god, the noxious spirit of the neck, the spirit of the desert, the spirit of the mountain, the spirit of the sea, the spirit of the morass, the noxious cherub of the city, this noxious wind which seizes the body (and) the health of the body: O, spirit of heaven, remember! O, spirit of earth, remember!

“The burning spirit of the neck which seizes the man, the burning spirit which seizes the man, the spirit which works evil, the creation of the evil spirit: O, spirit of heaven, remember! O, spirit of earth, remember!

“Wasting, want of health, the evil spirit of the ulcer, spreading quinsey of the gullet, the violent ulcer, the noxious ulcer: O, spirit of heaven, remember! O, spirit of earth, remember!

“Sickness of the entrails, sickness of the heart, the palpitation of a sick heart, sickness of bile, sickness of the head, noxious colic, the agitation of terror, flatulency of the entrails, noxious illness, lingering sickness, nightmare: O, spirit of heaven, remember! O, spirit of earth, remember!”203

In the great magic collection of invocations copied by the order of Asurbanipal, we have a long litany on the “Spirit of Fever”; the lords and ladies of the earth, stars, the light of life, the spirit of Hurki and his talismanic ship, the spirit of Utu, umpire of the gods, and many others are implored to “conjure it.”204

Professor Lenormant considers that the idea of punishment of sin by means of disease was a dogma of a later school of Chaldæan thought. The old religion of spirits upon which Chaldæan magic was originally founded was independently the doctrine of the priests of magic, so that there were two sets of priests in later Chaldæan civilization—the old class who composed incantations to the spirits who88 fought with and replaced the disease-demons, and the theological priests who urged repentance for sin as the only means of the cure of disease.205

In the Accadian philosophy there was in everything a dualism of spirits. Innumerable hosts of them caused all the phenomena of nature, from the movements of the stars to the life and death, the health and disease of every human being. This dualism was as marked as that of the religion of Zoroaster; everywhere and in everything the good spirits fought against the evil ones, discord prevailed throughout the universe; and on this conception rested the whole theory of sacred magic. Man’s only help against the attacks of bad spirits, and the plagues and diseases which they brought upon him, lay in the invocation of good spirits by means of priests, sacred rites, talismans, and charms. These could put to flight the demons by helping the good spirits in their constant warfare with them. Magic therefore became a system elaborated with scientific exactness, and a vast pantheon of gods became necessary. Hea was the great god of conjurational magic; he was the supreme protector of men and of nature in the war between good and evil. When neither word, nor rite, nor talisman, nor help of the other divinities of heaven availed to help mankind, Hea was all-powerful; and this was because, as Lenormant says,206 Hea was alone acquainted with the awful power of the supreme name. “Before this name everything bows in heaven and in earth and in Hades, and it alone can conquer the Maskim (a species of evil demon), and stop their ravages. The gods themselves are enthralled by this name, and render it obedience.”

Images of demons were used by the Chaldæans as talismans against the attacks of demons. In a magical hymn to the sun against sorcery and witchcraft, and their influence on the worshipper, the sun is reminded that the images of the bad spirits have been shut up in heaps of corn. The invocation concludes:—

“May the great gods, who have created me, take my hand! Thou who curest my face, direct my hand, direct it, lord, light of the universe, Sun.”207

In a hymn composed for the cure of some disease, the priest, addressing the god, speaks of the invalid in the third person:—

“As for me, the lord has sent me, the great lord, Hea, has sent me.———
Thou, at thy coming, cure the race of man, cause a ray of health to shine upon him, cure his disease.
The man, son of his god, is burdened with the load of his omissions and transgressions.
His feet and his hands suffer cruelly, he is painfully exhausted by the disease.
Sun, at the raising of my hands, come at the call, eat his food, absorb his victim, turn his weakness into strength.”208

In the “War of the Seven Wicked Spirits against the Moon,” we have an incantation which was destined to cure the king of a disease caused by the wicked spirits.209

In the Chaldæan creed all diseases were the work of demons. This is why Herodotus found no physicians in Babylon and Assyria. There was no science of medicine; “it was simply a branch of magic, and was practised by incantations, exorcism, the use of philters and enchanted drinks.”210

Of course the priests made it their business to compound their drinks of such drugs as they had discovered to possess therapeutic virtue. In ancient times magic and medicine were thus closely united. It could not have been always faith alone which cured the patient, but faith plus a little poppy juice would work wonders in many cases. It became therefore greatly to the interest of the priests and magicians to learn the properties of herbs, and the value of the juices and extracts of plants. Out of evil, therefore, mankind reaped this great and valuable knowledge. The two gravest and most fatal diseases with which the Chaldæans were acquainted, says M. Lenormant,211 were the plague and fever, the Namtar and the Idpa. Naturally they were represented as two demons, the strongest and most formidable who afflict mankind. An old fragment says:—

The use of magic knots as a cure for diseases was firmly believed in by the ancient Chaldees. M. Lenormant213 gives a translation of one of the formulæ supposed to have been used against diseases of the head.

Knot on the right and arrange flat in regular bands, on the left a woman’s diadem;
divide it twice in seven little bands; ...
gird the head of the invalid with it;
gird the forehead of the invalid with it;
gird the seat of life with it;
gird his hands and his feet;
seat him on his bed;
pour on him enchanted waters.
Let the disease of his head be carried away into the heavens like a violent wind; ...
may the earth swallow it up like passing waters!

Sir Henry Rawlinson has discovered that there were three classes of Chaldæan doctors, exactly in accordance with the enumeration of the prophet Daniel. These were the Khartumim, or conjurors, the Chakamim, or physicians, and the Asaphim, or theosophists (see Daniel ii. 2; v. ii).

The Babylonian doctrine of disease was that the hosts of evil spirits in the air entered man’s body, and could only be expelled by the incantations of the exorcist. These disease-demons were addressed as “the noxious neck spirit,” “the burning spirit of the entrails which devours the man.” Headache was caused by evil spirits which were commanded by the charmer to fly away “like grasshoppers” into the sky.214

Herodotus says of the Babylonians: “The following custom seems to me the wisest of their institutions. They have no physicians, but when a man is ill, they lay him in the public square, and the passers-by come up to him, and if they have ever had his disease themselves, or have known any one who has suffered from it, they give him advice, recommending him to do whatever they found good in their own case, or in the case known to them; and no one is allowed to pass the sick man in silence without asking him what his ailment is.”215

A Babylonian exorcism of disease-demons has been found in the following terms: the translation is by Prof. Sayce.216

“On the sick man, by means of sacrifice, may perfect health shine like bronze; may the sun-god give this man life; may Merodach, the eldest son of the deep, give him strength, prosperity, and health; may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of earth preserve.”

A curse against a sorcerer declares that “by written spells he shall not be delivered.”

The elementary spirits were supposed to be seven baleful winds, which were considered general causes of disease. One of the formulæ91 of exorcising these dreadful seven is translated by Mr. Smith from a great collection of hymns to the gods which was compiled B.C. 2000.

“Seven (are) they, seven (are) they.
In the abyss of the deep seven (are) they.
In the brightness of heaven seven (are) they.
In the abyss of the deep in a palace (was) their growth.
Male they (are) not, female they (are) not.
Moreover the deep (is) their pathway.
Wife they have not, child is not born to them.
Law (and) kindness know they not.
Prayer and supplication hear they not.
(Among) the thorns of the mountain (was) their growth.
To Hea (the god of the sea) (are) they hostile.
The throne-bearers of the gods (are) they.
Disturbing the watercourse in the canal are they set.
Wicked (are) they, wicked (are) they.
Seven (are) they, seven (are) they, seven twice again are they.”217

M. Lenormant gives a translation of a very long Accadian incantation against disease-demons; it is in the form of a litany, and each verse ends with the words:—

“Spirit of the heavens, conjure it! Spirit of the earth, conjure it!”

There are some twenty-eight verses in all, and a great number of diseases are mentioned. I have only space for a few of these.

“Ulcers which spread, malignant ulcers.”
“Disease of the bowels, the disease of the heart, the palpitation of the diseased heart,
Disease of the vision, disease of the head,” etc.
“Painful fever, violent fever,
The fever which never leaves man,
Unremitting fever,
The lingering fever, malignant fever.
Spirit of the heavens, conjure it,” etc., etc.

In the Assyrian version it seems to be hinted that the expectoration of phthisical patients was as dangerous as our modern bacteriologists declare it to be, for we have these words:—

“The poisonous consumption which in the mouth malignantly ascends.”218

In the course of Layard’s excavations at Nineveh, a divining chamber was discovered, at the entrance to which figures of the magi were found. One of the orders of these magicians was the “Mecasphim,” translated by Jerome and the Greeks “enchanters,” such as used noxious herbs and drugs, the blood of victims, and the bones of the92 dead for their superstitious rites. Another class was the “Casdim,” who were a sort of philosophers, who were exempt from all employment except the duty of studying physic, astrology, the foretelling of future events, the interpretation of dreams by augury, etc.219

The Assyrians had different demons for different diseases—some injured the head, others attacked the hands and feet.220

The Assyrians believed that seven evil spirits might enter a man at the same time; and there is a tablet which tells of the protection afforded by a god against such demons. When the deity stands at the sick man’s bedside, “those seven evil spirits he shall root out, and shall expel them from his body, and those seven shall never return to the sick man again.”221

“Sometimes images of the gods were brought into the sick-room, and written texts from the holy books were put on the walls, and bound round the sick man’s brains. Holy texts were spread out on each side of the threshold.”222

In Mr. George Smith’s History of Assyria from the Monuments, there is a translation of an Assyrian tablet from Assur-bani-pal’s library. The tablet is on the charms to expel evil curses and spells. “It is supposed in it,” says Mr. Smith, “that a man was under a curse, and Merodach, one of the gods, seeing him next to the god Hea, his father, enquired how to cure him. Hea, the god of wisdom, in answer related the ceremonies and incantations for effecting his recovery, and these are recorded in the tablet for the benefit of the faithful in after times.”

Translation of Tablet.

The image of Hea placed in the doorway kept away the disease-demons.

In the Babylonian and Assyrian rooms of the British Museum there is a collection of bowls inscribed with charms in Chaldee, Syriac, and Mandaitie. It is supposed that they were used by sick persons, who drank their physic from them, trusting that it would thereby be more efficacious. As they drank they recited the formulæ and names of the archangels, Michael, Raphael, Ariel, Shaltiel, Malkiel, etc., which were inscribed upon them. The catalogue says that the earliest of these bowls were made about B.C. 200. Many are from Tell-Ibrahim (Cutha). It may be mentioned in this connection that Catholics frequently make the sign of the cross over medicinal potions before taking them.

The origin of the Sabbath as a day of cessation from all labour is evidently Accadian. In the following translation of an Assyrian tablet223 we find the Sabbatarian principle in full force.

“The seventh day, feast of Merodach and Zir: Panibu, a great feast, a day of rest. The prince of the people will eat neither the flesh of birds nor cooked fruits. He will not change his clothing. He will put on no white robe. He will bring no offering. The king will not ascend into his chariot. He will not perform his duties as royal law-giver. In a garrison city the commander will permit no proclamations to his soldiers. The art of the physician will not be practised.” This is another proof that the Jews derived many of their religious customs from the Assyrians and Accadians. The Assyrian Sabbath was evidently observed as strictly as under the Mosaic code. It is curious to note that the physician was not permitted to exercise his merciful calling on that day, and it throws light on the objection of the Jews to Christ that it was not lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day.



The Aryans.—Hindu Philosophy.—The Vedas.—The Shastres of Charaka and Susruta.—Code of Menu.—The Brahmans.—Medical Practitioners.—Strabo on the Hindu Philosophers.—Charms.—Buddhism and Medicine.—Jíwaka, Buddha’s Physician.—The Pulse.—Knowledge of Anatomy and Surgery in Ancient Times.—Surgical Instruments.—Decadence of Hindu Medical Science.—Goddesses of Disease.—Origin of Hospitals in India.

The Hindus are considered by Max Müller to be much older even as regards their civilization than the Egyptians. This belief is based on his study of their language, which he says existed “before there was a single Greek statue, a single Babylonian bull, or a single Egyptian sphinx.” According to him, the noble Indo-Germanic or Aryan people, from whom have descended the Brahman, the Rájput, and the Englishman, had their earliest home, not in Hindustan, but in Central Asia. (Max Müller’s theory is now superseded by anthropological researches so far as the Europeans are concerned.) This splendid race drove before them into the mountains or reduced to slavery the Dasyus, the obscure aborigines, the non-Aryan primæval peoples. The earliest Aryan poets composed the Rig-Veda at least three thousand, perhaps even four thousand years ago. The handsome Aryan fair-complexioned conquerors spoke with the utmost contempt of “the noseless” or “flat-nosed” Mongolian aborigines, who, in the Vedic poems, from being “gross feeders on flesh,” “lawless,” “non-sacrificing” tribes, were afterwards described as “monsters” and “demons.”224

It is necessary, if we wish to understand the principles of Hindu medicine, to glance at the philosophy and religion of the Brahmans and Buddhists. The Aryan conquerors descending through the Himalayas were a sober, industrious, courageous people, who lived a pastoral life, and knowing nothing of the enervating attractions of great cities, required no other medical treatment than simple folk medicine everywhere affords. Their earliest literature is found in the “Vedic Hymns,” the “Sacred Books of the Hindus,” which were composed by the wisest and best of the men, who were warriors and husbandmen, and97 the priests and physicians of their own households. They gradually acquired priestly supremacy over a wider range. Thus arose the Brahmans, the “Offerers of Potent Prayer.” The Rig-Veda refers to physicians, and speaks of the healing power of medicinal herbs; and the Atharva-Veda contains an invocation against the fever-demon, so that medical matters began very early to receive attention after the conquest of India by the Aryans.

“Hinduism,” says Professor Monier Williams, “is a creed which may be expressed by the two words, spiritual pantheism.”225 Of all beliefs this is the simplest. Nothing really exists but the One Universal Spirit; man’s soul is identical with that Spirit. Separate existence apart from the Supreme is mere illusion; consequently every man’s highest aim should be to get rid for ever of doing, having, and being, and strive to consider himself a part of the One Spirit. This in a few words is esoteric Hinduism. When we attempt to study the endless ramifications of the exoteric, or popular belief, the system, so far from being simple, is infinitely complicated. God may amuse Himself by illusory appearances. Light in the rainbow is one, but it manifests itself variously. All material objects, and the gods, demons, good and evil spirits, men, and animals are emanations from the One Universal Spirit; though temporarily they exist apart from him, they will all ultimately be reabsorbed into their source. In the Sanskrit language, which is the repository of Veda, or “knowledge,” we have the vehicle of Hindu philosophy. The systems of Hindu philosophy which grew out of the third division of the Vedas, called the Upanishads, are six, and are given in Professor Monier Williams’ work already referred to as—

We know neither the dates of these systems, nor which of them preceded the other.

Oriental scholars tell us that, 500 years before Christ, in India, China, Greece, and Persia men began to formulate philosophical systems of religious belief, and to elaborate scientific ideas of the world in which they lived. Williams considers the Vais’eshika system of philosophy the most interesting of all the systems, from the parallels it offers to European philosophical ideas. This system goes more correctly than98 the others into the qualities of all substances. It is therefore more scientific, as we should say. It is most interesting to discover how nearly the doctrine of the atoms approaches our Western teaching. The following is Professor Williams’ account of these views:—

“First, then, as to the formation of the world, this is supposed to be effected by the aggregation of Anus, or ‘Atoms.’ These are innumerable and eternal, and are eternally aggregated, disintegrated, and re-integrated by the power of Adrishta. According to the Kanādas Sūtras, an atom is ‘something existing, having no cause, eternal.’ They are, moreover, described as less than the least, invisible, intangible, indivisible, imperceptible by the senses, and as having each of them a Vis’esha or eternal essence of its own. The combination of these atoms is first into an aggregate of two, called Duy-anuka. Three of them, again, are supposed to combine into a Trasa-renu, which, like a mote in a sunbeam, has just magnitude enough to be perceptible.”226

In the Sānkhya philosophy we find something very like Darwinism. “There cannot be the production of something out of nothing; that which is not cannot be developed into that which is. The production of what does not already exist (potentially) is impossible, like a horn on a man; because there must of necessity be a material out of which a product is developed; and because everything cannot occur everywhere at all times; and because anything possible must be produced from something competent to produce it.” (Aphorisms, i. 78, 114-117).227

The Upa-Vedas, or secondary Vedas, treat of various sciences, one of which, Ayur-Veda, is the “science of life,” or medicine. By some this is considered to belong to the Atharva-Veda; by others to the Rig-Veda. By Ayur-Veda we are to understand something derived immediately from the gods. The supplementary revelation known as Upa-Vedas dates about 350 B.C., and there we find Brahmanical medicine already developing.228

“Of all ancient nations,” says Elphinstone, “the Egyptians are the one whom the Hindus seem most to have resembled.”229

There is good reason for believing that the ancient Greeks derived much of their philosophy and religion from the Egyptians, who seem in their turn to have taken both in great measure from India. Says Elphinstone:99 “It is impossible not to be struck with the identity of the topics discussed by the Hindu philosophers with those which engaged the attention of the same class in ancient Greece, and with the similarity between the doctrines of schools subsisting in regions of the earth so remote from each other.”230

Here we find the doctrines of the eternity of matter, the derivation of all souls from God and their return to Him, the doctrine of atoms and a whole system similar to that of Pythagoras. The Greek philosopher taught that intermediate between God and mankind are a host of aerial beings who exercise various influences on the condition of mankind and the affairs of the world. Enfield231 and Stanley232 say that Pythagoras learned his doctrine from the Magi or Oriental philosophers.

Max Müller says that Zarathustra and his followers, the Zoroastrians, had been settled in India before they immigrated into Persia. “That the Zoroastrians and their ancestors started from India during the Vaidik period, can be proved as distinctly as that the inhabitants of Massilia started from Greece.... Many of the gods of the Zoroastrians come out ... as mere reflections and deflections of the primitive and authentic gods of Veda.”233

The Hindus say that when their four immortal Vedas, named Rig, Yajur, Sáma, and Atharva, were originally given to man by Brahma, there was no disease or sin; but when mankind fell away from this virtuous and happy state, life was shortened and disease introduced. Brahma, in his compassion for the sufferings of mankind, then gave a second class of sacred books, the Upavédas; one of these, named Ayur-Veda, treats of the prevention and cure of diseases. Some say this work really came from Siva; it is the sacred medical authority of the Hindus, and is of the highest antiquity. It was originally of great length, but Brahma in mercy to mankind shortened it. Fragments now only remain, and these in the works of commentators. Two divisions treat of surgery. 1st, Salya treats of the surgery of the removal of foreign bodies, pus, and the dead child from the uterus; of healing wounds caused by knives, etc.; of bandaging, operations, blistering, and the treatment of abscesses and inflammations. 2nd, Sálákya treats of diseases of the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. 3rd, Káyachikitsá describes diseases affecting the whole body, as fevers, dysentery, etc. This section may be considered as constituting the practice of medicine. 4th, Bhutavidya deals with the art of restoring the deranged faculties of the mind produced by demoniacal possession, as by the anger of the gods, devils, giants, or spirits of dead men. They can only be removed by prayers, medicines, ablution, and offerings to the offended deity. 5th, Kaumárabhritya comprises the treatment of infants and such diseases as in them were caused by the displeasure of demons.100 6th, Agadatantra is concerned with the administration of antidotes. 7th, Rasáyanatantra treats of the medicines proper for restoring youth, beauty, and happiness; it embraced chemistry or alchemy, and its intention was to discover the universal medicine. 8th, Vájíkaranatantra deals with the best means of increasing the human race: an illusory research, which, like the search for the elixir of life, has even in modern times occupied the attention of physicians. The sacred Ayur-Veda contained a description of the structure of the human body as learned from dissection, and a complete system of preventive and curative medicine.

In the Shastres (Charaka, Susruta), we learn that the Ashwins, or offspring of the Sun (Surja), were the physicians of the gods; they wrote books on medicine, and wrought wonderful cures. When the fifth head of Brahma was cut off by Bayraba, it was united again by the Ashwins, so skilled were they in surgery. They also cured the wounds which the gods received in the battle with the giants. They healed also the paralysed arm of Indra. When mankind became wicked, and consequently diseased, Bharadwaja went to Indra in heaven to acquire a knowledge of medicine, and the thousand-eyed god taught him the healing art. With this knowledge the sage Bharadwaja returned to earth, and taught the Rishis the principles he had acquired. So the sages learned to distinguish diseases and the medicines suitable for their cure; they lived to a very great age, writing books called by their own names. Charaka became the instructor of practitioners upon earth, and his is the most ancient and famous work on Hindu medicine. Charaka, whom we may term the Hindu Hippocrates, flourished at Benares, probably about B.C. 320. The most celebrated and ancient collection of Hindu laws and precepts is that which is known as “the Code of Menu,” or “Institutes of Menu.” It is probably the oldest and most sacred Sanskrit work after the Veda and its Sutras, and presents us with a faithful picture of the customs and institutions of the Hindus.

The Code of Menu lays it down that diseases are the consequences of sinful acts in previous states of existence.101 “Men of evil manners receive an alteration of form, some through evil (deeds) committed (by them) in this life, some also through (acts) formerly committed. A thief of gold (receives) the disease of bad nails; a drinker of intoxicating liquor (the disease of) black teeth; a slayer of a Brahman, consumption; he who violates the couch of the Guru, a skin disease; a slanderer, a foul-smelling nose; a false informer, a foul-smelling mouth; a stealer of grain, the loss of a limb, and one who mixes (grain) a superfluity (of limbs); one who takes food, dyspepsia; a thief of the voice, dumbness; a thief of clothes, leprosy; a horse-thief, lameness; a stealer of a lamp would (in the next birth) become blind; an extinguisher (of a lamp), one-eyed; by (committing) injury (one would get) a condition of disease; by not (committing) injury, the condition of not being diseased. Thus, according to the difference in their acts, (men who are) blamed by the good are born dull, dumb, blind, and deformed in appearance. Regularly, then, penance should be practised for purification, since those whose sins have not (thus) been done away with are (re)born with (these) disgraceful marks attached.”234

Physicians are referred to several times in the Ordinances of Menu. In Lect. iv. 179 we are advised that “we should never have a dispute with a physician.” We are to avoid eating the “food of a physician and hunter, if a cruel man,” etc. (Lect. iv. 212). “The food of a physician is pus” (Ibid. 220). In Lect. ix. 284, “A fine (is set) for all physicians treating (a case) incorrectly: in (the case of creatures) not human (this is) the first, but in (the case of) human beings the medium (fine).”235

The Brahmans believed there was a remedy for every disease, in consequence of which they made a very careful examination of the vegetable kingdom, and so discovered a great number of medicines. If a medicine were efficacious in curing the patient, they invariably supposed it was due to the sanctity of the individual, and the divine pleasure which endowed him with it. It is therefore exceedingly difficult to obtain information, as it is believed that the medicine would lose its effect if the secret of the cure were divulged to others. From these selfish motives, the knowledge of the properties of many valuable remedies have been lost. Dr. Wise says, according to the Brahmans, there are nine secrets which should not be revealed to any one: these are the age of a person; his wealth; family occurrences; his bad actions, or those which reflect shame or dishonour upon him; his relations with his wife; his prayers to his tutelar gods; his charities; and the virtues of nostrums, the ingredients of which are known to him.

Yet priests, says Baas, from the Brahman caste, and the sub-castes, the Vaisya and Vaidya, officiated for a long time as teachers of medicine102 and as physicians. The Vaidyas, as the higher of the two sub-castes, included the physicians proper; while the Vaisyas, or lower caste, furnished nurses.238

When Buddhism passed into modern Hinduism (750-1000 A.D.) the rules of caste became stricter, and the old fetters were reimposed, and the Brahmans returned to their ancient principles which forbade them to contaminate themselves with blood or morbid matter; they withdrew from all practice of medicine, and left it entirely to the Vaidyas. After a time these also shrank from touching dead bodies. Then public hospitals were abolished when Buddhism fell. The Mohammedan conquests which began about 1000 A.D. introduced foreign practitioners of physic, who derived their knowledge from Arabic translations of Sanskrit medical classics and monopolised the patronage of the Mohammedan aristocracy.239

The only remains of the Buddhist hospitals now existing are the various institutions for animals, supported principally by the Jains, a sort of Protestants against Brahmanism.240

The Mohammedan medical practitioners were called “Hukeems,” who followed the principles of Arabian medicine derived from Greek sources. As a rule these practitioners only attended on nobles and chiefs. There is no evidence even that the Mohammedan invaders employed medical men for their armies.241

Dr. Benjamin Heyne, in his Tracts on India, says,242

“The medical works of the Hindus are neither to be regarded as miraculous productions of wisdom, nor as repositories of nonsense. Their practical principles, as far as I can judge, are very similar to our own; and even their theories may be reconciled with ours, if we make allowance for their ignorance of anatomy, and the imperfections of their physiological speculations.”

In surgery they attained to high proficiency, and our modern surgeons have even been able to borrow from them the operation of rhinoplasty.243

Concerning the medicinal properties of minerals (stones and metals), plants, animal substances, and the chemical analysis and decomposition of these, we have also learned much that is extremely valuable from the Hindus. Their Materia Medica is so important, and has played so large a part in Western medical science, that we cannot afford to despise it, though the Hindus have contributed so little to the study of natural science.244 Veterinary medicine, so far as the diseases of103 horses and elephants are concerned, has received special attention from the Hindus.

Charaka counsels youths who desire to study medicine to “seek a teacher whose precepts are sound and whose practical skill is generally approved, who is clever, dexterous, upright, and blameless; who knows also how to use his hands, has the requisite appliances, and all his senses about him; is confident with simple cases, and sure of his treatment in difficult ones; of genuine learning, unaffected, not morose or passionate, patient and kind to his pupils.” The pupils should spring from a family of doctors, and should have lost none of their limbs and none of their senses. “They are to be taught to be chaste and temperate, to speak the truth, to obey their teacher in all things, and to wear a beard.” They are advised to read medical treatises, attend to the personal instruction of their teacher, and to associate with other doctors. When the doctor visits his patient he should wear good clothes, incline his head, be thoughtful but of firm bearing, and observe all possible respect. Once within the house, word, thought, and attention should be directed to nothing else than the examination of the patient and all that concerns his case. He must not be a boaster. “Many recoil even from a man of skill if he loves to boast.” As medicine is difficult to learn, the doctor must practise carefully and incessantly. He must seek every opportunity for conversation with a colleague. This will remove doubts, if he have them, and fortify his opinion.

When an operation is decided on, a fortunate moment, says Dr. Wise, is to be selected, and the Brahmans and the surgeons are to be “propitiated” with gifts. The operating room is to be clean and well lighted, milk, oil, herbs, hot and cold water are to be at hand, and strong attendants to hold the patient. The knife should be wet with water before being used. The sky must be clear, and the time should be near the new moon. The surgeon must be strong and a rapid operator, and he must neither perspire, shake, nor make exclamations. The palms of the hands and soles of the feet, vessels, tendons, joints, and bones are to be avoided. During the operation, care must be taken to keep a fire burning in the patient’s room, on which sweet-scented substances are to be burnt, in order to prevent devils entering the patient by the wound made by the surgeon. After the operation holy water is to be sprinkled on the sufferer, and prayer addressed to Brahma. The bandages are to remain till the third day, and clean ones substituted.245

Susruta was the son of Visámitra, a contemporary of Rama, and was104 chosen by Dhanwantari, who was the Hindu Æsculapius, to abridge the Ayur-Veda for the cure of diseases and the preservation of the health, so that it might be more easily committed to memory. Susruta’s book is still preserved, and after Charaka’s it is the oldest book on medicine which the Hindus possess. Surgery was considered by Susruta to be “the first and best of the medical sciences; less liable than any other to the fallacies of conjectural and inferential practice; pure in itself, perpetual in its applicability; the worthy produce of heaven, and certain source of fame.”

Wise says,246 “Dhanwantari asked his pupils, On what shall I first lecture? They answered, On surgery; because formerly there were no diseases among the gods, and wounds were the first injuries which required treatment. Besides, the practice of surgery is more respected, as affording immediate relief, and is connected with the practice of medicine; although the latter has no connection with surgery.” This was agreed to; and we find the explanation of the eight parts of Ayur-Veda, in six books of Susruta, as follows:—

1st. Surgery (Sútra Sthána), in which is considered the origin of medicine; the rules of teaching, the duty of practitioners, the selection and uses of instruments and medicines, the influence of the weather on health, and the practice to be followed after surgical operations. Then follows the description of the diseases of the humours and surgical diseases; the restoration of defective ears and noses; and the removal of extraneous substances which have entered the body; the different stages of inflammation, with their treatment; different forms of wounds and ulcers, and the regimen of patients labouring under surgical diseases; the description of good and bad diet; of prognosis; the kind of messengers to be employed by the sick; and of diseases produced by the deranged actions of the senses, and of incurable diseases. Then follows the preparations required for accompanying a rajah in war, the duty of practitioners, the difference of climates, the different classes of medicines according to their sensible qualities, a description of the fluids, and of the different preparations, and articles of food. These subjects are treated of in thirty-six chapters.

2nd. Nosology (Nidána Sthána). The description and diagnosis of diseases produced by vitiated humous, or derangements of blood, bile, wind, and phlegm; the symptoms and causes of rheumatic diseases, of piles, of stone, fistula-in-ano, leprosy, diabetes, gonorrhœa, and ascites; the symptoms of unnatural presentations in midwifery, large internal abscesses, erysipelas, scrofula, hydrocele, venereal diseases, and diseases of the mouth. These subjects are considered in sixteen chapters.


3rd. Anatomy (Saríra Sthána), or structure of the body. The description of the soul, and the elementary parts of the body; of puberty; of conception; of the growth of the different parts of the body; of bleeding; of the treatment of pregnancy, and of infants. This division has ten chapters.

4th. Therapeutics (Chikitsa Sthána), in which the exhibition of medicines, the history of inflammations, the treatment of fractures, rheumatic diseases, piles, fistula-in-ano, leprosy, diabetes, and dropsy are given; the manner of extracting the child in unusual positions, the remedies for restoring health and strength, and for prolonging life; the means of preventing diseases; the use of clysters, and of errhines, and the use of the smoke of different substances. These are considered in forty chapters.

5th. Toxicology (Kalpa Sthána). The means of distinguishing poisoned food, and descriptions of different mineral, vegetable, and animal poisons, with their antidotes, is given under this head. This division is treated of in eight chapters.

6th. The supplementary section, Locales (Uttara Sthána), includes various local diseases; as those of the eye, nose, ears and head, with their treatment; the symptoms and treatment of fever, and its varieties; dysentery, consumption; gulma; diseases of the heart; jaundice; discharges of blood, and fainting. This is followed by the treatment of intoxication, of cough, hiccough, asthma, hoarseness of voice, worms, stercoraceous vomiting, cholera, dyspepsia, and dysuria. It also treats of madness, epilepsy, apoplexy; the different tastes of substances, with their effects; the means of retaining health, and the different opinions of practitioners regarding the humours. These subjects are treated in sixty-six chapters.

According to Susruta a pupil had to be initiated into the Science of Medicine. “A medical man should initiate a pupil who is either a Brahmana, Kshatriya, or Vaishya, the members of whose body are sound, of an amiable disposition, active, well-conducted, mild, healthy, vigorous, talented, courageous, of a retentive memory, good judgment and rank, whose tooth-ends, tongue, and lips are small, whose eyes, nose, and mouth are straight, of a pleasant mind, talk, and behaviour, and able to bear fatigue; other such should not be initiated.”

Many ceremonies follow; an altar is to be erected having four angles in some conspicuous direction, which is to be washed with infusion of cow-dung and spread with kúsa grass; precious stones and rice are to be scattered upon it, and a fire is to be kindled with a number of precious woods, an oblation of ghee is to be made, and the mystic words Bhúr Bhuvah Svar and Om are to be said.106 “After this hail each divinity (Brahma, Agni, Dhanvantari, Prajápati, Asvins, and Indra) and each Sage (the Rishis), and make the pupil do the same.”

Stenzler and others have thought it possible that Susruta borrowed his system of medicine largely from the Greeks, and they say that so far as chronology is affected by it there would be nothing surprising in the circumstance. But Weber asserts247 that no grounds whatever exist for this supposition; on the contrary, there is much to tell against such an idea. None of the contemporaries of Susruta has a name with a foreign sound, and the cultivation of medicine is assigned by Susruta and other writers to the city of Benares. The weights and measures to be employed by the physician are those of the eastern provinces, which never came into close contact with the Greeks, and it was first in these parts where medicine received its special cultivation.

In the general treatment of disease, the Hindus paid great attention to diet, so as to promote the just balance of the elements and humours, as they considered that the generality of diseases are produced by derangements in the humours. Many of their statements on dietetics show a keen observation. If management of diet failed to cure the disorder, the patient was directed to abstain from food altogether for a time. Should this also fail, recourse was had to ejecting the corrupted humours by emetics, purgatives, or bleeding. Even the healthy were advised to take an emetic once a fortnight, a purgative once a month, and to be bled twice a year at the change of the seasons. The Hindus observed the “critical days” which have long been recognised by physicians everywhere. Pythagoras says the Egyptians observed them, and Hippocrates employed the term κρασις when the humoral pathology was in vogue. The Hindus thought that all diseases divide naturally into two classes of the sthenic and asthenic types. In the one there was excess, in the other deficiency of excitement. Health consists in a happy medium. All the Asiatic nations hold this opinion. Their remedies consequently were stimulating or cooling, as the type of the malady demanded. Pepper, bitters, and purgatives were stimulants. Stomachics, as chiraitá, paun mixed with lime, bathing and cold were cooling remedies.248

The sages of antiquity have handed down to us the qualities which constitute a good physician. He must be strictly truthful, and of the greatest sobriety and decorum; he must have no dealings with any women but his own wife; he must be a man of sense and benevolence, of a charitable heart, and of a calm temper, constantly studying how to do good. Such a man is a good physician if, in addition to this, he constantly endeavours to improve his mind by the study of good books.107 He is not to be peevish with an irritable patient; he must be courageous and hopeful to the last day of his patient’s life; always frank, communicative, and impartial, he is yet to be rigid in seeing that his orders are carried out.

Hindu physicians make their prognosis a strong point in their practice; there are, they say, certain signs which to the experienced eye enable the doctor to prognosticate the favourable or fatal termination of a disorder. And in the first place a good deal is to be learned from the messenger who summons him to the patient, and so he notes his appearance, his dress, his manner of speaking; he notes the time of day and other circumstances, as these are all considered to have an influence on the result of the illness. It is considered unfavourable if many people follow each other to call the doctor. If the messenger sees a man arrive riding on an ass, or if he has a stick, string, or fruit in his hand, if he is dressed in red, black, or net clothes, if he sneezes, is deformed, agitated, crying, or scratching himself,—all these are bad signs. Not less so is it unfavourable when the physician is called at noonday or midnight, when he has his face turned towards the south, when he is eating, or when he is asleep or fatigued.249

When the doctor arrives at the bedside, it is an unfavourable sign if the patient rubs one hand against another, scratches his back, or constantly moves his head. There are eight most severe forms of disease—the nervous class, tetanus and paralysis; leprosy; piles, fistula-in-ano, stone; unnatural presentations in labour; and dropsy of the abdomen. These are cured with great difficulty, say the Hindus.

It is a good sign when the patient’s voice remains unaltered, when he awakes from sleep without starting, when he remains cool after food, and when he does not forget his god, but is prayerful and resigned.

“When the messenger finds the physician sitting in a clean place, with his face towards the east, and the messenger has in his hands a water-pot full of water, with an umbrella, they are favourable signs.”


“In Ceylon it is affirmed by the Shastree Brahmans that the Science of Medicine was communicated by Măhă Brăhma to the Brăhma Dăkshă Prajapatí; by Prajapatí it was communicated to the Aswins (the physicians of heaven): the two Aswins communicated it to Satora, the chief of the gods inhabiting the six lower heavens, by whom it was communicated to the nine sages, mentioned, on their going to him with one accord to seek a remedy for the evils brought upon mankind by their iniquities; they communicated it to the King of Casi (Benares), whose descendants caused it to be committed to writing.”250

Arrianus, in his history of Alexander’s expedition to India, says that “speckled snakes of a wonderful size and swiftness” are found in that country, and that “The Grecian physicians found no remedy against the bite of these snakes; but the Indians cured those who happened to fall under that misfortune; for which reason, Nearchus tells us, Alexander having all the most skilful Indians about his person, caused proclamation to be made throughout the camp that whoever was bit by one of these snakes, should forthwith repair to the royal pavilion for cure. These physicians also cure other diseases; but as they have a very temperate clime, the inhabitants are not subject to many. However, if any among them feel themselves much indisposed, they apply themselves to their sophists, who by wonderful, and even more than human means, cure whatever will admit of it.”251

Strabo speaks of the Hindu philosophers or sages, and the physicians. “Of the Garmanes, the most honourable,” he says, “are the Hylobii, who live in the forests, and subsist on leaves and wild fruits; they are clothed with garments made of the bark of trees, and abstain from commerce with women and from wine. The kings hold communication with them by messengers concerning the causes of things, and through them worship and supplicate the Divinity. Second in honour to the Hylobii are the physicians, for they apply philosophy to the study of the nature of man. They are of frugal habits, but do not live in the fields, and subsist upon rice and bread, which every one gives when asked, and receive them hospitably. They are able to cause persons to have a numerous offspring, and to have either male or female children, by means of charms. They cure diseases by diet, rather than by medicinal remedies. Among the latter, the most in repute are ointments and plasters. All others they suppose partake greatly of a noxious nature.”252 They had enchanters and diviners versed in the arts of magic, who went about the villages and towns begging.

Arrianus said of the Hindus that their women were deemed marriageable at seven years of age; but the men, not till they arrive at the age of forty.253

Many charms, imprecations, and other superstitious usages of ancient India are contained in the Atharva-veda-Samhitâ. This body of literature dates, according to Max Müller, from 1000 to 800 B.C. (the Mantra109 period).254 In this Samhitâ a number of songs are addressed to illnesses, and the healing herbs appropriate for their cure. Sarpa-vidyá (serpent-science) possibly dealt with medical matters also.255

The oldest fragments (very poor ones, it must be confessed) of Hindu medical science are to be found in these relics of Vedic times.

In a work on Indian medicine called the Kalpastanum described by Dr. Heyne,256 we read that the doctor’s apparatus of mortars, scales, etc., must be kept in a place in the wall that has been consecrated for that purpose by religious ceremonies. In the middle of the medicine room the mystic sign must be set up, with images of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva.

Mystic Sign

Many ceremonies must be gone through in the preparation of medicines; the physician must attend to the boiling of some of them himself, and the spot round the fireplace must be smeared with cow-dung by a virgin, or by the mother of sons whose husband is alive; at the same time, offerings must be made to the gods. Should any of the ceremonies be omitted, the patient will repent the neglect, for devils of all descriptions will defile the medicine and hinder its good effect. Before the patient takes his potion, the god of physic is to be worshipped in the person of his deputy, the doctor, who naturally (and for the good of the patient) is to be well rewarded for his services.

Buddhism, says Max Müller, is the frontier between ancient and modern literature in India. He gives 477 B.C. as the probable date of Buddha’s death,257 and describes the religion of that great sage as standing in the same relation to the ancient Brahmanism of the Veda as Italian to Latin, or as Protestantism to Catholicism. It is a development from Brahmanism, yet it is not the religion of India, though it has greatly influenced Hindu thought.258

Buddha’s religious system recognised no supreme deity; a Buddhist never really prays, he merely contemplates.259

Man can himself become the only god Buddha’s system finds room for. God becomes man in Brahmanism; man becomes a god in Bud110dhism. All existence is an evil to the Buddhist; “act” is to be got rid of as effectually as possible, for action means existence. The great end of the system is Nirvāna, or non-existence. “Of priests and clergy in our sense,” says Professor Williams, “the Buddhist religion has none.” Though there is no God, prayer is practised as a kind of charm against diseases; for malignant demons, as we might have expected, are believed by Buddhists to cause these and other evils. These Buddhist prayers are used like the Mantras of the Brahmins as charms against evils of all kinds. The Buddhists have a demon of love, anger, evil, and death, called Māra, the opponent of Buddha. He can send forth legions of evil demons like himself. Some of the precepts of Buddha are fully equal to those of the highest religions—Charity, Virtue, Patience, Fortitude, Meditation, and Knowledge. The special characteristic of Buddhism is the perfection of its tenderness and mercy towards all living creatures, even beasts of prey and noxious insects not being outside the circle of its sympathy. According to the Buddhist’s belief, all our acts ripen and go to form our Karma. The consequences of our acts must inexorably be worked out. This is Brahminical as well as Buddhistic doctrine. “In the Sábda-kalpa-druma, under the head of Karma-vipāka,” says Williams, “will be found a long catalogue of the various diseases with which men are born, as the fruit of evil deeds committed in former states of existence, and a declaration as to the number of births through which each disease will be protracted, unless, expiations be performed in the present life.”260

All our sufferings, our sicknesses, weaknesses, and moral depravity are simply the consequences of our actions in former bodies. When the Jews asked our Lord, “Who did sin, this man (i.e. in a former life) or his parents, that he was born blind?”261 they evidently had in their minds the Hindu doctrine of previous existences. The principles of the Brahminic religion do not appear to have embraced any care for or attention to the needs of sick people. Involved in philosophical speculations, and the perfecting of their system of caste, the founders of the Brahminic religion had no time to bestow on such mundane matters as disease and its cure. It was not until the rise of Buddhism and the political ascendency which it acquired over Brahmanism (from about 250 B.C. to A.D. 600), that public hospitals were established for man and animals in the great cities of the Buddhist princes.262 Buddhism had a gospel for every living creature; it taught the spiritual equality of all men, whose good works, without the mediation of priests and Brahmins, would save them from future punishment. Medicine, under the111 fostering care of Buddhism, was studied as any other science, and the noblest outcome of the movement was the establishment of public hospitals. A great seat of medical learning was established at Benares, and Asoka, King of Behar or Putra, published fourteen Edicts, one of which devised a system of medical care for man and beast.263

Amongst the legends of Gotama Buddha is the history of Jíwaka, which is of great interest to the historians of medicine, as it illustrates the state of the science in India at that early age. The following account is abbreviated from Mr. Spence Hardy’s translation of Singhalese MSS.264

Jíwaka was a physician who administered medicine to Budha. He learned his profession in this way. When he was seven or eight years of age, he ran away from his parents, resolving that he would learn some science; so he considered the character of the eighteen sciences and the sixty-four arts, and determined that he would study the art of medicine, that he might be called doctor, and be respected, and attain to eminence. So he went to the collegiate city of Taksalá265 and applied to a learned professor to take him into his school of medicine. The professor asked him what fees he had brought with him. Jíwaka said he had no money, but he was willing to work. The professor liked the manner of the lad, and agreed to teach him, though from other pupils he received a thousand masurans. At this moment the throne of Sekra trembled, as Jíwaka had been acquiring merit, and was soon to administer medicine to Gotama Budha. The déwa resolved that as he was to become the physician of Budha, he would himself be his teacher; and for this purpose he came to the earth, entered the mouth of the professor, and inspired him with the wisdom he needed to teach his pupil in the most excellent manner.

Jíwaka made rapid progress, and soon discovered that he could treat the patients more successfully than his master. He learned in seven years as much about diseases as any other teacher could have taught him in sixteen. Then Jíwaka asked his preceptor when his education would be finished; and the old man, wishing to test his knowledge, told him to take a basket and go outside the city for the space of sixteen miles, and collect all the roots, barks, leaves, and fruits which were useless in the art of medicine. Jíwaka did as he was instructed, and after four days he returned and informed the professor that he had met with no substance which in some way or other was not useful in medicine; there was no such thing on earth. Now when the teacher heard this reply, he said, there was no one who could teach the pupil any more,112 and Sekra departed from his mouth. He knew that his pupil had been taught by divine wisdom. Then Jíwaka journeyed to Sákétu, where he found a woman who had a violent pain in her head, which for seven years many learned physicians had vainly tried to cure. He offered to cure her, but she said, “If all the learned doctors had failed to relieve her, it was useless to seek the aid of a little child.” Jíwaka replied that “Science is neither old nor young. I will not go away till the headache is entirely cured.” Then the woman said, “My son, give me relief for a single day: it is seven years since I was able to sleep.” So Jíwaka poured a little medicine into her nose, which went into her brain, and behold, all her headache was gone; and the lady and her relations each gave the physician 4,000 níla-karshas, with chariots, and other, and other gifts in abundance. After this he cured the king of a fistula-in-ano, for which he received a royal reward. There was in Rajagaha a rich nobleman who had a pain in his head like the cutting of a knife. None of his physicians could cure him, so Jíwaka took the noble into a room, sat behind him, and taking a very sharp instrument, opened his skull; and setting aside the three sutures, he seized the two worms which were gnawing his brain with a forceps, and extracted them entire. He then closed up the wound in such a manner that not a single hair was displaced. There was a nobleman in Benares who had twisted one of his intestines into a knot, so that he was not able to pass any solid food. Crowds of physicians came to see him, but none of them dare undertake his case; but Jíwaka said at once he could cure him. He bound his patient to a pillar that he might not move, covered his face, and taking a sharp instrument, without the noble’s being aware of what was going on, ripped open the abdomen, took out his intestines, undid the knot, and replaced them in a proper manner. He then rubbed ointment on the place, put the patient to bed, fed him on rice-gruel, and in three days he was as well as ever. Of course he had an immense fee. After performing other wonderful cures, Jíwaka administered medicine to Budha in the perfume of a flower. The narrative must be given in the words of the MS.:113 “In this way was the medicine given. On a certain occasion when Budha was sick, it was thought that if he were to take a little opening medicine he would be better; and accordingly Ananda went to Jíwaka to inform him that the teacher of the world was indisposed. On receiving this information, Jíwaka, who thought that the time to which he had so long looked forward had arrived, went to the wihára, as Budha was at that time residing near Rajagaha. After making the proper inquiries, he discovered that there were three causes of the disease; and in order to remove them he prepared three lotus flowers, into each of which he put a quantity of medicine. The flowers were given to Budha at three separate times, and by smelling at them his bowels were moved ten times by each flower. By means of the first flower the first cause of disease passed away, and by the other two the second and third causes were removed.”

This legend is instructive in many ways. It shows us that 500 B.C. there were colleges in which medicine was taught, and that by special professors of the art, who received large fees from their pupils and kept them under instruction for many years. We find that the profession of medicine brought great honours and rewards to its adepts. We learn that trephining the skull for cerebral diseases was in use, and that the operation of opening the abdomen for bowel obstructions was understood. It reveals the important fact that already the whole of nature had been ransacked for remedies, and that everything was more or less useful to the physician. The great efficacy which the ancients attributed to perfumes is exhibited in the lotus story, which reminds us that when Democritus was aware that he was dying, he desired to prolong his life beyond the festival of Ceres, and accomplished his wish by inhaling the vapour of hot bread.

Galen’s description of the pulse in disease is very suggestive of the ancient Sanskrit treatises on the pulse; so much is this the case, it would seem, that either the Hindu physician must have copied from the Roman, or the Roman from the Indian. He speaks of the sharp-tailed or myuri, fainting myuri, recurrent myuri, the goat-leap or dorcadissans, a term derived from the animal dorcas, which, in jumping aloft, stops in the air, and then unexpectedly takes another and a swifter spring than the former. But if after the diastole it recur, and before a complete systole take place, strike the finger a second time; such a pulse is called a reverberating one, or dicrotos, from its beating twice. There is also the undulatory and vermicular pulse, the spasmodic and vibratory, the ant-like or formicans, from its resemblance to the ant (formica), on account of its smallness and kind of motion; there is the hectic, the serrated, the fat and the lean kind.

Medical etiquette amongst the Hindus was not overlooked.

“A physician who desires success in his practice, his own profit, a good name, and finally a place in heaven, must pray daily for all living creatures, first of the Brahmans and of the cow. The physician should wear his hair short, keep his nails clean266 and cut close, and wear a sweet-smelling dress. He should never leave the house without a cane or umbrella; he should avoid especially any familiarity with women. Let his speech be soft, clear, pleasant. Transactions in the house should not be bruited abroad.”267


The dissection and examination of the dead subject is not practised in India, it is contrary to the tenets of the Brahmans; such knowledge of anatomy as the Hindus possess must therefore be little else than conjecture, formed by the study of the bodies of animals. Ainslie says268 that the Rajah of Tanjore, in the year 1826, was a learned and enlightened prince, who was anxious to study the structure of the human body, but was too rigid a Hindu to satisfy his curiosity at the expense of his principles, so he ordered a complete skeleton made of ivory to be sent to him from England. Sir William Jones states that in a fragment of the Ayur-Veda he was surprised to find an account of the internal structure of the human frame.269

The ancient Hindus must have possessed considerable knowledge of surgery. In a commentary on Susruta made by Ubhatta, a Cashmirian, which may be as old, Ainslie thinks, as the twelfth century, many valuable surgical definitions are distinctly detailed. According to the best authorities, says Ainslie, surgery was of eight kinds: chedhana, cutting or excision; lekhana, or scarification and inoculation; vyadhana, puncturing; eshyam, probing or sounding; aharya, extraction of solid bodies; visravana, extracting fluids (by leeches and bleeding); sevana, or sewing; and bhedana, division or excision.270

Twelve species of leeches are enumerated in some of the Sanskrit works on surgery, six of which are poisonous and six useful medicinally.271

Dissection was practised in the most ancient times; but now there is the greatest prejudice against touching the dead body, and modern practitioners of Hindu medicine, where they do not follow the ancient authors, are in a worse condition than they were, on account of the present ignorance of anatomy. All the sages are alleged to have learned their knowledge of medicine from the works of Charaka and Susruta. Those who were taught by Charaka became physicians; those who were followers of Susruta, surgeons. Charaka’s classification and plan of treating diseases are considered superior to those of Susruta, but the latter is prized for his anatomy and surgery. Babhata compiled a compendium of medicine from the works of these great masters of the art, and some three hundred years ago a compilation was made from all the most celebrated works on medicine; this was called Baboprukasa. It is clear and well arranged, and explains the difficulties and obscurities of the ancient Shastres. This was compiled as a text-book for practitioners, and is in high repute with them. Dr. Wise explains the ancient methods of dissecting the human body as given in Hindu text-books.


“The dejections are to be removed, and the body washed and placed in a framework of wood, properly secured by means of grass, hemp, sugar-cane reeds, corn-straw, pea-stalks, or the like. The body is then to be placed in still water, in a moving stream, where it will not be injured by birds, fish, or animals. It is to remain for seven days and nights in the water, when it will have become putrid. It is then to be removed to a convenient situation, and with a brush, made of reeds, hair, or bamboo bark, the surface of the body is to be removed so as to exhibit the skin, flesh, etc., which are each in their turn to be observed before being removed. In this manner, the different corporeal parts of the body will be exhibited; but the life of the body is too ethereal to be distinguished by this process, and its properties must therefore be learned with the assistance of the explanations of holy medical practitioners, and prayers offered up to God, by which, conjoined with the exercise of the reasoning and understanding faculties, conviction will be certainly obtained.”272

The Hindus have been great observers of the natural qualities of plants, though they have contributed little or nothing to the study of botany. “The materia medica of the Hindus,” says Hunter,273 “embraces a vast collection of drugs belonging to the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, many of which have been adopted by European physicians.” They were ingenious pharmacists, and some of their directions for the administration of medicines are most elaborate. They paid scrupulous attention to hygiene, regimen, and diet.

Hindu treatises on medicine inform the physician that man’s constitution is occasioned by three dispositions born with him—wadum, pittum, and chestum, or wind, bile, and slime,—and it is the physician’s business to ascertain which of these predominate in any individual. These we may call the three morbiferous diatheses. The pulse is to be felt, not merely at the wrist as we feel it, but in ten different parts of the body. Some of the descriptions of the pulse are very curious. Sometimes, they say, it beats as a frog jumps, or as a creeping rain-worm, or like the motion of a child in a cradle hung in chains; at other times it is like a fowl when running or as a peacock when strutting, and so on.

The Yantras or surgical implements known to Susruta were, according to Professor H. H. Wilson, one hundred and one, and are thus described by him in his most interesting paper on the “Medical and Surgical Sciences of the Hindus.”274

The instruments were classed as Swastikas, Sandanśas, Tálayantras, Nádiyantras, Salákás, and Upayantras.


The Swastikas are twenty-four in number; they are metallic, about eighteen inches long, and fancifully shaped like the beaks of birds, etc. They were a sort of pincers or forceps.

The Sandanśas were a kind of tongs for removing extraneous substances from the soft parts.

The Tálayantras were similar, and were used for bringing away foreign bodies from the ears, nose, etc.

The Nádiyantras were tubular instruments, of which there were twenty sorts. They were similar to our catheters, syringes, etc. The Salákás were rods and sounds, etc. Of these there were twenty-eight kinds; some were for removing nasal polypi, so common and so troublesome in India. The Upayantras were such dressings as cloth, twine, leather, etc. The first, best, and most important of all implements is declared to be the Hand. The Man’dalágra was a round pointed lancet; the Vriddhipatra a broad knife; the Arddhadhárás are perhaps knives with one edge; the Trikúrchaka may be a sort of canular trochar, with a guarded point. The Vrihimukha is a perforating instrument. The Kutháriká was probably a bistoury. The Vadiśa is a hooked or curved instrument for extracting foreign substances, and the Dantaśanku appears to be an instrument for drawing teeth. The Ará and Karapatra are saws for cutting through bones. The Eshan’i is a blunt straight instrument six or eight inches long—a sort of probe, in fact. The Súchi is a needle. Then the Hindu surgeon had substitutes such as rough leaves that draw blood, pith of trees, skin, leeches, caustics, etc. It is evident that the surgeon of ancient India was not inefficiently armed.

The student of surgery had many curious contrivances for acquiring manual dexterity. He practised the art of making incisions on wax spread out on a board; on flowers, bulbs, and gourds. Skins or bladders filled with paste and mire were used for the same purpose. He practised scarification on the fresh hides of animals from which the hair has not been removed; puncturing, or lancing the vessels of dead animals; extraction on the cavities of the same, or fruits with large seeds; sutures were made on skin and leather, and ligatures and bandages on well-made models of the human limbs. Fourteen kinds of bandages are described by Vágbhatta. The cautery was applied by hot seeds, burning substances, or heated plates and probes. Frequently this treatment was used for headaches and for liver and spleen disorders. It was chiefly employed, however, as with the Greeks, for averting bleeding by searing the mouths of the divided vessels. The early Hindus could extract stone from the bladder, and even the fœtus from the uterus. They must have been bold operators, many of their117 operations being actually hazardous. It is a subject deserving of inquiry how they lost the information and skill which they once possessed in so high a degree. The books of medicine and surgery to which reference has been made are undoubtedly most ancient, and it must be remembered were considered as inspired writings. Professor Wilson says: “We must infer that the existing sentiments of the Hindus are of modern date, growing out of an altered state of society, and unsupported by their oldest and most authentic civil and moral, as well as medical institutes.”

Many surgical operations which we consider triumphs of our modern practice were invented by the ancient Hindus. They were skilled in amputation, in lithotomy (as we have seen), in abdominal and uterine operations; they operated for hernia, fistula, and piles, set broken bones, and had specialists in rhinoplasty or operations for restoring lost ears and noses. It was a common custom in India for a jealous husband to mutilate the nose of his suspected wife, so that surgeons had opportunities to practise this branch of their art. The ancient Indian surgeons invented an operation for neuralgia which was very similar to the modern division of the fifth nerve above the eyebrow. Veterinary science was understood, and ancient treatises exist, says Hunter,275 on the diseases of elephants and horses.

The best era of Hindu medicine was from 250 B.C. to 750 A.D. Its chief centres were found in such Buddhist monastic universities as that of Nalanda, near Gayá.276 Hunter thinks it probable that the ancient Brahmans may have derived their anatomical knowledge from the dissection of the sacrifices; but there is no doubt that the true schools of Indian medicine were the great public hospitals which were established by Buddhist princes like Asoka, famous for his rock edicts, B.C. 251-249. Amongst the fourteen injunctions inscribed by this enlightened sovereign, the first was the prohibition of the slaughter of animals for food or sacrifice, and the second was the provision of a system of medical aid for men and animals and of plantations and wells on the roadside.277

Probably King Asoka’s were the first real hospitals for general diseases anywhere established, as the institutions connected with the Greek temples were not exactly hospitals in our sense of the term; they were more like camps round a mineral spring or spa. The Buddhist physicians would have in these merciful institutions abundant opportunity for the continuous study of disease.

Whatever may have been the condition of ancient Hindu anatomy and surgery, in modern times both have now fallen to the lowest point.118 Dislocated joints are replaced and fractured limbs set by a class of men similar to our bone-setters which are found in all nations. Certain of the Mohammedan doctors—Hakeems—sometimes bleed and couch for cataract in a clumsy manner. The village Kabiráj knows but a few sentences of Sanskrit texts, but he has “a by no means contemptible pharmacopœia,” says Hunter. The rest consists of spells, fasts, and quackery.

Physicians (Vitians or Vydias) being Sudras are not allowed to read the sacred medical writings (Vedas); these are guarded with religious awe by the Brahmins; they are permitted, however, access to certain commentaries upon the professional sacred books.

When we reflect on the high position which the science and art of the Hindus had attained in very ancient times, it is surprising that we have apparently learned little or nothing from them in connection with the healing art. Max Müller believes that there was an ancient indigenous Hindu astronomy and an ancient indigenous Hindu geometry. Probably the first attempt at solving the problem of the squaring of the circle was suggested, he thinks, by the problem in the Sutras how to construct a square altar that should be of exactly the same magnitude as a round altar. It is scarcely conceivable that so patient and shrewd a people as the Hindus, a people at once so observant and so profoundly speculative, should not have kept pace with the other enlightened nations of the world in the study of medicine and surgery. The vegetation of India is so rich in medicinal herbs that its Materia Medica could hardly be equalled in any other country; so that both by intellect and by location the Hindus should be amongst the foremost professors of the art of medicine. On the contrary, however, the West has everywhere to instruct the East in the medical sciences; and the young Brahmins who flock to the medical schools and universities of Europe find that they have everything to learn from us in this direction. Is this an evidence of arrested development, a retrogression in civilization due to conservatism and a paralysis of the power to keep pace with the world’s advance consequent on the influences of religion and custom? Probably it is. All the medicine of the Hindus is empiricism; their systems exclude anatomy and surgery, without which, as Prof. H. H. Wilson observes,278 “the whole system must be defective.... We can easily imagine that these were not likely to have been much cultivated in Hindustan, and that local disadvantages and religious prejudices might have proved very serious impediments to their acquirement.”

As compared with other ancient nations, Egypt, Chaldæa, Greece, and Rome, we are at considerable disadvantage in the attempt to dis119cover what was known and practised of the healing arts in the remoter ages. We have no papyri like the “Book of the Dead” or the great medical papyrus of Ebers; we have no inscriptions on such ancient monuments as Mesopotamia has preserved for us; we have no Sanskrit treatises to be compared for their antiquity and scientific interest with those which have come down to us from ancient Greece.

Max Müller says279 that “few Sanskrit MSS. in India are older than 1000 after Christ, nor is there any evidence that the art of writing was known in India much before the beginning of Buddhism, or the very end of the ancient Vedic literature.”

Then, again, the Hindu treatises on medical subjects, whether fables or facts, have hitherto been little noticed by Sanskrit scholars.280

The subject is not of general interest, and a man would need to be not only a perfect Sanskrit scholar, but a physician as well, who should attempt such a task as the translation of these treatises in any useful manner. Although ancient India has little to show us in the way of actual written documents and inscriptions, it must not be supposed for a moment that she is deficient in ancient poetry and other works which have been preserved through the ages by the marvellously developed memory of her Brahmins and religious teachers. The ancient Vedic hymns, the Brâhmanas, and probably the Sutras, were handed down from before 1000 B.C. by oral tradition. Every, the minutest precaution was taken that not a word, not a letter, not an accent even should be omitted or altered; and Max Müller tells us “this was a sacred duty, the neglect of which entailed social degradation, and the most minute rules were laid down as to the mnemonic system that had to be followed.”

The people of India believe that small-pox is under the control of “the goddess Mata,” in whose honour temples abound and fairs are held, where thousands of women and children attend with offerings. The declivities of most of the numerous conical hills present either a reddened stone or temple devoted to “Mata,” with most probably an attendant Brahmin priest. Nearly every village has its goddess of small-pox in the immediate locality, and in many places a large piece of ground is esteemed holy and dedicated to “Mata.” The people do not pray to escape the affliction, unless in seasons when it occurs with more than ordinary violence. They do, however, petition for a mild visitation. But even the loss of an eye does not appear to be viewed as a very serious calamity! “Is there not another eye sufficient for all our purposes?” questioned one of these stoical philosophers.120 “If it were the leg or hand, it would be different, but an eye is immaterial.”281

“The small-pox goddess stands with two uplifted crooked daggers, threatening to strike on the right and left. Before her are a band of executors of her vengeance. Two of them wear red grinning masks, carry black shields, and brandish naked scimitars. White lines, like rays, issue from the bodies of the others, to indicate infection. On the right there is a group of men with spotted bodies, afflicted with the malady; bells are hung at their cinctures, and a few of them wave in their hands black feathers. They are preceded by musicians with drums, who are supplicating the pity of the furious deity. Behind the goddess, on the right, there advances a bevy of smiling young women, who are carrying gracefully on their heads baskets with thanksgiving-offerings, in gratitude for their lives and their beauty having been spared. There is, besides, a little boy with a bell at his girdle, who seems to be conveying something from the right arm of the goddess. This action may possibly be emblematic of inoculation.”282

Another small-pox deity of India described by Mr. Dubois, a missionary,283 is Mah-ry-Umma, who is supposed to incarnate herself in the disease. The natives, when vaccination was first introduced, objected to the practice for fear lest the goddess should be offended, as to prevent the small-pox would imply an objection to her becoming incarnate amongst them. The difficulty was overcome by the suggestion that the vaccination was a mild form of disease by which the goddess had chosen to visit her votaries, so that she might be worshipped with equal respect.

“Even Siva is worshipped as a stone, especially that Siva who will afflict a child with epileptic fits, and then, speaking by its voice, will announce that he is Parchânana, the Five-faced, and is punishing the child for insulting his image.”284

Surgeon-General Sir W. J. Moore, in an article on “The Origin and Progress of Hospitals in India,”285 says that we may form a very good opinion of the condition of the whole of India in ancient times by recalling what was the state of medical relief in most of the native States previous to the institution of medical relief and sanitation in British districts.

“Recently, in the Native States, there might be witnessed disease121 proceeding unchecked and uninterfered with, to a degree which certainly would not be allowed at present in civilized Europe. And especially was this evident in surgical disease, as illustrated by the following extract from an official document:286

“‘In former reports I have mentioned the extreme ignorance displayed by native “hukeems” or “vaids” of surgical principles. As a rule, all surgical disease is either wrongly treated, or let alone until treatment is unavailable by these uneducated practitioners. Their errors of omission and commission are not so easily ascertained in their medical, as in their surgical, practice. But in the latter, there is a glaring ignorance, not only from things requisite not being attempted, but from things unnecessary being performed, leading to the serious injury and often to the death of the patient. Thus, during my last tour, I saw at one village, an open scrofulous sore of the neck with the carotid artery isolated, and apparently on the point of giving way. At another village I witnessed an advanced cancer rapidly killing a man. In another place a woman had remained for days with a dislocated jaw, which was easily put in situ. Other forms of dislocation and fracture neglected are almost daily sights. At Bikaneer I amputated the leg of a man who eight months before fell from a camel; the bones of the leg protruding through the skin of the heel, and the foot being driven half-way up the front of the leg, in which position it had been permitted to heal! At the same place a woman was rapidly sinking from the results of extensive sinus of the breast, following abscess, and which only required free incisions for the restoration of health. I also saw a man dying of strangulated hernia, without the slightest idea of or attempt at relief on the part of the native practitioners. And so on, throughout almost the whole range of surgery, I have from time to time witnessed the most lamentable results from the malpractices, or from the absence of practice on the part of the Native Doctors.’

“As mentioned in the above extract, the errors of omission and commission are not so easily ascertained in medical as in surgical cases. But the great majority of those stricken by disease, such as inflammations and fevers, derived as little benefit from medicine as did the Romans when, according to Pliny, physicians were banished from the Imperial City during many years. For few indeed of the higher class and comparatively better educated ‘hukeems’ or ‘vaids’ would minister to the poor who were unable to pay their fees; and of the122 populations of India the great majority are and always were poor. Steeped in continually augmenting superstition and ignorance, if the poor received medical aid at all, it was from the hands of the equally ignorant and superstitious village ‘Kabiraj,’ who, unlike their more noble Aryan predecessors, did not even ‘draw physic from the fields,’ although they may have used a charm, such as a peacock’s feather tied round the affected part! If the poor got well, they got well; and as most diseases have a tendency to terminate in health, many did recover. If a fatal termination resulted, it was attributed to nusseeb or destiny, or the gods were blamed. Insane persons, if harmless, were allowed to ramble about the streets; if violent, they were chained in the most convenient place. The jails of the Native States were also in an unparalleled unsanitary condition, for no medical aid whatever was provided; as Coleridge said of Coldbath Fields, these jails might have given His Satanic Majesty a hint for improving Hades. Fatalism combined with ignorance, and a consequent utter unbelief in any measures of sanitation, resulted in the absence of all measures of precaution during epidemics of contagious disease. During the prevalence of small-pox, children might be seen by scores, in every stage of the disease, playing or lying about the streets. During an epidemic of cholera, not one precautionary measure was ever adopted—except by the wild Bheels, who invariably moved, leaving their villages for a time for the open jungle; thus forestalling the most approved method of preventing cholera adopted for British troops, viz., marching away from the infected area.

“Not only were there no hospitals proper, or contagious hospitals, or asylums for the insane, but neither were there any asylums for lepers. Regarding the latter, difference of opinion would appear to have existed among scientific investigators, then as now, as to whether leprosy is a contagious disease or not. Then as now, in some parts of the country, lepers were permitted to live among the people; in other localities they were thrust out from the towns or villages, generally forming a little colony on the adjoining plain. This expulsion of lepers from the towns and villages, then as now, was not so much the result of fear of contagion, as the Brahminical dread of contact with impurity. Then as now, these outcasts lived miserably in mud or grass huts, obtaining food by begging. When tired of life, or when being old or disabled their relatives were tired of keeping them, they often submitted to ‘sumajh’ or burial alive. But they more frequently threatened to perform ‘sumajh’ with the view of extracting alms from the charitable, who were induced to believe that the death of the leper would be credited to them, unless they bought off the sacrifice. ‘Sumajh,’ or leper burial alive, has123 been practised comparatively recently in more than one of the Native States.

“The Native principalities are now much more advanced in most respects than they were only a few years back. By coming into contact with the progressive civilization of adjoining British districts, the Governments of Native States were forced to advance; for they felt their existence would be imperilled. And this advance was most materially assisted by the successful endeavours made by the Indian Government to secure the better education of the young Indian princes and nobles. The Imperial Government also, and especially under Lord Mayo, enunciated care for the sick as one of the most urgent duties of the feudatory rulers of India. Owing to such measures, aided by the personal influence of the Political, and the assistance of the Medical Officers attached to the Native Courts, a hospital or dispensary has, amongst other features of civilization, been established at every large capital; while in some States ramifications of such central establishments have rendered the people almost as well off, in the matter of medical relief, as those in British territory. As it will not be necessary to refer again, except incidentally, to the Native States, I may here remark that all the medical institutions are supported at the cost of the Durbar or Government of each State. They are, as a rule, superintended by the European Medical Officer attached to the Political Residency, aided by native assistants.

“Although the recent condition of the Native States represents what formerly prevailed all over Hindustan, it must not be understood that the people were devoid of charity; only the charity of the well-to-do classes did not take the form of medical relief. In the absence of a qualified medical profession recognised by the State, the confidence felt in the physic of the ‘vaids’ and ‘hukeems’ was something akin to the faith of Byron, who without any such excuse designated medicine as ‘the destructive art of healing.’ Moreover, the organization of hospitals was not understood, and the necessary discipline of such establishments was foreign to the habits and ideas of the people. The poor (who now throng the hospitals of India), having had no experience of the advantages of such institutions, would probably not have resorted thereto had hospitals and dispensaries been opened under native control. So suspicious were the people on the first opening of a hospital in one of the Native States, that sweetmeats, of which they are very fond, were ordered to be given daily to each patient, as an encouragement to attend! So in former times the charitable preferred spending their money in sinking wells, in constructing serais or rest-houses for travellers, in endowing temples, and in feeding the poor, particularly 124 Brahmins. In this manner, enormous sums have been disbursed and are still expended, especially in food for the destitute. This laudable charity of the Indians, although often confined to their own caste people, and to occasions of family festival, is one of the reasons why it has never been thought necessary to establish any system of poor-law relief in British India. Of late years native charity has been often directed towards building and endowing medical institutions, and many Indian gentlemen have given most liberally for such purposes.”



Origin of Chinese Culture.—Shamanism.—Disease-Demons.—Taoism.—Medicine Gods.—Mediums.—Anatomy and Physiology of the Chinese.—Surgery.—No Hospitals in China.—Chinese Medicines.—Filial Piety.—Charms and Sacred Signs.—Medicine in Thibet, Tartary, and Japan.

Chief amongst the Mongolian peoples are the Chinese. Prof. Max Müller argues that the Chinese, the Thibetans, the Japanese, Coreans, and the Ural-Altaic or Turanian nations are in the matter of religion closely related.

Chinese culture has recently been declared by Professor Terrien de la Couperie, François Lenormant, and Sayce to be of Accadian origin. Hieratic Accadian has been identified with the first five hundred Chinese characters, and it is believed by Professor de la Couperie that the Chinese entered north-western China from Susiana, about the twenty-third century before Christ.287

In the Finno-Tartarian magical mythology, we have not only the link which connects the religion of heathen Finland with that of Accadian Chaldæa, but we discover what is of more importance in tracing the origin of the magic and medicine of the old civilizations of the world from a primitive and coarse cosmogony, such as we have examined in so many savage peoples.

As it is impossible to separate the ancient medical belief of a people from its religious conceptions, if we admit Prof. Max Müller’s theory, we must also hold that it embraces the medical notions of these peoples. And so we find that one of the striking characteristics of the Mongolic religions is an extensive magic and sorcery—Shamanism. Practically the gods and heroes of the poetry of these peoples are sorcerers, and their worshippers value above everything their magical powers. Taoism, a Chinese religion of great antiquity and respect, involves an implicit faith in sorcery; and the Chinese and Mongolians have degenerated Buddhism into Shamanism.288


Confucianism is the chief religion of the Chinese. It is simply a development of the worship of ancestors, which was the aboriginal religion of the country. All the Chinese are ancestor-worshippers, to whatever other native religion they may belong.289

The pure Confucian is a true Agnostic.

Although Chinese civilization is without doubt extremely ancient, we are unable to study it as we study that of Egypt or Chaldæa, on account of the absence of monuments or a literature older than a few centuries before Christ, which would give us a reliable history.

The Chinese attribute to Huang-ti (B.C. 2637) a work on medicine, which is still extant, entitled Nuy-kin, which is probably not older than the Christian era. They also attribute to the Emperor Chin-nung (B.C. 2699) a catalogue of medicinal herbs.290

The demon theory of disease universally obtains throughout the Chinese empire. All bodily and mental disorders spring either from the air or spirits. They are sent by the gods as punishments for sins committed in a previous state of existence. In a country where Buddhism is largely believed, it is natural to suppose that there is little sympathy with the suffering and afflicted. One might offend the gods by getting cured, or delay the working out of the effects of the expiatory suffering. Archdeacon Grey found a grievously afflicted monk in a monastery in the White Cloud mountains. He desired to take him to the Canton Medical Missionary Hospital; but the abbot took him aside, and begged him not to do so, as the sufferer had doubtless in a former state of existence been guilty of some heinous crime, for which the gods were then making him pay the well-merited penalty.291

Nevertheless, when sick, the Chinese often have recourse to some deity, who is supposed to have caused the illness. If the patient dies, they do not blame the god, but they withhold the thank-offering which is customary in case of recovery. The death is declared to be in accordance with the “reckoning of Heaven.” If the patient recovers, the deity of the disease gets the credit. Prayers and ceremonies are made use of to induce the “destroying” demon to banish the baneful influences under his control. Sudden illness is frequently ascribed to the evil influence of one of the seventy-two malignant spirits or gods. In very urgent cases an “arrow” is obtained from an idol in the temple. This “arrow” is about two feet long, and has a single written word, “Command,” upon it. If the patient recovers, it must be returned to the temple with a present; if he dies, an offering of mock-money is127 made. The “arrow” is considered as the warrant of the god for the disease-spirit to depart.292

In L’ien-chow, in the province of Kwang-si, if a man hits his foot against a stone, and afterwards falls sick, it is at once recognised that there was a demon in the stone; and the man’s friends accordingly go to the place where the accident happened, and endeavour to appease the demon with offerings of rice, wine, incense, and worship. After this the patient recovers.293

Sometimes it is difficult to find out what particular god has been offended. Then some member of his family asks, with a stick of burning incense in his hand, that the offended deity will make known by the mouth of the patient how he has been offended. The disease is sometimes, as amongst savage nations, ascribed to the spirit of a deceased person. The god of medicine is invited to the sick man’s house in cases where malignant sores or inflamed eyes are prevalent. Ten men sometimes become “security” for the sick person. After offerings and ceremonies, the names of the ten are written upon paper, and burned before the idol. When a patient is likely to die, the last resort is to employ Tauist priests to pray for him, and then the following ceremony is performed:—A bamboo, eight or ten feet long, with green leaves at the end, is provided, and a coat belonging to the sick man is suspended with a mirror in the place where the head of the wearer of the coat would be. The priest repeats his incantations, to induce the sick man’s spirit to enter the coat, as it is supposed that the patient’s spirit is leaving the body or has been hovering near it. The incantations are to induce the spirit to enter the coat, so that the owner may wear both together. Sometimes the family will hire a Tauist priest to climb a ladder of knives, and perform ceremonies for the recovery of the sick man. This is thought to have a great effect on the disease-spirits.294

The Emperor Fuh-Hi, who invented the eight diagrams, was the first physician whose name has come down to modern times. He is one of the Sang Huông, or “Three Emperors,” and is the deity of doctors.

I Kuang Tāi Uông is the god of surgery. The people say he was a foreigner, of the Loochoo Islands, who came to the middle kingdom and practised surgery. As he was deaf whilst in the flesh, his worshippers consider he is thus afflicted now that he is a deity, so they pray into his ear, as well as offer him incense and candles.295


Ling Chui Nä is the goddess of midwifery and children. If children are sick, their parents employ Tauist priests in some of her temples to perform a ceremony for their cure.296

Iöh Uong Chû Sü is the god of medicine. It is said that he was a distinguished physician who was deified after his death. He is now generally worshipped by dealers in drugs and by their assistants. On the third day of the third month, they make a feast in his honour, and burn candles and incense before his image at his temple. Practising physicians do not usually take any part in these proceedings.297

The Chinese have goddesses of small-pox and measles, which are extremely popular divinities. Should it thunder after the pustules of small-pox have appeared, a drum is beaten, to prevent them breaking. On the fourteenth day ceremonies are performed before the goddess, to induce her to cause the pustules to dry up.298

Mediums are often employed to prescribe for the sick. They behave precisely as our spiritualists do, and pretend that the divinity invoked casts himself into the medium for the time being, and dictates the medicine which the sick person requires.299

In the “Texts of Táoism”300 we are informed that “In the body there are seven precious organs, which serve to enrich the state, to give rest to the people, and to make the vital force of the system full to overflowing. Hence we have the heart, the kidneys, the breath, the blood, the brains, the semen, and the marrow. These are the seven precious organs. They are not dispersed when the body returns (to the dust). Refined by the use of the Great Medicine, the myriad spirits all ascend among the Immortals.”

Anatomy and physiology have made no progress in China, because there has never been any dissection of the body. The only books on the subject in the Chinese language are Jesuit translations of European works. Briefly stated, Chinese ideas on the subject are as follows:—In the human body there are six chief organs in which “moisture” is located—the heart, liver, two kidneys, spleen, and lungs. There are six others in which “warmth” abides—the small and large intestine, the gall bladder, the stomach, and the urinary apparatus. They reckon 365 bones in the whole body, eight in the male and six in the female skull, twelve ribs in men and fourteen in women. They term the bile the seat of courage; the spleen, the seat of reason; the liver, the granary of the soul; the stomach, the resting-place of the mind.

A familiar drug in Chinese materia medica, which is sold in all the129 drug-shops, is the Kou-Kouo, or bean of St. Ignatius. The horny vegetable is used, after bruising and macerating, in cold water, to which it communicates a strong bitter taste. “This water,” says M. Huc,301 “taken inwardly, modifies the heat of the blood, and extinguishes internal inflammation. It is an excellent specific for all sorts of wounds and contusions.... The veterinary doctors also apply it with great success to the internal diseases of cattle and sheep. In the north of China we have often witnessed the salutary effects of the Kou-Kouo.”

This bean is the seed of Strychnos Ignatia, and the plant is indigenous to the Philippine Islands. The action and uses of ignatia are identical, says Stillé, with those of nux vomica.302

The medical profession is a very crowded one in China, as it is perfectly free to any who choose to practise it. No diploma or certificate of any kind is necessary in order to practise medicine in China. The majority of the regular practitioners, if such they can be called, are men who have failed to pass their examinations as literates. There is one, and apparently only one, check on quackery. The Chinese have a special place in their second hell which is reserved for ignorant physicians who will persist in doctoring sick folk. In the fourth hell are found physicians who have used bad drugs, and in the seventh hell are tortured those who have taken human bones from cemeteries to make into medicines. In the very lowest hell are physicians who have misused their art for criminal purposes. These evil persons are ceaselessly gored by sows.303

Naturally, the sciences of anatomy and physiology are entirely neglected by these self-constituted native doctors. All the learning they require is the ability to copy out prescriptions from a medical book. Dr. Gould, a physician of long experience in China, tells us that the native physician is depicted in Chinese primers as a person between the heathen priest and the fortune-teller—his profession is looked upon as a combination of superstition and legerdemain.304

The court physicians at Pekin are of a much superior class, and are compelled to pass examinations before their appointment.

Astrology, charms, amulets, and characts enter largely into Chinese medical practice. The priests keep bundles of paper charms ready for emergencies. They are supposed to know which of the different methods of using them are most appropriate to each case. Masks are used by children at certain times to ward off the deity of small-pox.130 The masks are very ugly, as the deity is believed only to afflict pretty children.305

“Isaac Vossius,” says Southey, “commended the skill of the Chinese physicians in finding out by their touch, not only that the body is diseased (which, he said, was all that our practitioners knew by it), but also from what cause or what part the sickness proceeds. To make ourselves masters of this skill, he would have us explore the nature of men’s pulses, till they became as well known and as familiar to us as a harp or lute is to the players thereon; it not being enough for them to know that there is something amiss which spoils the tune, but they must also know what string it is which causes that fault.”306

Surgery has never made much progress in China; the Chinese have too much respect for the dead to employ corpses for anatomical purposes, and they have the greatest unwillingness to draw blood or perform any kind of operation on the living. Their ideas of the structure of the human frame are therefore purely fanciful. “The distinctive Chinese surgical invention is acupuncture, or the insertion of fine needles of hardened silver or gold for an inch or more (with a twisting motion) into the seats of pain or inflammation.”307 Rheumatism and gout are thus treated, and 367 points are specified where needles may be inserted without injury to great vessels or vital organs.

Dentistry and ophthalmic surgery are practised by specialists.

There are no hospitals; the Chinese consider it would be a neglect of the duty which they owe to their relatives to send them when sick to such institutions. Chinese doctors often receive a fixed salary so long as their patient remains in good health; when he falls sick, the pay is stopped till he gets well. The doctor must ask his patient no questions, nor does the patient volunteer any information about his case. Having felt the sick man’s pulse, looked at his tongue, and otherwise observed him, he is supposed to have completed his diagnosis, and must prescribe accordingly. Some of the Chinese prescriptions are very costly; precious stones and jewels are often powdered up with musk and made into pills, which are considered specifics for small-pox and fevers. Another remedy is Kiuchiu, a bitter wine made of spirit, aloes, myrrh, frankincense, and saffron, which is said to be a powerful tonic. The profession of medicine is hereditary, receiving very few recruits from outside; hence its complete stagnation.308

One of the industries of the Foo-Chow beggars is the rearing of131 snakes, which are used by the druggists to prepare their medicines. Snake-wine is used as a febrifuge, and snake’s flesh is considered a nutritious diet for invalids. Skulls, paws, horns, and skins of many animals, as bears, bats, crocodiles and tigers, are used in medicine. For fever patients physicians prescribe a decoction of scorpions, while dysentery is treated by acupuncture of the tongue. Pigeon’s dung is the favourite medicine for women in pregnancy; and the water in which cockles have been boiled is prescribed for skin diseases, and for persons who are recovering from small-pox. Rat’s flesh is eaten as a hair-restorer, and human milk is given to aged persons as a restorative. Crab’s liver administered in decoction of pine shavings is used in a form of skin disease. In Gordon Cumming’s Wanderings in China, from which many of the above facts are taken, it is stated that “dried red-spotted lizard, silk-worm moth, parasite of mulberry trees, asses’s glue, tops of hartshorn, black-lead, white-lead, stalactite, asbestos, tortoise-shell, stag-horns and bones, dog’s flesh and ferns are all recommended as tonics.” Burnt straw, oyster shells, gold and silver leaf, and the bones and tusks of dragons are said to be astringent. These dragons’ bones are the fossil remains of extinct animals. Some of the medicines of standard Chinese works are selected purely on account of their loathsomeness, such as the ordure of all sorts of animals, from man down to goats, rabbits, and silk-worm, dried leeches, human blood, dried toads, shed skins of snakes, centipedes, tiger’s blood, and other horrors innumerable hold a conspicuous place in the Chinese pharmacopœia. Nor, says Gordon Cumming, are these the worst. The physicians say that some diseases are incurable save by a broth made of human flesh cut from the arm or thigh of a living son or daughter of the patient.309

The same author tells us that a young girl who so mutilated herself to save her mother’s life was specially commended in the Official Gazette of Peking for July 5th, 1870.

Medicines prepared from the eyes and vitals of the dead are supposed to be efficacious. Leprosy is believed to be curable by drinking the blood of a healthy infant. Dr. Macarthy and Staff-Surgeon Rennie were present at an execution in Peking, when they saw the executioner soak up the blood of the decapitated criminal with large balls of pith, which he preserved. These are dried and sold to the druggists under the name of “shue-man-tou” (blood-bread), which is prescribed for a disease called “chong-cheng,” which Dr. Rennie supposed to be pulmonary consumption.310

The Times says (October 10th, 1892) that the character of the accusations made in the publications against Europeans has created132 as much astonishment amongst the foreign residents in China as it has in the West. Missionaries especially were charged—and the charges have been made frequently during the past thirty years—with bewitching women and children by means of drugs, enticing them to some secret place, and there killing them for the purpose of taking out their hearts and eyes. Dr. Macgowan, a gentleman who has lived for many years in China, has published a statement showing that from the point of view of Chinese medicine these accusations are far from preposterous. It is one of the medical superstitions of China that various portions of the human frame and all its secretions possess therapeutic properties. He refers to a popular voluminous Materia Medica—the only authoritative work of the kind in the Chinese language—which gives thirty-seven anthropophagous remedies of native medicine. Human blood taken into the system from another is believed to strengthen it; and Dr. Macgowan mentions the case of an English lady, now dead, who devoted her fortune and life to the education of girls in Ningpo, who was supposed by the natives to extract the blood of her pupils for this purpose. Human muscles are supposed to be a good medicament in consumption, and cases are constantly recorded of children who mutilate themselves to administer their flesh to sick parents.

Never, says Dr. Macgowan, has filial piety exhibited its zeal in this manner more than at the present time. Imperial decrees published in the Pekin Gazette, often authorising honorary portals to be erected in honour of men, and particularly women, for these flesh offerings, afford no indication of the extent to which it is carried, for only people of wealth and influence can obtain such a recognition of the merit of filial devotion. It is very common among the comparatively lowly, but more frequent among the literati. A literary graduate now in his own service, finding the operation of snipping a piece of integument from his arm too painful, seized a hatchet and cut off a joint of one of his fingers, which he made into broth mixed with medicine and gave to his mother. It is essential in all such cases that the recipient should be kept in profound ignorance of the nature of the potion thus prepared, and in no case is the operation to be performed for an inferior, as by a husband for a wife, or a parent for a child. This belief in the medical virtues of part of the human body (of which a large number of instances which cannot be repeated here are given) has led to a demand from native practitioners which can sometimes only be supplied by murder. Of this, too, examples are given from official records and other publications, some of them of quite recent date.

Dr. Macgowan reminds us that men capable of these atrocities have been found in other civilized lands. He says:—


“It was in a model Occidental city, not inaptly styled the ‘Modern Athens,’ that subjects were procured for the dissecting-room through murder, at about the same amount of money as that paid in China for sets of eyes and hearts for medicine. A remedy was found which promptly suppressed that exceptional crime in the West. In China murder of this nature can also be prevented, but not speedily. Time is an indispensable factor in effecting the suppression of homicide, which is the outcome of medical superstition. That superstition is strongly intrenched in an official work, the most common book, after the classics, in the empire. So long as the concluding chapter is retained in the materia medica, it will be futile to undertake the abolition of murder for medical purposes; and so long as these abhorrent crimes prevail in China, so long will fomenters of riots against foreigners aim to make it appear that the men and women from afar are addicted to that form of murder, and thus precious lives will continue to be exposed to forfeiture.”

The most celebrated drug in Chinese Materia Medica is ginseng, the root of a species of Panax, belonging to the natural order Araliacæ. The most esteemed variety is found in Corea; an inferior kind comes from the United States, the Panax quinquefolium, and is often substituted for the real article. All the Chinese ginseng is Imperial property, and is sold at its weight in gold. The peculiar shape of the root, like the body of man—a peculiarity which it shares with mandrake and some other plants—led to its employment in cases where virile power fails, as in the aged and debilitated. Special kinds have been sold at the enormous sum of 300 to 400 dollars the ounce. Europeans have hitherto failed, says the Encyclopædia Britannica, to discover any wonderful properties in the drug. It is no doubt a remarkable instance of the doctrine of signatures (q.v.). In all cases of severe disease, debility, etc., the Chinese fly to this remedy, so that enormous quantities are used. The Hon. H. N. Shore, R.N., says that the export from New-Chang in Manchuria to the Chinese ports of this article for one year alone reached the value of £51,000. It seems to be simply a mild tonic, very much like gentian root. Some of the pharmacies are on a very large scale; six hundred and fifty various kinds of leaves are commonly kept for medicinal purposes.

When a Chinese physician is not able to procure the medicines he needs, he writes the names of the drugs he desires to employ on a piece of paper, and makes the patient swallow it; the effect is supposed to be quite as good as that of the remedy itself, and certainly in many cases it would be infinitely more pleasant to take! This custom of swallowing charms is seen again in the sick-room, some of the charms which134 are stuck round it being occasionally taken down, burned, and mixed with water, which the patient has to drink. Gongs are beaten and fire-crackers let off to frighten away the demons which are supposed to be tormenting the sick person.

“The superstition as to the powers of the ‘evil eye,’” says Denny,311 “may almost be deemed fundamental to humanity, as I have yet to read of a people amongst whom it does not find some degree of credence.” In China a pregnant woman, or a man whose wife is pregnant, is called “four-eyed”; and children are guarded against being looked at by either, as it would probably cause sickness to attack them.

One of the commonest diagrams to be met with in China is the mystic svastika, or “Thor’s Hammer” 卍. It is found on the wrappers of medicines, and is accepted as the accumulation of lucky signs possessing ten thousand virtues.312

The physicians of Thibet, says M. Huc,313 assign to the human body four hundred and forty diseases, neither more nor less. Lamas who practise medicine have to learn by heart the books which treat of these diseases, their symptoms, and the method of curing them. The books are a mere hotch-potch of aphorisms and recipes. The Lama doctors have less horror of blood than the Chinese, and practise bleeding and cupping. They pay great attention to the examination of a patient’s water. A thoroughly competent Lama physician must be able to diagnose the disease and treat the patient without seeing him. It is sufficient that he make a careful examination of the water. This he does not by chemical tests, as in Western nations, but by whipping it up with a wooden knife and listening to the noise made by the bubbles. A patient’s water is mute or crackling according to his state of health. Much of Chinese and Tartar medicine is mere superstition. “Yet,” says M. Huc very judiciously, “notwithstanding all this quackery, there is no doubt that they possess an infinite number of very valuable recipes, the result of long experience. It were perhaps rash to imagine that medical science has nothing to learn from the Tartar, Thibetian, and Chinese physicians, on the pretext that they are not acquainted with the structure and mechanism of the human body. They may, nevertheless, be in possession of very important secrets, which science alone, no doubt, is capable of explaining, but which, very possibly, science itself may never discover. Without being scientific, a man may very well light upon extremely scientific results.” The fact that everybody in China and Tartary can make gunpowder, while probably135 none of the makers can chemically explain its composition and action is a proof of this fact.

M. Huc says that every Mongol knows the name and position of all the bones which compose the frame of animals. They are exceedingly skilful anatomists, and are well acquainted with the diseases of animals, and the best means of curing them. They administer medicines to beasts by means of a cow-horn used as a funnel, and even employ enemas in their diseases. The cow-horn serves for the pipe, and a bladder fixed on the wide end acts as a pump when squeezed. They make punctures and incisions in various parts of the body of animals. Although their skill as anatomists and veterinary surgeons is so great, they have only the simplest and rudest tools wherewith to exercise this art.

“Medicine in Tartary,” says M. Huc,314 “is exclusively practised by the Lamas. When illness attacks any one, his friends run to the nearest monastery for a Lama, whose first proceeding, upon visiting the patient, is to run his fingers over the pulse of both wrists simultaneously, as the fingers of a musician run over the strings of an instrument. The Chinese physicians feel both pulses also, but in succession. After due deliberation, the Lama pronounces his opinion as to the particular nature of the malady. According to the religious belief of the Tartars, all illness is owing to the visitation of a Tchutgour, or demon; but the expulsion of the demon is first a matter of medicine. The Lama physician next proceeds, as Lama apothecary, to give the specific befitting the case; the Tartar pharmacopœia rejecting all mineral chemistry, the Lama remedies consist entirely of vegetables pulverised, and either infused in water or made up into pills. If the Lama doctor happens not to have any medicine with him, he is by no means disconcerted; he writes the names of the remedies upon little scraps of paper, moistens the paper with his saliva, and rolls them up into pills, which the patient tosses down with the same perfect confidence as though they were genuine medicaments. To swallow the name of a remedy, or the remedy itself, say the Tartars, comes to precisely the same thing.

“The medical assault of the usurping demon being applied, the Lama next proceeds to spiritual artillery, in the form of prayers, adapted to the quality of the demon who has to be dislodged. If the patient is poor, the Tchutgour visiting him can evidently only be an inferior Tchutgour, requiring merely a brief, offhand prayer, sometimes merely an interjectional exorcism. If the patient is very poor, the Lama troubles himself with neither prayer nor pill, but goes away, recommending the friends to wait with patience until the sick patient gets136 better or dies, according to the decree of Hormoustha. But where the patient is rich, the possessor of large flocks, the proceedings are altogether different. First it is obvious that a devil who presumes to visit so eminent a personage must be a potent devil, one of the chiefs of the lower world; and it would not be decent for a great Tchutgour to travel like a mere sprite; the family, accordingly, are directed to prepare for him a handsome suit of clothes, a pair of rich boots, a fine horse, ready saddled and bridled, otherwise the devil will never think of going, physic or exorcise him how you may. It is even possible, indeed, that one horse will not suffice; for the demon, in very rich cases, may turn out upon inquiry to be so high and mighty a prince, that he has with him a number of courtiers and attendants, all of whom have to be provided with horses.

“Everything being arranged, the ceremony commences. The Lama and numerous co-physicians called in from his own and other adjacent monasteries, offer up prayers in the rich man’s tents for a week or a fortnight, until they perceive that the devil is gone,—that is to say, until they have exhausted all the disposable tea and sheep. If the patient recovers, it is a clear proof that the prayers have been efficaciously recited; if he dies, it is a still greater proof of the efficaciousness of the prayers, for not only is the devil gone, but the patient has transmigrated to a state far better than that he has quitted.

“The prayers recited by the Lamas for the recovery of the sick are sometimes accompanied with very dismal and alarming rites. The aunt of Tokoura, chief of an encampment in the Valley of Dark Waters, visited by M. Huc, was seized one evening with an intermittent fever. ‘I would invite the attendance of the doctor Lama,’ said Tokoura, ‘but if he finds there is a very big Tchutgour present, the expenses will ruin me.’ He waited for some days, but as his aunt grew worse and worse, he at last sent for a Lama; his anticipations were confirmed. The Lama pronounced that a demon of considerable rank was present, and that no time must be lost in expelling him. Eight other Lamas were forthwith called in, who at once set about the construction in dried herbs of a great puppet, which they entitled the Demon of Intermittent Fever, and which, when completed, they placed on its legs by means of a stick, in the patient’s tent.

“The ceremony began at eleven o’clock at night; the Lamas ranged themselves in a semicircle round the upper portion of the tent with cymbals, sea-shells, bells, tambourines, and other instruments of the noisy Tartar music. The remainder of the circle was completed by the members of the family squatting on the ground close to one another, the patient kneeling, or rather crouched on her heels, opposite the137 Demon of Intermittent Fever. The Lama doctor in chief had before him a large copper basin filled with millet, and some little images made of paste. The dung-fuel threw amid much smoke a fantastic and quivering light over the strange scene. Upon a given signal, the clerical orchestra executed an overture harsh enough to frighten Satan himself, the lay congregation beating time with their hands to the charivari of clanging instruments and ear-splitting voices. The diabolical concert over, the Grand Lama opened the Book of Exorcisms, which he rested on his knees. As he chanted one of the forms, he took from the basin from time to time a handful of millet, which he threw east, west, north, and south, according to the Rubric. The tones of his voice as he prayed were sometimes mournful and suppressed, sometimes vehemently loud and energetic. All of a sudden he would quit the regular cadence of prayer, and have an outburst of apparently indomitable rage, abusing the herb puppet with fierce invectives and furious gestures. The exorcism terminated, he gave a signal by stretching out his arms right and left, and the other Lamas struck up a tremendously noisy chorus in hurried, dashing tones. All the instruments were set to work, and meantime the lay congregation, having started up with one accord, ran out of the tent one after the other, and tearing round it like mad people, beat it at their hardest with sticks, yelling all the while at the pitch of their voices in a manner to make ordinary hair stand on end. Having thrice performed this demoniac round, they re-entered the tent as precipitately as they had quitted it, and resumed their seats. Then, all the others covering their faces with their hands, the Grand Lama rose and set fire to the herb figure. As soon as the flames rose he uttered a loud cry, which was repeated with interest by the rest of the company. The laity immediately arose, seized the burning figure, carried it into the plain, away from the tents, and there, as it consumed, anathematized it with all sorts of imprecations; the Lamas, meantime, squatted in the tent, tranquilly chanting their prayers in a grave, solemn tone. Upon the return of the family from their valorous expedition, the praying was exchanged for joyous felicitations. By-and-by each person provided with a lighted torch, the whole party rushed simultaneously from the tent, and formed into a procession, the laymen first, then the patient, supported on either side by a member of the family, and lastly, the nine Lamas, making night hideous with their music. In this style the patient was conducted to another tent, pursuant to the orders of the Lama, who declared she must absent herself from her own habitation for an entire month.

“After this strange treatment the malady did not return. The probability is that the Lamas, having ascertained the precise moment at138 which the fever-fit would recur, met it at the exact point of time by this tremendous counter-excitement and overcame it.

“Though the majority of the Lamas seek to foster the ignorant credulity of the Tartars, in order to turn it to their own profit, we have met some of them who frankly avowed that duplicity and imposture played considerable part in all their ceremonies. The superior of a Lamasery said to us one day, ‘When a person is ill the recitation of prayers is proper, for Buddha is the master of life and death; it is he who rules the transmigration of beings. To take remedies is also fitting, for the great virtue of medicinal herbs also comes to us from Buddha. That the Evil One may possess a rich person is credible; but that in order to repel the Evil One, the way is to give him dress, and a horse, and what not, this is a fiction invented by ignorant and deceiving Lamas, who desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of their brothers.’”

M. Huc describes a grand solemnity he witnessed in Tartary, when a Lama Boktè cut himself open, took out his entrails, placed them before him, and then after returning them, closed the wound while the blood flowed in every direction; yet he was apparently as well as before the operation, with the exception of extreme prostration. Good Lamas, says M. Huc, abhor such diabolical miracles; it is only those of bad character who perform them. The good priest describes several other “supernaturalisms,” as he calls them, of a similar kind, which are frequently performed by the Lamas. He sets them all down to diabolical agency.315

The Turanian nations have their priests of magic, says M. Maury,316 who exercise great power over the people. He thinks this is partly due to the pains they take to look savage and imposing, but still more to the over-excited condition in which they are kept by the rites to which they have recourse; they take stimulants and probably drugs to cause hallucinations, convulsions, and dreams, for they are the dupes of their own delirium.

“Amongst all nations,” says Castrèn, “of whatever race, disease is always regarded as a possession, and as the work of a demon.”317

Says M. Maury:139 “The Baschkirs have their Shaitan-kuriazi, who expel devils, and undertake to treat the invalids regarded as possessed by means of the administration of certain remedies. This Shaitan, whose name has been borrowed from the Satan of the Christians, since the Baschkirs have come into contact with the Russians, is held by the Kalmuks to be the chief author of all our bodily sufferings. If they wish to expel him, they must resort not only to conjurations, but also to cunning. The aleyss places his offerings before the sick man, as if they were intended for the wicked spirit; it being supposed that the demon, attracted by their number or their value, will leave the body which he is tormenting in order to seize upon the new spoil. According to the Tcheremisses, the souls of the dead come to trouble the living, and in order to prevent them from doing so, they pierce the soles of the feet, and also the heart of the deceased, thinking that, being then nailed into their tomb, the dead could not possibly leave it.... The Kirghis tribes apply to their sorcerers, or Baksy, to chase away demons, and then to cure the diseases they are supposed to produce. To this end they whip the invalid until the blood comes, and then spit in his face. In their eyes every disease is a personal being. This idea is so generally received amongst the Tchuvaches also, that they firmly believe the least omission of duty is punished by some disease sent to them by Tchemen, a demon whose name is only an altered form of Shaitan. An opinion strongly resembling this is found again amongst the Tchuktchis; these savages have recourse to the strangest conjurations to free from disease; their Shamans are also subject to nervous states, which they bring on by an artificial excitement.”318

Japanese Medicine.

The Chinese, as early as 218 B.C., found their way amongst the Japanese doctors with medical books, dating back, it is alleged, to 2737 B.C., and the influence of Chinese medicine upon Japanese medicine has continued to be a controlling one up to the recent introduction of European medicines now in vogue. The old style of things is, according to Dr. Benjamin Howard, still followed by 30,000 out of the 41,000 physicians now practising throughout the Empire. Of the 30,000 of the old vernacular school, one of them is still on the list of the Court physicians, and maintains a high reputation. The impression throughout Europe that coloured papers, exorcisms, etc., are the basis of Chinese and Japanese medicine is erroneous. Dr. Howard has seen nearly 2,000 books by these people, covering most of the departments of medicine, but amongst which materia medica occupies the leading place. In these books are the doctrines of the successive schools, strikingly like some of those which in past centuries existed amongst our own ancestors. The successive medical colleges have always had a professor of astrology, but the solid fact remains that the materia140 medica has included amongst its several hundred remedies a large number of those used by ourselves, and these are not only vegetable, but animal and mineral, in the latter class mercury being prominent. Surgery became a separate branch as long since as the seventh or eighth century.319



Zoroaster and the Zend-Avesta.—The Heavenly Gift of the Healing Plants.—Ormuzd and Ahriman.—Practice of the Healing Art and its Fees.

Zoroaster, or more correctly Zarathustra, was the founder, or at least the reformer of the Magian religion, and one of the greatest teachers of the East. The date of Zoroaster is involved in obscurity, but all classical antiquity agrees that he was an historical person. Neither do we know his birthplace. Duncker gives 1000 B.C. as his period; others consider that he was possibly a contemporary of Moses. In the Zend-Avesta and the records of the Parsees he is said to have lived in the reign of Vitaçpa or Gushtap, whom most writers recognise as Darius Hystaspis. Pliny notices works of Zoroaster treating of Nature and of precious stones. He is credited with the invention of magic; and as ancient medicine was closely connected with magic, we may, in this sense, consider him as a physician. Aristotle and Eudoxus stated that he lived six thousand years before Plato. It is hopeless, however, to attempt to settle a question so involved in obscurity. The most characteristic feature of Zoroaster’s teaching is the dualistic conception of the scheme of the universe, according to which two powers—a good and an evil—are for ever contending for the mastery—Ormuzd against Ahriman. Ormuzd is of the light, and from this emanate the good spirits whose laws are executed by Izeds, who are angels and archangels.

Ahriman is of the darkness, and from this emanate Daêvas, powers by whom mankind are led to their destruction—evil powers, false gods, devils. From these Daêvas proceed all the evil which is in the world; they are agents of that higher evil principle Druj, or falsehood and deception, which is called Ahriman, the spirit enemy. These Daêvas send to men, and are the causes of all diseases, which can only be cured by the good spirits. Man belongs either to Ormuzd or to Ahriman according to his deeds. If he offers sacrifice to Ormuzd and the gods, and helps them by good thoughts, good deeds, and spreads life over the world and opposes Ahriman by destroying evil, then he is a man of142 Asha, who drives away fiends and diseases by spells. He who does the contrary to this is a Dravant,—“demon,” a foe of Asha. The man of Ormuzd will have a seat near him in heaven.320

According to the Zend-Avesta Thrita was the first physician who drove back death and disease. Ormuzd (Ahura Mazda) brought him down from heaven ten thousand healing plants which had grown around the tree of eternal life, which is the white Haoma (the Indian Soma), or Gaokerena, which grows in the middle of the sea, Vouru-kasha. These are the Haomas, says Darmesteter.321

One is the yellow, or earthly Haoma, and is the king of healing-plants; the other, or white, is that which, on the day of resurrection, will make men immortal. Thrita was one of the first priests of Haoma, the life and health-giving plant, and thus he obtained his skill in medicine. Darmesteter says that Thrita was originally the same as Thraêtaona of the Rig-Veda.322

“We see that Thraêtaona fulfilled the same functions as Thrita. According to Hamza he was the inventor of medicine. The Tavids (formulas of exorcism) against sickness are inscribed with his name, and we find in the Avesta itself the Fravashi of Thraêtaona invoked ‘against itch, hot fever, humours, cold fever, vâvareshi; against the plagues created by the serpent.’ We learn from this passage that disease was understood as coming from the serpent; in other words, that it was considered a sort of poisoning, and this is the reason why the killer of the serpent was invoked to act against it. Thus Thrita Thraêtaona had a double right to the title of the first of the healers, both as a priest of Haoma and as the conqueror of the serpent.”

Ormuzd (Ahura Mazda) said that Thrita “asked for a source of remedies—he obtained it from Khshathia-Vaivya”—to withstand the diseases and infection which Angra-Mainyu had created by his witchcraft. As Ahriman had created ten thousand diseases, so Ormuzd gave mankind the same number of healing plants. This idea is firmly fixed in the minds of every one of us to this day: for every disease there must of necessity somewhere be a remedy, and that usually with the common people is supposed to be a plant. The Soma is the king of the healing plants in India and that also came down from heaven. “Whilst coming down from heaven the plants said, ‘He will never suffer any wound the mortal whom we touch.’”323

Ormuzd, having given man the healing plants, said:143 “To thee, O Sickness, I say, avaunt! To thee, O Death, I say, avaunt! To thee, O Pain, I say, avaunt! To thee, O Fever, I say, avaunt! To thee, O Disease, I say, avaunt!”324

In the Vendîdâd (Fargard vii. a)325 it is demanded, “If a worshipper of Mazda want to practise the art of healing, on whom shall he first prove his skill? On worshippers of Mazda or on worshippers of the Daêvas?”

Ahura Mazda answered: “On worshippers of the Daêvas shall he first prove himself, rather than on worshippers of Mazda. If he treat with the knife a worshipper of the Daêvas, and he die; if he treat with the knife a second worshipper of the Daêvas, and he die; if he treat with the knife for the third time a worshipper of the Daêvas, and he die, he is unfit to practise the art of healing for ever and ever. Let him therefore never attend any worshipper of Mazda; let him never treat with the knife any worshipper of Mazda, nor wound him with the knife. If he shall ever attend any worshipper of Mazda; if he shall ever treat with the knife any worshipper of Mazda, and wound him with the knife, he shall pay for it the same penalty as is paid for wilful murder. If he treat with the knife a worshipper of the Daêvas, and he recover; if he treat with the knife a second worshipper of the Daêvas, and he recover; if for the third time he treat with the knife a worshipper of the Daêvas, and he recover, then he is fit to practise the art of healing for ever and ever. He may henceforth at his will attend worshippers of Mazda; he may at his will treat with the knife worshippers of Mazda, and heal them with the knife.”

Naturally, the rising surgeons would seek their clinical material amongst the heretics.

We learn from the Zend-Avesta that the doctrine of Zoroaster teaches that not only real death makes one unclean, but partial death also. The demon claims as his property everything which goes out of the body of man, and that because it is dead. The breath which leaves the mouth is unclean, so that fire, which is sacred, must not be blown with it. Nail parings and cuttings of the hair are unclean, and unless protected by spells are likely to become the weapons of the demons. Whatever altered the body in its nature was demon’s work. On this principle the menstruation of women causes their uncleanness. The menses are sent by Ahriman; the woman is possessed by a demon while they last; she has to be kept apart; she cannot even receive food from hand to hand; she may not eat much lest she feed the demon. So utterly unclean is a woman who has borne a dead child that she is not allowed to drink water unless in danger of death. Logic compelled that a sick man should be treated as one possessed. Sickness was sent by Ahriman,144 and is to be cured by washings and spells. The most powerful therefore of all medical treatment is magic. It was always more highly esteemed by the faithful than treatment by drugs and the lancet.326 Hair and nails, which having been cut off have at once become the property of Ahriman, may be withdrawn from his power by prayer, and by being deposited in the earth in consecrated circles, which, being drawn round them, intrench them against the fiend.327

In the Zend-Avesta it is laid down that a woman who has been just delivered of a child is unclean. When delivered of a dead child, she must drink gômêz. Says Darmesteter:328 “So utterly unclean is she, that she is not even allowed to drink water, unless she is in danger of death; and even then, as the sacred element has been defiled, she is liable to the penalty of a Perhôtanu. It appears from modern customs that the treatment is the same when the child is born alive; the reason of which is that, in any case, during the first three days after delivery she is in danger of death. A great fire is lighted to keep away the fiends, who use then their utmost efforts to kill her and her child. She is unclean only because the death-fiend is in her.”

The Saddar 16 says: “When there is a pregnant woman in a house, one must take care that there be fire continually in it; when the child is brought forth, one must burn a candle, or, better still, a fire, for three days and three nights, to render the Dêvs and Drugs unable to harm the child; for there is great danger during those three days and nights after the birth of the child.”

A table of physician’s fees is given in the Vendîdâd. The healer is to attend a priest and get him well for his blessing; the master of a house is to pay the value of a cheap ox for the same service; but the lord of a province is to pay the value of a chariot and four. The wife of the master of a house pays the value of a she-ass for her healing, but the wife of the lord of a province pays the value of a she-camel.

It declared that, “If several healers offered themselves together, O Spitama Zarathustra! namely, one who heals with the knife, one who heals with herbs, and one who heals with the holy word (i.e. by spells), it is this one who will best drive away sickness from the faithful.”





Apollo, the God of Medicine.—Cheiron.—Æsculapius.—Artemis.—Dionysus.—Ammon.—Hermes.—Prometheus.—Melampus.—Medicine of Homer.—- Temples of Æsculapius.—The Early Ionic Philosophers.—Empedocles.—School of Crotona.—The Pythagoreans.—Grecian Theory of Diseases.—School of Cos.—The Asclepiads.—The Aliptæ.

Gods of Medicine.

The origin of Greek medicine is intermixed with the Hellenic mythology. We must begin, not with Æsculapius (Asclepios), but with the sun itself. Apollo (Pæan), as the god who visits men with plagues and epidemics, was also the god who wards off evil and affords help to men. He was constantly referred to as “the Healer,” as Alexicacus, the averter of ills. He is the saviour from epidemics, and the pæan was sung in his honour (Iliad, I. 473, XXII. 391).

Apollo promoted the health and well-being of man, and was the god of prolific power, the trainer of youth, and thus he was the chief deity of healing. As the god of light and purity he was truly the health-god; and as light penetrates the darkness, he was the god of divination and the patron of prophecy, acting chiefly through women when in a state of ecstasy. Homer says that Pæan329 was the physician of the Olympian gods (Iliad, V. 401, 899).

Next we find Cheiron, the wise and just centaur (Iliad, XI. 831), who had been instructed by Apollo and Artemis, and was famous for his skill in medicine. He was the master and instructor of the most celebrated heroes of Greek story, and he taught the art of healing to Æsculapius (B.C. 1250). This god of medicine was said to be the son of Apollo. Pausanius330 explains the allegory thus: “If Asclepius is the air—indispensable to the health of man and beast, yet Apollo is the sun, and rightly is he called the father of Asclepius, for the sun, by his yearly course, makes the air wholesome.”


In the Homeric poems Æsculapius is not a divinity, but merely a human being. Homer, however, calls all those who practise the art of healing descendants of Pæan; his healing god is Apollo, and never Æsculapius.

Legend tells that Æsculapius was the son of Apollo by Coronis, who was killed by Artemis for unfaithfulness, and her body was about to be burnt on the pyre, when Apollo snatched the boy out of the flames and handed him over to the centaur Cheiron, who taught him how to cure all diseases. Pindar tells the story of his instruction in the art of medicine:—

“The rescued child he gave to share
Magnesian Centaur’s fostering care;
And learn of him the soothing art
That wards from man diseases’ dart.
Of those whom nature made to feel
Corroding ulcers gnaw their frame;
Or stones far hurled, or glittering steel,
All to the great physician came.
By summer’s heat or winter’s cold
Oppressed, of him they sought relief.
Each deadly pang his skill controlled,
And found a balm for every grief.
On some the force of charmed strains he tried,
To some the medicated draught applied;
Some limbs he placed the amulets around,
Some from the trunk he cut, and made the patient sound.”331

It was believed that he was even able to restore the dead to life. According to one tradition, Æsculapius was once shut up in the house of Glaucus, whom he was to cure, and while he was absorbed in thought there came a serpent, which twined round his staff, and which he killed. Then he saw another serpent, which came carrying in its mouth a herb, with which it recalled to life the one that had been killed; and the physician henceforth made use of the same herb to restore dead men to life, the popular belief, even in these early times, evidently being that what would cure serpents would be equally efficacious for men. We may therefore consider the snake-entwined staff of the healing god as the symbol of the early faith in the efficacy of experiments on animals, though in this instance the experiment was on a dead one.

Æsculapius was only too successful a practitioner; for when he was exercising his art upon Glaucus, Zeus killed the physician with a flash of lightning, as he feared that men might gradually escape death altogether. Others say the reason was that Pluto complained that by such medical treatment the number of the dead was too much diminished.149 On the request of Apollo, Zeus placed Æsculapius amongst the stars. His wife was Epione (the soother). Homer mentions Podalirius and Machaon as sons of Æsculapius, and the following are also said to have been his sons and daughters—Janiscus, Alexenor, Aratus, Hygeia, Ægle, Iaso, and Panaceia. Most of these, as Hygeia, the goddess of health, and Panaceia, the all-healing, it will be seen, are merely personifications of the powers ascribed to their father. There is no doubt that facts are the basis of the Æsculapian story. The divinity was worshipped all over Greece. His temples were for the most part built in mountainous and healthy places, and as often as possible in the neighbourhood of a medicinal spring; in a sense they became the prototypes of our hospitals and medical schools. Multitudes of sick persons visited them, and the priests found it to their interest to study diseases and their remedies; for though faith and religious fervour may do much for the sick, the art of the physician and the hand of the surgeon are adjuncts by no means to be despised even in a temple clinic. The chief of the Æsculapian temples was at Epidaurus; there no one was permitted to die and no woman to give birth to a child. The connection of the serpent with the divinity probably arose from the idea that serpents represent prudence and renovation, and have the power of discovering the secret virtues of healing plants.

The idea of the serpent twined round the rod of Æsculapius is that “as sickness comes from him, from him too must or may come the healing.”332 The knots on the staff are supposed to symbolize the many knotty points which arise in the practice of physic.

Minerva was the patroness of all the arts and trades; at her festivals she was invoked by all who desired to distinguish themselves in medicine, as well as by the patients whom they failed to cure. As the goddess of intelligence and inventiveness, she was the Greek patroness of physicians, and was the same deity as Pallas Athene, who bestows health and keeps off sickness.

Artemis, or Diana, as the Romans called the Greek goddess, was a deity who, inviolate and vigorous herself, granted health and strength to others. She was the sister of Apollo, and though a dispenser of life could, like her brother, send death and disease amongst men and animals. Sudden deaths, especially amongst women, were described as the effect of her arrows. She was θεὰ σώτειρα, who assuaged the sufferings of mortals. When Æneas was wounded, she healed him in the temple of Apollo.333 Yet Artemis ταυροπόλος produced madness in the minds of men.334


She was the Cretan Diktynna, and that goddess wore a wreath of the magic plant diktamnon or dictamnus, called by us dittany (dictamnus ruber, or albus); it grows in abundance on Mounts Dicté and Ida in Crete.

The Cretan goddess Britomartis was sometimes identified with Artemis. She too was a goddess of health as also of birth, and was supposed to dispense happiness to mortals.

Bacchus, or, as he was called by the Greeks, Dionysus, as the god of wine, and an inspired and an inspiring deity, who revealed the future by oracles, cured diseases by discovering to sufferers in their dreams their appropriate remedies. The prophet, the priest, and the physician are so often blended in one in the early history of civilization, that the same ideas naturally clustered round Bacchus as around Apollo, and other great benefactors of mankind. The giver of vines and wine was the dispenser of the animating, exalting, intoxicating powers of nature. As wine restores the flagging energies of the body and mind, and seems to have the power of calling back to life the departing spirit, and inspiring the languishing vitality of man, Bacchus would naturally enough be a god of medicine. The intoxicating properties of wine would be connected with inspiration, and so Bacchus had a share in the oracles of Delphi and Amphicleia. He was invoked as a θεὸς σωτήρ against raging diseases.

Ammon was an Ethiopian divinity whose worship spread over Egypt, and thence to Greece, and was described as the spirit pervading the universe, and as the author of all life in nature.

Hermes Trismegistus of the Greeks was identified in the time of Plato with Thoth, Thot, or Theut of the Egyptians.335

The Egyptian Thoth was considered the father of all knowledge, and everything committed to writing was looked upon as his property; he was therefore the embodied eek: λόγος, and so τρὶς μέγιστος, or the superlatively greatest. He was identified by the Greeks more or less completely with their own Hermes, or Mercury as he was known to the Romans; he was the messenger of the gods; as dreams are sent by Zeus, it was his office to convey them to men, and he had power to grant refreshing sleep or to deny the blessing. As the gods revealed the remedies for sickness in dreams, Hermes became a god of medicine.

Thoth, the ibis-headed, was the Egyptian god of letters, the deity of wisdom in general, who aided Horus in his conflict with Seth, and recorded the judgments of the dead before Osiris. Hermes κριοφόρος, the averter of diseases, was worshipped in Bœotia. Hermes, the Greek151 deity, was king of the dead and the conductor of souls to their future home. Probably, therefore, we may rightly look upon Thoth, Hermes, and Hermes Trismegistus as the same person. By many Thoth is considered to be the Egyptian Æsculapius, as he was the inventor of the healing art; the Phœnician god Esmun, one of the ancient Cabiri, was invested with similar attributes, and was worshipped at Carthage and Berytus. The authorship of the oldest Egyptian works on medicine is ascribed to Thoth. These were engraved on pillars of stone. The works of Thoth were ultimately incorporated into the so-called “Hermetic Books.” Clement of Alexandria, who is our only ancient authority on these Hermetic works, says they were forty-two in number.

Prometheus (the man of freethought) is considered by Æschylus as the founder of human civilization.

Æschylus, in his Prometheus Chained, makes the god say how he had taught each useful art to man. As regards medicine, he says:—

“Hear my whole story; thou wilt wonder more
What useful arts, what science I invented.
This first and greatest; when the fell disease
Preyed on the human frame, relief was none,
Nor healing drug, nor cool, refreshing draught,
Nor pain-assuaging unguent; but they pined
Without redress, and wasted, till I taught them
To mix the balmy medicine, of power
To chase each pale disease, and soften pain.”336

Melampus, who was famous for his prophetic powers, was believed by the Greeks to have been the first mortal who practised the art of medicine, and established the worship of Dionysus in Greece. As doctors are frequently expected to exercise the art of prophecy in conjunction with their profession, it is unfortunate that we have retrograded from the Melampian type. The eminent physician who tells the over-inquisitive friends of his patients that he is “a doctor and not a prophet,” might be answered that originally the two functions were combined. Melampus taught the Greeks to mix their wine with water. He is fabled to have learned the language of the birds from some young serpents who had been reared by him, and who licked his ears when he was asleep. When he awoke he found that he understood what the birds said, and that he could foretell the future.

Iphiclus had no children, and he asked Melampus to tell him how he could become a father. He advised him to take the rust from a knife, and drink it in water during ten days. The remedy was eminently successful, and is the first instance in which a preparation of iron is known to have been prescribed in medicine. He cured the daughters152 of Prœtus by giving them hellebore (which has been called Melampodium by botanists), and he received the eldest of the princesses in marriage. He cured the women of Argos of a severe distemper which made them insane, and the king showed his gratitude by giving him part of his kingdom. He received divine honours after his death, and temples were raised to him.

The Medicine of Homer.

As Homer is supposed to have lived about 850 B.C., a study of such references as are to be found in the Iliad and Odyssey which relate to medicine and surgery will throw an important light on the state of the healing art as it was practised at that early period of Greek history.

There is little mention of disease in Homer. We read of sudden death, pestilence, and the troubles of old age, but there is hardly any fixed morbid condition noticed.

Although the poet exhibits considerable acquaintance with medical lore, and the human body in health and disease, he could have had little or no acquaintance with anatomy, because amongst Greeks, as amongst Jews, it was considered a profanation to dissect or mutilate the human corpse.

It was not till the rise of the Alexandrian school in the golden age of the Ptolemies that this sentiment was overcome. Still Homer must have known that it was the custom of the Egyptians to embalm their dead, as he refers to the process in the Iliad,337 where Thetis poured into the nostrils of the corpse red nectar and ambrosia to preserve it from putrefaction. Ambrosia is referred to by Virgil as useful for healing wounds, and nectar was supposed to preserve flesh from decay. Homer’s heroes seem to have been singularly healthy folk; their only demand for the services of the army surgeons arose from the accidents of war. Machaon distinguished himself in surgery, and Podalirius is reputed to have been the first phlebotomist. Their services would be chiefly required for extracting arrow-heads and spear-heads, checking hæmorrhage by compression and styptic applications, and laying soothing ointments on wounded and bruised surfaces. Beyond these minor duties of the army surgeon, we find little record of their work. Mention is not made of amputations, of setting of fractures, or tying of arteries. Wounds were probed by Machaon, surgeon to Menelaus (Book IV.).

Whatever may have been the surgical skill of Machaon, we have proof that the art of dieting the wounded was not at all understood in the Homeric days. The wine and cheese was not the kind of refreshment which found favour in Plato’s time with the Greek physicians.153 Plato, in the Republic (Book III.), deals with the question at some length. He says that the draught of Pramnian wine with barley meal and cheese was an inflammatory mixture, and a strange potion for a man in the state of Eurypylus.

But he excuses the sons of Asclepius for their treatment, explaining that their method was not intended for coddling invalids, but for such as had not time to be ill, and that the healing art was revealed for the benefit of those whose constitutions were naturally sound, and that doctors used to expel their disorders by drugs and the use of the knife without interrupting their customary avocations, declining altogether to assist chronic invalids to protract a miserable existence by a studied regimen.

Le Clerc says338 that Plato is wrong in this explanation of the Homeric treatment, and that the true one is that in those days the dietary of the sick was not understood. Modern medicine will decline to accept either theory. The fact is, Homer’s physicians were right. Good old wine was the best thing possible to restore a man fainting from the loss of blood; as for the cheese it was grated fine, and therefore was a peculiarly nutritious food in a fairly digestible condition. The barley water at all times was at least irreproachable. Although there is little evidence in the Homeric poems of any medical treatment which passes the limits of surgery, this is by no means conclusive against the possession of the higher art by Podalirius. In an epic poem, as Le Clerc points out, the subject is altogether too exalted to admit of medical discourses on the treatment of colic and diarrhœa.

Neither must we be surprised, that when the pestilence appeared in the camp of Agamemnon, Podalirius and Machaon did nothing to avert it. Such a disease was at that time considered beyond all human skill, and as the direct visitation of the gods. Homer clearly explains that the pestilence was due to their anger. Galen adduces evidence to prove that Æsculapius did really practise medicine, by music and by gymnastics, or exercises on foot and horseback.

As Le Clerc says,339 this may have been patriotic exaggeration on the part of Galen. To Podalirius is attributed the invention of the art of bleeding. As he returned from the Trojan war, he was driven by a tempest on the shores of Caria, where a shepherd, having learned that he was a physician, took him to the king, whose daughter was sick. He cured her by bleeding from both arms; the king gave her to him in marriage, with a rich grant of land. This is the oldest example which we have of bleeding.

Podalirius had a son Hippolochus, of whom the great Hippocrates was154 a descendant. Le Clerc devotes a chapter of his History of Medicine to reflections on the antiquity of the practice of venesection, and speculates on the manner of its discovery. He says, the fact that Homer is silent on the subject makes neither for nor against the theory that it was known in his time; in such works as those of the poet he was under no obligation to specify particularly the remedies employed by the doctors. He speaks, for example, of soothing medicines and bitter roots without further definition. It would be as reasonable to agree that purgation was unknown from Homer’s silence on the matter.

Homer knew something of the parts of the body where wounds are most fatal. He says (Book IV., l. 183), “The arrow fell in no such place as death could enter at,” and (Book VIII., l. 326), where the arrow struck the right shoulder ’twixt the neck and breast, “the wound was wondrous full of death.”

He knew much of drugs and medicinal plants: φάρμακον (pharmakon) in the Iliad is a remedy, an unguent or application, and is mentioned nine times; in the Odyssey it is a drug or medicinal herb, and is referred to twenty times. In Book XI., Eurypylus, when wounded, is treated with the “wholesome onion,” a potion is confected with good old wine of Pramnius, with scraped goat’s-milk cheese and fine flour mixed with it. Later on in the same book, we read of the bruised, bitter, pain-assuaging root being applied to a wound; it was some strong astringent bitter plant, probably a species of geranium.

Then in the Odyssey (Book IV. 200) occurs the reference to nepenthe, a drug which has puzzled commentators exceedingly; some say it was poppy juice, others hashish; we have also the magic moly, which Mercury gave to Ulysses against the charms of Circe. By some this is thought to have been the unpoetical garlic, by others to be wild rue, such as Josephus refers to. It was more probably the mandrake.

There is a very curious and important reference to sulphur, as a disinfectant fumigation in the Odyssey (Book XXII. 481):—

“Bring sulphur straight, and fire” (the monarch cries).
“She hears, and at the word obedient flies,
With fire and sulphur, cure of noxious fumes,
He purged the walls and blood-polluted rooms.”

This is precisely what the sanitary authorities do with fever dens at the present day.

Homer several times refers to Machaon:—

“And great Machaon to the ships convey.
A wise physician, skilled our wounds to heal,
Is more than armies to the public weal.”

(Iliad, XI. 614.)


With Podalirius, his brother, also a “famed surgeon,” he went to Troy with thirty ships. Homer calls them “divine professors of the healing arts” (Iliad, II. 728), and to them was committed the care of the medical work of the expedition.

When Menelaus had been wounded by the spear of Pandarus, Machaon, we are told by Homer (Iliad, IV. 218)—

“Sucked the blood, and sovereign balm infused,
Which Cheiron gave, and Æsculapius used.”

Agamede is referred to by Homer (Iliad, XI. 739) as acquainted with the healing properties of all the plants that grow on the earth. She was a daughter of Augeias, and wife of Mulius. The poet refers to her as—

“She that all simples’ healing virtues knew,
And every herb that drinks the morning dew.”340

Hesiod lived about the same time as Homer. He wrote the famous Works and Days, a species of farmer’s calendar, and the Theogony.

On account of the knowledge he possessed of the properties of plants, Theophrastus, Pliny, and others ranked him amongst the physicians.341

Both Podalirius and Machaon were held in great honour, not only as combatants, but as medical advisers, and Homer’s account of them exhibits the medical profession of his time as one that was very highly esteemed. In the fragment of Arctinus which remains to us, we find thus early the distinction made between the arts of medicine and surgery, the two principal divisions of medical science: “Then Asclepius bestowed the power of healing upon his two sons; nevertheless, he made one of the two more celebrated than the other; on one did he bestow the lighter hand, that he might draw missiles from the flesh, and sew up and heal all wounds; but he other he endowed with great precision of mind, so as to understand what cannot be seen, and to heal seemingly incurable diseases.”342

This very interesting extract not only shows the early separation of the arts of medicine and surgery, but it exhibits very clearly how it arose that the former was always held to be the higher branch of the medical profession. To sew up a laceration, or extract an arrow or a thorn from the flesh, demanded only manual dexterity; but “to understand that which cannot be seen,” and heal internal organs that cannot even be touched, required a skill and a mental precision that men even in those early times were able to appreciate as much the higher of the156 two arts. There seems, however, some confusion of the two branches in the lines:—

“A wise physician, skilled our wounds to heal,
Is more than armies to the public weal.”

If we suppose that the account of venesection which attributes its discovery to Podalirius is fabulous, this would only serve to prove the antiquity of the practice. Hippocrates is said to be the first medical writer who has spoken of bleeding,343 yet we must not suppose it was unknown before his time. He advises blood-letting from the arm, from the temporal vessels, from the leg, etc., in some cases even to fainting. He is familiar with cupping and other methods of abstracting blood; it is not probable, therefore, that the operation was a new one in his day.

The discovery of the practice of purging as a remedy was attributed to Melampus. But we know that the Egyptians made use of purgative and emetic medicines. There were many purgatives in use in the time of Hippocrates, as hellebore, elaterium, colocynth, and scammony. All these medicines could not have been discovered at once, as Le Clerc points out; mankind, therefore, must have gradually acquired their use. When persons were overloaded in the stomach and constipated, nothing was more natural than that they should seek relief by removing the mechanical causes of their distress. Some one had taken some herb which had caused him to vomit or to be purged, and had experienced the benefit of the evacuation; he told his friends, and they perhaps had been aided by similar means. Or again, some illness had been alleviated by the supervention of diarrhœa, and art was called in to imitate the beneficial effect of nature’s cure. In this way, says Le Clerc, bleeding may reasonably have been discovered: a severe headache is often relieved by bleeding from the nose, what more natural than that the process of relief should be imitated by opening a vein?

Pliny, indeed, in his usual manner, introduces a fable to account for the discovery of venesection. He says344 that the hippopotamus having become too fat and unwieldy through over-eating, bled himself with a sharp-pointed reed, and when he had drawn sufficient blood, closed the wound with clay. Men have imitated the operation, says Pliny. This is matched by the story of the ibis with her long bill being the inventor of the clyster. Most of the medical beast stories are probably on a level with these.


Hygeia, the wife of Æsculapius, and her children, bore names which show the same poetic fancy as that which constituted Apollo the author of medicine. Æsculapius is the air. Hygeia is health; Ægle is brightness or splendour, because the air is illumined and purified by the sun. Iaso is recovery, Panacea the universal medicine, Roma is strength.

The ancients everywhere believed that the healing art was taught to mankind by the gods. “The art of medicine,” says Cicero, “has been consecrated by the invention of the immortal gods.”345

Hippocrates346 attributed the art of medicine to the Supreme Being. As the Greeks believed that the arts in general were invented by the gods, it was a natural belief that the knowledge of medicine should have been taught by the heavenly powers. The mysteries of life, disease, and death were peculiarly the province of supernatural beings, and man has ever attributed to such powers all those things which he could not comprehend.

The Temples of Æsculapius.

The worship of Asclepius or Æsculapius is so closely associated with the practice of Greek medicine that it is impossible to understand the one without knowing something of the other. Sick persons made pilgrimages to the temples of the god of healing, just as now they go to Lourdes, St. Winifred’s Well, or other famous Christian shrines for the recovery of their health. After prayers to the god, ablutions, and sacrifices, the patient was put to sleep on the skin of the animal offered at the altar, or at the foot of the statue of the divinity, while the priests performed their sacred rites. In his sleep he would have pointed out to him in a dream what he ought to do for the recovery of his health. Sometimes the appropriate medicine would be suggested, but more commonly rules of conduct and diet would suffice. When the cure took place, which very frequently happened by suggestion as in modern hypnotism, and by the stimulus to the nervous system consequent upon the journey, and the hope excited in the patient, a record of the case and the cure was carved on the temple walls. Thus were recorded the first histories of cases, and their study afforded the most valuable treatises on the healing art to the physicians who studied them. The priests of Æsculapius were sometimes called Asclepiads, but they did not themselves act as physicians, nor were they the actual founders of Greek medicine. The true Asclepiads were healers and not priests. Anathemata (ἀνάθεμα, anything offered up) were offerings of models in gold, silver, etc., of diseased legs, feet, etc., or of deformed limbs consecrated158 to the gods in the temples by the devotion of the patients who had received benefit from the prayers to the deities who were worshipped therein. The priests of the temples sold these again and again to fresh patients.

The Early Ionic Philosophers.

The various schools of Greek philosophy were intimately associated with the study of medicine. They endeavoured to fathom the mystery of life, and the relationship of the visible order of things to the unseen world. The philosophers were therefore not only physicists, but metaphysicians, and the unhappy science of medicine, a homeless wanderer, had to shelter herself now with the natural philosophers and again with the metaphysicians. Probably the philosophers never really practised physic, but merely speculated about it, as did Plato. A brief notice of the various philosophers of the Ionic, Italian, Eleatic, and Materialistic schools who were more or less associated with the study of medicine must suffice as an introduction to Greek medicine proper, which had its origin with Hippocrates.

Thales of Miletus (about 609 B.C.), the Ionian philosopher, introduced Egyptian and Asiatic science into Greece. He had probably in his travels in the land of the Pharaohs devoted himself to mathematical pursuits, and if not a scientific inquirer was a deep speculator on the origin of things. He held that everything arises from water, and everything ultimately again resolves itself into water. Everything, he said, is full of gods; the soul originates motion (the magnet has a soul, according to him), and so the indwelling power or soul of water produces the phenomena of the natural world. He must not, however, be understood as teaching the doctrine of the Soul of the Universe, or of a Creating Deity. Thales was the first writer on physics and the founder of the philosophy of Greece. Le Clerc connects him with medicine by his converse with the priest-physicians of Egypt, and that he had performed certain expiatory or purifying ceremonies for the Lacedæmonians which could only be done by such as were divines and physicians.347

Pherecydes, the Syrian, a philosopher who lived about the same time as Thales, is said by Galen to have written upon diet.

Epimenedes was a sort of Greek Rip Van Winkle, who purified Athens in the time of a plague by means of mysterious rites and sacrifices. He excelled as a fasting man, so that he was said to have been exempt from the ordinary necessities of nature, and could send out his soul from his body and recall it like the Mahatmas. He was of the159 class of priestly bards, a seer and prophet who was well acquainted with the virtues of plants for medicinal purposes, and as he was believed to have gone to sleep in a cave for fifty-seven years, he was credited with the possession of supernatural medicinal powers.348

Anaximander, born B.C. 610, is said to have been a pupil of Thales. He taught that a single determinate substance having a middle nature between water and air was the infinite, everlasting, and divine, though not intelligent material from which all things had their origin. This he called the ἄπειρον, the chaos. All substances were derived thence by the conflict of heat and cold and the electric affinities of the particles. The atomic theory is foreshadowed here.

Anaximenes was the friend of Thales and Anaximander, and all three were born at Miletus. He considered that air was the first cause of all things, or primary condition of matter; all finite things were formed from the infinite air by compression or rarefaction produced by eternal motion. Heat and cold are produced by the varying density of the primal element. He held the eternity of matter like his brother philosophers, and believed that the soul itself is merely a form of air. He held no Divine Author of the Universe, motion being a necessary law of the universe, and with motion and air he required nothing else for the constitution of all things.

Heracleitus of Ephesus, born about 556 B.C., embodied his system of philosophy in his work On Nature. He held that the ground of all phenomena is a physical principle, a living unity, pervading everything, inherent in all things—fire, that is, as he explains, a clear light fluid “self-kindled and self-extinguished.” The world was not created by God, but evolved from the rational intelligence which guides the universe—fire. Fire longs to manifest itself in various forms; from its pure state in heaven it descends, assumes the form of earth, passing in its progress through that of water. Man’s soul is a spark of the divine fire.

Anaxagoras, born about 499 B.C., was the friend of Pericles and Euripides at Athens. Seeking to explain the world and man by a higher cause than the physical ones of his predecessors, he postulated nous—that is, mind, thought, or intelligence. As nothing can come out of nothing, he did not attribute to this nous the creation of the world, but only its order and arrangement. Matter is eternal, but existed as chaos till nous evolved order from the confusion. Baas349 says his physiological and pathological views may be thus described:160 “The animal body, by means of a kind of affinity, appropriates to itself from the nutritive supply the portions similar to itself. Males originate in the right, females in the left side of the uterus. Diseases are occasioned by the bile which penetrates into the blood-vessels, the lungs, and the pleura.” He undertook the dissection of animals, remarked the existence in the brain of the lateral ventricles, and was the first to declare that the bile is the cause of acute sickness.350

Diogenes of Apollonia, the eminent natural philosopher, lived at Athens about 460 B.C. He was a pupil of Anaximenes, and wrote a work entitled On Nature, in which he treated of physical science generally. Aristotle has preserved for us some of the few fragments which remain. The most important is the description of the origin and distribution of the veins, and is inserted in the third book of Aristotle’s History of Animals. Diogenes Laertius gives an account of the philosophical teaching of the philosopher: “He maintained that air was the primal element of all things; that there was an infinite number of worlds, and an infinite void; that air, densified and rarefied, produced the different members of the universe; that nothing was produced from nothing, or was reduced to nothing; that the earth was round, supported in the middle, and had received its shape from the whirling round of the warm vapours, and its concretion and hardening from cold.”351

Diogenes recognised no distinction between mind and matter, yet he considered air possessed intellectual energy.

We find in this philosopher many indications that the vascular system was in some degree beginning to be understood.352 Mr. Lewes and Mr. Grote agree that Diogenes deserves a higher place in the evolution of philosophy than either Hegel or Schwegler.

Empedocles of Agrigentum, born about 490 B.C., now bears forward the flaming torch of medical science, and in his hands it burns more brightly still. Aristotle mentions him among the Ionian physiologists, and ranks him with the atomistic philosophers and Anaxagoras. These all sought to discover the basis of all changes and to explain them. According to Empedocles: “There are four ultimate kinds of things, four primal divinities, of which are made all structures in the world—fire, air, water, and earth. These four elements are eternally brought into union, and eternally parted from each other, by two divine beings or powers, love and hatred—an attractive and a repulsive force which the ordinary eye can see working amongst men, but which really pervade the whole world. According to the different proportions in which these four indestructible and unchangeable matters are combined with161 each other is the difference of the organic structure produced; e.g., flesh and blood are made of equal parts of all four elements, whereas bones are one-half fire, one-fourth earth, and one-fourth water. It is in the aggregation and segregation of elements thus arising that Empedocles, like the atomists, finds the real process which corresponds to what is popularly termed growth, increase, or decrease. Nothing new comes or can come into being; the only change that can occur is a change in the juxtaposition of element with element.”353

He considered that men, animals, and plants are demons punished by banishment, but who, becoming purified, may regain the home of the gods. It is hardly necessary to say that he held the demoniacal possession theory of disease, and treated all complaints by means appropriate to the theory. Anticipating the modern opinions of the bacteriologists, he banished epidemics by building great fires and draining the water from marshy lands. He understood something of the causes of infectious diseases, and in their treatment usurped the province of the gods who had sent them.354 He believed the embryo was nourished through the navel. We owe to him the terms amnion and chorion (i.e., the innermost and outer membranes with which the fœtus is surrounded in the womb). He believed that death was caused by extinction of heat, that expiration arose from the upward motion of the blood, and inspiration from the reverse. He is said to have raised a dead woman to life.355

Empedocles believed in the doctrine of re-incarnation. “I well remember,” he says, “the time before I was Empedocles, that I once was a boy, then a girl, a plant, a glittering fish, a bird that cut the air.” To his disciples he said: “By my instructions you shall learn medicines that are powerful to cure disease, and re-animate old age—you shall recall the strength of the dead man, when he has already become the victim of Pluto.”356 Further speaking of himself, he says: “I am revered by both men and women, who follow me by ten thousands, inquiring the road to boundless wealth, seeking the gift of prophecy, and who would learn the marvellous skill to cure all kinds of diseases.”357

The School of the Pythagoreans at Crotona.

Although in ancient Greece the art of medicine, as we have already shown, was closely connected with the temples, if not actually with religion, its entanglement with philosophy was a scarcely less unfortunate connection, and it was not able to make any real progress till162 Hippocrates liberated it from both priests and philosophers. 582 years before Christ Pythagoras was born, the ideal hero or saint whom we faintly discern through the mythical haze which has always enveloped him. Philosopher, prophet, wonder-worker, and physician, he gathered into his mind as into a focus the wisdom of the Brahmans, the Persian Magi, the Egyptians, the Phœnicians, the Chaldæans, the Jews, the Arabians, and the Druids of Gaul, amongst whom he had travelled, if we may believe what is reported of him. He may have visited Egypt,358 at any rate, besides acquainting himself with the countries of the Mediterranean. His authentic history begins with his emigration to Crotona, in South Italy, about the year 529. There he founded a kind of religious brotherhood or ethical-reform society, and “appeared as the revealer of a mode of life calculated to raise his disciples above the level of mankind, and to recommend them to the favour of the gods.”359 Grote believes that the removal to Crotona was prompted by the desire to study medicine in its famous school, probably combined with the notion of instructing the pupils in his philosophy. He rendered great services to the healing art by insisting on the necessity of a thorough comprehension of the organs, structure, and functions of the body in their normal, healthy condition; this must be conceded, though his visionary philosophy did much to destroy the scientific value of his medical teaching.

The founder of the healing art amongst the Greeks and Hellenic peoples generally was Pythagoras. He was imbued with Eastern mysticism, teaching that the air is full of spiritual beings, who send dreams to men and cause to men and cattle disease and health. He taught that these spirits must be conciliated by lustrations and invocations. Pliny says360 that he taught that holding dill (anethum) in the hand is good against epilepsy. The health of the body is to be maintained by diet and gymnastics. It is interesting to find that this great philosopher recommended music to restore the harmony of the spirits. Besides the magic virtues of the dill, he held that many other plants possessed them, such as the cabbage (a food in great favour with the Pythagoreans), the squill, and anise. He held that surgery was not to be practised, as it is unlawful, but salves and poultices were to be permitted. His disciples attributed the union between medicine and philosophy to him.

The Pythagorean philosophy turns upon the idea of numbers and the mathematical relations of things. “All things are number;” “number is the essence of everything.” The world subsists by the principle of ordered numbers. The spheres revolve harmoniously; the163 seven planets are the seven golden chords of the heavenly heptachord. As a corollary to this notion we have the theory of opposites. We have the odd and even, and their combinations. The even is the unlimited, the odd the limited; so all things are derived from the combination of the limited and the unlimited. Then we get the limited and the unlimited, the odd and the even, the one and many, right and left, masculine and feminine, rest and motion, straight and crooked, light and darkness, good and evil, square and oblong. When opposites unite, there is harmony. The number ten comprehends all other numbers in itself; four was held in great respect, because it is the first square number and the potential decade (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10). Pythagoras was the discoverer of the holy τετρακτύς, “the fountain and root of ever-living nature.” Five signifies marriage, one is reason because unchangeable, two is opinion, seven is called παρθένος and Ἀθήνη, because within the decade it has neither factors nor product.361

The doctrine of transmigration of souls, metempsychosis, is Pythagoras’s. He probably borrowed it from the Orphic mysteries; originally no doubt it came from Asia. Asceticism, mysticism, and Neoplatonism sprang from this noble and lofty philosophy. Closely connected with his theory of numbers he held that from these points are produced, from these lines, from lines figures, and from figures solid bodies. The elements fire, water, earth, and air, account in his conception for the formation of the world. He understood the structure of the body, its procreation and development. He believed that the animal soul is an emanation from the world-soul; the universal soul is God, author of himself. Demons are an order of beings between the highest and the lowest. Striving for the good brings moral health. Bodily health means harmony, disease means discord. Diseases are caused by demons, and are to be dispelled by prayers, offerings, and music. He first among the Greeks taught the immortality of the soul; he held a doctrine of rewards and punishments, and taught that of metempsychosis. For many succeeding ages the Pythagorean doctrine had the greatest influence on the art of medicine.362

Le Clerc says that Pythagoras obtained his ideas of the climacteric years from the Chaldæans. The term is applied to the seventh year of the life of man, and it was anciently believed that at each change we incur some risk to life or health, on account of the bodily changes undergone at that time.363 Celsus says that the medical sentiment with164 respect to the septenary number in diseases, and that of the odd and even days, is of Pythagorean origin.364 The Pythagoreans had a great respect for the number four. The quaternary number was sacred to the Egyptians; they burned in the temples of Isis a kind of resinous gum, myrrh, and other drugs, in the preparation of which they had regard to the number four. The Israelites imitated them in this respect (Exod. xxx. 2).365

The sacred bean of Pythagoras was the object of religious veneration in Egypt; the priests were commanded not to look upon it. It is thought to have been the East Indian Nelumbium.366

Zamolxis, who was a god to the Getans, is supposed by some to have been a slave and disciple of Pythagoras; by others he is considered an altogether mythical personage. He is credited by those who believe him to have been a physician with having said that “A man could not cure the eyes without curing the head, nor the head without all the rest of the body, nor the body without the soul.” Plato said much the same thing when he remarked, “To cure a headache you must treat the whole man.” Zamolxis cured the soul, not by the enchantments of magic, but by wise discourse and reasonable conversation. “These discourses,” said Plato, “produce wisdom in the soul, which having once been acquired it is easy after that to procure health both for the head and all the rest of the body.”

Democedes was a celebrated physician of Crotona, in Magna Grecia, who lived in the sixth century B.C. He went to practise at Ægina, where he received from the public treasury a sum equal to about £344 a year for his services. The next year he went to Athens at a salary equal to £406, and the following year he went to the island of Samos. The tyrant Polycrates gave him the salary of two talents. He was carried prisoner to Susa to the court of Darius, where he acquired a great reputation and much wealth by curing the king’s foot and the breast of the queen. It is recorded that Darius ordered the surgeons who had failed to cure him to be put to death, but Democedes interceded for and saved them. He ultimately escaped to Crotona, where he settled, the Persians having in vain demanded his return.367 He wrote a work on medicine.

Democritus, of Abdera, was a contemporary of Socrates; he was born between 494 and 460 B.C., and was one of the founders of the Atomic philosophy. He was profoundly versed in all the knowledge of his time. So ardent a student was he, that he once said that he preferred the discovery of a true cause to the possession of the kingdom of165 Persia. The highest object of scientific investigation he held to be the discovery of causes. He wrote on medicine, and devoted himself zealously to the study of anatomy and physiology. Pliny says that he composed a special treatise on the structure of the chameleon.368 He wrote on canine rabies, and on the influence of music in the treatment of disease. He is, however, best known to science on account of his cosmical theory. All that exists is vacuum and atoms. The atoms are the ultimate material of all things, even of spirit. They are uncaused and eternal, invisible, yet extended, heavy and impenetrable. They are in constant motion, and have been so from all eternity. By their motion the world and all it contains was produced. Soul and fire are of the same nature, of small, smooth, round atoms, and it is by inhaling and exhaling these that life is maintained. The soul perishes with the body. He rejected all theology and popular mythology. Reason had nothing to do with the creation of the world, and he said, “There is nothing true; and if there is, we do not know it.” “We know nothing, not even if there is anything to know.” He died in great honour, yet in poverty, at an advanced age (some writers say at 109 years). His knowledge of nature, and especially of medicine, caused him to be considered a sorcerer and a magician. There was a tradition that he deprived himself of his sight in order to be undisturbed in his intellectual speculations. He probably became blind by too close attention to study. Another story was that he was considered to be insane, and Hippocrates was sent for to cure him.

The great philosophers of ancient Greece believed that all the elements are modifications of one common substance, called the primary matter, which they demonstrated to be devoid of all quality and form, but susceptible of all qualities and forms. It is everything in capacity, but nothing in actuality. Matter is eternal; the elements are the first matter arranged into certain distinguishing forms. Some of the early philosophers held that all the materials which compose the universe existed in a fluid form; they understood by fire, matter in a highly refined state, and that it is the element most intimately connected with life, some even considering it the very essence of the soul. “Our souls are fire,” says Phornutus. “What we call heat is immortal,” says one of the Hippocratic writers, “and understands, sees, and hears all things that are or will be.”369

Bacon explains the ancient fable of Proteus as signifying matter, a something which, being below all forms and supporting them, is yet different from them all.


Sir Isaac Newton is not widely different from Strabo when he says that all bodies may be convertible into one another.

Commenting upon these opinions of the Greek philosophers, Dr. Adams says, in his introduction to the works of Hippocrates:370 “If every step which we advance in the knowledge of the intimate structure of things leads us to contract the number of substances formerly held to be simple, I would not wonder if it should yet turn out that oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen are—like what the ancients held the elements to be—all nothing else but different modifications of one ever-changing matter.”

The theories of the Greek philosophers on the elements are poetically summed up in Ovid’s Metamorphoses:—

“Nor those which elements we call abide,
Nor to this figure nor to that are ty’d:
For this eternal world is said of old
But four prolific principles to hold,
Four different bodies; two to heaven ascend,
And other two down to the centre tend.
Fire first, with wings expanded, mounts on high,
Pure, void of weight, and dwells in upper sky;
Then air, because unclogged, in empty space
Flies after fire, and claims the second place;
But weighty water, as her nature guides,
Lies on the lap of earth; and mother Earth subsides.
All things are mixed of these, which all contain,
And into these are all resolved again;
Earth rarifies to dew; expanding more,
The subtle dew in air begins to soar;
Spreads as she flies, and, weary of the name,
Extenuates still, and changes into flame.
Thus having by degrees perfection won,
Restless, they soon untwist the web they spun,
And fire begins to lose her radiant hue,
Mixed with gross air, and air descends in dew!
And dew condensing, does her form forego,
And sinks, a heavy lump of earth, below.
Thus are their figures never at a stand,
But changed by Nature’s innovating hand.”371

Greek Theories of Disease.

As the Greeks believed that all diseases were the consequences of the anger of the gods, it was in their temples that cures were most likely to take place. Faith was the sine quâ non in the patient, and everything about the temple and its ceremonies was calculated to167 excite religious awe and to stimulate faith. Preliminary purifications, fasting, massage, and fomentations with herbs, were necessary parts of the initiatory ceremonies, and the imagination was excited by everything that the sufferer saw around him. He heard the stories of the marvellous cures which had taken place at the sacred fane. Tablets round the walls, placed there by grateful worshippers who had been cured in the past,372 served to fill the mind with hope, when, as was the practice, the patient lay down in the holy place by the image of the healing god, that in the incubatory sleep the remedies which were to cure him might be revealed. Sometimes no such revelation was vouchsafed, then sacrifices and prayers were offered; if these failed, the priests themselves would appear in the mask and the dress of the healing god, and in the darkness and mystery of the night reveal the necessary prescriptions. To interpret the dreams was the task of the priests at all times, just as it was in the temples of ancient Egypt. Divination, magic, and astrology largely assisted in the work of discovering the requisite remedies. If all failed, it was due not to any defect on the part of the divinity or his servants, but simply to the want of faith on the part of the patient. The festivals of Æsculapius were called Asclepia, and the presiding priests of the healing god were named Asclepiades. The schools of the Asclepiades were a sort of medical guild, and their doctrines were divided into exoteric and esoteric. They naturally became possessed of a great body of medical teaching, which was preserved as a precious secret and handed down from generation to generation. The Asclepiadæ thus became the hereditary physicians of Greece. Medicine at this period was not a science to be taught to all comers, but was a mystery to be orally transmitted. These men pretended to be descendants of Æsculapius, just as now the imitators of medicines, perfumes,168 etc., which have become celebrated, give out that they belong to the family of the inventor, and thus know the secrets of the preparation.373

This professional class was quite distinct from the priests of the Æsculapian temples, though many writers have confused them. Probably the truth is this:—Certain students from reading the votive tablets in the temples, and examining the persons who came to be cured, gave their attention to the art of medicine, and established themselves as physicians in the neighbourhood of the temples; for it does not appear that the priests themselves pretended to medical skill. They were the instruments of the divine revelation, the mediums of the healing power of the god; they suggested remedies, but did not attempt their application or the treatment of cases. In process of time the pilgrims to the temples would require human aid to supplement the often disappointing divine assistance, and this the Asclepiadæ were appointed to supply. Hypnotism was probably practised; music, and such drugs as hemlock were also employed which soothe the nervous system and relieve pain. The Asclepiadæ took careful notes of the symptoms and progress of each case, and were particular to observe the effect of the treatment prescribed; they became, in consequence, exceedingly skilful in prognosis. Galen says that little attention was paid to dietetics by the Asclepiads; but Strabo speaks of the knowledge which Hippocrates derived from the documents in the Asclepion of Cos.374 Exercise, especially on horseback, was one of the measures used by the Asclepiads for restoring the health.375

Schools of the Asclepiades.

The three most famous schools of the Asclepiades were those of Rhodes, Cos, and Cnidos. There were also that of Crotona, in Lower Italy, established by Pythagoras, and the school of Cyrene, in the North of Africa. Famous temples of Æsculapius existed at Titanæ, Epidaurus, Orope, Cyllene, Tithorea, Tricca, Megalopolis, Pergamus, Corinth, Smyrna, and at many other places.376

A spirit of healthy emulation existed in these different schools, which was most advantageous for the progress of medical science. The tone existing at this early period amongst the different medical societies at these institutions is shown in the famous oath which the pupils of the Asclepiadæ were compelled to subscribe on completing their course of instruction in medicine. It is the oldest written monument of the Greek art of healing.377


The Oath.

“I swear by Apollo, the physician, and Æsculapius, and Health, and Panacea,378 and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this oath and this stipulation—to reckon him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patient, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practise my art. I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work.379

“Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen or slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot!”

Ancient authorities differ as to the respective order in which the schools of the Asclepiads should be esteemed. Rhodes, Cos, and Cnidos continually disputed for the pre-eminence, Cos and Cnidos170 acquiring great fame by their conflicting opinions. According to Galen, the first place must be conceded to Cos, as having produced the greatest number of excellent disciples, amongst whom was Hippocrates; he ranks Cnidos next. Cos (B.C. 600) was the objective school, and devoted its studies chiefly to symptomatology. It asked, what can we see of the patient’s disorder? of what does he complain? what, in fact, are his symptoms? This is practical medicine, though not so much in accordance with modern scientific medicine as the method of Cnidos, the subjective school. There the aim was to make a correct diagnosis; to find out what was behind the symptoms, what caused the morbid appearances; what it was that the sensations of the patient indicated; and its aim was not to treat symptoms so much as to treat vigorously the disorder which caused them. Auscultation, or the art of scientifically listening to the sounds of the chest, those of the lungs in breathing, and of the heart in beating, was to some extent understood and practised at Cnidos. The medical school of Crotona was in the highest repute 500 B.C., probably on account of its connection with the Pythagoreans. The school of Rhodes does not seem to have had a long life.

That of Cyrene was famous on account not only of its medical teaching, but from the fact that mathematics and philosophy were industriously pursued there. The teaching in all these schools must have been of a very high order; for, though unfortunately little of it has descended directly to us, we have sufficient evidence of its importance in such fragments as are to be found incorporated with the works of Hippocrates, such as the Coan Prognostics and the Cnidian Sentences; the former, a miscellaneous collection of the observations made by the physician of Cos, and the latter, a work attributed to Euryphon, a celebrated physician of Cnidos (about the former half of the fifth century B.C.).

Experiment and observation were insisted upon in the study of anatomy and physiology. Galen tells us in his second book, On Anatomical Manipulations: “I do not blame the ancients, who did not write books on anatomical manipulations; though I praise Marinus, who did. For it was superfluous for them to compose such records for themselves or others, while they were, from their childhood, exercised by their parents in dissecting, just as familiarly as in writing and reading; so that there was no more fear of their forgetting their anatomy than of their forgetting their alphabet. But when grown men, as well as children, were taught, this thorough discipline fell off; and, the art being carried out of the family of the Asclepiads, and declining by repeated transmission, books became necessary for the student.”

The method of the Asclepiadæ was one of true induction; much was171 imperfect in their efforts to arrive at the beginning of medical science. They had little light, and often stumbled; but they made the best use of what they had, and with all their deviations they always returned to the right path, and kept their faces towards the light. Hippocrates was of them; and Bacon of Verulam, in the centuries to come, followed and developed the same method. Dr. Adams remarks the assiduous observation and abundant rational experience which led them to enunciate such a law of nature as this: “Those things which bring alleviation with bad signs, and do not remit with good, are troublesome and difficult.”

Ctesias, of Cnidus, in Caria, was a physician at the court of King Artaxerxes Mnemon. He may be called a contemporary of Herodotus. It is possible that, according to Diodorus, he was a prisoner of war while in Persia, though the well-known fact that Greek physicians were in great request, and were always received there with favour, is quite sufficient to account for his presence in that country. He wrote a history of Persia and a treatise on India, containing many statements formerly considered doubtful, but now proved to be founded on facts.

The persons who anointed the bodies of the athletes of ancient Greece, preparatory to their entering the gymnasia, were called Aliptæ. These persons taught gymnastic exercises, practised many operations of surgery, and undertook the treatment of trifling diseases. The external use of oil was intended to close the pores of the skin, so as to prevent excessive perspiration. The oil was mixed with sand, and was well rubbed into the skin. After the exercises, the athletes were again anointed, to restore the tone of the muscles. The aliptæ would naturally acquire considerable knowledge of the accidents and maladies to which the human body was subject; accordingly, we find that they not only undertook the treatment of fractures and dislocations, but became the regular medical advisers of their patrons. Iccus of Tarentum devoted himself to dietetics. They were probably a superior class of trainers. Herodicus of Selymbria, a teacher of Hippocrates, treated diseases by exercises. He is said to have been the first to demand a fee in place of the presents which were given by patients formerly to their doctors.380 The gymnasia were dedicated to Apollo, the god of physicians.381 The directors of the institutions regulated the diet of the young men, the sub-directors prescribed for their diseases.382 The inferiors, or bathers, bled, gave clysters, and dressed wounds.383



Hippocrates first delivered Medicine from the Thraldom of Superstition.—Dissection of the Human Body and Rise of Anatomy.—Hippocrates, Father of Medicine and Surgery.—The Law.—Plato.

Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” was born at Cos,384 460 B.C. On his father’s side he was believed to be descended from Æsculapius, and through his mother from Hercules. A member of the family of the Asclepiadæ, of a descent of three hundred years, he had the advantage of studying medicine under his father, Heraclides, in the Asclepion of Cos. Herodicus of Selymbria taught him medical gymnastics, and Democritus of Abdera and Gorgias of Leontini were his masters in literature and philosophy. He travelled widely, and taught and practised at Athens, dying at an age variously stated as 85, 90, 104, and 109. Fortunate in the opportunities offered by his birth and position, he was still more fortunate in his time—the age of Pericles—in which Greece reached its noblest development, and the arts and sciences achieved their greatest triumphs. It was the age of Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Euripides, Sophocles, Æschylus, Pindar, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Phidias. Philosophy, poetry, literature, and sculpture found in these great minds their most perfect exponents. Medicine, in the person of Hippocrates, was to find its first and most distinguished author-physician.

The Father of Medicine was therefore the worthy product of his remarkable age. The genius which culminated in the works of the golden age of Greece could scarcely have left medicine without her Hippocrates; the harmony otherwise would have been incomplete.

The following genealogy of Hippocrates has been given by Tzetzes, but Mr. Grote says it is wholly mythical:—

Æsculapius was the father of Podalirius, who was the father of Hippolochus, who was the father of Sostratus, who was the father of Cleomyttades, who was the father of Theodorus, who was the father of173 Sostratus II., who was the father of Theodorus II., who was the father of Sostratus III., who was the father of Nebrus, who was the father of Gnosidicus, who was the father of Hippocrates I., who was the father of Heraclides, who was the father of Hippocrates II., otherwise called the Great Hippocrates.

Hippocrates was the first physician who delivered medicine from the thraldom of superstition and the sophistries of philosophers, and gave it an independent existence. It was impossible that our science should make progress so long as men believed that disease was caused by an angry demon or an offended divinity, and was only to be cured by expelling the one or propitiating the other. Hippocrates, with a discernment and a courage which was marvellous, considering his time, declared that no disease whatever came from the gods, but was in every instance traceable to a natural and intelligible cause. Before the Asclepiadæ there was no medical science; before Hippocrates there was no one mind with vision wide enough to take in all that had been done before—to select the precious from the worthless and embody it in a literature which remains to the present time a model of conciseness and condensation, and a practical text-book on all that concerns the art of healing as it was understood in his time. The minuteness of his observations, his rational, and accurate interpretation of all he saw, and his simple, methodical, truthful, and lucid descriptions of everything which he has recorded excite the admiration and compel the praise of all who have studied the works which he has left. Nor are his candour, honesty, caution, and experience less to be extolled. He confesses his errors, fully explains the measures adopted to cure his cases, and candidly admits that in one series of forty-two patients whom he attended only seventeen recovered, the others having perished in spite of the means he had proposed to save them. He was probably the first public teacher of the healing-art; his counsels were not whispered in the secret meetings of sacerdotal assemblies. He was the first to disclose the secrets of the art to the world; to strip it of the veil of mystery with which countless generations of magicians, thaumaturgists, and priestly healers had shrouded it, and to stand before his pupils to give oral instruction in anatomy and the other branches of his profession. Had he not been the Father of Medicine, he would have been known as one of the greatest of the philosophers. He first recognised Φύσις—Nature in the treatment of disease. Nature, he declared, was all-sufficient for our healing. She knows of herself all that is necessary for us, and so he called her “the just.” He attributed to her a faculty, Δύναμις; physicians are but her servants. The governing faculty, Δύναμις, nourishes, preserves, and increases all things.


Galen states that the greater part of Aristotle’s physiology was taken from Hippocrates. It has been the custom to make light of his anatomical knowledge, and to say that in face of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of procuring subjects for dissection, he could have had but little exact knowledge of the human body; but it is certain that by some means or other he must have dissected it. In proof of this it is only necessary to mention his treatise On the Articulations, especially that part of it which relates to the dislocation of the shoulder joint. Dr. Adams, in one of his valuable notes on the works of Hippocrates,385 says: “The language of our author in this place puts it beyond all doubt that human dissection was practised in his age.” In Ashurst’s International Encyclopædia of Surgery386 his descriptions of all dislocations are declared to be wonderfully accurate; and the writer adds that it is the greatest error imaginable to suppose, with the common conceit of our day, that all ingenious and useful improvements in surgery belong to the present age. In the treatise on the Sacred Disease (epilepsy), his description of the brain in man proves that he was acquainted with its dissection.

In the treatise on the heart, again, the construction of that organ in the human body is referred to. Other allusions to the internal structure of the human frame in the Hippocratic treatises serve to confirm our opinion; and if it be objected that some of these are probably not genuine, they must at least be as old as his period, and it was far more likely that he should have written or inspired them than that they should have emanated from an inferior source. Those who argue to the contrary do so on the same grounds as the Greek commentators, who say that the Iliad and Odyssey were not written by Homer, but by some other poet of the same name. Dr. Adams is confident, from his familiarity with the works of Hippocrates, that the knowledge of human anatomy exhibited therein had its origin in actual dissection, and he adds that: “I do not at present recollect a single instance of mistake committed by him in any of his anatomical descriptions, if we except that with regard to the sutures of the head, and even in that case I have endeavoured to show that the meaning of the passage is very equivocal.”387 There is no doubt, in fact, that a great deal more human dissection went on than the Greek doctors dared to acknowledge for fear of exciting popular prejudice. Less than a hundred years after the death of Hippocrates there was abundant and open dissection of the human body in the schools of Alexandria, and it is incredible that the practice only received popular sanction at that particular time. Yet the175 anatomy of Hippocrates was very imperfect. The nerves, sinews, and ligaments were confounded together, all being classed as νεῦρον or τόνος.

The blood-vessels were supposed to contain both blood and air, and were called φλέβες; the trachea was called an “artery.”

The brain was considered as merely a gland which condenses the ascending vapours into mucus. The office of the nerves was to convey the animal spirits throughout the body. We must not forget that the science of anatomy was extremely imperfect even at the beginning of the present century.

“When,” says Littré,388 “one searches into the history of medicine and the commencement of the science, the first body of doctrine that one meets with is the collection of writings known under the name of the works of Hippocrates. The science mounts up directly to that origin, and there stops. Not that it had not been cultivated earlier, and had not given rise to even numerous productions; but everything that had been made before the physician of Cos has perished. We have only remaining of them scattered and unconnected fragments. The works of Hippocrates have alone escaped destruction; and by a singular circumstance there exists a great gap after them as well as before them. The medical works from Hippocrates to the establishment of the school of Alexandria, and those of that school itself, are completely lost, except some quotations and passages preserved in the later writers; so that the writings of Hippocrates remain alone amongst the ruins of ancient medical literature.”

It is vain to inquire how Hippocrates acquired a knowledge which seems to us so far in advance of his age. Was Greek wisdom derived from the East, or was its philosophy the offspring of the soil of Hellas? Such questions have often been discussed, but to little purpose. There would seem to be every reason to suppose that Greek medicine was indigenous. We have no means of knowing how long philosophy and medicine had been united before the time of Hippocrates. The honour of affecting the alliance has been ascribed to Pythagoras.

Several of the Greek philosophers speculated about medicine. We have seen that besides Pythagoras, Empedocles and Democritus did so, although it is not probable that they followed it as a profession. The Asclepiadæ probably brought medicine to a high state of perfection, but the work these priest-physicians did is a sealed book to us. All was darkness till Hippocrates appeared.

In his treatise On Ancient Medicine, he says that men first learned from experience the science of dietetics; they were compelled to176 ascertain the properties of vegetable productions as articles of food. Then they learned that the food which is suitable in health is unsuitable in sickness, and thus they applied themselves to the discovery of the proper rules of diet in disease; and it was the accumulation of the facts bearing on this subject which was the origin of the art of medicine. “The basis of his system was a rational experience, and not a blind empiricism; so that the empirics in after ages had no good grounds for claiming him as belonging to their sect.”389

He assiduously applied himself to the study of the natural history of diseases, especially with the view to determine their tendencies to death or recovery. In every case he asked himself what would be the probable end of the disorder if left to itself. Prognosis, then, is one of the chief characteristics of Hippocratic medicine. He hated all charlatanism, and was free from all popular superstition. When we reflect on the medicine of the most highly civilized nations which we have considered at length in the preceding pages, and remember how full of absurdities, of magic, amulet lore, and other things calculated to impose on the credulity of the people, were their attempts at healing, we shall be inclined to say, that the most wonderful thing in the history of Hippocrates was his complete divorce from the evil traditions of the past. Although he forsook philosophy as an ally of medicine, his system was founded in the physical philosophy of the elements which the ancient Greeks propounded, and which we have attempted to explain. There was an all-pervading spiritual essence which is ever striving to maintain all things in their natural condition; ever rectifying their derangements; ever restoring them to the original and perfect pattern. He called that spiritual essence Nature. “Nature is the physician of diseases.”390 Here, then, we have the enunciation of the doctrine of the Vis Medicatrix Naturæ. In his attempts to aid Nature, the physician must regulate his treatment “to do good, or at least, to do no harm”;391 yet he bled, cupped, and scarified. In constipation he prescribed laxative drugs, as mercury (not the mineral, of course, but Mercurialis perennis), beet, and cabbage, also elaterium, scammony, and other powerful cathartics. He used white hellebore boldly, and when narcotics were required had recourse to mandragora, henbane, and probably to poppy-juice.

He is said to have been the discoverer of the principles of derivation and revulsion in the treatment of diseases.392


Sydenham called Hippocrates “the Romulus of medicine, whose heaven was the empyrean of his art. He it is whom we can never duly praise.” He terms him “that divine old man,” and declares that he laid the immovable foundations of the whole superstructure of medicine when he taught that our natures are the physicians of our diseases.393

He was Father of Surgery as well as of medicine. Eight of his seventeen genuine works are strictly surgical. By an ingenious arrangement of apparatus he was enabled to practise extension and counter-extension. He insisted on the most exact co-aptation of fractured bones, declaring that it was disgraceful to allow a patient to recover with a crooked or shortened limb. His splints were probably quite as good as ours, and his bandaging left nothing to be desired. When the ends of the bones projected in cases of compound fractures, they were carefully resected. In fracture of the skull with depressed bone the trepan was used, and in cases where blood or pus had accumulated they were skilfully evacuated. He boldly and freely opened abscesses of the liver and kidneys. The thoracic cavity was explored by percussion and auscultation for detection of fluids, and when they were discovered paracentesis (tapping) was performed. This was also done in cases of abdominal dropsies. The rectum was examined by an appropriate speculum, fistula-in-ano was treated by the ligature, and hæmorrhoids were operated upon. Stiff leather shoes and an admirable system of bandaging were employed in cases of talipes. The bladder was explored by sounds for the detection of calculi; gangrenous and mangled limbs were amputated; the dead fœtus was extracted from the mother. Venesection, scarification, and cupping were all employed.394

He resected bones at the joints. In the treatment of ulcers he used sulphate of copper, sulphate of zinc, verdigris, lead, sulphur, arsenic, alum, etc. He came very near indeed to the antiseptic system in surgery when he made use of “raw tar water” (a crude sort of carbolic acid, in fact) in the treatment of wounds. Suppositories were employed.

In Dr. Adams’ Life of Hippocrates,395 he says:178 “In surgery he was a bold operator. He fearlessly, and as we would now think, in some cases unnecessarily, perforated the skull with the trepan and the trephine in injuries of the head. He opened the chest also in empyema and hydrothorax. His extensive practice, and no doubt his great familiarity with the accidents occurring at the public games of his country, must have furnished him with ample opportunities of becoming acquainted with dislocations and fractures of all kinds; and how well he had profited by the opportunities which he thus enjoyed, every page of his treatises On Fractures and On the Articulations abundantly testifies. In fact, until within a very recent period, the modern plan of treatment in such cases was not at all to be compared with his skilful mode of adjusting fractured bones, and of securing them with waxed bandages. In particular, his description of the accidents which occur at the elbow and hip-joints will be allowed, even at the present day, to display a most wonderful acquaintance with the subject. In the treatment of dislocations, when human strength was not sufficient to restore the displacement, he skilfully availed himself of all the mechanical powers which were then known. In his views with regard to the nature of club-foot, it might have been affirmed of him a few years ago that he was twenty-four centuries in advance of his profession, when he stated that in this case there is no dislocation, but merely a declination of the foot; and that in infancy, by means of methodical bandaging, a cure may in most cases be effected without any surgical operation. In a word, until the days of Delpech and Stromeyer, no one entertained ideas so sound and scientific on the nature of this deformity as Hippocrates.”

Dr. Adams, recapitulating the general results of the investigations as to the genuineness of the Hippocratic books, states that a considerable portion of them are not the work of Hippocrates himself. The works almost universally admitted to be genuine are: The Prognostics, On Airs, etc., On Regimen in Acute Diseases, seven of the books of Aphorisms, Epidemics, I. and III., On the Articulations, On Fractures, On the Instruments of Reduction, The Oath.

The following are almost certainly genuine: On Ancient Medicine, On the Surgery, The Law, On Ulcers, On Fistulæ, On Hæmorrhoids, On the Sacred Disease.396

The Law.

1. Medicine is of all the arts the most noble; but owing to the ignorance of those who practise it, and of those who, inconsiderately, form a judgment of them, it is at present far behind all the other arts. Their mistake appears to me to arise principally from this, that in the cities there is no punishment connected with the practice of medicine (and with it alone) except disgrace, and that does not hurt those who179 are familiar with it. Such persons are like the figures397 which are introduced in tragedies, for as they have the shape, and dress, and personal appearance of an actor, but are not actors, so also physicians are many in title but very few in quality.

2. Whoever is to acquire a competent knowledge of medicine, ought to be possessed of the following advantages: a natural disposition; instruction; a favourable position for the study; early tuition; love of labour; leisure. First of all, a natural talent is required; for when nature opposes, everything else is vain; but when nature leads the way to what is most excellent, instruction in the art takes place, which the student must try to appropriate to himself by reflection, becoming an early pupil in a place well adapted for instruction. He must also bring to the task a love of labour and perseverance, so that the instruction taking root may bring forth proper and abundant fruits.

3. Instruction in medicine is like the culture of the productions of the earth. For our natural disposition is, as it were, the soil; the tenets of our teacher are, as it were, the seed; instruction in youth is like the planting of the seed in the ground at the proper season; the place where the instruction is communicated is like the food imparted to vegetables by the atmosphere; diligent study is like the cultivation of the fields; and it is time which imparts strength to all things and brings them to maturity.

4. Having brought all these requisites to the study of medicine, and having acquired a true knowledge of it, we shall then, in travelling through the cities, be esteemed physicians not only in name but in reality. But inexperience is a bad treasure, and a bad friend to those who possess it, whether in opinion or reality, being devoid of self-reliance and contentedness, and the nurse both of timidity and audacity. For timidity betrays a want of power, and audacity a want of skill. There are, indeed, two things, knowledge and opinion, of which the one makes its possessor really to know, the other to be ignorant.

5. Those things which are sacred are to be imparted only to sacred persons; and it is not lawful to impart them to the profane until they have been initiated in the mysteries of the science.

The “Hippocratic collections” of works which have been attributed to Hippocrates, but the greater part of which were neither written by him, nor compiled from notes taken by his students, consists of eighty-seven treatises.

Hippocrates believed in the influence of the imagination of pregnant women on the child in the womb. He forbad nurses to eat food of an180 acrid, salt, or acid nature, and observed that infants during the period of dentition were liable to fevers, bowel troubles, and convulsions, especially if there was constipation. He mentions thrush as one of the diseases of dentition (De Dent.). He recommends friction for contracting or relaxing the body according as it is applied in a hard or soft manner. Very fully he discourses on the evil effects of plethora, and recommends purging, emetics, warm baths, and bleeding, for reducing the system (De Dietol., iii. 16 et seq.). He constantly advises gentle purgatives as a means of keeping the body in health. His favourite laxative medicine was the herb mercury. The administration of clysters is recommended; this treatment was evidently derived from the Egyptians. What are called errhines or sternutatories—i.e., medicines which, applied to the nose, excite sneezing—were described by Hippocrates as medicines which purge the head. Though he fully describes the effects of baths, he speaks unfavourably of thermal springs as being hard and heating. He insists that the diet should be full in winter and spare in summer (Aphor., i. 18). He disapproves of the habit of eating a full dinner (De Vet. Med.). He condemns the use of new bread. The nutritious properties of pulse in general are insisted upon. He calls the flesh of fowls one of the lightest kinds of food (De Affect., 46), and says that eggs are nutritious, and strengthening, but flatulent. He remarks that the flesh of wild animals is more digestible than that of domesticated. He objects to goat’s flesh as having all the bad qualities of beef, which he calls a strong, astringent, and indigestible article of diet. Milk, he says, sometimes causes the formation of stones in the bladder (De Ær. Aquis et Locis, 24). Dr. Francis Adams says this opinion was adopted by all the ancient physicians. Cheese he considers flatulent and indigestible. Fishes are light food; sea fish are lighter and better for delicate persons than fresh-water fish (De Affect., 46). Honey, when eaten with other food, is nutritious, but is injurious when taken alone.

Hippocrates opposed all hypothesis in medicine, and grounded his opinions on disease on actual observation. He insisted that the essence of fever is heat mixed up with noxious qualities. He was the great master of prognostics. His work Prorrhetica and Coacæ, says Dr. Francis Adams,181 “contains a rich treasure of observations which cannot be too much explored by the student of medicine. His prognostics are founded upon the appearance of the face, eyes, tongue, the voice, hearing, the state of the hypochondriac region, the abdomen, the general system, sleep, respiration, and the excretions. We can do little more, in this place, than express our high sense of the value of the Hippocratic Treatises on Prognostics, and recommend the study of them to all members of the profession who would wish to learn the true inductive system of cultivating medicine.” (The Seven Books of Paulus Ægineta, by Francis Adams.) The state of the countenance which immediately precedes death is called by physicians the Facies Hippocratica, because Hippocrates described it, calling it πρόσωποι διαφθορή (Coac. Prænot., 212). The nose is sharp, the eyes hollow, the temples sunk, the ears cold and contracted, and their lobes inverted; the skin about the forehead hard, tense, and dry; the countenance pale, greenish, or dark. In fevers he was greatly attached to the importance of the critical days. Galen adopted his list of critical days with little alteration. Hippocrates does not seem to have paid much attention to the pulse, or if he did he attached little importance to it; even in describing epidemical fevers he neglects to mention the characteristics of the pulse. Galen, however, affirms that he was not altogether ignorant of it. He quite correctly described the characteristics of healthy stools, and pointed out that they should in colour be yellowish, if too yellow there is too much bile, if not yellow at all there was a stoppage of the passage of bile to the intestines. His indications from the state of the urine are not less valuable. How wise are his observations on the treatment of febrile diseases! “To be able to tell what had preceded them; to know the present state and foretell the future; to have two objects in view, either to do good or at least do no harm” (Epidem., i. 7). He it was who formulated the rule all physicians have since followed that a fluid diet is proper in all febrile affections. He advised cold sponging in ardent fevers—a method of treatment recently revived and of great value (De Rat. Vict. Acut.). He laid it down that diseases in general may be said to arise either from the food we eat or the air we breathe. In cases of fever he allowed his patients to drink freely of barley-water and cold acidulated drinks. In this he was much in advance of the medical science of the time. He has described cases of “brain fever,” one of the few complaints which novelists permit their heroes to suffer from. They appear to have been cases of remittent fever rather than true inflammation of the brain. We may estimate the wonderful extent of the medical science of Hippocrates by the fact that he vigorously opposed the popular belief of the period, that epilepsy was due to demoniacal influence. He explains that the lower animals are subject to the same disorder, and that in them it is often associated with water in the brain. There is really no doubt that the morbus sacer of the ancients and the cases of demoniacal possession of which we read were cases of epilepsy (Hippoc. de Morbo Sacro). Concerning apoplexy he says that a slight attack is difficult to cure, and a severe one utterly incurable. The cause of the attack he considered was turgidity of the182 veins. We know it to be often associated with cerebral hæmorrhage or sanguineous apoplexy and sometimes with effusion of serum = serous apoplexy. Hippocrates therefore came very near the truth. He advised bleeding, which is still recommended but is not often practised in England; and he very justly said that the malady occurs most frequently between the age of forty and sixty (Aphoris., ii. 42). In certain forms of ophthalmia he advises free purgation, bleeding, and the use of wine; and this accords with the best modern practice, if for venesection, we substitute vesication. His treatment of nasal polypus by the ligature is not unlike our own; and nothing could be better than his plan for dealing with quinsey and allied complaints, viz., hot fomentations, warm gargles and tinctures, with free purgation. He disapproves of a practice too often followed by surgeons to-day, of scarifying the tonsils when swollen and red. In cases of inflammation of the lungs he advised bleeding, purging, and cooling drinks. Laënnec, the great French physician, who invented the stethoscope, highly praises Hippocrates for his knowledge of phthisis, and the diagnostic value of his tests of the nature of the sputa in that disease. In cases of empyema, or the formation and accumulation of pus in the chest, he directs us to make an incision into the pleural cavity—an operation which has been revived in modern times under the name of “paracentesis thoracis.”

He declares the loss of hair and the diarrhœa of phthisis to be fatal signs, and his description of hydrothorax, or dropsy of the chest, has been highly praised by the greatest authorities. He says that phthisis is most common between the ages of eighteen and thirty-six (see Hippoc. de Morbis, ii. 45; Coacæ Prænat., et alibi). For pleurisy his treatment is practically the same as that followed at the present day. He advised the administration of flour and milk in diarrhœa—an exceedingly useful remedy—and treated the pains of colic by warm injections, warm baths, fomentations, soporifics and purgatives, as the case might require. He was wise enough to know that stone of the bladder was a product of a morbid condition of the urine, and said that when it had fairly formed nothing but an operation for its removal was of any value. He recognised the disease known as hydatids of the liver, and directed that abscesses of that organ should be opened by the cautery. His account of the causes and treatment of dropsy is fairly accurate according to our present knowledge. He approved of paracentesis abdominis (tapping) in cases of ascites, and describes the operation. He recognised the incurability of true cancer. Many of his treatises on the disorders of women prove that they were well understood in his day, and on the whole were properly treated. Difficult labour was managed not so differently from our modern methods as183 might be supposed. His account of hip-joint disease is remarkably accurate. Gout was well understood by our author, and probably his treatment by purgation and careful dieting was on the whole as successful as our own.

Hippocrates speaks of leprosy as more a blemish than a disease; it is probable, however, that the works in which he is supposed to allude to it are not genuine. He points out the danger of opening the round tumour on tendons, called a ganglion. In his book called Prognostics, he refers to the danger of an erysipelas being translated to an internal part. Cold applications, he says, are useful in this disease when there is no ulceration, but prejudicial when ulceration is present. Struma or scrofula is described by Hippocrates (De Glandulis) as being one of the worst diseases of the neck. In the treatise (De Ulceribus) on ulcers, he particularly praises wine as a lotion for ulcers, and there is good reason to believe that we might advantageously revert to this treatment. Some of the drugs which he recommends for foul ulcers, such as frankincense and myrrh, are excellent, and owe their efficacy to their “newly discovered” antiseptic action. He recommends also arsenic and verdigris. The actual cautery or burning applied freely to the head is recommended in diseases of the eyes and other complaints. He describes water on the brain in the treatise De Morbis, ii. 15, and even recommends perforation of the skull or trephining quite in the modern way. Opening the temporal veins is advised for obstinate headaches. Although no express treatise on bleeding is found amongst the works of Hippocrates, he practised venesection freely in various diseases. He forbids the surgeon to interfere with non-ulcerated cancers, adding that if the cancer be healed the patient soon dies, while if let alone he may live a long time (Aph., vi. 38). He warns us that the sudden evacuation of the matter of empyema or of the water in dropsy proves fatal. He speaks of evacuating the fluid with an instrument similar to that which we call a trochar. He approves of scarification of the ankles in dropsy of the lower extremities; this is quite modern treatment. In cases of dislocation of the hip-joint from the formation of a collection of humours, he recommends burning so as to dry up the redundant humours. He minutely describes the cure of fistula with the ligature in his work De Fistulis, which, even if not a genuine treatise of Hippocrates, is extremely ancient, and was considered authentic by Galen. Hæmorrhoids or piles are to be ligatured with very thick thread, or destroyed with red-hot irons. Varicose veins are to be treated by small punctures, not freely opened (De Ulceribus, 16). Hippocrates considered the extraction of weapons to be one of the most important departments of surgery. In his treatise De Medico,184 he says that surgery can only be properly learned by attaching one’s self to the army. Homer said,—

“The man of medicine can in worth with many warriors vie,
Who knows the weapons to excise, and soothing salves apply.”

Hippocrates treats of fractures in his books De Fracturis (De Articulis; De Vulner. Capit.; Officina Medici). He insists that no injuries to the head are to be considered as trifling; even wounds of the scalp may prove dangerous if neglected. Fissures, contusions, and fractures of the cranium are minutely explained and appropriate treatment suggested. He describes the trephine under the name of τρύπανον, i.e. the trepan. He says that convulsions are the frequent consequence of head injuries, and that they occur on the opposite side of the body to that in which the brain injury is seated. One of the most valuable legacies of the ancients is this profoundly learned treatise of the Father of Medicine, and it proves to us how high a point the surgery of ancient Greece had reached. He noticed a certain movement of the brain during respiration, a swelling up in expiration and a falling down during inspiration; and although several great authorities of the past denied the accuracy of this observation, it has since been shown to be perfectly correct. (See Paulus Ægineta, Dr. F. Adams’ edit., vol. ii. p. 442.) In cases of fracture of the lower jaw, our author directs that the teeth separated at the broken part are to be fastened together and bound with gold wire. So accurately does he describe this fracture that Paulus Ægineta transcribes it almost word for word from the De Articulus. His method of treating fracture of the clavicle is admirable; in fracture of the ribs he observes that when the broken ends of the bone are not pushed inwards, it seldom happens that any unpleasant symptoms supervene. In fractures of the arm he minutely and precisely indicates the correct principles on which they are to be treated, and insists strongly on the necessity of having the arm and wrist carefully suspended in a broad soft sling, and that the hand be placed neither too high nor too low. Hippocrates could learn very little from our modern surgeons in the treatment of such injuries. In cases of broken thigh he has indicated all the dangers and difficulties attending the management of this accident; his splints and bandages are applied much as we apply them at the present time, and his suggestions for ensuring a well-united bone without deformity of the limb are invaluable. In fractures of the thigh and leg-bones he lays great stress on the attention necessary to the state of the heel. In those of the foot he warns against the danger of attempting to walk too soon. In compound fractures compresses of wine and oil are to be used, and splints are not to be applied till the wound puts on a185 healthy appearance. He is fully aware of the peculiarly dangerous character of such injuries, and his observations read like extracts from a modern text-book of surgery. “No author,” says Dr. Francis Adams, the learned translator of the works of Paulus Ægineta, “has given so complete a view of the accidents to which the elbow joint is subject as Hippocrates.”

Plato (B.C. 427-347) in its philosophical aspect studied medicine, not with any idea of practising the art, but merely as a speculative contemplation. The human soul is an emanation from the absolute intelligence. The world is composed of the four elements. Fire consists of pyramidal, earth of cubical, air of octagonal, and water of twenty-sided atoms. Besides these is the æther. Everything in the body has in view the spirit. The heart is the seat of the mind, the lungs cool the heart, the liver serves the lower desires and is useful for divination. The spleen is the abode for the impurities of the blood. The intestines serve to detain the food, so that it might not be necessary to be constantly taking nourishment. The inward pressure of the air accounts for the breathing. The muscles and bones protect the marrow against heat and cold. The marrow consists of triangles, and the brain is the most perfect form of marrow. When the soul is separated from the marrow, death occurs. Sight is caused by the union of the light which flows into and out of the eyes, hearing in the shock of air communicated to the brain and the blood. Taste is due to a solution of sapid atoms by means of small vessels, which vessels conduct the dissolved atoms to the heart and soul. Smell is very transitory, not being founded on any external image. The uterus is a wild beast exciting inordinate desires. Disease is caused by a disturbance of the quantity and quality of the fluids. Inflammations are due to aberrations of the bile. The various fevers are due to the influence of the elements. Mental diseases are the results of bodily maladies and bad education. Diseases fly away before appropriate drugs. Physicians must be the rulers of the sick in order to cure them, but they must not be money-makers.398

In the Republic of Plato, Book III., we find that medical aid was largely in request in Greece to relieve the indolent and voluptuous from the consequences of self-indulgence. It was thought by Socrates disgraceful to compel the clever sons of Asclepius to attend to such diseases as flatulence and catarrh; it seemed ridiculous to the philosopher to pay so much attention to regimen and diet as to drag on a miserable existence as an invalid in the doctor’s hands. When a carpenter was ill, he expected his doctor to cure him with an emetic or a purge, the cautery or an operation; if he were ordered a long course of diet, he186 would tell his doctor that he had no time to be ill, and he would go about his business regardless of consequences. Æsculapius, it was maintained, revealed the healing art for the benefit of those whose constitutions were naturally sound; he expelled their disorders by drugs and the use of the knife, without interfering with their usual avocations; but when he found they were hopelessly incurable, he would not attempt to prolong a miserable life by rules and diet, as such persons would be of no use either to themselves or the state. Constitutionally diseased persons and the intemperate livers were to be left to be dealt with by Nature, so that they might die of their diseases.



The Dogmatic School.—Praxagoras of Cos.—Aristotle.—The School of Alexandria.—Theophrastus the Botanist.—The great Anatomists, Erasistratus and Hierophilus, and the Schools they founded.—The Empiric School.

The Dogmatic School.

It was only natural that the philosophical Greeks should discuss medicine at as great a length as they discussed philosophy; accordingly, we find that no sooner had our art taken its place amongst the subjects worthy of being seriously considered by the Greek intellect, than it was as much talked about as practised, and wrangled over as though it were a system of religion. Sects arose which opposed each other with the greatest vehemence; and Hippocrates had not long formulated his teaching when his disciples elevated his principles into a dogmatism which challenged, and shortly provoked, opposition of various kinds. Then arose the schools of medicine which ultimately became famous, as those of the Dogmatists, Empirics, Methodists, Pneumatists, etc. The Dogmatists boasted of being the Rational and Logical school. They held that there is a certain connection between all the arts and sciences, and that it is the duty of the physician to avail himself of all sorts of knowledge on every subject which bears any relationship to his own. They made, therefore, the most careful inquiry into the remote and proximate causes of disease. They examined the influence on the human body of airs, waters, places, occupations, diet, seasons, etc. They formulated general rules, not of universal application, but modified their treatment according to circumstances, availing themselves of whatever aid they could obtain from any source. Hippocrates had said, “The physician who is also a philosopher is equal to the gods,” and the Dogmatists elevated this into an article of their creed. Hippocrates, Galen, Oribasius, Ætius, Paulus Ægineta, and the Arab physicians were dogmatists. The founders of the school were the sons of Hippocrates—Thessalus and Draco. The former was the eldest son of the great physician, and was the more famous of the two. He passed a188 great part of his life as physician in the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia.399 His brother, Draco, was physician to Queen Roxana, wife of Alexander the Great.

We may say, therefore, that the oldest, most famous, and worthy of the ancient medical sects arose about 400 B.C., and retained its power over the medical profession till the rise of the Empirical sect in the Alexandrian school of philosophy. We are indebted to Celsus for a lucid and admirable exposition of the doctrines professed by these two medical parties.400

The Dogmatists maintained that it was not enough for the physician to know the mere symptoms of his patient’s malady. It does not suffice to know the evident causes of the disorder, but he must acquaint himself with the hidden causes. To acquire this knowledge of the hidden causes, he must study the hidden parts, and the natural actions and functions of the body in health. He must know the principles on which the human machinery is constructed before he can scientifically treat the accidents and disturbances to which it is liable. It was not, therefore, a mere subject of philosophical interest to hold with some physicians that diseases proceed from excess or deficiency of one or other of the four elements, or with others, that the various humours or the respiration were at fault. It was not of merely academic interest to suppose that the abnormal flow of the blood caused inflammations, or that corpuscles blocked up the invisible passages. The doctor must do more than speculate on these things in his discussions. He must have a theory upon them which he could apply to the treatment of his patients, and the best physician would be the one who best knew how the disease originated. Experiments without reasoning were valueless; their chief use was to inform the experimenter whether he had reasoned justly or conjectured fortunately. When the physician is confronted by a new form of disease for which no remedy has been discovered, he must know its cause and origin, or his practice will be mere guess-work. Anybody can discover the evident causes—heat, cold, over-eating. These things the least instructed physician will probably know. It is the knowledge of hidden causes which makes the superior man. He who aspires to be instructed must know what we now call physiology—why we breathe, why we eat, what happens to the food which we swallow, why the arteries pulsate, why we sleep, etc. The man who cannot explain these phenomena is not a competent doctor. He must have frequently inspected dead bodies, and examined carefully their internal parts; but they maintained that it was much the better way to189 open living persons, as Herophilus and Erasistratus did, so that they could acquaint themselves in life with the structures whose disturbance or disease causes the sufferings which they were called upon to alleviate. What is known as the “Humoral Pathology” formed the most essential part of the system of the Dogmatists.

Humoral pathology explains all diseases as caused by the mixture of the four cardinal humours; viz., the blood, bile, mucus or phlegm, and water. Hippocrates leaned towards it, but it was Plato who developed it. The stomach is the common source of all these humours. When diseases develop, they attract these humours. The source of the bile is the liver; of the mucus, the head; of the water, the spleen. Bile causes all acute diseases, mucus in the head causes catarrhs and rheumatism, dropsy depends on the spleen.

Diocles Carystius, a famous Greek physician, said by Pliny401 to have been next in age and fame to Hippocrates himself, lived in the fourth century B.C. He wrote several treatises on medicine, of which the titles and some fragments are preserved by Galen, Cælius Aurelianus, Oribasius, and others. His letter to King Antigonus, entitled “An Epistle on Preserving Health,” is inserted at the end of the first book of Paulus Ægineta, and was probably addressed to Antigonus Gonatus, king of Macedonia, who died B.C. 239. This treatise is so valuable a summary of the medical teaching of the time that it will be useful to insert it in this place. “Since of all kings you are the most skilled in the arts, and have lived very long, and are skilled in all philosophy, and have attained the highest rank in mathematics, I, supposing that the science which treats of all things that relate to health is a branch of philosophy becoming a king and befitting to you, have written you this account of the origin of diseases, of the symptoms which precede them, and of the modes by which they may be alleviated. For neither does a storm gather in the heavens but it is preceded by certain signs which seamen and men of much skill attend to, nor does any disease attack the human frame without having some precursory symptom. If, then, you will only be persuaded by what we say regarding them, you may attain a correct acquaintance with these things. We divide the human body into four parts: the head, the chest, the belly, and the bladder. When a disease is about to fix in the head, it is usually announced beforehand by vertigo, pain in the head, heaviness in the eyebrows, noise in the ears, and throbbing of the temples; the eyes water in the morning, attended with dimness of sight; the sense of smell is lost, and the gums become swelled. When any such symptoms occur, the head ought to be purged, not indeed with any strong medicine, but, taking 190 the tops of hyssop and sweet marjoram, pound them and boil them in a pot, with half a hemina of must or rob; rinse the mouth with this in the morning before eating, and evacuate the humours by gargling. There is no gentler remedy than this for affections of the head. Mustard in warm, honied water also answers the purpose very well. Take a mouthful of this in the morning before eating, gargle and evacuate the humours. The head also should be warmed by covering it in such a manner as that the phlegm may be readily discharged. Those who neglect these symptoms are apt to be seized with the following disorders: inflammations of the eyes, cataracts, pain of the ears as if from a fracture, strumous affections of the neck, sphacelus of the brain, catarrh, quinsy, running ulcers called achores, caries, enlargement of the uvula, defluxion of the hairs, ulceration of the head, pain in the teeth. When some disease is about to fall upon the chest, it is usually announced by some of the following symptoms: There are profuse sweats over the whole body, and particularly about the chest, the tongue is rough, expectoration saltish, bitter, or bilious, pains suddenly seizing the sides or shoulder-blades, frequent yawning, watchfulness, oppressed respiration, thirst after sleep, despondency of mind, coldness of the breast and arms, trembling of the hands. These symptoms may be relieved in the following manner: Procure vomiting after a moderate meal without medicine. Vomiting also when the stomach is empty will answer well; to produce which first swallow some small radishes, cresses, rocket, mustard and purslain, and then by drinking warm water procure vomiting. Upon those who neglect these symptoms the following diseases are apt to supervene: pleurisy, peripneumony, melancholy, acute fevers, frenzy, lethargy, ardent fever attended with hiccough. When any disease is about to attack the bowels, some of the following symptoms announce its approach: In the first place, the belly is griped and disordered, the food and drink seem bitter, heaviness of the knees, inability to bend the loins, pains over the whole body unexpectedly occurring, numbness of the legs, slight fever. When any of these occur, it will be proper to loosen the belly by a suitable diet without medicine. There are many articles of this description which one may use with safety, such as beets boiled in honeyed water, boiled garlic, mallows, dock, the herb mercury, honied cakes; for all these things are laxative of the bowels. Or, if any of these symptoms increase, mix bastard saffron with all these decoctions, for thereby they will be rendered sweeter and less dangerous. The smooth cabbage boiled in a large quantity of water is also beneficial. This decoction, with honey and salt, may be drunk to the amount of about four heminæ, or the water of chick-peas and tares boiled may be drunk in 191 the same manner. Those who neglect the afore-mentioned symptoms are apt to be seized with the following affections: diarrhœa, dysentery, lientery, ileus, ischiatic disease, tertian fever, gout, apoplexy, hæmorrhoids, rheumatism. When any disease is about to seize the bladder, the following symptoms are its usual precursors: A sense of repletion after taking even a small quantity of food, flatulence, eructation, paleness of the whole body, deep sleep, urine pale and passed with difficulty, swellings about the privy parts. When any of these symptoms appear, their safest cure will be by aromatic diuretics. Thus, the roots of fennel and parsley may be infused in white fragrant wine, and drunk every day when the stomach is empty in the morning, to the amount of two cyathi, with water in which carrot, myrtle, or elecampane has been macerated (you may use any of these you please, for all are useful); and the infusion of chick-peas in water in like manner. On those who neglect these symptoms the following diseases are apt to supervene: dropsy, enlargement of the spleen, pain of the liver, calculus, inflammation of the kidney, strangury, distension of the belly. Regarding all these symptoms, it may be remarked that children ought to be treated with gentler remedies, and adults with more active. I have now to give you an account of the seasons of the year in which each of these complaints occur, and what things ought to be taken and avoided. I begin with the winter solstice. Of the winter solstice: This season disposes men to catarrhs and defluxions until the vernal equinox. It will be proper then to take such things as are of a heating nature, drink wine little diluted, or drink pure wine, or of the decoction of marjoram. From the winter solstice to the vernal equinox are ninety days. Of the vernal equinox: This season increases phlegm in men, and the sweetish humours in the blood, until the rising of the pleiades. Use therefore juicy and acrid things, take labour, ... To the rising of the pleiades are forty-six days. Of the rising of the pleiades: This season increases the bitter bile and bitter humours in men, until the summer solstice. Use therefore all sweet things, laxatives of the belly.... To the summer solstice are forty-five days. Of the summer solstice: This season increases the formation of black bile in men, until the autumnal equinox. Use therefore cold water, and everything that is fragrant.... To the autumnal equinox are ninety-three days. Of the autumnal equinox: This season increases phlegm and thin rheums in men until the setting of the pleiades. Use therefore remedies for removing rheums, have recourse to acrid and succulent things, take no vomits, and abstain from labour.... To the setting of the pleiades are forty-five days. Of the setting of the pleiades: This season increases phlegm in men until the winter solstice. Take therefore all 192 sour things, drink as much as is agreeable of a weak wine, use fat things, and labour strenuously. To the winter solstice are forty-five days.”402

Praxagoras of Cos, who lived in the fourth century B.C., shortly after Diocles, was a famous physician of the Dogmatic sect, who especially excelled in anatomy and physiology. He placed the seat of all diseases in the humours of the body, and was one of the chief supporters of what is known as the “humoral pathology.” Sprengel403 and others state that he was the first who pointed out the distinction between the arteries and the veins; but M. Littré denies this, and seems to prove that the differences were known to Aristotle, Hippocrates, and other writers.404 His knowledge of anatomy must have been very considerable, and his surgery was certainly bold; so that he even ventured, in cases of intussusception of the bowel, to open the abdomen in order to replace the intestine. In hernia he practised the taxis,405 i.e. replaced the bowel by the hand; and he amputated the uvula in affections of that organ. He had many pupils, amongst others Herophilus, Philotimus, and Plistonicus.

Aristotle, the founder of comparative anatomy and the father of the science of natural history, was the son of Nichomachus, physician to Amyntas II., king of Macedonia. He was born at Stageira, B.C. 334. His father was a scientific man of the race of the Asclepiads, and it was the taste for such pursuits and the inherited bent of mind which early inclined the son to the investigation of nature. He went to Athens, where he became the disciple of Plato, and remained in his society for twenty years. In his forty-second year he was summoned by Philip of Macedon to undertake the tuition of Alexander the Great, who was then fifteen years old. Of his philosophical works it is not here necessary to speak; it is his scientific labours, which had so important an influence on medical education, which chiefly concern us. He wrote Researches about Animals, On Sleep and Waking, On Longevity and Shortlivedness, On Respiration, On Parts of Animals, On Locomotion of Animals, On Generation of Animals. Aristotle inspired Alexander with a passion for the study of natural history, and his royal pupil gave him abundant means and opportunity to collect materials for a history of animals. The science of comparative anatomy, so important in relation to that of medicine, was thus established. He193 pointed out the differences which exist between the structure of men and monkeys; described the organs of the elephant, and the stomach of the ruminant animals. The anatomy of birds and the development of their eggs during incubation were accurately described by him; he dissected reptiles, and studied the habits of fishes. He investigated the action of the muscles, regarded the heart as the origin of the blood-vessels, named the aorta and the ventricles, described the nerves which he thought originated in the heart, but he confused the nerves with the ligaments and tendons. The heart he considered as the centre of movement and feeling406 and nourishment, holding that it contains the natural fire, and is the birthplace of the passions and the seat of the soul; the brain he thought was merely a mass of water and earth, and did not recognise it as nervous matter. The diaphragm he considered had no other office than to separate the abdomen from the thorax and protect the seat of the soul (the heart) from the impure influences of the digestive organs. Superfœtation (or the conception of a second embryo during the gestation of the first) he held to be possible, and he first pointed out the punctum saliens.

Theophrastus, whose real name was Tyrtamus, was born at Eresa in the island of Lesbos, 371 B.C., fourteen years after Aristotle. He was the originator of the science of plants; he first learned the details of their structure, the uses of their organs, the laws of their reproduction,—in a word, the physiology of the vegetable world. When Aristotle retired to Chalcis, he chose Theophrastus, to whom he gave that name, signifying “a man of divine speech,” as his successor at the Lyceum. This distinguished philosopher devoted himself alike to the exact and speculative sciences. The greater part of his works have perished; what is preserved to us consists of treatises on the history of the vegetable kingdom, of stones, and some fragments of works on physics, medicine, and some moral works. His History of Plants enumerates about five hundred different kinds, many of which are now difficult to identify. He made some attempts at a vague kind of classification, and has chapters on aquatic, kitchen, parasite, succulent, oleaginous, and cereal plants. He carefully explains the principles of the reproduction of vegetables, and the fecundation of the female flowers by the pollen of the male. He recognises hermaphrodite and unisexual flowers, and points out how the fecundation of the latter is effected by the wind, insects, and by the water in the case of aquatic plants. He knew that double flowers were sterile. He devotes a chapter to the diseases of the vegetable kingdom; he almost recognised the characteristics which distinguish the monocotyledonous from the dicotyledonous plants. In a194 word, he laid the foundations on which our modern botanists have erected their science.407

The School of Alexandria.

“In the year 331 B.C.,” says Kingsley,408 “one of the greatest intellects whose influence the world has ever felt, saw, with his eagle glance, the unrivalled advantages of the spot which is now Alexandria; and conceived the mighty project of making it the point of union of two, or rather of three worlds. In a new city, named after himself, Europe, Asia, and Africa were to meet and to hold communion.” When Greece lost her intellectual supremacy with her national independence, the centre of literature, philosophy, and science was shifted to this unique position. With all the treasures of Egyptian wisdom around her, with all the stores of Eastern thought on the one hand and those of Europe on the other, Alexandria became in her schools the rallying-point of the world’s thought and activity. If we turn to an atlas of ancient geography, we shall be struck with the unrivalled facilities possessed by this city for gathering to itself the treasures, intellectual and material, of the conquered world of Alexander the Great. From the Danube, Greece, Phœnicia, Palestine, Persia, Asia Minor, India, Italy, and the Celtic tribes, there came embassies to Egypt to seek the protection and alliance of Alexander of Macedon, and each must have contributed something to the greatness of the city which he had founded. Just as every traveller in after years who passed through the place was compelled to leave a copy of any work which he had brought with him, to the Alexandrian library, so from the first foundation of the town was every visitor a donor of some idea to its stores of thought.

At the dismemberment of Alexander’s vast empire, after his death, the Egyptian portion fell to the share of Ptolemy Soter. It was this sovereign who founded the famous Alexandrian Library; a great patron of the arts and sciences, he placed this institution under the direction of Aristotle. He also established the Schools of Alexandria, and encouraged the dissection of the human body.

Chrysippus, the Cnidian, who lived in the fourth century B.C., was the father of the Chrysippus who was physician to Ptolemy Soter, and he was tutor to Erasistratus. Pliny says that he reversed the practice of preceding physicians in the most extraordinary manner. He would not permit bleeding, because the blood contains the soul; did not prac195tise purging, though he sometimes permitted the use of enemata and emetics. He wrote on herbs and their uses, and drove the blood out of limbs previous to their amputation on the principles recently re-introduced by Esmarch. He introduced the use of vapour baths in the treatment of dropsy. As there were several physicians of the name of Chrysippus, and as their works are lost, it is very difficult to distinguish their maxims. Amongst the disciples of the Cnidian physician of this name were Medius, Aristogenes, Metrodorus, and Erasistratus, as we have said.

Herophilus, of Chalcedon in Bithynia, a pupil of Chrysippus of Cnidos and Praxagoras of Cos, was one of the most famous physicians of the ancient world. He was a great anatomist and physiologist, and a contemporary of the philosopher Diodorus Cronos, and of Ptolemy Soter in the fourth and third centuries B.C. He settled at Alexandria, which under Ptolemy I. became the most famous centre of the science of the ancient Greeks. Here Herophilus founded with other physicians of the city the great medical school which ultimately became distinguished above all others, so that a sufficient guarantee of a physician’s ability was the fact that he had received his education at Alexandria. The foundation of the Alexandrian School formed a great epoch in the history of medicine. The dissection of the human body was of the utmost importance to the healing art. While the practice was forbidden, it could only have been performed furtively and in a hasty and unsatisfactory manner. The science of anatomy, on which that of medicine to be anything but quackery must be founded, now took its proper place in the education of the doctor. The bodies of all malefactors were given over for the purposes of dissection.409 Herophilus is accused of having also dissected alive as many as six hundred criminals. This fact has been denied by some of his biographers, and others have attempted to explain it away; but it is charged against him by Tertullian,410 and Celsus mentions it411 as though it were a well-known fact, and without the least suspicion that it was an unjust accusation.

Asked who is the best doctor, he is said to have replied, “He who knows how to distinguish the possible from the impossible.”

In the course of his anatomical researches he made many discoveries and gave to parts of the human body names which remain in common use to this day. Dr. Baas thus sums up his anatomical and physiological knowledge. He knew the nerves, that they had a capacity for sensation, and were subject to the will, were derived from the brain, in which he discovered the calamus scriptorius, the tela choroidea, the196 venous sinuses, and torcular Herophili. He believed the fourth ventricle to be the seat of the soul. He discovered the chyliferous and lactiferous vessels. He described accurately the liver and Fallopian tubes, the epididymis and the duodenum, to which he gave its name, and also the os hyoides, the uvea, the vitreous humour, the retina, and the ciliary processes. He called the pulmonary artery the vena arteriosa, and the pulmonary vein the arteria venosa. He distinguished in respiration a systole, a diastole, and a period of rest. He founded the doctrine of the pulse, its rhythm, the bounding pulse and its varieties according to age. The pulse is communicated by the heart to the walls of the arteries. He distinguished between arteries and veins, and admitted that the arteries contain blood. He taught that diseases are caused by a corruption of the humours. Paralysis is due to a lack of nerve influence. He laid great stress upon diet, bled frequently, and practised ligation of the limbs to arrest bleeding. He was the first to administer cooking salt as a medicine. A good botanist, he preferred vegetable remedies, which he termed the “Hands of the gods.” He possessed considerable acquaintance with obstetric operations,412 and wrote a text-book of midwifery.413

Erasistratus, of Iulis in the island of Cos, a pupil of Chrysippus was one of the most famous physicians and anatomists of the Alexandrian school. Plutarch says that when he was physician to King Seleucus, he discovered that the young prince Antiochus had fallen in love with his step-mother Stratonice by finding no physical cause for the illness from which he was suffering, and that his heart palpitated, he trembled, blushed, and perspired when the lady entered the room. By adroit management he induced the king to confer on the prince the object of the young man’s passion. Similia similibus curantur. So successful was the treatment that the physician received a fee of 100 talents, which supposing the Attic standard to be meant would amount to £24,375, perhaps the largest medical fee on record.414 He lived for some time in Alexandria, and gave up medical practice in his old age, that he might devote his whole time to the study of anatomy.

Dr. Baas, in his account of the Anatomy, Physiology, and Medicine of Erasistratus, says that he divided the nerves into those of sensation and those of motion. The brain substance is the origin of the motor and the brain membranes that of the sensory nerves.415 Like Herophilus,197 he confounded the nerves and ligaments. He described accurately the structure, convolutions, and ventricles of the brain. He thought that the convolutions, especially those of the cerebellum, are the seat of thought, and located mental diseases in the brain. He knew the lymph and chyle vessels, and the chordæ tendineæ of the heart. He assumed the anastomoses of the arteries and veins. The pneuma in the heart is vital spirits, in the brain is animal spirits. Digestion is due to the friction of the walls of the stomach. He thought that the bile is useless, as is the spleen and other viscera. He shows some acquaintance with pathological anatomy, as he describes induration of the liver in dropsy. His idea of the cause of disease is plethora and aberration of the humours. Inflammation is due to the detention of the blood in the small vessels by the pneuma driven from the heart into the arteries; fever occurs when the pneuma is crowded back to the heart by the venous blood, and blood gets into the large arteries. Dropsy always proceeds from the liver. He discarded bleeding and purgation; recommended baths, enemeta, emetics, friction, and cupping. He was, thinks Dr. Baas, a forerunner of Hahnemann in the doctrine of small doses, as he prescribed three drops of wine in bilious diarrhœa. He opened the abdomen to apply remedies directly to the affected part, and invented a kind of catheter.416

Erasistratus was the first to describe a species of hunger, to which he gave the name Boulimia—a desire for food which cannot be satisfied. In his account of the complaint he mentions the Scythians, who, when obliged to fast, tie bandages round their abdomens tightly, and this stays their hunger.417

The ancient apologists for the human vivisections of Herophilus and Erasistratus used to say that these anatomists were thus198 “enabled to behold, during life, those parts which nature had concealed, and to contemplate their situation, colour, figure, size, order, hardness or softness, roughness or smoothness, etc. They added that it is not possible, when a person has any internal illness, to know what is the cause of it, unless one is exactly acquainted with the situation of all the viscera; nor can one heal any part without understanding its nature: that when the intestines protrude through a wound, a person who does not know what is their colour when in a healthy state cannot distinguish the sound from the diseased parts, nor therefore apply proper remedies; while, on the contrary, he who is acquainted with the natural state of the diseased parts will undertake the cure with confidence and certainty; and that, in short, it is not to be called an act of cruelty, as some persons suppose it, to seek for the remedies of an immense number of innocent persons in the sufferings of a few criminals.”418

Ammonius of Alexandria, surnamed Lithotomus, probably lived in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (B.C. 283-247). He is celebrated as having been the first surgeon who thought of crushing a stone within the bladder when too large for extraction entire; for this reason he was called λιθοτόμος. Celsus describes his method.419

Of the Herophilists we may mention Demetrius of Apamæa (B.C. 276), who named and described diabetes, and was distinguished as an obstetrician.

Mantias, who, B.C. 250, first collected the preparations of medicines into a special book.

Demosthenes Philalethes, who, under Nero, was the most celebrated oculist of his time, wrote a work on diseases of the eye, which was the standard authority until about A.D. 1000. The work has perished, but Ætius and Paulus Ægineta have preserved some fragments of it. He wrote also on the pulse.

Hegeton was a surgeon of Alexandria who was mentioned by Galen as having lived there as a contemporary of several physicians who were known to have resided in that city at the end of the second or the beginning of the first century B.C. He was a follower of Herophilus, and wrote a book on the causes of diseases entitled Περὶ Αἰτιῶν, which has perished.

Of the school of Erasistratus we may mention Xenophon of Cos, who wrote a work on the names of the parts of the human body, and on botany and the diseases of women. Nicias of Miletus, a friend of the poet Theocritus; Philoxenos, who, according to Celsus, wrote several valuable books on surgery; and Martialis the Anatomist, who visited Rome about A.D. 165. He knew Galen, and wrote works on anatomy which were in great repute long after his death.

The followers of Herophilus and Erasistratus, though they founded schools, did not greatly influence the art of medicine, nor did they contribute much to its advancement beyond the point in which it was left by their great masters. They fell into fruitless speculations instead of pursuing their science by accumulating facts; in the words of Pliny, it was easier199 “to sit and listen quietly in the schools, than to be up and wandering over deserts, and to seek out new plants every day.”420 So Dogmatism fell into disrepute and made way for the advent of Empiricism.

School of the Empirics.

The School of the Empirics was the outcome of the system of Scepticism, introduced by Pyrrho and extended by Carneades, who taught that there is no certainty about anything, no true knowledge of phenomena, and that probability alone can be our guide. Ænesidemus carried this scepticism into the medicine of the Empirics, but the school was originally established under the title of the Teretics or Mnemoneutics. The Empirics rested their system on what was called the “Empiric tripod,”—that is, accident, history, and analogy. Remedies have come to us by chance, by the remembrance of previous cures, and by applying them to similar cases.

The sect of the Empiricists was founded by Serapion of Alexandria and Philinus of Cos in the third century B.C. They were in opposition to the Dogmatists, professing to derive their knowledge only from experience; they held that the whole art of medicine consisted in observation, experiment, and the application of known remedies which have constantly proved valuable in the treatment of one class of diseases to other and presumably similar classes. Celsus,421 in his account of the principles of this sect, says that “they admit that the evident causes are necessary, but deprecate inquiry into them because nature is incomprehensible. This is proved because the philosophers and physicians who have spent so much labour in trying to search out these occult causes cannot agree amongst themselves. If reasoning could make physicians, the philosophers should be the most successful practitioners, as they have such abundance of words. If the causes of diseases were the same in all places, the same remedies ought to be used everywhere. Relief from sickness is to be sought from things certain and tried, that is from experience, which guides us in all other arts. Husbandmen and pilots do not reason about their business, but they practise it. Disquisitions can have no connection with medicine, because physicians whose opinions have been directly opposed to one another have equally restored their patients to health; they did not derive their methods of cure from studying the occult causes about which they disputed, but from the experience they had of the remedies which they employed upon their patients. Medicine was not first discovered in consequence of reasoning, but the theory was sought for after the discovery of medicine. Does reason, they ask, prescribe200 the same as experience, or something different? If the same, it must be needless; if different, it must be mischievous.

“But what remains is also cruel, to cut open the abdomen and præcordia of living men, and make that art, which presides over the health of mankind, the instrument, not only of inflicting death, but of doing it in the most horrid manner; especially if it be considered that some of those things which are sought after with so much barbarity cannot be known at all, and others may be known without any cruelty: for that the colour, smoothness, softness, hardness, and such like, are not the same in a wounded body as they were in a sound one; and further, because these qualities, even in bodies that have suffered no external violence, are often changed by fear, grief, hunger, indigestion, fatigue, and a thousand other inconsiderable disorders, which makes it much more probable that the internal parts, which are far more tender, and never exposed to the light itself, are changed by the severest wounds and mangling. And that nothing can be more ridiculous than to imagine anything to be the same in a dying man, nay, one already dead, as it is in a living person; for that the abdomen may indeed be opened while a man breathes, but as soon as the knife has reached the præcordia, and the transverse septum is cut, which by a kind of membrane divides the upper from the lower parts (and by the Greeks is called the diaphragm), the man immediately expires; and then the præcordia, and all the viscera, never come to the view of the butchering physician till the man is dead; and they must necessarily appear as such of a dead person, and not as they were while he lived; and thus the physician gains only the opportunity of murdering a man cruelly, and not of observing what are the appearances of the viscera in a living person. If, however, there can be anything which can be observed in a person which yet breathes, chance often throws it in the way of such as practise the healing art; for that sometimes a gladiator on the stage, a soldier in the field, or a traveller beset by robbers, is so wounded that some internal part, different in different people, may be exposed to view; and thus a prudent physician finds their situation, position, order, figure, and the other particulars he wants to know, not by perpetrating murder, but by attempting to give health; and learns by compassion that which others had discovered by horrid cruelty. That for these reasons it is not necessary to lacerate even dead bodies; which, though not cruel, yet may be shocking to the sight; since most things are different in dead bodies; and even the dressing of wounds shows all that can be discovered in the living” (Futvoye’s Translation).422

Philinus of Cos, the reputed founder of the school, was a pupil of201 Herophilus, and lived in the third century B.C. He declared that all the anatomy his vivisecting master had taught him had not helped him in the least in the cure of his patients. He has been compared with Hahnemann.

Serapion of Alexandria was also of the third century B.C. He must not be confounded with the Arabian physician of this name. He wrote against Hippocrates. He discarded all hypotheses. He was the first to prescribe sulphur in chronic skin diseases; and he used some singular and disgusting remedies in his treatment. One of these was crocodiles’ dung, which in consequence became scarce and costly. Glaucias, who invented the “Empiric Tripod,” Zeuxis and Heraclides of Tarentum, lived about this period. The latter wrote commentaries on Hippocrates, and used opium to procure sleep. He mentions strangulated hernia in one of his treatises.

Many commentaries were written about this time on Hippocrates; and the art of pharmacy, especially the preparation of poisons, was much studied in the second century B.C. Botanic gardens were established, and men began to experiment with antidotes for poisons. “Mithridaticum,” so called after Mithridates the Great of Pontus, was a famous antidote which was used even to recent times. Nicander of Colophon wrote poems on poisons, and antidotes, leeches, and emetics for the first time appeared in poetry, and the symptoms of opium and lead-poisoning were not beneath the attention of the muse. Attalus III., king of Pergamos, was in constant fear of being poisoned, says Plutarch,423 amused himself with planting poisonous herbs, not only henbane and hellebore, but hemlock, aconite, and dorycnium. He cultivated these in the royal gardens, gathered them at the proper seasons, and studied their properties and the qualities of their juices and fruits.

Cleopatra is said by Baas424 to have written a work on the diseases of parturient and lying-in women, etc. She paid special attention, it would seem, to maladies of a specific character.

Le Clerc gives a list of the women who have exercised the profession of medicine in ancient times.425

Cleopatra treated the diseases of women. Artemisia, Queen of Caria, Isis, Cybele, Latona, Diana, Pallas, Angita, Medea, Circe, Polydamna, Agameda, Helen, Œnone, Hippo, Ocryoe, Epione, Eriopis, Hygeia, Ægle, Panacea, Jaso, Rome, and Aceso are the ladies of classic story who had more or less acquaintance with medicine for good or evil purposes. That women, subject to many202 disorders for which in any state of society their natural modesty would make it difficult for them to consult men, should become proficient in the treatment of complaints which are peculiar to their sex, is the most natural thing in the world, and it is probable that very much of our knowledge of the treatment of these cases may be due to feminine wisdom. An ancient law of the Athenians forbade women and slaves to exercise the art of medicine, so that even midwifery, which they considered a branch of it, could only be practised by men. Some Athenian ladies preferred to die rather than be attended by men in their confinements. Women acted as accoucheuses in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and some of them in classic times wrote books on medicine. Ætius gives some fragments in his works from a doctress named Aspasia.

Although the Greek physicians did not know anything of the circulation of the blood as we understand it, they were not wholly ignorant of the phenomena of the vascular system.

The arteries were so called by the ancients because they thought they contained air, as they were always found empty after death. Hippocrates and his contemporaries called the trachea an artery. Some of the ancient anatomists, however, knew that they contain blood, and they knew that when an artery is divided it is more dangerous and entails a longer recovery than the division of a vein. They knew also of the pulsation in the arteries which does not exist in the veins, and they were fully aware of the importance of this fact in its relation to diagnosis and treatment.

“The ancients chiefly regarded the odd days, and called them critical (κρισίμοι), as if on these a judgment was to be formed concerning the patient. These days were the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first; so that the greatest influence was attributed to the seventh, next to the fourteenth, and then to the twenty-first. And therefore, with regard to the nourishment of the sick, they waited for the fits of the odd days; then afterwards they gave food, expecting the approaching fits to be easier; insomuch that Hippocrates, if the fever had ceased on any other day, used to be apprehensive of a relapse.”426

These critical days were believed by Hippocrates and most of the other ancient physicians to be influenced by the moon.

Greek medicine was divided into five parts, and to this day these divisions are still maintained. They were (1) Physiology and Anatomy considered together; (2) Ætiology, or the doctrine of the causes of disease; (3) Pathology; (4) Hygiene, or the art of preserving the203 health; (5) Semeiology, or the knowledge of the symptoms of disease and diagnosis, and Therapeutics, or the art of curing diseases.

As to the contending claims of the various Greek schools of medicine, Dr. Adams says,—

“There is no legitimate mode of cultivating medical knowledge which was not followed by some one or other of the three great sects into which the profession was divided in ancient times.”427

With respect to the professional income of Greek physicians, Herodotus states428 that the Æginetans, about 532 B.C., paid Democedes one talent a year from the public treasury for his services, i.e. about £344. From the Athenians he afterwards received a sum amounting to about £406 per annum. When he removed to Samos, Polycrates paid him a salary of two talents, or £487 10s. A difficulty arises, however, as to this statement of Herodotus, and there may have been an error in the sums mentioned.429

The procuring of abortion was not in ancient Greece always considered a very great crime, and amongst the Romans it seems to have been unnoticed originally. It is related by Cicero that he knew of a case in Asia where a woman was put to death for having procured the abortion of her own child. Under the emperors, the punishment was exile or condemnation to the mines.

The Scythians.

Of medicine as practised amongst the Scythians, little is known.

Herodotus says430 that when the king of the Scythians was sick he sent for three soothsayers, who proceeded to discover by divination the cause of his majesty’s malady. The prophets generally said that such or such a citizen had sworn falsely by the royal hearth, mentioning the name of the citizen against whom they brought the charge. The accused, having been arrested, was charged with causing the king’s illness. When he denied it, the king sent for twice as many more prophets; if these confirmed the charge, the offender was promptly executed; if they failed to do so, the first prophets were put to death. Abaris, the Hyperborean priest of Apollo, cured diseases by incantations, and delivered the world from a plague, according to Suidas. Anarcharsis, the Scythian philosopher, flourished 592 B.C.; if he knew anything of medicine, as has been said, he was probably acquainted with such knowledge of the art as was possessed by the Greeks.


The ancient physicians seemed to have had no idea of the necessity for observing any order in their interpretation of diseases; even in the middle ages, says Sprengel,431 they merely followed the position of the parts of the body, “passing from the head to the chest, from the thorax to the abdomen, and from the belly to the extremities.”

In that branch of modern medical science which treats of the classification of diseases, and which is termed Nosology, a systematic arrangement is followed, and the prominent symptoms are taken as the basis of that classification.

Greek Medical Literature.

The following is Dr. Greenhill’s probably complete list of the ancient treatises on Therapeutics now extant.432

Hippocrates: Seven Books (see p. 178 of this work). Aretæus, Περὶ Θεραπείας Ὀξέων καὶ Χρονίων Παθῶν, De Curatione Acutorum et Diuturnorum Morborum, in four books. Galen, Τέχνη Ἰατρική, Ars Medica; Id. Θεραπευτικὴ Μέθοδος, Methodus Medendi; Id. Τὰ πρὸς Γλαύκωνα Θεραπευτικά, Ad Glauconem de Medendi Methodo; Id. Περὶ Φλεβοτομίας πρὸς Ἐρασίστρατον, De Venæsectione adversus Erasistratum; Id. Περὶ Φλεβοτομίας πρὸς Ἐρασιστρατείους τοὺς ἐν Ῥώμη, De Venæsectione adversus Erasistrateos Romæ Degentes; Id. Περὶ Φλεβοτομίας Θεραπευτικὸυ Βιβλίον, De Curandi Ratione per Venæsectionem; Id. Περὶ Βδελλῶν, Ἀντισπασέως, Σικύας, καὶ Ἐγχαράξεως, καὶ Καταχασμοῦ, De Hirudinibus, Revulsione, Cucurbitula, Incisione, et Scarificatione. Alexander Aphrodisiensis, Περὶ Πυρετῶν, De Febribus. Great part of the Σύναγωγαὶ Ἰατρικαί, Collecta Medicinalia, of Oribasius, and also of his Σύνοψις, Synopsis ad Eustathium, treat of this subject. Palladius, Περὶ Πυρετῶν Σύντομος Σύνοψις, De Febribus Concisa Synopsis. Ætius, Βιβλία Ἰατρικὰ Ἐκκαίδεκα, Libri Medicinales Sedecim. Alexander Trallianus, Βιβλία Ἰατρικὰ Δυοκαίδεκα, Libri de Re Medica Duodecim. Paulus Ægineta, Ἐπιτομῆς Ἰατρικῆς Βιβλία Ἕπτα, Compendii Medici Libri Septem, of which great part relates to this subject. Theophanes Nonnus, Ἐπιτομὴ τῆς Ἰατρικῆς Ἀπάσης Τέχνης, Compendium Totius Artis Mediciæ. Synesius, Περὶ Πυρετῶν, De Febribus. Joannes Actuarius, Methodus Medendi. Demetrius Pepagomenus, Περὶ Ποδάγρας, De Podagra. Celsus, De Medicina, in eight books. Cælius Aurelianus, Celerum Passionum, Libri iii. Id. Tardarum Passionum, Libri v. Serenus Samonicus, De Medicina Præcepta Saluberrima, a poem on the art of Healing. Theodorus Priscianus, Rerum Medicarum, Libri iv.


Fig. 1.
Representation of the mode of reducing dislocation of the thigh outwards, as given by M. Littré.
Fig. 2.
Representation of the ancient mode of performing succussion, as given by Vidus Vidius in the Venetian edition of Galen’s works (Cl. vi., p. 271).

[Face p. 204.



Disease-Goddesses.—School of the Methodists.—Rufus and Marinus.—Pliny.—Celsus.

How medical instruction was first given to the Romans cannot be ascertained with certainty; the want of it must have frequently been forced upon the attention of the authorities. It was the practice of the soldiers to dress each other’s wounds; they carried bandages with them for this purpose; but their surgery must have been very indifferent, for Livy tells us that, after the battle of Sutrium (B.C. 309), more soldiers were lost by dying of their wounds than were killed by the enemy.

As the Etruscans were famous for their knowledge of philosophy and medicine, the Romans probably acquired something of these sciences from this ancient people; but that they were more apt at learning their superstitions than their arts of healing, we have proof enough. Whether the Romans were more indebted to the Etruscans or to the Sabine people for their religion is a question which has been discussed. It would seem that Numa Pompilius, the legendary king of Rome, was of Sabine origin, and that he possessed some acquaintance with physical science and philosophy. He dissuaded the Romans from idolatry. Livy’s account of his experiments, in consequence of which he was struck by lightning, has been considered by some writers as evidence that he was acquainted with electricity.433

How intellectually inferior the ancient Romans were in comparison with the Greeks, may be learned from the fact that Pliny tells us that “The Roman people for more than 600 years were not, indeed, without medical art, but they were without physicians.” Such mental culture as the Romans possessed was imported from Greece, and until the Greeks instructed them in medicine they possessed nothing but a theurgic system of treating disease by prayers, charms, prescriptions from the Sibylline books, and the rude surgery and domestic medicine of the barbarians. Guilty of degrading superstitions unknown to the Greeks, the list of their gods and goddesses of disease reads like the accounts206 of the healing art from some savage nation. Fever and stench were worshipped as the goddesses Febris and Mephitis; Fessonia helped the weary, says St. Augustine,434 and “sweet Cloacina” was invoked when the drains were out of order.435

The itch patients invoked the goddess Scabies and the plague-stricken the goddess Angeronia; women sought the aid of Fluonia and Uterina, and Ossipaga was goddess of the navel and bones of children. There were many goddesses of midwifery; Carna presided over the abdominal viscera, and sacrifices of beans and bacon were offered to her. St. Augustine pours his satire and contempt on the women’s goddesses in the eleventh chapter of the book from which we have quoted. The Romans were cosmopolitan in the way of divinities; Isis and Serapis were imported from Egypt, the Cabiri from the Phœnicians, and the worship of Æsculapius was commenced by the Romans, B.C. 294.436

Certain facts in the history of the Romans prove that there was a profession of medicine in Rome even in very early times. Plutarch, in his Life of Cato the Censor, speaks of a Roman ambassador who was sent to the king of Bithynia, and who had his skull trepanned. By the Lex Aquilia a doctor who neglected a slave after an operation was responsible if he died in consequence, and in the Twelve Tables of Numa mention is made of dental operations.

A college of Æsculapius and of Health was established in Rome 154 B.C. An inscription has been discovered in the excavations of the Palatine which has preserved the memorial of its foundation.437 The medical profession of ancient Rome was quite free, and such instruction as its followers considered it necessary to acquire could be obtained how and where they chose. There was no uniform system of education; the training was private in early times, and was imparted by such physicians as cared to take pupils for a certain specified honorarium. It was not till later times that the Archiatri in their colleges, which were somewhat on the model of the mediæval guilds, took pupils for instruction in medicine and surgery. Pure medical schools did not exist amongst the Romans.438 Pliny complained439 “that people believed in any one who gave himself out for a doctor, even if the falsehood directly entailed the greatest danger.”207 “Unfortunately there is no law which punishes doctors for ignorance, and no one takes revenge on a doctor if, through his fault, some one dies. It is permitted him by our danger to learn for the future, at our death to make experiments, and, without having to fear punishment, to set at naught the life of a human being.”

Cato hated physicians, partly because they were mostly Greeks, and, partly because he was himself an outrageous quack, who thought himself equal to a whole college of physicians. Plutarch tells us440 that he had heard of the answer which Hippocrates gave the king of Persia, when he sent for him and offered him a reward of many talents: “I will never make use of my art in favour of barbarians who are enemies of the Greeks.” He affected to believe that all Greek physicians took a similar oath, and therefore advised his son to have nothing to do with them. But there is no doubt his objection to the faculty arose from the fact that he had “himself written a little treatise in which he had set down his method of cure.” Cato’s guide to domestic medicine was good enough for the Roman people; what did they want with Greek physicians? His system of diet, according to Plutarch, was peculiar for sick persons; he did not approve of fasting, he permitted his patients to eat ducks, geese, pigeons, hares, etc., because they are a light diet suitable for sick people. Plutarch adds, that he was not in his own household a very successful practitioner, as he lost his wife and son. Pliny441 tells us all about Cato’s book of recipes, which the Roman father of a family consulted when any of his family or domestic animals were ill. The family doctor of those days was the father or the master of the household, and no doubt Cato was a very generous, if not a very skilful practitioner. Seneca sums up the healing art of the time thus: “Medicina quondam paucarum fuit scientia herbarum quibus sisteretur fluens sanguis, vulnera coirent.”442

Cato attempted to cure dislocations by magic songs (carmina): “Huat, hanat, ista, pista sista damniato damnaustra,” or nonsense simply. What his success in the treatment of luxations on this principle we are not informed. The practice of medicine and surgery before the time of Cæsar was not an honourable one in Rome. This may possibly have arisen from the fact that the only professors of the art were Greeks, who for the most part left their country for their country’s good and went to Rome merely to make money, honestly if possible—perhaps—but at all events to make it. Rome offered greater facilities for doing this than their native land, and the process was doubtless very similar to that with which our own colonies and the United States of America have in the past been only too familiar.443

During the severe epidemics which often raged in ancient Rome the oracles were consulted as to the means to be adopted to be rid of208 them; prayers were offered up to the Greek gods of healing as well as those of the state. But Greece had done more for the art of healing by her physicians than her gods could do, and in process of time the Romans found this out, and the native doctors were compelled to yield before the advance of Greek science. The works of the Greek physicians and surgeons, who had done so much for medical knowledge and advancement, gradually made their way amongst the Romans. These paved the way for Hellenic influence, in spite of the disreputable behaviour of some of the professors of the art of medicine, on whom the Romans with good excuse looked as quacks and foreigners whose only object was gain. We read of the erection at Rome of a temple in honour of Apollo the healer, 467 B.C., and of the building of a temple to Æsculapius of Epidaurus, 460 B.C. Ten years later the Romans built a temple to the goddess Salus when the pestilence raged in their city. Lucina was first worshipped there 400 B.C. In 399 B.C. the first lectisternium, a festival of Greek origin, was held in Rome by order of the Sybilline books; it was held on exceptional occasions, the present being a time of fresh public distress on account of a pestilence which was raging. The images of the gods were laid on a couch; a table spread with a meal was placed before them, and solemn prayers and sacrifices were offered. A third lectisternium was held at Rome 362 B.C. That he might obtain a cessation of the pestilence then raging in Rome, L. Manlius Imperiorus fixed a nail in the temple of Jupiter, B.C. 360. This holding of lectisternes and driving nails in the temple walls became the recognised method of dealing with such scourges, and painfully exhibits the powerlessness of mankind to deal with disease by theurgic means. Science alone can combat disease, the bed and board offered to the gods who cannot use them are now bestowed on health officers who can; we no longer drive nails in temple walls to remind deities that we are in trouble, but we send memorials to our colleges of physicians demanding suggestions for escaping a visitation of cholera; it is not sufficient to fix “a nail in a sure place,” it must be fixed in the right one. In the year 291 B.C., on the occasion of a pestilence in Rome, ten ambassadors were sent to Epidaurus to seek aid from the temple of Æsculapius. The god was sent to the afflicted city under the figure of a serpent. He comes to our towns now under the figure of a cask of carbolic acid.

Archagathus was the first person who regularly practised medicine in Rome. He was a Peloponnesian who settled in the city B.C. 219, and was welcomed with great respect by the authorities, who purchased a surgery or shop for him at the public expense, and gave him the209 “Jus Quiritium.”

As he treated his patients chiefly with the knife and powerful caustics, his severe remedies gave great offence to the people and brought the profession of surgery into contempt. He was called a “butcher,” and had to leave the city.444

Alexander Severus (225-235 A.D.) was the first who established public lecture rooms for teachers of medicine and granted stipends to them. In return they were compelled to teach poor state-supported students gratuitously. Constantine demanded like services from the doctors in return for certain immunities.445

There was no regular curriculum, nor period of studentship; everything depended upon the ability and industry of the individual pupil. Clinical instruction was given by the teachers, as Martial tells in a satirical verse:—

“Faint was I only, Symmachus, till thou,
Backed by an hundred students, throng’dst my bed;
An hundred icy fingers chilled my brow:
I had no fever; now I’m nearly dead!”

(Dr. Handerson’s Trans.)

Anatomy had been pretty thoroughly taught in the Roman Empire. Rufus of Ephesus, who lived probably in the reign of Trajan, A.D. 98-117, was a very famous anatomist. He considered the spleen to be absolutely useless: a belief which lasted to quite modern times. The nerves we call recurrent were probably then only recently discovered. He proved that the nerves proceed from the brain, and divided them into those of sensation and those of motion. He considered the heart to be the seat of life, and remarked that the left ventricle is smaller and thicker than the right. He discovered the crossing (decussation) of the optic nerves, and made several important researches in the anatomy of the eye. He wrote on diseases of the mind, and discussed medicines in poetry.

Marinus, a celebrated physician and anatomist, lived in the first or second century of our era. He wrote many anatomical treatises, which Galen greatly praised, and he commented upon Hippocrates. He knew the seven cranial nerves, and discovered the inferior laryngeal nerve and the glands of the intestines.

Quintus, Galen’s tutor, was one of his pupils. Lycus was a pupil of Quintus, who wrote anatomical books of some reputation. Pelops was also one of Galen’s earliest tutors, and was a famous anatomist and physician at Smyrna. Æschryon, a native of Pergamos was another of Galen’s tutors, and had a great knowledge of pharmacy and materia medica. He was the father of all those who invent superstitious210 remedies for the bite of a mad dog by means of cruelty. For this he directs crawfish to be caught at a time when the sun and moon were in a particular position, and to be baked alive. A worthy combination, it will be perceived, of superstition, astrology, and purposeless cruelty.

Although anybody might practise medicine in Rome without let or hindrance, the Lex Cornelia ordered the arrest of the doctor if the patient died through his negligence (88 B.C.).

There was a public sanitary service and other Government employments which demanded properly instructed doctors in ancient Rome, and the practice of specialism in the treatment of disease was carried to even greater lengths than at present. Martial satirises this.446

In the time of Strabo and in that of Trajan there were public medical officers in Gaul, Asia Minor, and in Latium. In Rome there were district medical officers for every part of the city. They were permitted to engage in private practice, but were compelled to attend the poor gratuitously. Their salary, according to Puschmann,447 was paid chiefly in articles of natural produce.

The archiatri populares were the district physicians. The court physicians were called archiatri palatini. The archiatri municipales were municipal physicians. Their guild was the Collegium Archiatrorum, which in constitution was not unlike our Royal College of Physicians.

Different societies employed doctors; the theatres, gladiators, and the circus retained surgeons.

The art of ophthalmic surgery first became a separate branch of the medical profession in the city of Alexandria. Celsus states that Philoxenus, who lived two hundred and seventy years before Christ, was the most celebrated of the Alexandrian oculists.448

Oculists were a numerous but ignorant class of practitioners in ancient Rome; their treatment was almost always by salves, each eye-doctor having his own specialty. Nearly two hundred seals with the proprietors’ names have been discovered which have been attached to the pots containing the ointments. Galen speaks contemptuously of the science of the eye-doctors of his time. Martial satirises them. “Now you are a gladiator who once were an ophthalmist; you did as a doctor what you do as a gladiator.” In another epigram he says, “The blear-eyed Hylas would have paid you sixpence, O Quintus; one eye is gone, he will still pay threepence; make haste and take it, brief is your chance, when he is blind he will pay you nothing.” Under Nero, Demosthenes Philalethes, the famous doctor of211 Marseilles, was a celebrated oculist, whose work on eye diseases was the chief authority on the subject until about A.D. 1000. Paulus Ægineta, in his treatise on Ophthalmology, recommends crocodile’s dung in opacity of the cornea, and bed-bugs’ and frogs’ blood in trichiasis; yet with all this absurdity he distinguished between cataract and amaurosis.

The ophthalmological literature of the Greeks and Romans has for the most part perished. Puschmann says that this branch of surgery must have been able to show remarkable results. “Not only trichiasis, hypopyon, leucoma, lachrymal fistula, and other affections of the external parts of the eye were subjected to operative treatment, but even cataract itself.”449

Although the surgeons of the time were ignorant of the true nature of some of the diseases which they treated, they could cure them. Cataract was treated by “couching,” or depressing the diseased lens by means of a needle, in order to extract it.450

A patient would sometimes require a consultation, when several doctors would meet and discuss his case, with much difference of opinion more or less violently expressed. Regardless of the sufferings of the patient, they wrangled over his symptoms, and behaved as if they were engaged in a pugilistic encounter, each man far more anxious to exhibit his parts and display his dialectical skill than to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate client. Pliny, Galen, and Theodorus Priscianus have left realistic descriptions of these medical encounters.

With respect to the professional income of the early Roman physicians, Pliny says451 that Albutius, Arruntius, Calpetanus, Cassius, and Rubrius gained 250,000 sesterces per annum, equal to £1,953 2s. 6d.; that Quintus Stertinius made it a favour that he was content to receive from the emperor 500,000 sesterces per annum, or £3,906 5s., as he might have made 600,000 sesterces, or £4,687 10s., by his private practice. He and his brother, also an Imperial physician, left between them at their death the sum of thirty millions of sesterces, or £234,375, notwithstanding the large sums they had spent on beautifying Naples.452 Galen’s fee for curing the wife of the consul Boethus, after a long illness, was about equal to £400 of our money.

Manlius Cornutus, according to Pliny, paid his doctor a sum amounting to £2,000 for curing him of a skin disease; and the doctors Crinas and Alcon, according to the same authority, were immensely rich men. But these were all exceptional cases, and there is no reason to suppose212 that Roman doctors made on the average more than sufficient to keep them decently.453

School of the Methodists.

Asclepiades, of Prusa, in Bithynia, was a physician of great celebrity and influence, who flourished at Rome in the beginning of the first century B.C. He passed his earlier years at Alexandria, then went to Athens, where he studied rhetoric and medicine. He is said to have travelled much. He ultimately settled at Rome as a rhetorician. He was the friend of Cicero. Being unsuccessful as a teacher of rhetoric, he devoted himself to medicine. He was a man of great natural ability, but he was quite ignorant of anatomy and physiology; so he decried the labours of those who studied these sciences, and violently attacked Hippocrates. His conduct was that of an early Paracelsus. He had many pupils, and the school they founded was afterwards called that of the Methodists. His system was original, though it owed somewhat to the Epicurean philosophy. He conceived the idea that disease arose in the atoms and corpuscles composing the body, by a want of harmony in their motion. Harmony was health; discord, disease. Naturally his treatment was as pleasant as that of the most fashionable modern physician. He paid great attention to diet, passive motions, frictions after the method now called massage, and the use of cold sponging. He entirely rejected the humoral pathology of Hippocrates, and totally denied his doctrine of crises, declared that the physician alone cures, nature merely supplying the opportunities. His famous motto was that the physician should cure “tuto, celeriter, ac jucunde.” In the beginning of fevers he refused his patients permission even to rinse the mouth. He originated the method of cyclical cures by adopting certain methods of treatment at definite periods. He first applied the term “phrenitis” in the sense of mental disturbance. In drugs he was a sceptic, but he allowed a liberal use of wine. He was said to have experimented in physiology, though he knew nothing of it. Tertullian ridicules him thus: “Asclepiades may investigate goats, which bleat without a heart, and drive away flies, which fly without a head.”

Asclepiades must have been a great deal more than a charlatan, for many of his fundamental ideas have persisted even to the present time. He was the first to distinguish diseases into acute and chronic.454 Acute diseases he supposed to depend “upon a constriction of the pores, or an obstruction of them by a superfluity of atoms; the chronic upon a relaxation of the pores, or a deficiency of the atoms.” Asclepiades was213 the inventor of many new methods in surgery and medicine. Amongst these was bronchotomy for the relief of suffocation.455 He practised tracheotomy in angina, and scarification of the ankles in dropsy, and recommended tapping with the smallest possible wound. He also observed spontaneous dislocation of the hip joint.456 Such things do not emanate from mere quacks.

It may be remarked that there were many physicians of the name of Asclepiades. It was a way they had of assuming a connection with the famous medical family of that name.

The disciples of Asclepiades were called Asclepiadists. A few of them became celebrities in their day.

Philonides of Dyrrachium lived in the first century, and wrote some forty-five works on medicine.

Antonius Musa lived at the beginning of the Christian era, and was a freedman and physician to the Emperor Augustus. When his Imperial patient was seriously ill and had been made worse by a hot regimen and treatment, Antonius cured him with cold bathing and cooling drinks. Augustus rewarded him with a royal fee and permission to wear a gold ring, and a statue was erected to him near that of Æsculapius by public subscription. He wrote several works on pharmacy. He was also physician to Horace.

Musa introduced into medicine the use of adder’s flesh in the treatment of malignant ulcers; he discovered some of the properties of lettuce, chicory, and endive. Many of his medicines continued in use for ages. For colds he used the over-potent remedies henbane, hemlock, and opium. He was also celebrated for various antidotes which he discovered.457

His brother, named Euphorbius, was a physician also, and gave his name to a genus of plants, the Euphorbiaceæ (Plin., lib. xxv., c. 7).

Themison of Laodicea (B.C. 50) was the founder of the school known as the Methodical. This was a rival to that of the Hippocratic system, which had hitherto been the dominant one. Themison was the most important pupil of Asclepiades. He wrote on chronic diseases, and was the first to describe elephantiasis in a treatise. He would have written upon hydrophobia, but having in his youth once seen a case, it so frightened him that he was attacked with some of the symptoms, and dreaded a relapse if he set himself to write about it.458 He invented several famous remedies, such as diacodium, a preparation of poppies, and diagrydium, a purgative of scammony. Asclepiades had his “atoms,” Themison had his “pores.” You cannot214 found a medical system without flying a particular flag. Themison’s “flag” was the “status strictus,” or “laxus” of the pores; that is to say, disease is either a condition of increased or diminished tension. He was the first who described rheumatism, and probably the first European physician who used leeches.459

He is said to have been attacked with hydrophobia, and to have recovered. Juvenal satirised him (probably) in the lines—

“How many patients Themison dispatched
In one short autumn!”460

Themison’s principles differed from those of his master in many respects, and besides rectifying his errors he introduced a greater precision into his system.461

He chose a middle way between the doctrines of the Dogmatists and Empirics. Writing of the Methodists, Celsus says: “They assert that the knowledge of no cause whatever bears the least relation to the method of cure; and that it is sufficient to observe some general symptoms of distempers; and that there are three kinds of diseases, one bound, another loose, and the third a mixture of these.”462 Sometimes the excretions of the sick are too small, sometimes too large; one particular excretion may be in excess, another deficient; the observation of these things constitutes the art of medicine, which they defined as a certain way of proceeding, which the Greeks called Method. They deduced indications of treatment from analogies in symptoms, and made a bold classification of diseases; accurate as a rule in their diagnosis, they were usually successful and rational in their therapeutics. They entirely ignored any consideration of the remote causes of diseases; their only object was to cure their patients without speculating as to the reasons why they had become sick. They repudiated the Vis medicatrix theory.

Eudemus (B.C. 15) was a disciple of Themison. Cælius Aurelianus says of him that in his practice he used to order clysters of cold water for patients suffering from the iliac passion. It is probable that he was the friend and physician of Livilla, and the man who poisoned her husband Drusus. Tacitus speaks of him, saying that he made a great parade of many secret remedies, with a view to extol his own abilities as a doctor. It is possible, however, that this may not have been the same Eudemus as the disciple of Themison the Methodist, as there were several other physicians of that name. Our Eudemus made many215 observations on hydrophobia, and remarked how rarely any sufferer recovered who was attacked by it. He was put to death by order of Tiberius.

Meges, of Sidon (B.C. 20), was a famous surgeon, and a follower of Themison. He invented instruments used in cutting for the stone. He made observations on tumours of the breast and forward dislocations of the knee. He was regarded by Celsus as the most skilful of those who exercised the art of surgery.

Vectius Vallens (circ. A.D. 37) was a pupil of Apuleius Celsus, and was well known for his connection with Messalina, the wife of Claudius. He belonged to Themison’s sect, and is introduced by Pliny in fact as the author of an improvement upon it. It was the practice of all the adherents of the Methodist school of medicine to pretend that by the changes they had introduced into the system they had originated a new one.463

Scribonius Largus (A.D. 45) is said to have been physician to Claudius, and to have accompanied him to Britain. He wrote several medical works in Latin. He was the first to prescribe the electricity of the electric ray in cases of headache.464

A. Cornelius Celsus, who flourished between B.C. 50 and A.D. 7, was a celebrated patrician Roman writer on medicine, and an encyclopædic compiler of a very high order. It is disputed whether he was or was not a physician in actual practice; probably he was not. He practised certainly, but on his friends and servants, and not professionally. The medical practice of the period was for the most part in the hands of the Greeks. We owe little to the Romans that was original or important in connection with the healing art, yet in Celsus we have an elegant and accomplished historian of the medical art as it was practised in ancient Rome; he wrote not so much for doctors as for the instruction of the world at large. His works were not studied by medical men, at any rate, as anything more than mere literature. No medical writer of the old world quotes Celsus. Pliny merely refers to him as an author. Very probably he merely compiled his treatises, of which the most celebrated is his De Medicina, in the introductions to the 4th and 8th books of which there is evidence of his considerable knowledge of anatomy. He seems to have understood the anatomy of the chest and the situation of the greater viscera especially well, though of course in this respect falling far short of our present knowledge of the science, and not in every case fully up to that of the Greeks. His knowledge of surgery was considerable, especially that of the pelvic organs of the216 female. In osteology, or the science of the bones, he excelled. He accurately describes the bones of the skull, their sutures, and the teeth. His descriptions of the vertebræ and ribs, the bones of the pelvis and the upper and lower extremities, are accurate and careful. He understood the articulations, and is careful to emphasize the fact that cartilage is always found in their formation. He must have been acquainted with the perforated plate of the ethmoid bone, as he speaks of the many minute holes in the recess of the nasal cavities, and it is even inferred by Portal that he knew the semicircular canals.465

The 7th and 8th books of the De re Medicina relate entirely to surgery; this is of course Greek, which in its turn was probably of Egyptian and Indian origin. He describes operations such as we now call “plastic,” for restoring lost or defective portions of the nose, lips, and ears. These are constantly claimed as triumphs of modern surgery, and have been asserted to have been successful as the result of information derived from experiments on living animals. His description of lithotomy is that which was anciently practised in Alexandria, and was doubtless derived from India. Trephining the skull is described, and this again is proved not to have been invented in modern times, as some have thought. Even subcutaneous urethrotomy was a practice followed in the time of Celsus. We have also the first detailed description of the amputation of an extremity. Many ophthalmic operations are described according to the methods followed by the eye specialists of Alexandria.466

In his eight books on medicine the first four deal with internal complaints, such as usually yield to careful dieting. The fifth and sixth are concerned with external disorders, and contain many prescriptions for their treatment. The seventh and eighth, as we have seen, are exclusively surgical. Celsus followed principally Hippocrates and Asclepiades as his authorities. He transfers many passages from the Father of Medicine word for word. His favourite author was Asclepiades, and it is for that reason that he is held to be of the Methodical school of medicine. He was no believer in the mysterious numbers of the Pythagorean, and was evidently quite free from slavish devotion, even to his great authorities in medicine.

He recommends that dislocations should be reduced before inflammation sets in. When fractures fail to unite, he recommends extension and rubbing together of the ends of the bone. He goes so far as to advise cutting down to the bone, and letting the fracture and wound heal together. He cautions against the use of purgatives in strangu217lated hernia, and gives directions for extracting foreign bodies from the ears.

Had it not been for the works of Celsus, many operations of ancient surgery would have remained to us undescribed. He writes at length on bleeding, and describes the double ligation (or tying) of bleeding vessels, and the division of the vessels between the ligatures: an operation which the defenders of experiments on animals claim to have been discovered by vivisection. His method of amputation in gangrene by a single circular cut was followed down to the seventeenth century. He describes the process of catheterization, operations for goitre (or Derbyshire neck), the resection of the ribs, the use of enemas, and artificial feeding by them, an operation for cataract, ear diseases which are curable by the use of the ear syringe, extraction of teeth by forceps, fastening loose teeth by means of gold wire, and bursting hollow teeth by peppercorns pressed into them. He describes many of the most difficult subjects of operative midwifery, and discriminates in various mental diseases. Sleep must be induced, he says, in cases of insanity, by narcotics, if it is absent. He treats eye diseases with mild lotions and salves, and is the first writer to distinguish hallucinations of vision. He copies from Asclepiades his valuable rules of diet and simple methods of treatment, and from Hippocrates his methods of recognising the signs of diseases and their prognosis.

(I am indebted to the great work of Dr. Hermann Baas467 for much of the above digest of the writings of Celsus.)

At the time when Celsus described the practice of medicine in Europe, bleeding was practised more freely than was the custom in the days of the great Greek physicians. The Romans went far beyond these. “It is not,” said Celsus, “a new thing to let blood from the veins, but it is new that there is scarcely any malady in which blood is not drawn. Formerly they bled young men, and women who were not pregnant, but it had not been seen till our days that children, pregnant women, and old men were bled.” And it would seem that already doctors had begun to bleed in almost every case, in every time of life, with or without reason, the unfortunate people who were under their care. They bled for high fever, when the body was flushed and the veins too full of blood; and they bled in cachexia and anæmia, when they had not enough blood, but were full of “ill humours.” They bled in pleurisy and pneumonia, and they bled in paralysis, and cases where there was severe pain.

Celsus has given us a good description of the qualities which a surgeon ought to possess: he should be young, or at any rate not very old; his218 hand should be firm and steady, and never shake; he should be able to use his left hand with as much dexterity as his right; his sight should be acute and clear; his mind intrepid and pitiless, so that when he is engaged in doing anything to a patient, he may not hurry, nor cut less than he ought, but finish the operation just as if the cries of the patient made no impression upon him.468

Celsus said,469 “It is both cruel and superfluous to dissect the bodies of the living, but to dissect those of the dead is necessary for learners, for they ought to know the position and order, which dead bodies show better than a living and wounded man. But even the other things, which can only be observed in the living, practice itself will show in the cures of the wounded, a little more slowly, but somewhat more tenderly.”

He wrote on history, philosophy, oratory, and jurisprudence, and this in the most admirable style.

Thessalus of Tralles (A.D. 60) was the talented son of a weaver, who became a “natural” doctor. He was an utterly ignorant, bragging charlatan, with great natural ability. Had Paracelsus received no education, he might have practised medicine as a second Thessalus of Tralles. He scorned science as much as Paracelsus loved it, but like him he abused in the most violent manner all the physicians of antiquity. He called them all bunglers, and himself the “Conqueror of Physicians” (ἰατροίκης). He declared to Nero that his predecessors had contributed nothing to the progress of the science. He flattered the great and wealthy, and vaunted his ability to teach anybody the healing art in six months. He surrounded himself with a great crowd of disciples—rope-makers, cooks, butchers, weavers, tanners, artisans of all sorts. All these he permitted to practise on his patients, and to kill them with impunity. Since his time, says Sprengel, the Roman physicians gave up the custom of visiting their patients when accompanied by their pupils.470 He used colchicum in the treatment of gout.

Philumenus (about A.D. 80) was a famous writer on obstetrics, and described the appropriate treatment for the various kinds of diarrhœa.

Andromachus the Elder (A.D. 60) of Crete was the inventor of a famous cure-all called Theriaca. It was compounded of some sixty drugs. He was physician to Nero, and his two works περὶ συνθεσέως φαρμάκων were greatly praised by Galen.

Soranus of Ephesus, the son of Menandrus, was educated at Alexandria. He practised at Rome in the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. He was one of the most eminent physicians of the Methodi219cal school, and was mentioned with praise by Tertullian and St. Augustine. He wrote the only complete treatise on the diseases of women which antiquity has given to us. We find from this work that a valuable instrument used in gynæcology, and thought by many to be of modern invention—the speculum—was mentioned by Soranus as used by him. Amongst the articles used by surgeons which have been recovered from the ruins of Pompeii, these instruments have been discovered, showing that they were in regular use in ancient times. He seems to have had a complete knowledge of human anatomy, for he describes the uterus in such a manner as to show that his knowledge was acquired by dissecting the human body, and not merely from that of animals. He explained the changes induced by pregnancy, and spoke of the sympathy existing between the uterus and the breasts, which is so important for the physician to know. He must have had a greater knowledge of the scourge of leprosy than his contemporaries.

Soranus, in his work on gynæcology, advises that midwives should be temperate, trustworthy, not avaricious, superstitious, or liable to be induced to procure abortion for the sake of gain. They were to be instructed in dietetics, materia medica, and minor surgical manipulations. Soranus did not think it was requisite for them to know much about the anatomy of the pelvic organs, but they were to be able to undertake the operation of turning in faulty presentations. Only when all attempts to deliver a living child had failed was embryotomy to be performed. Juvenal and other writers intimate that these accomplished accoucheuses often developed into regular doctresses. In difficult cases they called in the assistance of physicians or surgeons.

Julian (A.D. 140) was the pupil of Apollinides of Cyprus. He was at Alexandria when Galen studied there. He wrote an introduction to the study of medicine, and opposed the principles of Hippocrates. Like the greater number of the Methodists he was ill-read, and Galen blamed him for having neglected the humoral pathology.471

Cælius Aurelianus was a celebrated Latin physician, who is supposed to have lived in Rome about the first or second century. Very little is known about him, but the fact that he belonged to the Methodical school, and showed great skill in the art of diagnosis.

He wrote treatises on acute and chronic diseases, and a dialogue on the science of medicine. Next to Celsus, he is considered the greatest writer of his school. His works are based entirely on the Greek of Soranus.

He was a popular writer, as is proved by the fact that in the sixth century his works were text-books on medicine in the Benedictine220 monasteries. He has well described gout and hydrophobia, and, according to Baas, was the inventor of condensed milk (!). Even auscultation is hinted at in his works, and he recommends the air of pine forests in chest diseases. His suggestions for the treatment of nervous and insane patients were far in advance of his age, as he disapproves of restraint.472

Greek and Roman Pharmacy.

It is very difficult to decide with certainty what the ancients actually intended by the names they gave their medicines. Exact as Hippocrates and Galen usually are in their terminology, we are often at a loss to know precisely what was the nature of the remedies they employed. Alum, for example, as we understand it, is a very different thing from the alum of the ancients. What the Greeks and Romans called alumen and στυπτηρία, says Beckmann, was vitriol, or rather a kind of vitriolic earth. They were very deficient in the knowledge of saline substances. Hemlock, which is called also Conium, Κώνειον, or Cicuta, was probably not the poison employed at Athenian executions. Pliny says that the word Cicuta did not indicate any particular species of plant, but was used for vegetable poisons in general. Dr. Mead473 considers that the Athenian poison was a combination of deadly drugs; it killed without pain, and probably opium was combined with the hemlock.474 Hellebore was of two kinds, white and black, or Veratrum album and Helleborus niger respectively. Galen says we are always to understand veratrum when the word Ἑλλέβορος is used alone. White hellebore was used by the Greeks, says Stillé,475 in the treatment of chronic diseases, especially melancholy, insanity, dropsy, skin diseases, gout, tetanus, hydrophobia, tic doloureux, etc. It was mixed with other drugs to moderate the violence of its action. It fell into disuse, and is now hardly ever employed internally. It is an exceedingly dangerous drug, and was doubtless used on the “kill or cure” principle. Black hellebore was given as a purgative. Healthy people took the white variety to clear and sharpen their faculties. It fell into disuse about the fifth century after Christ. A very celebrated medicine in popular use even in modern times was Theriaca. Galen says that the term was properly applied to such medicines as would cure the bite of wild beasts (θηρίων), as those which were antidotes to other poisons (τοῖς δηλητηρίυις) were properly called ἀλεξιφάρμακα.476


Andromachus, physician to the emperor Nero, invented the most celebrated of these preparations; it was known as the Theriaca Andromachi, and was very similar to that of Mithridates, king of Pontus, the recipe for which was said to have been found amongst his papers after his death by Pompey. This was known to the Roman physicians under the name of Antidotum Mithridatium. The composition of this medicine was varied greatly in the hands of its different preparers, and it underwent considerable alterations from age to age. Celsus first described it, with its thirty-six ingredients; then Andromachus added to it the flesh of vipers, and increased the number of ingredients to seventy-five. He described the whole process of manufacture in a Greek poem, which has been handed down to us by Galen. Damocrates varied some of the proportions of the compound, and wrote another poem upon it, also preserved by Galen.

The medicines prescribed by the Greek and Roman physicians were all prepared by themselves. At that time materia medica consisted chiefly of herbs; some of these plants were used not only for medicinal, but also for culinary purposes, and were collected by other than practitioners of medicine. Many plants were used also for cosmetic purposes and in the baths, so that there must have been numerous collectors and dealers in herbs. Just as in our time dispensing chemists and others have acquired a certain knowledge of the medicinal virtues of the things they sell, so the pigmentarii, seplasiarii, pharmacopolæ, and medicamentarii possessed themselves of medical secrets, and thus invaded the territory of the doctors.

Beckmann says477 that the pigmentarii dealt in medicines, and sometimes sold poison by mistake.

The seplasiarii sold veterinary medicines and compounded drugs for physicians.478

The pharmacopolæ, according to Beckmann, were an ignorant and boasting class of drug-sellers. The medicamentarii seem to have been a still more worthless class, for in the Theodosian code poisoners are called medicamentarii.

A great number of the medical plants mentioned by Pliny, Dioscorides, and other writers on materia medica were used for quite other purposes than those for which we employ them now. Some drugs, however, were apparently given on what we must admit to be correct scientific principles. Thus Melampus of Argos, one of the oldest Greek physicians of whom we have any knowledge, is said to have cured Iphiclus of sterility by administering rust of iron in wine for ten days.


He gave black hellebore as a purgative to the daughters of Proetus when they were afflicted with melancholy. Preparations of the poppy were known to have a narcotic influence, and the uses of prussic acid—in the form of cherry laurel water—stramonium, and lettuce-opium were well understood. Squill was employed as a diuretic in dropsy by the Egyptians.

The following list from the article on “Pharmaceutica” in Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities contains probably the titles of all the ancient treatises on drugs that are extant: “1. Περὶ Φαρμάκων, De Remediis Purgantibus; 2. Περὶ Ἑλλεβορισμοῦ, De Veratri Usu (these two works are found among the collection that goes under the name of Hippocrates, but are both spurious); 3. Dioscorides, Περὶ Ὕλης Ἰατρικῆς, De Materia Medica, in five books (one of the most valuable and celebrated medical treatises of antiquity); 4. id. Περὶ Εὐπορίστων, Ἁπλῶν τε καὶ Συνθέτων, Φαρμάκων, De Facile Parabilibus, tam Simplicibus quam Compositis, Medicamentis, in two books (perhaps spurious); 5. Marcellus Sideta, Ἰατρικὰ περὶ Ἰχθύων, De Remediis ex Piscibus; 6. Galen, Περὶ Κράσεως καὶ Δυνάμεως τῶν Ἀπλῶν Φαρμάκων, De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis et Facultatibus, in eleven books; 7. id. Περὶ Συνθέσεως Φαρμάκων τῶν κατὰ Τόπους, De Compositione Medicamentorum secundum Locos, in ten books; 8. id. Περὶ Συνθέσεως Φαρμάκων τῶν κατὰ Γένη, De Compositione Medicamentorum secundum Genera, in seven books; 9. id. Περὶ τῆς τῶν Καθαιρόντων Φαρμάκων Δυνάμεως, De Purgantium Medicamentorum Facultate (perhaps spurious); 10. Oribasius, Συναγωγαὶ Ἰατρικαί, Collecta Medicinalia, consisting originally of seventy books, of which we possess now only about one third; 11. id. Εὐπόριστα, Euporista ad Eunapium, or De facile Parabilibus, in four books, of which the second contains an alphabetical list of drugs; 12. id. Σύνοψις, Synopsis ad Eustathium, an abridgment of his larger work in nine books, of which the second, third, and fourth are upon the subject of external and internal remedies; 13. Paulus Ægineta, Ἐπιτομῆς Ἰατρικῆς Βιβλία Ἕπτα, Compendii Medici Libri Septem, of which the last treats of medicines; 14. Joannes Actuarius, De Medicamentorum Compositione; 15. Nicolaus Myrepsus, Antidotarium; 16. Cato, De Re Rustica; 17. Celsus, De Medicina Libri Octo, of which the fifth treats of different sorts of medicines; 18. Twelve books of Pliny’s, Historia Naturalis (from the twentieth to the thirty-second), are devoted to Materia Medica; 19. Scribonius Largus, Compositiones Medicamentorum; 20. Apuleius Barbarus, Herbarium, seu de Medicaminibus Herbarum; 21. Sextus Placitus Papyriensis, De Medicamentis ex Animalibus; 22. Marcellus Empiricus, De Medicamentis Empiricis, Physicis, ac Rationalibus.”

Although the Greeks and Romans knew little of chemistry as we understand the term, they must have possessed considerable skill in the art of secret poisoning, either with intent to kill or to obtain undue influence over certain persons.

Poisonous drugs were used as philtres or love-potions, and we know from Demosthenes479 that drugs were administered in Athens to influence men to make wills in a desired manner. Women were most addicted to the crime of poisoning amongst the Greeks. They were called φαρμακίδες and φαρμακευτρίαι. By the Romans the crime of poisoning was called Veneficium; and here again, as in other times and places,223 it was most usually practised by women. It lent itself to the weakness of the gentler sex, who could not avenge their injuries by arms, and there is little doubt that many women were as unjustly suspected of poisoning as we know they were of witchcraft in an ignorant age when pestilence and obscure diseases filled the minds of the people with fear and suspicion. Thucydides tells us480 the Athenians in the time of the great pestilence believed that their wells had been poisoned by their enemies. When the city of Rome was visited by a pestilence in the year 331 B.C., a slave girl informed the curule aediles that the Roman matrons had caused the deaths of many of the leading men of the State by poisoning them. On this information about twenty matrons, some of whom, as Cornelia and Sergia, belonged to patrician families, were detected in the act of preparing poisonous compounds over a fire. They protested that they were innocent concoctions; the magistrates compelling them to drink these in the Forum, they suffered the death they had prepared for others. Locusta was a celebrated female poisoner under the Roman emperors. She poisoned Claudius at the command of Agrippina, and Britannicus at that of Nero, who even provided her with pupils to be instructed in her deadly art. Tacitus tells the story,481 Suetonius says,482 that the poison she administered to Britannicus being too slow in its action, Nero forced her by blows and threats to make a stronger draught in his presence, which killed the victim immediately. She was executed under the emperor Galba.

Clement of Alexandria refers to the Susinian ointment in use in his time, which was made from lilies, and was “warming, aperient, drawing, moistening, abstergent, antibilious, and emollient,” a truly marvellous unguent indeed if it possessed only half of these virtues. He tells of another ointment called the Myrsinian, which was made from myrtle berries, and was “a styptic, stopping effusions from the body; and that from roses is refrigerating.”483

Rufus of Ephesus, the anatomist, has left us in his works interesting details concerning the state of anatomical science at Alexandria before the time of Galen. In one of his works he says,224 “The ancients called the arteries of the neck carotids, because they believed that, when pressed hard, the animal became sleepy and lost its voice; but in our age it has been discovered that this accident does not proceed from pressing upon these arteries, but upon the nerves contiguous to them.” He is said to have practised the twisting of arteries for arresting hæmorrhage, a method universally followed at the present day. It is curious that though the ligature and this valuable method of torsion were both known to the ancients, they fell into abeyance in favour of the actual cautery.

Seneca, the philosopher (A.D. 3-65), had a very high opinion of the healing art. Perhaps no one has said truer and kinder things of doctors than this philosopher. “People pay the doctor for his trouble; for his kindness they still remain in his debt.” “Thinkest thou that thou owest the doctor and the teacher nothing more than his fee? We think that great reverence and love are due to both. We have received from them priceless benefits: from the doctor, health and life; from the teacher, the noble culture of the soul. Both are our friends, and deserve our most sincere thanks, not so much by their merchantable art, as by their frank good will.”484

Apollonius of Tyana, the Pythagorean philosopher, was born four years before Christ. His reputation as a miracle-worker and healer was used by the enemies of the Christian faith in ancient times to bring him forward as a rival to the Author of our Religion.485 The attempt to make him appear a pagan Christ has since been revived.486 He adopted the Pythagorean philosophy at the age of sixteen. He renounced animal food and wine, used only linen garments and sandals made of bark, suffered his hair to grow, and betook himself to the temple of Æsculapius, who appears to have regarded him with peculiar favour. He observed the silence of five years, which was one of the methods of initiation into the esoteric doctrines of the Pythagoreans. He travelled in India, and learned the valuable theurgic secrets of the Brahmans; in the cities of Asia Minor he had some interviews with the Magi; visited the temples and oracles of Greece, where he sometimes exercised his skill in healing; then he went to Rome, where he was brought before Nero on the charge of magical practices, which was not sustained. In his seventy-third year he attracted the notice of Vespasian. Afterwards he travelled in Ethiopia. Returning to Rome, he was imprisoned by Domitian, and had his hair cut short, because he had foretold the pestilence at Ephesus. He died at the age of an hundred years. It is to be remarked that he never put forward any miraculous pretensions himself; he seems merely to have been a learned philosopher who had travelled widely and acquired vast information from distant sources. The history manufac225tured for him is plainly an imitation from that of our Lord, concocted by persons interested in degrading the character of Christ.487

Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), the author of the immense encyclopædic work, his famous Natural History, was not a man of genius, nor even an original observer, his work is but a compilation, and contains more falsehood than fact, and more absurdities than either. He cannot be called a naturalist, though he wrote on natural history; nor a physician, though he wrote of diseases and their remedies. His work is valuable chiefly as a picture of the general knowledge of his time. The following is an example of the medical lore of the period. Pliny says that a woman dreamt that some one was directed to send to her son, a soldier in Spain, some roots of the dog-rose. It happened that exactly at that time her son had been bitten by a mad dog, and had received a letter from his mother, who had dreamt about him, and she begged him to use these roots as she directed. He did so, and was “protected” from hydrophobia, as were many others of his friends who adopted the same treatment. Thus it was that the wild-rose was called the dog-rose.

Dioscorides lived in the first or second century of our era. He was a physician who rendered greater services than any other to Materia Medica. His work on this subject was the result of immense labour and research, and remained for ages the standard authority; it contained a description of everything used in medicine, and is a most valuable document for the historian of the healing art of the period. Galen highly valued the work of Dioscorides, which must have been of the greatest use to the doctors of the time, who were obliged to prepare their own medicines. Drugs were so much adulterated that it was unsafe to procure them from the stores in Rome.

Marinus was a famous anatomist, who lived in the first and second centuries after Christ. Galen’s tutor Quintus was one of his pupils. He wrote many works on anatomy, which Galen abridged and praised, saying that he was one of the restorers of anatomical science.

Quintus, an eminent Roman physician of the second century, was a pupil of Marinus. He was celebrated for his knowledge of anatomy.

Zenon lived in the fourth century, and taught medicine at Alexandria. Julian (A.D. 361 circ.) wrote in very high terms of the medical skill of this physician.

Magnus of Alexandria was a pupil of the above, who lectured on medicine at Alexandria, where he was very famous. He wrote a work on the urine.

Ionicus of Sardis studied under Zenon. He was not only distin226guished in all branches of medicine, but was versed in rhetoric, logic, and poetry.

Theon of Alexandria, of very uncertain period, probably in the fourth century after Christ, wrote a celebrated book on Man, in which he treated of diseases in a systematic order, and also of pharmacy.



The Eclectic and Pneumatic Sects.—Galen.—Neo-Platonism.—Oribasius and Ætius.—Influence of Christianity and the Rise of Hospitals.—Paulus Ægineta.—Ancient Surgical Instruments.

The Sect of the Pneumatists.

Athenæus of Cilicia about A.D. 69 founded at Rome the Sect of the Pneumatists, at the time when the Methodists enjoyed their greatest reputation.

They admitted an active principle of an immaterial nature, to which they gave the name of πνεῦμα, spirit. This principle caused the health or the diseases of the body, and the sect was named from it. Athenæus was a Stoic, who had adopted the doctrines of the Peripatetics. In addition to the pneuma, he developed the theory of the elements, and in them recognised the positive qualities of the animal frame. The union of heat and moisture is necessary for the preservation of health. Heat and dryness cause acute diseases, cold and moisture produce phlegmatic disorders, cold and dryness give rise to melancholy. At death, all things dry up and become cold.488

Great services to pathology were rendered by the Pneumatic sect. Several new diseases were discovered by them; but they over refined their doctrines, especially that of fevers and the pulse; they thought this alternate contraction and dilatation of the arteries was the operation of the pneuma, or spirit passing from the heart. Diastole or dilatation pushes forward the spirit, the systole or contraction draws it back.489

The Sect of the Eclectics

Derived their name from the fact that they selected from each of the other sects the opinions that seemed most probable. They seem to have agreed very nearly, if they were not actually identical with the sect known as the Episynthetics. They endeavoured to join the tenets of the Methodici to those of the Empiric and Dogmatic sects, and to reconcile their differences.490


Amongst the most famous of the school were Agathinus of Sparta (1st cent. A.D.), who founded the Episynthetic sect, though Galen refers to him as among the Pneumatici. He was a pupil of Athenæus, and the tutor of Archigenes. None of his writings are extant. Theodorus was a physician mentioned by Pliny.491

Archigenes of Apamæa, who practised in Rome (A.D. 98-117), was exceedingly famous. He is mentioned several times by Juvenal,492 and was the most celebrated of the sect. He wrote on the pulse, and attempted the classification of fevers. Very few fragments of his works remain. He was the first to treat dysentery with opium.

Aretæus of Cappadocia (1st cent, A.D.) was a celebrated Greek physician who wrote on diseases, detailing their symptoms with great accuracy and displaying great skill in diagnosis. He was very little biased by any peculiar opinions, and his observations on diseases and their treatment have stood the light of our modern medical science better than those of many of the ancient authorities. He was acquainted with the fact that injuries to the brain cause paralysis on the opposite side; and his classification of mental diseases is as good as our own. His knowledge of anatomy was considerable, and in his physiology he shows how much more the ancients knew of this branch of science than is generally supposed. He was acquainted with the operation of tracheotomy, and remarked its partial success.493

He considered elephantiasis to be contagious, and gives this caution: “That it is not less dangerous to converse and live with persons affected with this distemper, than with those infected with the plague; because the contagion is communicated by the inspired air.”494

Herodotus (there were several of the name) was a physician of repute in Rome (about A.D. 100). He was a pupil of Athenæus or Agathinus, and wrote several medical books which are quoted by Galen and Oribasius. He first recommended pomegranate root as a remedy for tape-worm, and described several infectious diseases.495

Heliodorus (about A.D. 100) was a famous surgeon, and wrote on amputations and injuries of the head. His operation for scrotal hernia is described by Haeser as “a brilliant example of the surgical skill of the Empire.” He treated stricture of the urethra by internal section.

Cassius Felix lived in the first century after Christ, and was the author of a curious set of eighty-four medical questions and their answers. He was also called Cassius Iatrosophista.


Leonidas of Alexandria lived in the second or third century after Christ, was a distinguished surgeon, who operated on strumous glands, and amputated by the flap operation.

Claudius Galenus, commonly called Galen, or, as mediæval writers named him, Gallien, was a very celebrated physician and philosopher, who was born at Pergamos in Asia, A.D. 131, under Hadrian. His father, Nicon, was an architect and geometrician, a highly cultivated and estimable man. His mother was a passionate scold, who led her husband a worse life than Xantippe led Socrates. Nicon spared no pains to give his son an education which should fit him to be a philosopher, and in his fifteenth year he was a pupil of the Stoic, Platonist, Peripatetic, and Epicurean philosophies. In his seventeenth year his father, in consequence of a dream, changed his intentions concerning his son’s profession, and determined that he should study medicine. His first tutors were Æschrion, Satyrus, and Stratonicus. He studied the doctrines of all the sects of medicine in the school of Alexandria, and travelled in Egypt, Greece, Asia, and Italy. He devoted himself to none of the schools of medicine whose doctrines he had studied, but struck out a path for himself. On his return to Pergamos, he was selected to take charge of the wounded gladiators, a position which afforded him opportunities for studying surgical operations. He filled this post with great reputation and success. When he was thirty-four years old he went to Rome for the first time, remaining there four years, and acquiring a great reputation for his knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and medicine. He was connected with many persons of great influence, and his popularity at last became so great that it excited the ill-will of his professional brethren, especially as by his lecturing, writing, and disputing, his name was constantly before them. So great was the ill-feeling they bore towards him that he was afraid of being poisoned. He was called the “wonder speaker” and the “wonder worker.”

“The greatest savant of all the ancient physicians,” says Sprengel, “was Galen. He strove to introduce into medicine a severe dogmatism, and to give it a scientific appearance, borrowed almost entirely from the Peripatetic school. The enormous number of his works, the systematic order which distinguishes them, and the elegance of their style, won over, as by an irresistible charm, the indolent physicians who succeeded him, so that during many ages his system was considered as immovable.”496

For thirteen centuries his name and influence dominated the medical profession in Europe, Asia, and Africa; and this influence, under the name of Galenism, was paramount in the eighteenth century, notwith230standing the discovery of the circulation of the blood and other great advances in science. Galen collected and co-ordinated all the medical knowledge which previous physicians and anatomists had acquired. He was no mere collector of, or compiler of other men’s works; but he enriched previous acquirements by his own observation, and was in every way a man greatly in advance of his time. “A great and profound spirit,” says Daremberg, “he was philosopher as well as physician, realising the aspiration of Hippocrates when he said that the physician who should be also a philosopher must be the equal of the gods. A dialectician like Aristotle, a psychologist like Plato, who glorified his work by his genius for interpreting nature and life, his position as philosopher would have been beside those men, if his devotion to medicine had not called him to another sphere of intellectual activity.” Nevertheless, Galen did in fact occupy an exalted position in the history of philosophy, not only in the West, but amongst the Arabians. His encyclopædic knowledge, his spirit of observation, and his influence on the thought of the middle ages, compel a comparison with Aristotle. It was thus that the vast body of medical material collected by the various sects and schools was analysed by the penetrating genius of Galen, whose philosophical and scientific mind was able to extract the good and permanent from the worthless and ephemeral material, which encumbered the literature of the healing art. He fell under the domination of none of the schools, though in one sense he may be said to have leaned towards the Dogmatists, “for his method was to reduce all his knowledge, as acquired by the observation of facts, to general theoretical principles.”497 He endeavoured to draw the student of medicine back to Hippocrates, of whom he was an admirer and expounder. The labours of Galen had the effect of destroying the vitality of the old medical sects; they became merged in his system, and left off wrangling amongst themselves to imitate the new master who had arisen. A crowd of new writers found in the works of Galen abundant material for their industry.

Partly in consequence of this jealousy, and partly from the fact that in A.D. 167 a pestilence broke out in Rome, he left the city privately, and returned to his native country.

Galen, as a profound anatomist and physiologist, recognised final causes, a purpose in all parts of the bodies which he dissected; and it is, as Whewell points out,498 impossible for a really great anatomist to do other than recognise these. He cannot doubt that the nerves run along the limbs, in order that they may convey the impulses of the will231 to the muscles: he cannot doubt that the muscles are attached to the bones, in order that they move and support them.

The development of this conviction, that there is a purpose in the parts of animals of a function to which every organ is subservient, greatly contributed to the progress of physiology; it compelled men to work till they had discovered what the purpose is. Galen declared that it is easy to say with some impotent pretenders that Nature has worked to no purpose. He has an enthusiastic scorn of the folly of atheism.499 “Try,” he says, “if you can imagine a shoe made with half the skill which appears in the skin of the foot.” Somebody had expressed a desire for some structure of the human body over that which Nature has provided. “See,” he exclaims, “what brutishness there is in this wish. But if I were to spend more words on such cattle, reasonable men might blame me for desecrating my work, which I regard as a religious hymn in honour of the Creator. True piety does not consist in immolating hecatombs, or in bearing a thousand delicious perfumes in His honour, but in recognising and loudly proclaiming His wisdom, almighty power, love and goodness. The Father of universal nature has proved His goodness in wisely providing for the happiness of all His creatures, in giving to each that which is most really useful for them. Let us celebrate Him then by our hymns and chants! He has shown His infinite wisdom in choosing the best means for contriving His beneficent ends; He has given proof of His omnipotence in creating everything perfectly conformable to its destination.”

Anatomy must have reached a high standard before Galen’s time, as we learn from his corrections of the mistakes and defects of his predecessors. He remarks that some anatomists have made one muscle into two, from its having two heads; that they have overlooked some of the muscles in the face of an ape in consequence of not skinning the animal with their own hands. This shows that the anatomists before Galen’s time had a tolerably complete knowledge of the science. But Galen greatly advanced it. He observes that the skeleton may be compared to the pole of a tent or the walls of a house. His knowledge of the action of the muscles was anatomically and mechanically correct. His discoveries and descriptions even of the very minute parts of the muscular system are highly praised by modern anatomists.500

He knew the necessity of the nerve supply to the muscle, and that the brain originated the consequent motion of a muscle so supplied, and proved the fact experimentally by cutting through some of the nerves and232 so paralysing the part.501 Where the origin of the nerve is, there, he said, it is admitted by all physicians and philosophers is the seat of the soul. This, he adds, is in the brain and not in the heart. The principles of voluntary motion were well understood, therefore, by Galen, and he must have possessed “clear mechanical views of what the tensions of collections of strings could do, and an exact practical acquaintance with the muscular cordage which exists in the animal frame:—in short, in this as in other instances of real advance in science, there must have been clear ideas and real facts, unity of thought and extent of observation, brought into contact.”502

He observed that although a ligature on the inguinal or axillary artery causes the pulse to cease in the leg or in the arm, the operation is not permanently injurious, and that even the carotid arteries may be tied with impunity. He corrects the error of those who, in tying the carotids, omitted to separate the contiguous nerves, and then wrongly concluded that the consequent loss of voice was due to compression of the arteries.

Galen was the first and greatest authority on the pulse, if not our sole authority; for all subsequent writers simply transferred his teaching on this subject bodily to their own works.503

Briefly it was as follows: “The pulse consists of four parts, of a diastole and a systole, with two intervals of rest, one after the diastole before the systole, the other after the systole before the diastole.”504

His therapeutics were based on these two principles:—“1. That disease is something contrary to nature, and is to be overcome by that which is contrary to the disease itself; and 2. That nature is to be preserved by that which has relation with nature.”505

The affection contrary to nature must be overcome, and the strength of the body has to be preserved. But while the cause of the disease continues to operate, we must endeavour to remove it; we are not to treat symptoms merely, for they will disappear when their cause is removed, and we must consider the constitution and condition of the patient before we proceed to treat him.

“Such as are essentially of a good constitution are such in whose bodies heat, coldness, dryness, and moisture are equally tempered; the instruments of the body are composed in every part of due bigness, number, place, and formation.”506 He gives in succeeding chapters the233 signs of a hot, cold, dry, moist, hot and dry, hot and moist, cold and dry, and cold and moist brain; of a heart overheated, of a heart too cold, of a dry and of a moist heart, of a heart hot and dry, hot and moist, cold and moist, cold and dry heart. The liver is described under the same conditions.

Galen’s surgery is not of very great importance, but he is credited with the resection of a portion of the sternum for caries and with ligature of the temporal artery.507

He applied the doctrine of the four elements to his theories of diseases. “Fire is hot and dry; air is hot and moist; for the air is like a vapour; water is cold and moist, and earth is cold and dry.”

Galen’s pathology is explained by Sprengel thus: when the body is free from pain, and performs its functions without obstacle, it is in a state of health; when the functions are disturbed, there is a state of disease. The effect of disturbed functions is the affection (πάθος); that which determines this injury is the cause of the disease, the sensible effects of which are the symptoms.

Diseases (διάθεσις) are unnatural states either of the similar parts or of the organs themselves. Those of the similar parts proceed in general from the want of proportion among the elements, of which one or two predominate. In this manner arise eight different dyscrasies, or ill states of the constitution. Symptoms consist either in deranged function or vicious secretions. The internal causes of disease depend almost always on the superabundance or deterioration of the humours. Galen calls every disorder of the humours a putridity; it is due to a stagnant humour being exposed to a high temperature without evaporating. Thus suppuration and the sediment of urine are proofs of putridity. In every fever there is a kind of putridity which gives out an unnatural heat, which becomes the cause of fever, because the heart and the arterial system take part in it.

Choulant enumerates eighty-three works of Galen which are acknowledged as genuine, nineteen which are doubtful, forty-five spurious, nineteen fragments; and fifteen commentaries on different books of Hippocrates; and more than fifty short pieces and fragments for the most part probably spurious, which are still lying unpublished in the libraries of Europe. Besides these Galen wrote many other works, the titles of which only remain to us; so that it is estimated that altogether the number of his different books cannot have been less than five hundred.508 He wrote, not on medicine only, but on ethics, logic, grammar, and other philosophical subjects; he was therefore amongst234 the greatest and most voluminous authors that have ever lived.509 His style is elegant, but he is given to prolixity, and he abounds in quotations from the Greek writers.

Philip of Cæsarea was a contemporary of Galen about the middle of the second century after Christ. He belonged to the sect of the Empirici, and defended their doctrines. It is probable that he wrote on marasmus, on materia medica, and on catalepsy; but as there were other physicians of the same name, there is much uncertainty as to their identity.

After the death of Galen came the Gothic invasions over the civilized world, and all but extinguished the learning of the times. Medicine lingered still in Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria, but individuals rather than schools and sects kept it alive; it struggled to exist amidst the grossest ignorance, superstition, and magical practices, till it was re-invigorated by the Saracens.

Saints Cosmas and Damian (circ. 303) were brothers who studied the sciences in Syria, and became eminent for their skill in the practice of medicine. As they were Christians, and eager to spread the faith which they professed, they never took any fees, and thus came to be called by the Greeks Anargyri (without fees). The two brothers suffered martyrdom under the Diocletian persecution, and have ever since been famous as workers of miracles of healing and patrons of medical science. Their relics were everywhere honoured, and a church built in Rome by St. Gregory the Great preserves them to this day.

Dr. Meryon points out510 that Gregory the Great enunciated one great doctrine of homœopathy: “Mos medicinæ est ut aliquando similia similibus, aliquando contraria contrairiis curet. Nam sæpe calida calidis, frigida frigidis, sæpe autem frigida calidis, calida frigidis sanare consuevit.”

Alexander of Tralles, though one of the most eminent ancient physicians, believed in charms and amulets. Here are a few specimens. For a quotidian ague, “Gather an olive leaf before sunrise, write on it with common ink κα, ροι, α, and hang it round the neck” (xii. 7, p. 339); for the gout, “Write on a thin plate of gold, during the waning of the moon, μεί, θρεύ, μόρ, φόρ, τεύξ, βαίν, χωώκ” (xi. l. p. 313). He exorcised the gout thus: “I adjure thee by the great name Ἰαὼ Σαβαώθ,” that is, יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת and a little further on: “I adjure thee by the holy names Ἰαὼ, Σαβαὼθ, Ἀδωναὶ, Ἐλωὶ,” that is יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהָי.511


Neoplatonism had its influence on medicine. Plotinus (A.D. 205-270), its great father, said, when dying, “I am striving to bring the God which is in us into harmony with the God which is in the Universe.” The early Christians began to tell the world that the God within the soul of man and the God which is in the Universe are one and the same being, of absolute righteousness, power and love. Plotinus preached a gospel to the philosophic world; the first Christians preached theirs to every creature. Neoplatonism taught the world that spirit was meant to rule matter: it was not enough that the early Christian exhibited to mankind man transformed as the result of his intimate relationship to the Divine, the philosophic world demanded wonders, something above nature, as a proof of the Divine character of the revelation; then, as Kingsley explains,512 we begin to enter “the fairy land of ecstasy, clairvoyance, insensibility to pain, cures produced by the effect of what we now call mesmerism. They are all there, these modern puzzles, in those old books of the long bygone seekers for wisdom.” Thus mankind, for ever wandering in a circle, began by these ecstasies and cures to retrace its steps towards the ancient priestcraft. These wonders were nothing to the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Jewish sorcerers; they had traded in them for ages.

Antyllus (circ. 300 A.D.) is mentioned by Oribasius, and is said by Häser to have been one of the greatest of the world’s surgeons; for aneurism he tied the artery above and below the sac, and evacuated its contents; for cataract, and for the cure of stammering, he invented appropriate treatment; and he employed something very much like tenotomy for contractures. He is the earliest writer whose directions are extant for performing the operation of tracheotomy. He must have been a man of great talent and originality. He practised the removal of glandular swellings of the neck and ligatured vessels before dividing them, giving directions for avoiding the carotid artery and the jugular vein. It is a striking proof of the high state which surgery had reached at this period that bones were resected with freedom; the long bones, the lower jaw, and the upper jaw were dealt with in a manner generally considered to be brilliant examples of modern surgery.

Oribasius (A.D. 326-403) was born at Pergamos. By command of the Emperor Julian the Apostate he made a summary from the works of all preceding physicians who had written upon the Healing Art. Having made a collection of some seventy medical treatises, he reduced them into one, adding thereto the results of his own observations and experience. He also wrote for his friend Eunapius two books on diseases and their remedies, besides treatises on anatomy and236 an epitome of the works of Galen.513 He was called the Ape of Galen, and Freind says the title was not undeserved. He wrote in Greek, and though a mere compiler was capable of better things. His pharmacy was that of Dioscorides. He did some original work, as he was the first to write a description of the drum of the ear and the salivary glands. In his works also, we find the first description of the wonderful disease called lycanthropy, a form of melancholia, or insanity,514 in which the affected persons believe themselves to be transformed into wolves, leaving their homes at night, imitating the behaviour of those animals, and wandering amongst the tombs. His great work he entitled Collecta Medicinalia. When Julian died, Oribasius fell into disgrace, and was banished. He bore his misfortunes with great fortitude, and so gained the esteem and love of the “barbarians” amongst whom he lived that he was almost adored as a god. He was ultimately restored to his property and honour.

Jacobus Psychristus lived in the time of Leo I. Thrax (A.D. 457-474), was a very famous physician of Constantinople, who was called “the Saviour,” on account of his successful practice.

Adamantius of Alexandria, an Iatrosophist, was a Jewish physician, who was expelled, with his co-religionists, from Alexandria, A.D. 415. He embraced Christianity at Constantinople. He wrote on physiognomy.

Iatrosophista was the ancient title of one who both taught and practised medicine.

Archiater (chief physician) was a medical title under the Roman Empire, meaning “the chief of the physicians,” and not “physician to the prince,” as some have explained.515

Meletius (4th cent. A.D.), a Christian monk, wrote on physiology and anatomy.

Nemesius, Bishop of Emissa (near the end of the fourth century), wrote a treatise on the Nature of Man, which is remarkable for a proof that the good Churchman came very near to two discoveries which were made long after his time. He says that the object of the bile is to help digestion, to purify the blood, and impart heat to the body. Freind says516 that in this we have the foundation of that which Sylvius de la Boë with so much vanity boasted he had invented himself. He adds that “if this theory be of any use in physic, Nemesius has a very good title to the discovery.”

The Bishop described the circulation of the blood in very plain terms considering the state of physiology at that time.


“The motion of the pulse takes its rise from the heart, and chiefly from the left ventricle of it; the artery is, with great vehemence, dilated and contracted by a sort of constant harmony and order. While it is dilated it draws the thinner part of the blood from the next veins, the exhalation or vapour of which blood is made the aliment for the vital spirit. But while it is contracted it exhales whatever fumes it has through the whole body and by secret passages. So that the heart throws out whatever is fuliginous through the mouth and the nose by expiration.”517

Lucius wrote on pharmacy in the first century.

Marcellus Empiricus (4th cent.) wrote a work on pharmacy, in Latin, which contains many charms and absurdities.

Ætius was a Greek medical writer, who probably was a Christian of the sixth century. He was a native of Amida in Mesopotamia, and studied medicine at Alexandria. He wrote the Sixteen Books on Medicine, one of the most valuable medical treatises of antiquity; though containing little original matter, it includes numerous extracts from works which have since perished.518

Many of the opinions of Ætius on surgery are excellent; he recommended the seton, and lithotomy for women. Bleeding arteries he treated by twisting, as we do now, and by tying. He advised irrigation with cold water in the treatment of wounds. In lithotomy he recommends that the knife should be guarded by a tube. He treated worms with pomegranate bark, as has been recently revived.519 He was the first Greek medical writer amongst the Christians who gives specimens of the spells and charms so much used by the Egyptian Christians in surgical cases; thus, in case of a bone sticking in the throat, the physician was to cry out in a loud voice, “As Jesus Christ drew Lazarus from the grave, and Jonah out of the whale, thus Blasius, the martyr and servant of God, commands, ‘Bone, come up or go down!’”520

Influence of Christianity

At the time when the civilizations of Greece and Rome had reached their highest perfection, the poison of sensual indulgence, elevated into a religion, had instilled itself into the whole social life of the people: in every incident of life, in business, in pleasure, in literature, in politics, in arms, in the theatres, in the streets, in the baths, at the games, in the decorations of his home, in the ornaments and service of his table, in the very conditions of the weather and the physical phenomena of nature521 it met the Roman, and tainted every action of his life. Archdeacon Farrar, in the first chapter of his Early Days of238 Christianity, draws an awful picture of the corruption of the old world at the moment when it was confronted by Christianity. The parent had absolute power over the person of his child, and could destroy its life at its pleasure. Unfortunate children were exposed on the roadside or left to perish in the waters of the Tiber. The slave was the mere chattel of his master, and Roman women treated their servants with the utmost barbarity. Juvenal has painted for us in terrible colours the vices and shameless conduct of the women, and the selfish luxury and degrading pleasures of the men; the nameless crime, which was the disgrace of Greek and Roman civilization, was looked upon as merely a question of taste; and St. Paul, in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, has recorded for all time what was the highest the most perfect civilization Paganism has ever produced was able to effect for the moral condition of the people. To the Roman and Greek world, saturated with the most perfect philosophy the world has ever known, and adorned by the art which has ever since been the despair of its imitators, there presented itself the Catholic Church, and before the sun’s embrace sublime

“Night wist
Her work done, and betook herself in mist
To marsh and hollow, there to bide her time
Blindly in acquiescence.”522

The enemies of Christianity have affected to lament the effects produced by the religion of Jesus on the art and science of the pagan world; it has been said that the early Christians became so indifferent to the welfare of their bodies that they no longer sought medical aid when sick, but either resigned themselves to death or sought remedies in prayers. It is quite possible that, at the soul’s awakening at the first revelation of the infinite importance of the spiritual life, men did somewhat neglect the ailments of the flesh and forget them in the effort to realize the things of the spirit. It is perfectly true that the natural sciences were not likely to make much progress in such a condition of things. But if Christians were careless of their own health, it is not less certain that they were intensely solicitous for that of their poor and friendless neighbours. The peculiar constitution of the Roman Empire, which was but a military tyranny, greatly contributed to its fall, and the collapse would have come earlier had it not been for Christianity. The Empire had very little cohesion; the Church had a cohesive force, such as the world had never experienced before, and the Church availed herself of all the facilities which the Empire possessed of keeping up, from centre to circumference, the circulation of the spirit of solidarity239 which has ever animated the Catholic body. Of course there was little reason to expect the Church to be very favourably disposed towards the philosophies of old Greece and Rome; they had done little for the moral and social welfare of the people, and the Church had a better system than these could exhibit: but when St Augustine appeared, there was found a modus vivendi between the noblest Platonism and the purest and loftiest Christian theology. He pointed the way towards a Christian science, and Europe ultimately realized it. It was found in the Schoolmen. Modern science is the legitimate child of Scholasticism, though it is unsparing in its abuse of its parent.

The slave to the ancient Roman was simply a beast who was able to speak. When such beasts became unprofitable, because through sickness or old age they could no longer work, they were frequently turned out to perish. Cato advised the agriculturists to sell their old and sick slaves when no longer able to work, just as he recommended them to dispose of worn-out and diseased cattle and worthless implements of husbandry.523

The Emperor Claudius caused slaves who were thus cruelly treated to be proclaimed freemen. It was the merciful and charitable conduct of the early Christians towards slaves, of whom such vast numbers helped to people the Roman Empire, that caused the doctrines of the Gospel to spread so rapidly throughout the Roman world. The slave found in the Gospel of Christ the first system of religion and philosophy which took any account of the poor, the helpless, and the slave; the rich and cultured saw in the teachings of the Church of Christ the only system which embraced mankind as a whole. Juvenal524 has indicated for us the value of a slave’s life in these times.

“Go, crucify that slave. For what offence?
Who the accuser? Where the evidence?
For when the life of man is in debate,
No time can be too long, no care too great.
Hear all, weigh all with caution, I advise.
‘Thou sniveller! is a slave a man?’ she cries.
‘He’s innocent! be’t so; ’tis my command,
My will; let that, sir, for a reason stand.’”

Although there is evidence that hospitals for the reception and treatment of sick and destitute persons were established in India in very early times,525 and though we know that these were attached to240 some of the temples of ancient Greece, and the Romans had convalescent institutions for sick slaves and soldiers, it cannot be doubted that we owe to Christianity the hospital as it exists amongst us at the present day.

Christianity taught the world not only that God is the Father of mankind, the pagan world already knew Him as Zeus pater, but that as His children we are the brethren and sisters of each other. The Church in Rome, in the third century, says Eusebius,526 supported “widows and impotent persons, about a thousand and fifty souls who were all relieved through the grace and goodness of Almighty God.” St. Basil the Great (A.D. 379) founded at Cæsarea a vast hospital, which Nazianzen calls a new city, and was named after him Basiliades. The same author thought “it might deservedly be reckoned among the miracles of the world, so numerous were the poor and sick that came thither, and so admirable was the care and order with which they were served.”527 In this institution St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, “disease became a school of wisdom, and misery was changed into happiness.”

Chastel relates that (A.D. 375) Edessa possessed a hospital with 300 beds, and there were many similar institutions in the East. St. Jerome says that the widow Fabiola founded the first Christian infirmary in Rome, at the end of the fourth century. St. Paula, a Roman widow, in whose veins ran the blood of the Scipios, the Gracchi, and Paulus Æmilia, and of Agamemnon, was born in 347 A.D., and was one of the many noble Christian women who devoted their wealth and their lives to the poor, the suffering, and the helpless, in the early days of Christianity. She distributed immense alms, and built a hospital on the road to Jerusalem, and also a monastery for St. Jerome and his monks, whom she maintained, besides three monasteries for women;528 she carried the sick to their beds in her arms, and with her own hands washed their wounds, as St. Jerome tells us. In Italy, Gaul, and Spain, many asylums for sick and poor persons were built and maintained. Nor were their benefits confined to Christians; for Jews, slaves, and freemen were welcomed to these temples of charity. It is impossible in the limits of this work to trace fully the progress of the hospital movement; enough has been said to prove, as Baas, the Agnostic historian of medicine, admits,529 that “Hospitals proper, in our sense of the term, did not originate till Christian times.”

When the plague raged at Alexandria, Eusebius tells us,530241 “Many of our brethren, by reason of their great love and brotherly charity, sparing not themselves, cleaved one to another, visited the sick without weariness or heed-taking, and attended upon them diligently, cured them in Christ, which cost them their lives, and being full of other men’s maladies, took the infection of their neighbours.” Such was the initial impulse which Christian charity applied to the healing art; trace we now its splendid results in mediæval times.

In the Middle Ages almost all the monasteries and religious houses had a hospital of one kind or another attached to them; they had not only places of entertainment for pilgrims, but institutions for the treatment and care of the sick and poor. This care of the diseased and helpless was not left to the civil administration alone, but formed part of the regular work of the Church of the middle ages, and by ancient regulation this was placed under the control of the Bishops. The Council of Vienne ordained that if the administrators of a hospital, lay or clerical, became relaxed in the exercise of their charge, proceedings should be taken against them by the Bishops, who should reform and restore the hospital of their own authority.

The Council of Trent granted to Bishops the power of visiting the hospitals. This connection between the hospitals and the ecclesiastical power was acknowledged by the Christian sovereigns of Europe from the earliest times. The Emperor Justinian, for example, gave authority over the hospitals to the Bishops; the property of the hospitals was considered as Church property, and thus was protected in troublous times by the sanctity of religion.531

The Council of Chalcedon placed such clergy as lived in establishments where orphans, the aged, and infirm were received and cared for under the authority of the Bishops, and makes use of the expression that this regulation was according to ancient custom.

In the time of the Council of Chalcedon a hospital (ξενοδοχεῖον) seems to have been a common adjunct of a church.532 Originally appropriated to the reception of strangers, its use was afterwards extended to the relief of the poor and also of the sick, as at Alexandria, where, in A.D. 399, we read that “the priest Isidore being four-score years old, was at that time governor of the hospital.”533

In connection with the story of Hypatia at Alexandria, we learn that the Parabolani was the name given to the clergy of the lowest order, who were appointed to attend to the sick, particularly in contagious disorders, from which circumstance, says Fleury,534 their name was derived, because it signifies persons who expose themselves.


Moschion Diorthortes (about the 6th cent.) was a specialist in diseases of women. He wrote a manual for midwives based on the work of Soranus. His description of the uterus is similar to the treatise of that physician. He refutes the opinion of the ancients on the situation of male infants on the right, and of females on the left. He has well indicated the signs of imminent abortion. He made a great number of observations on the physical education of children which must have been of great importance to his time. He justly explained the reason for the cessation of the catamenia after severe diseases: the system cannot afford the waste. He anticipated the modern discovery that sterility is a disease common to women and men. He adhered to the principles of the Methodical school, and the doctrines of strictum and laxum.535

Paulus Ægineta, one of the most famous of the Greek writers on medicine, was born in the island of Ægina, probably in the latter half of the seventh century after Christ. He was an Iatrosophist, and a Periodeutes, or one who travelled about in the exercise of his profession. He wrote several books on medicine, of which one has come down to us, called De re Medica Libri Septem, or “Synopsis of Medicine in seven books.” Dr. Adams, in his translation of this famous work for the Sydenham Society, gives us the original introduction to the treatises of this physician, who informs us that:—


“In the first book you will find everything that relates to hygiene, and to the preservation from, and correction of, distempers peculiar to the various ages, seasons, temperaments, and so forth; also the powers and use of the different articles of food, as is set forth in the chapter of contents. In the second is explained the whole doctrine of fevers, an account of certain matters relating to them being premised, such as excrementitious discharges, critical days, and other appearances, and concluding with certain symptoms which are the concomitants of fevers. The third book relates to topical affections, beginning from the crown of the head, and descending down to the nails of the feet. The fourth book treats of those complaints which are external and exposed to view, and are not limited to one part of the body, but affect various parts. Also, of intestinal worms and dracunculi. The fifth treats of the wounds and bites of venomous animals; also of the distemper called hydrophobia, and of persons bitten by dogs which are mad, and by those which are not mad; and also of persons bitten by men. Afterwards it treats of deleterious substances, and of the preservatives from them. In the sixth book is contained everything relating to surgery, both what relates to the fleshy parts, such as the extraction of weapons, and to the bones, which comprehends fractures and dislocations. In the seventh is contained an account of the properties of all medicines, first of the simple, then of the compound, particularly of those which I have mentioned in the preceding six books, and more especially the greater, and as it were, celebrated preparations; for I did not think it proper to treat of all these articles promiscuously, lest it should occasion confusion, but so that any person looking for one or more of the distinguished preparations might easily find it. Towards the end are certain things connected with the composition of medicines, and of those articles which may be substituted for one another, the whole concluding with an account of weights and measures.”

The most valuable and interesting part of this work is the sixth book. The whole treatise is chiefly a compilation from the great physicians who preceded Paulus, but the sixth book contains some original matter.

This great Byzantine physician must have possessed considerable skill in surgery. His famous treatise on midwifery is now lost; it procured for him amongst the Arabs the title of “the Obstetrician,” and entitles him to be called the first of the teachers of the accoucheur’s art. Celebrated equally in the Arabian and Western schools, he exercised an enormous influence in the development of the medical arts. Throughout the Middle Ages he maintained his great popularity, and his surgical teaching was the basis of that of Abulcasis, which afforded to Europe in the Middle Ages her best surgical knowledge. He was the first writer who took notice of the cathartic properties of rhubarb.536

After the time of Paulus of Ægina the art of surgery slept for five hundred years; imitators of the ancient masters and compilers of their works alone remained to prove that it was still alive, but no progress was made. The religious orders employed the best methods they knew for the relief of physical suffering, but naturally it was not their work to perfect the healing art. In the Middle Ages, when so much of the medical and surgical practice was in the hands of the monks, particularly of the Benedictine order, many abuses crept in; and at last the practice of surgery by the clergy was forbidden in 1163 by the Council of Tours.

The office of royal physician in the Frankish court in the sixth century was not unattended with risk. When Austrigildis, wife of King Guntram, died of the pestilence in the year 580, she expressed in her last moments a pious desire that her doctors, Nicolaus and Donatus, should be put to death for not having saved her; and her husband, feeling it incumbent upon him to carry out her wishes, had them duly executed.537


Ancient Surgical Instruments.

Bramhilla, surgeon to Francis II. of Austria, said that surgical instruments were invented by Tubal Cain, because the Bible says he was “the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.”

The saw is a tool of great antiquity. Pliny attributes its invention to Dædalus, or to his nephew Perdix, who was also called Talos; he was supposed to have imitated it from the jaw of a serpent, with which he had been able to cut a piece of wood. The invention of forceps was attributed to Vulcan and the Cyclopes. When used for extracting teeth, the Greeks called them ὀδοντάγρα; for extracting arrow-heads and other weapons from the wounded in battle, the particular form employed was called ἀρδιοθήρα.

In the collection of domestic objects discovered by M. Petrie in the Egyptian ruins of Kahun, flint saws close upon 5,000 years old may be seen.538

Pincers and tweezers are made by the natives of Timor-laut from the bamboo; they are used for pulling out the hair from the face. The natives of the Darling River, New South Wales, use fine bone needles for boring through the septum of the nose.

The book on Wounds of the Head is admitted by the best critics to be a genuine work of Hippocrates. We find in that treatise that he used the trepan, as he speaks of a σμικρὸν τρύπανον, a small trepan. There must also have been a larger one, a πρίων, or saw, which had a περίοδος, or circular motion, and which was probably the trephine, and a πρίων χαραcτός, or jagged saw, which is held to be the trepan; and he gives instructions to the operator to withdraw the instrument frequently and cool both it and the bone with cold water, and to exercise all vigilance not to wound the living membrane.539

Splints were used by the Greeks for fractured limbs; they were called νάρθηκας. Cutting for the stone is spoken of in the Ὅρκος, which is attributed to Hippocrates. Celsus describes lithotrity, or crushing the stone by the instrument invented by Ammonios the λιθοτόμος, i.e. lithotomist.

Asclepiades practised tracheotomy. Many surgical instruments have been discovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii. There is a speculum vaginæ with two branches and a travelling yoke for them driven by a screw, and a speculum ani opening by pressure on the handles; there is a forceps of curious construction for removing pieces of bone from the surface of the brain in cases of fracture of the skull. Mr. Cockayne says:540


“It has been specially considered by Prof. Benedetto Vulpes [1847], who thinks it may also have been intended to take up an artery. The Greeks, he observes, as appears by an inscription dug up near Athens, were able to tie an artery in order to stop hæmorrhage, and words implying so much are found in a treatise of Archigenes (A.D. 100), existing in MS. in the Laurentian library at Florence, ‘the vessels carrying (blood) towards the incision must be tied or sewed up.’ Near the end of the sixteenth century a French surgeon was the first to recover the ligature of the artery, and the instrument he used was very similar to the forceps in the Museum at Naples.”

A curious pair of forceps has also been found, without a parallel among modern surgical instruments; the blades have a half turn, and the grip is toothed and spoon-shaped when closed. By construction it is suited for introduction into some internal cavity, and for holding firm and fast some excrescence there. Professor Vulpes finds it well calculated for dealing with the excrescences which grow upon the Schneiderian membrane covering the nasal bones, or such as come on the periphery of the anus, or the orifice of the female urethra; especially such as having a large base cannot be tied.541

There is further an instrument for tapping the dropsical, described by Celsus542 and Paulus Ægineta. It was somewhat altered in the middle of the seventeenth century by Petit.

An instrument suited to carry off the dropsical humours by a little at a time on successive days, as Celsus and Paulus Ægineta recommended, has also been dug up. Rust and hard earth, which cannot safely be removed, have blocked up the canal of the relic, and rendered conclusions less certain.543

“The probe, ‘specillum,’ μήλη, is reputed by Cicero to have been invented by the Arcadian Apollo, who also was the first to bind up a wound. Seven varieties are figured in the work of Professor Vulpes in one plate, with ends obtuse, spoon-shaped, flat and oval, flat and square, flat and divided. The catheter of the ancients is figured by the same writer. It was furnished with a bit of wood to be drawn out by a thread, to prevent the obstructive effects of capillary attraction, and to fetch the urine after it when withdrawn. It is of bronze, and elastic catheters seem to be of modern invention.” There are, or were in 1847, eighty-nine specimens of pincers in the Naples Museum.

Hooks, hamuli, cauterising instruments, a spatula, a silver lancet, a small spoon for examining a small quantity of blood after venesection.246 There are cupping vessels of a somewhat spherical shape, from which air was exhausted by burning a little tow. A fleam for bleeding horses just like that used at the present time, a bent lever of steel for raising the bones of the head in cases of depressed fracture. Professor Vulpes gives figures of eight steel or iron knives used for various surgical purposes, and of a small plate to be used as an actual cautery.


Fig. 1. The Saw used by Carpenters. Fig. 2. A Small Saw. Fig. 3. The Modiolus, or Ancient Trephine. Fig. 4. The Terebra, or Trepan, called Abaptiston. Fig. 5. The Augur used by Carpenters. Fig. 6. The Terebra, or Trepan, which is turned round by a thong bound tight about its middle. Fig. 7. The Augur, or Trepan, which is turned round by a bow. Fig. 8. A Terebra, or Trepan, which is turned round by a thong on a cross-beam. Fig. 9. A Terebra, or Trepan, which has a ball in its upper end, by which it is turned round. Fig. 10. A Terebra, or Trepan, which is turned round by a cross piece of wood, or handle, on its upper end. (From Adams’ Hippocrates, vol. i.)

[Face p. 246.



Universality of the Amulet.—Scarabs.—Beads.—Savage Amulets.—Gnostic and Christian Amulets.—Herbs and Animals as Charms.—Knots.—Precious Stones.—Signatures.—Numbers.—Saliva.—Talismans.—Scripts.—Characts.—Sacred Names.—Stolen Goods.

In the ancient world, as with savages, the whole art of medicine was in many cases the art of preparing and applying amulets and charms.

An amulet (probably the word is derived from the Arabic hamalet, a pendant) is anything which is hung round the neck or attached to any other part of the body, and worn as an imagined protection against disease, witchcraft, accidents, or other evils. Stones, metals, bits of parchment, portions of the human body, as parings of the finger nails, may constitute these charms. Substances like stones, gems, or parchment may have certain words, letters, or signs inscribed upon them. In the East amulets have from the earliest ages been associated with the belief in evil spirits as the causes of diseases. A talisman may for our purpose be considered as the same thing as an amulet. In Scott’s Tales of the Crusaders, there is one of these charms which has the power of stopping blood and protecting the wearer from hydrophobia. Charms, enchantments, the ceremonial use of words as incantations, songs, verses, etc., have all been used either with a view of causing, preventing, or curing diseases, and their use of course arose from the belief of primitive, or savage man his present representative, that our maladies have a supernatural origin. An amulet may consist merely of a piece of string tied like a bracelet round the wrist, as in India, where such a charm is commonly worn by school children; it is a talisman against fever, which has been blessed by a Brahman, has been sold for a half-rupee, and is highly esteemed by the wearer. Our word carminative (a comforting medicine, like tincture of cardamoms) means really a charm medicine, and is derived from the Latin carmen, a song-charm. This word enshrines the fact that magic and medicine were once united. The charm, i.e. song, was a spell, whether of words, philtres, or figures, as thus:—

“With the charmes that she saide,
A fire down fro’ the sky alight.”



Charms, amulets, characts, talismans, and the like, are found amongst all peoples and in all times. They unite in one bond of superstitious brotherhood the savage and the philosopher, the Sumatrans and the Egyptians, the Malay and the Jew, the Catholic and the Protestant. The charm differs from the amulet merely in the fact that it need not be suspended. “There is scarcely a disease,” says Pettigrew, “for which a charm has not been given.”544 And it is well to note that their greatest effect is always produced on disorders of the nervous system, in which the imagination plays so important a part. Charms are also used to avert diseases and other evils; so that the man, sufficiently protected as he supposes by these objects, not only will escape plague and pestilence, but will be invulnerable to bullet and sword. The Sumatrans practise medicine chiefly by charms; when called in to prescribe, they generally ask for “something on account,” under the pretext of purchasing the appropriate charm.545

The hoof of the elk is used by the Indians and Norwegians and other northern nations as a cure for epilepsy. The patient must apply it to his heart, hold it in his left hand, and rub his ear with it.546

“Medicine” amongst primitive folk is a synonym for fetich; anything wonderful, mysterious, or unaccountable, is called “medicine” by the North American Indians. The medicine-bag is a mystery bag, a charm. In fetiches primitive man recognises something which has a power of a sort he cannot understand straightway; therefore it becomes to him a religious object. “Why are any herbs or roots magical?” asks Mr. Lang; and he correctly answers the question, not by any far-fetched explanations, but by the observation that herbs really do possess medicinal properties (some of them indeed of extreme potency), and the ignorant invariably confound medicine with magic.547 On this theory it is, of course, not necessary to swallow the medicine or apply it as we apply lotions and liniments; it is enough to carry it about as an amulet or charm, for it is the life of the thing which is efficacious, the spirit, which resides in the outward form, which possesses the virtue, not the material object itself. Of course, it may be necessary to take the charm internally; but then it is not the physiological action which is looked for, but the magical. Dapper, in his Description of Africa (p. 621), tells of savages who wear roots round their necks as amulets when they sleep out; they chew the roots, and spit the juice round the camp to keep off the wild beasts. At other times they burn the roots, and blow the smoke about for the same purpose. The Korannas carry roots as charms against bullets and wild animals. If successful in war, and obtaining249 much booty, they say, “We thank thee, our grandfather’s root, that thou hast given us cattle to eat.”

The Bongoes and Niam-Niams have similar customs.548

General Forlong, referring to the serpent Buddhism of Kambodia, says, that “Fetish worship was the first worship, and to a great extent is still the real faith of the great mass of the ignorant, especially about these parts.”549 “Probably one-quarter of the world yet deifies, or at least reverences, sticks and stones, ram-horns and charms.”550

The Abyssinians are sunk in the grossest superstition; their medical practice is, to a large extent, based on the use of amulets and charms. Even leprosy and syphilis are treated by these means, and eye diseases by spitting in the affected organs.551

“Fetiches” are claws, fangs, roots, or stones, which the Africans believe to be inhabited by spirits, and so powerful for good or evil. The word is derived from the Portuguese feitiço, a charm or amulet.

The Tibetans wear amulets upon their necks and arms; they contain nail-parings, teeth, or other reliques of some sainted Lama, with musk, written prayers, and other charms.552

Barth, travelling in Africa, found an English letter which had not reached its destination, used as a charm by a native.553

Leaving primitive folk and savage peoples, and turning to the great civilized nations of the past, we find the Egyptians, the Chaldæans, Assyrians, and Babylonians not less addicted to the use of amulets, charms, talismans, and philters than their untutored progenitors (assuming with the anthropologists that the savage of to-day represents the primitive people who must have preceded the founders of civilization). The Magi, according to Pliny,554 prescribed the herb feverfew, the Pyrethrum parthenium, to be pulled from the ground with the left hand, that the fevered patient’s name must be spoken forth, and that the herborist must not look behind him. He tells us also that the Magi and the Pythagoreans ordered the pseudo-anchusa to be gathered with the left hand, while the plucker uttered the name of the person to be cured, and that it should be tied on him for the tertian fever.555

Of the aglaophotis, by which some commentators understand the peony (Pæonia officinalis), and others the “Moly” of Homer, Pliny says, “by means of this plant, the Magi can summon the deities into their presence when they please.” Concerning the achæmenis, he says the root250 of it, according to the Magian belief as expressed by Democritus, when taken in wine, torments the guilty to such a degree during the night, by the various forms of avenging deities, as to extort from them a confession of their crimes. He tells, amongst other marvels, of the adamantis, a plant found in Armenia, which, when presented to a lion, will make the beast fall upon its back and drop its jaws. The Magi said if any one swallowed the heart of a mole palpitating and fresh, he would at once become an expert diviner. An owl’s heart placed on a woman’s left breast while she is asleep will make her tell all her secrets. For quartan fevers they recommended a kind of beetle taken up with the left hand to be worn as an amulet.556 The use of scarabs or beetles made of steatite, lapis-lazuli, cornelian, etc., as amulets, dates from the most ancient periods of Egyptian history. In the fourth Egyptian room of the British Museum there are specimens of scarabs, with the names of kings and queens dating B.C. 4400-250. The objects are not in all cases as old as the dates of the sovereigns whose names they bear. “The beetle was an emblem of the god Khepera, the self-created, and the origin and source from whence sprang gods and men. Rā, the Sun-god, who rose again daily, was, according to an Egyptian myth, a form of Khepera; and the burial of scarabs with mummies probably had reference to the resurrection of the dead.”557

Some large scarabs which were fastened on the breasts of mummies had inscriptions from the 30th chapter of the Book of the Dead. The deceased person prays: “Let there be no obstruction to me in evidence; let there be no obstacle on the part of the Powers; let there be no repulse in the presence of the Guardian of the Scale.” Other amulets consist of papyrus sceptres, buckles of Isis, hearts, fingers, etc., in gold and precious stones. They are laid between the bandages of mummies to guard the dead from evil.

Professor Lenormant explains the magical incantations which were used in connection with these talismans; they had to be “pronounced over the beetle of hard stone, which is to be overlaid with gold and to take the place of the individual’s heart. Make a phylactery of it anointed with oil, and say magically over this object, ‘My heart is my mother; my heart is in my transformations.’”558

The ancient Egyptians were buried with their amulets as a protection against the evil powers of the other world. Mr. Flinders Petrie, excavating at the Pyramid of Hawara, discovered on the body of Horuta a great number of these charms. He says: “Bit by bit the layers251 of pitch and cloth were loosened, and row after row of magnificent amulets were disclosed, just as they were laid on in the distant past. The gold ring on the finger which bore his name and titles, the exquisitely inlaid gold birds, the chased gold figures, the lazuli statuettes, delicately wrought, the polished lazuli and beryl, and carnelian amulets finely engraved, all the wealth of talismanic armoury, rewarded our eyes with a sight which has never been surpassed to archæological gaze. No such complete and rich a series of amulets has been seen intact before.”559

Anodyne necklaces, made of beads from peony roots, are worn by children in some parts to assist them in teething. The ancient Greeks held the peony in great repute; they believed it to be of divine origin, and it was for many centuries held to have the power to drive away evil spirits.560

Abydemis, a Greek historian who wrote a history of Assyria, says that the inhabitants made amulets from the wood of the ash, and hung them round their necks as a charm against sorcery.

In the Sanskrit Atharvaveda are found charms for diseases, which are influenced by colours. Saffron and the yellow-hammer are prescribed for jaundice; red remedies, and especially red cows, for blood diseases.

The extremity of the intestine of the ossifrage, says Pliny, if worn as an amulet, is well known to be an excellent remedy for colic. Another cure is for the patient to drink the water in which he has washed his feet!561 A tick from a dog’s left ear, worn as an amulet, will allay all kinds of pains, but we must be careful to take it from a dog that is black.562

“Pliny says that any plant gathered from the bank of a brook or river before sunrise, provided that no one sees the person who gathers it, is considered as a remedy for tertian ague, when tied to the left arm, the patient not knowing what it is; also, that a person may be immediately cured of the headache by the application of any plant which has grown on the head of a statue, provided it be folded in the shred of a garment, and tied to the part affected with a red string.”563

The cyclamen was cultivated in houses as a protection against poison. Pliny remarks that it was an amulet.564 Vivisection was practised in connection with charms. “If a man have a white spot, as cataract, in his eye, catch a fox alive, cut his tongue out, let him go, dry his tongue and tie it up in a red rag and hang it round the man’s neck.”

Alexander Trallianus was not able to rise above the absurdities of252 the amulet. He recommends bits of old sailcloth from a shipwrecked vessel to be tied to the right arm and worn for seven weeks as a protection against epilepsy. He advises the heart of a lark to be fastened to the left thigh as a remedy for colic; for a quartan ague, the patient must carry about some hairs from a goat’s chin. He admits that he has no faith in such things, but merely orders them as placebos for rich and fastidious patients who could not be persuaded to adopt a more rational treatment.565

Dr. Baas tells us that “a regular pagan amulet was found in 1749 on the breast of the prince bishop Anselm Franz of Würzburg, count of Ingolstadt, after his death.”566

Gnostic and Christian Amulets.

Gnosticism is responsible for the introduction of many wonder-working amulets and charms. This system of philosophy was a fantastical combination of Orientalism, Greek philosophy, and Christianity. The teaching was that all natures were emanations of the Deity, or Œons. On some of the gnostic amulets the word Mythras was inscribed, on others Serapis, Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, etc.

Notwithstanding the fact that the spirit of Christianity in its early days was strenuously opposed to all magical and superstitious practices, the nations it subdued to the faith of Christ were so wedded to their ancient practices that they could not be entirely divorced from them, and thus in the case of amulets and charms it was necessary to substitute Christian words and emblems in place of the heathen words and symbols previously in use.

Anglo-Saxon charms and amulets were used by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey, who treated disease. In the “Leech book”567 we find a holy amulet “against every evil rune lay,568 and one full of elvish tricks, writ for the bewitched man, this writing in Greek letters: Alfa, Omega, Iesvm, Beronikh. Again, another dust and drink against a rune lay; take a bramble apple,569 and lupins, and pulegium, pound them, then sift them, put them in a pouch, lay them under the altar, sing nine masses over them, put the dust into milk, drip thrice some holy water upon them, administer this to drink at three hours.... If a mare570 or hag ride a man, take lupins, and garlic, and betony, and frankincense, bind them on a fawn skin, let a man have the worts on him, and let him go into his house.” For typhus fever the patient is to drink of a decoction253 of herbs over which many masses have been sung, then say the names of the four gospellers and a charm and a prayer. Again, a man is to write in silence a charm, and silently put the words in his left breast and take care not to go indoors with the writing upon him, the words being Emmanuel, Veronica.

Mr. Cockayne, the editor of Saxon Leechdoms, has pointed out that the greatest scientific men of antiquity, even those who set themselves against the prevailing medical superstitions of their times, and did their utmost to establish observation and experiment in opposition to speculation and old wives’ fables, were by no means liberated from a belief in magic and incantations. Chrysippus believed in amulets for quartan fevers.571 Serapion, one of the chiefs of the Empiric school, prescribed crocodile’s dung and turtle’s blood in epilepsy. Soranos will not use incantations in the cure of diseases, yet he testifies that they were so employed. Pliny has an amulet for almost every disorder. He tells of a chief man in Spain who was cured of a disease by hanging purslane root round his neck; he teaches that an amulet of the seed of tribulus cures varicose veins; that the longest tooth of a black dog cures quartan fevers; or you may carry a wasp in your left hand or half a dozen other equally absurd things for the same purpose. A holly planted in the courtyard of a house keeps off witchcrafts; an herb picked from the head of a statue and tied with a red thread will cure headache, and so on.572

Josephus tells a tale which was probably the foundation of what was afterwards told about the mandrake. Xenocrates had a fancy for advising people to eat human brains, flesh or liver, or to swallow for various complaints the ground bones of parts of the human frame. Alexander of Tralles says that even Galen did homage to incantations.573 He gives his words: “Some think that incantations are like old wives’ tales; as I did for a long while. But at last I was convinced that there is virtue in them by plain proofs before my eyes. For I had trial of their beneficial operations in the case of those scorpion-stung, nor less in the case of bones stuck fast in the throat, immediately, by an incantation thrown up. And many of them are excellent, severally, and they reach their mark.” Yet Galen is angry with Pamphilos for “his babbling incantations,” which were “not merely useless, not merely unprofessional, but all false: no good even to little boys, not to say students of medicine.”574254

Alexander of Tralles frequently prescribes amulets and the like. Mr. Cockayne calls them periapts. “Thus for colic, he guarantees by his own experience, and the approval of almost all the best doctors, dung of a wolf, with bits of bone in it if possible, shut up in a pipe, and worn during the paroxysm, on the right arm, or thigh, or hip, taking care it touches neither the earth nor a bath. A lark eaten is good. The Thracians pick out its heart, while alive, and make a periapt, wearing it on the left thigh. A part of the cæcum of a pig prepared with myrrh, and put in a wolf’s or dog’s skin, is a good thing to wear. A ring with Hercules strangling a lion on the Median stone575 is good to wear.

“A bit of a child’s navel, shut up in something of gold or silver with salt, is a periapt which will make the patient at ease entirely. Have the setting of an iron ring octagonal, and engrave upon it, ‘Flee, Flee, Ho, Ho, Bile, the lark was searching’; on the head of the ring have an N576 engraved; this is potent, and he thinks it must be strange not to communicate so powerful an antidote, but begs it may be reserved from carnal folk, and told only to such as can keep secrets and are trusty. For the gout he recommends a certain cloth—ἐκ τῶν καταμηνίων; also the sinews of a vulture’s leg and toes tied on, minding that the right goes to the right, the left to the left; also the astragali of a hare, leaving the poor creature alive; also the skin of a seal for solesῖια], on gold-leaf, when the moon is in Libra; also a natural magnet found when the moon is in Leo. Write on gold-leaf, in the wane of the moon, ‘mei, threu, mor, for, teux, za, zon, the, lou, chri, ge, ze, ou, as the sun is consolidated in these names, and is renewed every day; so consolidate this plaster as it was before, now, now, quick, quick, for, behold, I pronounce the great name, in which are consolidated things in repose, iaz, azuf, zuon, threux, bain, chook; consolidate this plaster as it was at first, now, now, quick, quick.’577 255

“Then bits were to be chopped off a chameleon, and the creature living was to be wrapped up in a clean linen rag, and buried towards the sunrise, while the chopped bits were to be worn in tubes; all to be done when the moon was in the wane. Then again for gout, some henbane, when the moon is in Aquarius or Pisces, before sunset, must be dug up with the thumb and third finger of the left hand, and must be said, I declare, I declare, holy wort, to thee; I invite thee to-morrow to the house of Fileas, to stop the rheum of the feet of M. or N., and say I invoke thee, the great name, Jehovah, Sabaoth, the God who steadied the earth and stayed the sea, the filler of flowing rivers, who dried up Lot’s wife and made her a pillar of salt, take the breath of thy mother earth and her power, and dry the rheum of the feet or hands of M. or N. The next day, before sunrise, take a bone of some dead animal, and dig the root up with this bone, and say, I invoke thee by the holy names, Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Elai; and put on the root one handful of salt, saying, ‘As this salt will not increase, so may not the disorder of N. or M.’ And hang the end of the root as a periapt on the sufferer,” etc.578

Although Alexander of Tralles was an enlightened and skilful physician, he recommended for epilepsy a metal cross tied to the arm; and went to the Magi for assistance in his art, and was recommended to use jasper and coral with root of nux vomica tied in a linen cloth as an amulet. It seems strange that, although Hippocrates and the scepticism of the Epicureans had apparently destroyed the faith in magicians amongst the learned, that men should have so soon reverted to the absurdities from which they had been delivered; but there is an element in our nature which can only be satisfied by that which magic represents, and even in the present age of science we have reverted to the same things under the names of Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Occultism.

It would be grossly unfair to the Catholic Church to complain of the slavery in which it kept the minds of the ignorant barbarians whom it had converted from paganism to Christianity. When we read of medicine masses, of herbs and decoctions placed under the altar, of holy water mixed with drugs, and the sign of the cross made over the poultices and lotions prescribed, we are apt to say that the priests merely substituted one form of superstition for another, which was a little coarser. A little reflection will serve to dispel this idea. A belief in magic influence is, as we have abundantly shown, inseparable from the minds of primitive and savage man. It is as certain that a savage will worship his fetish, pray to his idol, and believe in disease-demons, and their expulsion by charms and talismans, as that he will tattoo or paint his body, stick feathers in his hair, and rings in his nose and ears; it is part of the evolution of man on his way to civilization. To suddenly deprive a savage or barbarian of all his magic remedies, his amulets and charms, would be as foolish as it would be futile: foolish, because many amulets and charms are perfectly harmless, and help to quiet and soothe the patient’s mind; futile, because whatever the ecclesiastical prohibition,256 the obnoxious ceremonies would certainly be practised in secret. It was therefore wiser for the Church to compromise the matter, to wink at innocent superstitions, and endeavour to substitute a religious idea such as the sign of the cross would imply, for the meaningless, if not idolatrous, ceremonies of a pagan religion. Let us never forget that the Church delivered the nations from “the tyranny and terror of the poisoner and the wizard.”

Herbs, Animals, etc., as Amulets.

Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, mentions several “amulets and things to be borne about” as remedies for head-melancholy, such as hypericon, or St. John’s wort, gathered on a Friday in the hour of Jupiter, “borne or hung about the neck, it mightily helps this affection, and drives away all fantastical spirits.” A sheep or kid’s skin whom a wolf worried must not be worn about a man, because it is apt to cause palpitation of the heart, “not for any fear, but a secret virtue which amulets have.” “Peony doth cure epilepsy, precious stones most diseases; a wolf’s dung borne with one helps the colic; a spider an ague, etc. Being in the country,” he says, “in the vacation time, not many years since, at Lindley, in Leicestershire, my father’s home, I first observed this amulet of a spider in a nut-shell lapped in silk, etc., so applied for an ague by my mother; whom, although I knew to have excellent skill in chirurgery, sore eyes, aches, etc., and such experimental medicines, as all the country where she dwelt can witness, to have done many famous and good cures upon diverse poor folks that were otherwise destitute of help; yet among all other experiments, this, methought, was most absurd and ridiculous; I could see no warrant for it—Quid aranea cum febre? For what antipathy?—till at length rambling amongst authors (as I often do), I found this very medicine in Dioscorides, approved by Matthiolus, repeated by Alderovandus, cap. de aranea, lib. de insectis, and began to have a better opinion of it, and to give more credit to amulets, when I saw it in some parties answer to experience.”579

The common fumitory (Fumaria capreolata) is said to derive its name from fumus, smoke, “because the smoke of this plant was said by the ancient exorcists to have the power of expelling evil spirits.”580

The elder had many singular virtues attributed to it; if a boy were beaten with an elder stick, it hindered his growth; but an elder on which the sun had never shined was an amulet against erysipelas.581257

Knots as Charms.

Marcellus, a medical writer, quoted by Mr. Cockayne in his preface to Saxon Leechdoms, vol. i, p. xxix., gives an example of knots as charms. “As soon as a man gets pain in his eyes, tie in unwrought flax as many knots as there are letters in his name, pronouncing them as you go, and tie it round his neck.”

Precious Stones as Charms.

The origin of the superstitious belief in the magic power of precious stones has always been traced to Chaldæa. Pliny582 refers to a book on the subject which was written by Lachalios, of Babylon, and dedicated to Mithridates.

The Eagle stone (Ætites) is a natural concretion, a variety of argillaceous oxide of iron, often hollow within, with a loose kernel in the centre, found sometimes in an eagle’s nest. This was a famous amulet, bringing love between a man and his wife; and if tied to the left arm or side of a pregnant woman it ensured that she should not be delivered before her time. Women in labour were supposed to be quickly delivered if they were girded with the skin which a snake casts off.583

The Bezoar stone had a great reputation in melancholic affections. Manardus says it removes sadness and makes him merry that useth it.584

“Of the stone which hight agate. It is said that it hath eight virtues. One is when there is thunder, it doth not scathe the man who hath this stone with him. Another virtue is, on whatsoever house it is, therein a fiend may not be. The third virtue is, that no venom may scathe the man who hath the stone with him. The fourth virtue is, that the man, who hath on him secretly the loathly fiend, if he taketh in liquid any portion of the shavings of this stone, then soon is exhibited manifestly in him, that which before lay secretly hid. The fifth virtue is, he who is afflicted with any disease, if he taketh the stone in liquid, it is soon well with him. The sixth virtue is, that sorcery hurteth not the man who has the stone with him. The seventh virtue is, that he who taketh the stone in drink, will have so much the smoother body. The eighth virtue of the stone is, that no bite of any kind of snake may scathe him who tasteth the stone in liquid.”585


Colours have always had a medical significance, from their connection with the doctrine of “signatures.” White was cooling; red was hot. Red flowers were given in disorders of the blood; yellow in bile disturbance.258 The bed-hangings in small-pox and scarlet-fever cases were commonly of a red colour; the unhappy patient’s room was hung about with red drapery. He had to drink infusions of red berries, such as mulberries. Avicenna said that as red bodies move the blood everything of a red colour is good for blood disorders.


Magic numbers as charms were in use in Anglo-Saxon medicine. “If any thing to cause annoyance get into a man’s eye, with five fingers of the same side as the eye, run the eye over and fumble at it, saying three times, ‘tetunc resonco, bregan gresso,’ and spit thrice. For the same, shut the vexed eye and say thrice, ‘in mon deromarcos axatison,’ and spit thrice; this remedy is ‘mirificum.’ For the same, shut the other eye, touch gently the vexed eye with the ring finger and thumb, and say thrice, ‘I buss the gorgon’s mouth.’ This charm repeated thrice nine times will draw a bone stuck in a man’s throat. For hordeolum, which is a sore place in the eyelid of the shape of a barley-corn, take nine grains of barley and with each poke the sore, with every one saying the magic words, κυρια κυρια κασσαρια σουρωφβι; then throw away the nine, and do the same with seven; throw away the seven, and do the same with five, and so with three and one. For the same, take nine grains of barley and poke the sore, and at every poke say, ‘φεῦγε, φεῦγε κριθή σε διώκει, flee, flee, barley thee chaseth.’ For the same, touch the sore with the medicinal or ring finger, and say thrice, ‘vigaria gasaria.’ To shorten the matter, blood may be stanched by the words, ‘sicycuma, cucuma, ucuma, cuma, uma, ma, a.’ Also by ‘Stupid on a mountain went, stupid, stupid was;’ by socnon socnon; σοκσοκαμ συκιμα; by ψα ψε ψη ψε ψη ψα ψε. For toothache say, ‘Argidam margidam sturgidam;’ also, spit in a frog’s mouth, and request him to make off with the toothache. For a troublesome uvula catch a spider, say suitable words, and make a phylactery of it. For a quinsy lay hold of the throat with the thumb and the ring and middle fingers, cocking up the other two, and tell it to be gone.”

Nine is the number consecrated by Buddhism, three is sacred among Brahminical and Christian people. Pythagoras held that the unit or monad is the principle and the end of all. One is a good principle. Two, or the dyad, is the origin of contrasts and separation, and is an evil principle. Three, or the triad, is the image of the attributes of God. Four, or the tetrad, is the most perfect of numbers and the root of all things. It is holy by nature. Five, or the pentad, is everything; it stops the power of poisons, and is redoubted by evil spirits. Six is a fortunate number. Seven is powerful for good or evil, and is a sacred number.259 Eight is the first cube, so is man four-square or perfect. Nine, as the multiple of three, is sacred. Ten, or the decad, is the measure of all it contains, all the numeric relations and harmonies.586

Cornelius Agrippa wrote on the power of numbers, which he declares is asserted by nature herself; thus the herb called cinquefoil, or five-leaved grass, resists poison, and bans devils by virtue of the number five; one leaf of it taken in wine twice a day cures the quotidian, three the tertian, four the quartan fever. He believed that every seventh son born to parents who have not had daughters is able to cure the king’s-evil by touch or word alone.587


Amongst the ancient Britons, says Meryon,588 when a birth was attended with difficulty or danger, girdles were put round the woman, which were made for the purpose, and which gave her immediate relief. Many families in the highlands of Scotland kept such girdles until quite recently. They were marked with cabalistic figures, and were applied with certain ceremonies, which came originally from the Druids.


Levinus Lemnius says of saliva: “Divers experiments show what power and quality there is in man’s fasting spittle, when he hath neither eat nor drunk before the use of it; for it cures all tetters, itch, scabs, pushes, and creeping sores; and if venomous little beasts have fastened on any part of the body, as hornets, beetles, toads, spiders, and such like, that by their venome cause tumours and great pains and inflammations; do but rub the places with fasting spittle, and all those effects will be gone and dismissed.”589

Sir Thomas Browne is not quite sure that fasting saliva really is poisonous to snakes and vipers.590

In Saxon Leechdoms a cure for the gout runs thus: “Before getting out of bed in the morning, spit on your hand, rub all your sinews, and say, ‘Flee, gout, flee, etc.’”591

Spittle was anciently a charm against all kinds of fascination. Pliny says it averted witchcraft. Theocritus says,—

“Thrice on my breast I spit, to guard me safe
From fascinating charms.”


Fishermen and costermongers often spit on the first money they take, for good luck.592


Talismans, says Fosbrooke,593 are of five classes, 1. The Astronomical, with celestial signs and intelligible characters. 2. The Magical, with extraordinary figures, superstitious words, and names of unknown angels. 3. The Mixed, of celestial signs and barbarous words, but not superstitions, or with names of angels. 4. The Sigilla Planetarum, composed of Hebrew numeral letters, used by astrologers and fortune tellers. 5. Hebrew Names and Characters. These were formed according to the cabalistic art. Pettigrew gives a Hebrew talisman,594 which runs thus: “It overflowed—he did cast darts—Shaddai is all sufficient—his hand is strong, and is the preserver of my life in all its variations.”


Sir John Lubbock says that “The use of writing as a medicine prevails largely in Africa, where the priests or wizards write a prayer on a piece of board, wash it off, and make the patient drink it. Caillie met with a man who had a great reputation for sanctity, and who made his living by writing prayers on a board, washing them off, and then selling the water, which was sprinkled over various objects and supposed to protect them.”595

Mungo Park relates similar facts.596

Sir A. Lyall says that a similar practice exists in India, where, however, the native practitioner may sometimes be seen mixing croton oil in the ink with which he writes his charms. “In Africa,” says Lubbock, “the prayers written as medicine or as amulets are generally taken from the Koran.” It is admitted that they are no protection against firearms; but this does not the least weaken faith in them, because, as guns were not invented in Mahomet’s time, he naturally provided no specific against them.597

Among the Kirghiz Atkinson says that the Mullas sell such amulets at the rate of a sheep for each scrap of written paper,598 and similar charms are in great request among the Turkomans599 and in Afghanistan.600


The very curious account of the trial of jealousy in Numbers vi. 11-31 may be studied in this connection as showing the extreme antiquity of the writing charm. In the case of the woman suspected of having committed adultery “the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord: and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: and the priest shall set the woman before the Lord, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: but if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; and this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: and the woman shall say, Amen, amen. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: and he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter. Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it upon the altar: and the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.”

This is quite evidently taken from the customs of African tribes.262 As the Egyptians gave the Jews their knowledge of the medical arts, and as this knowledge was doubtless largely intermingled with African ideas, it is easy to see how the ordeal of the bitter curse-water found its way into the Mosaic ritual.

Of scripts as amulets we find that anything written in a character which nobody could read was worn as an amulet against disease or danger. Thus the Anglo-Saxon MS., known as the Vercelli MS., by some means found its way to a place near Milan, where no one could decipher it. When that discovery was made, the next step was to cut up its precious pages for amulets, and so many of its leaves have perished.

After the death of Pascal, the philosopher, a writing was found sewn into his doublet. This was a “profession of faith” which he wore as a sort of amulet or charm, and his servants believed that he always had it stitched into a new garment when he discarded the old one.601

“Mais ce qui montre que ce n’est par un simple engagement tel qu’on en peut prendre avec soi-même, c’est la forme étrange que Pascal lui a donnée. Pour quiconque a vu les écrits de ce genre de la part d’hallucinés, le premier coup d’œil montre que l’écrit de Pascal appartient à cette catégorie. D’ailleurs, il porte l’énonciation manifeste d’une vision en ces termes: ‘Depuis environ dix heures et demie du soir jusque environ minuit et demi, feu.’ Ainsi, ce jour-là, le lundi 23 Novembre, 1654, pendant environ deux heures, Pascal eut la vision d’un feu qu’il prit pour une apparition surnaturelle, et sa conviction fut si forte qu’elle le détermina à entrer plus avant qu’il n’avait fait jusqu’alors dans les voies de la dévotion et du rigorisme janséniste.”602


Of the species of charms known as characts we have many examples in the practice of Anglo-Saxon physicians. In the preface to the Herbarium of Apuleius, used at Glastonbury, Mr. Cockayne, the editor, gives the following from Marcellus, 380 A.D., to avoid inflamed eyes: “Write on a clean sheet of ουβαικ, and hang this round the patient’s neck, with a thread from the loom.” In a state of purity and chastity write on a clean sheet of paper φυρφαραν, and hang it round the man’s neck; it will stop the approach of inflammation. The following will stop inflammation coming on, written on a clean sheet of paper: ρουβος, ρνονειρας ρηελιος ως· καντεφορα· και παντες ηακοτει; it must be hung to the neck by a thread; and if both the patient and operator are in a state of chastity, it will stop inveterate inflammation. Again, write on a263 thin plate of gold with a needle of copper, ορνω ουρωδη; do this on a Monday; observe chastity; it will long and much avail.

Characts are amulets in the form of inscriptions, and are to be found in all the old houses still existing in Edinburgh.603 The name of God is one of the commonest characts.

Rabbi Hama gives a sacred seal with divine names written in Hebrew, which he declares will cure not only all kinds of diseases, but heal all griefs whatsoever. The seals are figured in Morley’s Life of Cornelius Agrippa.604

When a charact or charm lost its original meaning, it came to bear that of something worn for its supposed efficacy in preserving the wearer from danger in mind or body, and now means a mere trinket to hang on a watch chain. One of the most famous of ancient charms was the name of the supreme deity of the Assyrians. This was the Abracadabra, which was supposed to have a magical efficacy as an antidote against ague, fever, flux, and toothache.605 It was written on parchment, and arranged as follows:—


This was suspended round the neck by a linen thread. The word Abraxas, or Abrasax, was engraved on antique stones, and used as amulets or charms against disease. Sometimes mystical characters and figures were added, as the head of a fowl, the arms and bust of a man terminating in the body and tail of a serpent. It is of Egyptian origin, and is referred to by the Greek Fathers. The Egyptians used it to dispossess evil spirits and to cure diseases.606

Abraxas is the president of the 365th heaven, and is thus evidently a sun myth. Apollo is the sun in mythology, and he was the god of physic or healing.607


Brande, in his Popular Antiquities, gives the following charm from a manuscript of the date of 1475:608

“Here ys a charme for wyked Wych. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Per Virtutem Domini sint Medicina mei pia Crux ✠ et passio Christi ✠. Vulnera quinque Domini sint Medicina mei ✠. Virgo Maria mihi succurre, et defende ab omni maligno Demonio, et ab omni maligno Spiritu. Amen. ✠ a ✠ g ✠ l ✠ a ✠ Tetragrammaton. ✠ Alpha, ✠ oo, ✠ primogenitus, ✠ vita, vita. ✠ Sapiencia, ✠ Virtus, ✠ Jesus Nazarenus rex judeorum, ✠ fili Domini, miserere mei. Amen. ✠ Marcus ✠ Matheus ✠ Lucas ✠ Johannes mihi succurrite et defendite. Amen. ✠ Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, hunc N. famulum tuum hoc breve Scriptum super se portantem prospere salvet dormiendo, vigilando, potando, et precipue sompniando ab omni Maligno Demonio, eciam ab omni maligno spiritu ✠.”

One of the most famous charms of this kind is the “Solomon’s Seal.”

Solomon's Seal

Amongst the Cabalists an amulet, with the names “Senoi, Sansenoi, Semongeloph,” upon it, was fastened round the neck of the new-born child.609

The first Psalm, when written on doeskin, was supposed to help the birth of children; but the writer of such Psalm amulets, as soon as he had written one line, had to plunge into a bath. “Moreover,” says Mr. Morley, “that the charm might be the work of a pure man, before every new line of his manuscript it was thought necessary that he should repeat the plunge.”610


Sacred Names as Charms.

Some of the Jews accounted for the miracles of healing wrought by our Saviour by declaring that He had learned the Mirific Word, the true pronunciation of the name Jehovah; this word stirs all the angels and rules all creatures. They said that He had gained admission to the Holy of Holies, where He learned the sacred mystery, wrote it on a tablet, cut open His thigh, and having put the tablet in the wound, closed the flesh by uttering the mystic Name. The names of angels and evil spirits were also held to be potent by the Cabalists. The name of a bad angel, Schabriri, was used when written down as a charm to cure ophthalmia.

Stolen Property as a Charm.

In Mr. Andrew Lang’s delightful Custom and Myth he says that he once met at dinner a lady who carried a stolen potato about with her as a cure for rheumatism. The potato must be stolen, or the charm would not work.

A small piece of beef, if stolen from a butcher, is supposed by some persons to charm away warts.





Origin of the Druid Religion.—Druid Medicine.—Their Magic.—Teutonic Medicine.—Gods of Healing.—Elves.—The Elements.—Anglo-Saxon Leechcraft.—The Leech-book.—Monastic Leechdoms.—Superstitions.—Welsh Medicine.—The Triads.—Welsh Druidism.—The Laws of the Court Physicians.—Welsh Medical Maxims.—Welsh Medical and Surgical Practice and Fees.

Medicine of the Druids.

The learned men of the Celto-Britannic regions were called Druids. They were the judges, legislators, priests, and physicians, and corresponded to the Magi of the ancient Persians and Chaldæans of Syria. The etymology of the name is uncertain. The old derivation from δρῦσ, an oak, is considered fanciful, and that from the Irish draoi, druidh = a magician, an augur, is by some authorities preferred. It is probable that they derived their knowledge from association with Greek colonists of Marseilles, as such writing as they used was in Greek characters, and they taught the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and a philosophy which Diodorus Siculus says was similar to that of the teaching of Pythagoras. Clement of Alexandria compared their religion to Shamanism. Whatever it was, it did not differ probably very widely from other systems which pretended to put its priests in direct communication with gods and demons. Its priests, says Sprengel, were simply impostors who pretended to exclusive knowledge of medicine and other sciences. Their women practised sorcery and divination, but by their medical skill were able to afford great assistance to the wounded in war. Plants were collected and magical properties ascribed to them. Lying-in women sought the aid of these Druidesses, who seem to have been wise women, somewhat after the character of gypsies. Mela says these women were called Senæ. They pretended to cure the most incurable diseases and to raise tempests by their incantations.611 The Druids communicated their knowledge to initiates only, and they celebrated their mystic rites under groves of oaks. Whatever grew on that tree was considered a divine gift; their highest veneration was reserved for270 the mistletoe, which they called All-Heal, and which they considered a panacea for all diseases. Three other plants, called Selago, a kind of club-moss, or perhaps hedge-hyssop, Samulus, the brookweed or winter cress, and Vervain, were held to be sacred plants. The mistletoe must be gathered fasting, the gatherer must not look backward while doing it, and he must take it with his left hand. The branches and herbs were immersed in water, and the infusion then became possessed of the property of preserving the drinkers from disease. When the Selago and Vervain were gathered, a white garment was worn, sacrifices of bread and wine were offered, and the gatherer, having covered his hand with the skirt of his robe, cut up the herbs with a hook made of a metal more precious than iron, placed it in a clean cloth, and preserved it as a charm against misfortunes and accidents.612

Strutt says: “Faint is the light thrown upon the methods pursued by the Druids in preparing their medicines. Some few hints, it is true, we meet with, of their extracting the juice of herbs, their bruising and steeping them in water, infusing them in wine, boiling them and making fumes from them, and the like; it also appears that they were not ignorant of making salves and ointments from vegetables.”613

In Britain the magical juggles, ceremonies, and rites were carried to a greater excess than in any other Celtic nation. They made a great mystery of their learning, their seminaries were held in groves and forests and the caverns of the earth.614 Strutt thinks that their alphabet was derived from the Greek merchants, who came frequently to the island. Pliny says that the ancient Britons were much addicted to the arts of divination.615 Diodorus Siculus describes one of their methods. “They take a man who is to be sacrificed and kill him with one stroke of a sword above the diaphragm; and by observing the posture in which he falls, his different convulsions, and the direction in which the blood flows from his body, they form their predictions, according to certain rules which have been left them by their ancestors.”616

Strutt says:617271 “The people were the more particularly inclined to make application to them for relief, because they thought that all internal diseases proceeded from the anger of the gods, and therefore none could be so proper to make intercession for them as the priest of those very deities from whom their afflictions came; for this cause also they offered sacrifices when sick; and if dangerously ill, the better to prevail upon the gods to restore them to health, a man was slain and sacrificed upon their altars.” The custom of human sacrifices doubtless afforded the Druids some knowledge of human anatomy. Their surgery was of a simple but useful character, and had to do principally with setting broken bones, reducing dislocations, and healing wounds; all this, of course, combined with magical ceremonies.618

Pliny refers to the magical practices of the Druids, and states that the Emperor Tiberius put them down, “and all that tribe of wizards and physicians.”619 He adds that they crossed the ocean and “penetrated to the void recesses of Nature,” as he calls Britannia. There, he tells us, they still cultivated the magic art, and that with fascinations and ceremonials so august that Persia might almost seem to have communicated it direct to Britain. “The worship of the stars, lakes, forests, and rivers, the ceremonials used in cutting the plants Samiolus, Selago, and Mistletoe, and the virtues attributed to the adder’s egg,” are thought by Ajasson to indicate the connection between the superstitions of ancient Britain and those of Persia.620

Medicine of the Teutons.

The Goths and other German peoples were from early times brought into relationship with the Romans, and had acquired some of the advantages of their civilization.

Originally their medical notions were not dissimilar to those of other barbaric nations. On the one hand, there was the belief in disease as the manifestation of the anger of supernatural beings who could be propitiated by prayers and magic rites; while on the other, the use of medicinal plants and the ministrations of old women were not less prominent. Tacitus points out the important part played by the women in the life of the Germans, and the good influence they exerted as nurses to the sick.

The Roman general Agricola, who was in Britain from A.D. 78-84, induced the noblemen’s sons to learn the liberal sciences.621 They must have acquired some knowledge of Greek and Roman medicine.

In the earliest ages, says Baas,622 women only seem to have practised272 medicine among the Germans and Celts. Medicine was deemed a profession unworthy of men, and it is not till the twelfth century that physicians are spoken of. Probably old women or Druidesses in ancient times were the only doctors of these peoples. Puschmann says that the Norwegians had a number of highly paid doctors in the tenth century, and that already a medical tax existed.623

In the time of the Vikings wounds were well attended to, amputations performed, and wooden legs were not uncommon. “Mention,” says Puschmann, “is also made of the operation called gastroraphy” (or sewing up a wound of the belly or some of its contents);624 lithotomy was performed successfully.

Wodan is the all-pervading creative and formative power who gives shape and beauty, wealth, prosperity, and all highest blessings to men.625

Eir was the goddess of physicians; Odin was a doctor; Brunhilda was a doctoress.

The ancient German nations offered to the gods sacrifices of human food, which they believed they enjoyed. These sacrifices were offered as thanksgivings or to appease their anger. When a famine or a pestilence appeared amongst the people, they concluded that the gods were angry, and they proceeded to propitiate them with gifts.626

Animal and especially human sacrifices had the most binding and atoning power.627

The Teutonic elves are good-natured, helpful beings. They fetch goodwives, midwives, to assist she-dwarfs in labour, and have much knowledge of occult healing virtues in plants and stones.628 But elves sometimes do mischief to men. Their touch and their breath may bring sickness or death on man and beast. Lamed cattle are said in Norway to be bewitched by them, and their avenging hand makes men silly or half-witted.629

Teutonic peoples have always had great faith in the normal influence of pure water.

The Germans believed in the magical properties of water hallowed at midnight of the day of baptism. Such water they called heilawâc. They believed it to have a wonderful power of healing diseases and wounds, and of never spoiling.630 The salt which is added to holy water in the church will account for its keeping properties. But it is in medicinal springs, such as are called Heilbrunn, Heilborn, Heiligenbrunnen, that273 Teutonic faith has always exhibited the strongest devotion. Sacrifices, says Grimm, were offered at such springs. When the Wetterau people begin a new jug of chalybeate water, they always spill a few drops first on the ground. Grimm thinks this was originally a libation to the fountain sprite.631 The Christians replaced water-sprites by saints.

Fire was regularly worshipped, and there are many superstitions still existing which point to this phase of Teutonic religion. “The Esthonians throw gifts into fire, as well as into water. To pacify the flame they sacrifice a fowl to it.”632 Sulphur has always had an evil reputation. Murrain amongst cattle could only be got rid of by a Needfire. On the day appointed for banishing the pest, there must in no house be any flame left on the hearth, but a new fire must be kindled by friction after the manner of savages.633

Teutonic children born with a caul about their head are believed to be lucky children. The membrane is carefully treasured, and sometimes worn round the babe as an amulet. The Icelanders imagine that the child’s guardian spirit resides in it; midwives are careful not to injure it, but bury it under the threshold. If any one throws it away, he deprives the child of its guardian spirit.634

Anglo-Saxon Medicine.

It is difficult to discover what was the state of learning existing amongst the ancient Saxons before their conversion to Christianity. We know that soon after this event schools were established in Kent, with such good results that Sigebert (A.D. 635) established seminaries on the same plan in his own dominions. After this, as Bede informs us, there flourished a great number of learned men.635

Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, came over into Britain A.D. 669, and did much to improve the learning of the country. He was accompanied by many professors of science, one of whom, the monk Adrian, instructed a great number of students in the sciences, especially teaching the art of medicine and establishing rules for preserving the health.636 Aldhelm, who according to Bede was a man of great erudition and was “wonderfully well acquainted with books,” very greatly contributed to the spread of education.

The state of medicine in England in Anglo-Saxon times is said by274 Strutt637 to have been very degraded. Medicine consisted chiefly of nostrums which had been handed down from one age to another, and their administration was usually accompanied with whimsical rites and ceremonies, to which the success was often in a great measure attributed. The most ignorant persons practised the profession, and particularly old women, who were supposed to be the most expert and were in high repute amongst the Anglo-Saxons. After the establishment of Christianity the clergy succeeded to the business carried on by the ancient dames, and it must be admitted that the superstitious element in their treatment of disease was not less prominent than in that of their venerable predecessors. Bede says638 that Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, taught that “It is very dangerous to let blood on the fourth day of the moon, because both the light of the moon and the tides are upon the increase.” Before any medicine could be administered, fortunate and unfortunate times, the changes of the moon and appearance of the planets, had to be considered.

Many medicinal books were amongst those which Ælfred the Great caused to be translated into the Saxon tongue. Some of them were embellished with illustrations of herbs, etc., so that about the tenth century some knowledge of medicine was diffused, and Strutt thinks there may have been persons whose only profession was medicine and surgery, besides the ecclesiastics who practised these arts, before the close of the Saxon government.639

The Anglo-Saxons, even after their conversion to Christianity, retained much of the superstition of their ancestors; they placed faith in astrology, and had some acquaintance with astronomy, which they obtained from the Romans, from whom they learned most of the arts and sciences. They had a good knowledge of botany, and their MS. were embellished with excellent drawings of the herbs and plants.640

Theodore brought with him a large collection of books, and set up schools in Kent, where many students were instructed in the sciences and the knowledge and application of medicine and the rules for the preservation of the health.641

The Rev. Oswald Cockayne has given us, in his translation of the Saxon Leech Book, a very curious and interesting citation from Helias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who wrote to King Ælfred in answer to his request to be furnished with some good recipes from the Holy Land:


“Patriarch Helias sends these to King Ælfred:642__

“So much as may weigh a penny and a half, rub very small, then add the white of an egg, and give it to the man to sip. It (balsam) is also very good in this wise for cough and for carbuncle, apply this wort, soon shall the man be hole. This is smearing with balsam for all infirmities which are on a man’s body, against fever, and against apparitions, and against all delusions. Similarly also petroleum is good to drink simple for inward tenderness, and to smear on outwardly on a winter’s day, since it hath very much heat; hence one shall drink it in winter; and it is good if for any one his speech faileth, then let him take it, and make the mark of Christ under his tongue, and swallow a little of it. Also if a man become out of his wits, then let him take part of it, and make Christ’s mark on every limb, except the cross upon the forehead, that shall be of balsam, and the other also on the top of the head. Triacle (θηριακόν) is a good drink for all inward tendernesses, and the man, who so behaveth himself as is here said, he may much help himself. On the day on which he will drink Triacle, he shall fast until midday, and not let the wind blow on him that day: then let him go to the bath, let him sit there till he sweat; then let him take a cup, and put a little warm water in it, then let him take a little bit of the triacle, and mingle with the water, and drain through some thin raiment, then drink it, and let him then go to his bed and wrap himself up warm, and so lie till he sweat well; then let him arise and sit up and clothe himself, and then take his meat at noon, and protect himself earnestly against the wind that day; then, I believe to God, that it may help the man much. The white stone is powerful against stitch, and against flying venom, and against all strange calamities; thou shalt shave it into water and drink a good mickle, and shave thereto a portion of the red earth, and the stones are all very good to drink of, against all strange uncouth things. When the fire is struck out of the stone, it is good against lightenings and against thunders, and against delusion of every kind; and if a man in his way is gone astray, let him strike himself a spark before him. He will soon be in the right way. All this Dominus Helias, Patriarch at Jerusalem, ordered one to say to King Ælfred.” Mr. Cockayne tells us in his preface643 that Helias sent Alfred276 “a recommendation of scammony, which is the juice of a Syrian convolvulus, of gutta ammoniacum,644 of spices, of gum dragon, of aloes, of galbanum, of balsam, of petroleum, of the famous Greek compound preparation called θηριακή and of the magic virtues of alabaster. These drugs are good in themselves, and such as a resident in Syria would naturally recommend to others.” This very singular and instructive fact concerning King Ælfred is one of the most interesting things in Mr. Cockayne’s valuable work.

As to the age of the MS., the translator sets it down about A.D. 900. The sources of the information he ascribes to Oxa, Dun, and Helias; there is a mixture of the Hibernian and Scandinavian elements also. Some of the prescriptions are traceable to Latin writers, and large extracts are made from the Greek physicians. Paulus Ægineta is responsible for the long passage on hiccupings (or Hicket, as the Leech Book calls the malady), as chapter xviii. is almost identical with Paulus Ægin., lib. ii. sect. 57. Mr. Cockayne thinks that the number of passages the Saxon drew from the Greek would make perhaps one-fourth of the first two books. Whether they came direct from the Greek manuscripts or at second hand as quotations, it is not possible to say. Quoting M. Brechillet Jourdain,645 Mr. Cockayne says that it is shown that the wise men of the Middle Ages long before the invention of printing possessed Latin translations of Aristotle; there is every probability, therefore, that they would be familiar with the works of the Greek physicians. Some of them could translate Greek. If an Italian or Frenchman could acquire Greek and turn it into Latin, a Saxon might do as much. Bede and his disciples could certainly have done so. Bede says that Tobias, Bishop of Rochester, was as familiar with the Greek and Latin languages as with his own. “It appears, therefore,” concludes Mr. Cockayne, “that the leeches of the Angles and Saxons had the means, by personal industry or by the aid of others, of arriving at a competent knowledge of the contents of the works of the Greek medical writers. Here, in this volume, the results are visible. They keep, for the most part, to the diagnosis and the theory; they go back in the prescriptions to the easier remedies; for whether in Galen or others, there was a chapter on the εὐπόριστα, the ‘parabilia,’ the resources of country practitioners, and of course, even now, expensive medicines are not prescribed for poor patients.”646

In the very valuable Saxon Leechdoms647 we have an excellent account of the state of medicine as practised in England before the Norman Conquest. The Leech Book (Læce Boc)648 is a treatise on medicine which probably belonged to the abbey of Glastonbury. The manu277script, thinks Mr. Cockayne, belonged to one Bald, a monk. The book, says the editor, is learned in a literary sense, but not in a professional, for it does not really advance man’s knowledge of disease or of cures. He may have been a physician, he was certainly a lover of books—“nulla mihi tam cara est optima gaza quam cari libri.” The work seems to imply that there was a school of medicine among the Saxons. In the first book, p. 120, we read that “Oxa taught us this leechdom”; in the second book, p. 293, we are told concerning a leechdom for lung disease that “Dun taught it”; again we find “some teach us.” So far as book learning was concerned, there was certainly a sort of medical teaching. It was perhaps merely taken from the Greek by means of a Latin translation of Trallianus, Paulus of Ægina, and Philagrios. As examples of reasonable treatment take that for hare-lip (or hair-lip as in the text): “Pound mastic very small, add the white of an egg, and mingle as thou dost vermilion, cut with a knife the false edges of the lip, sew fast with silk, then smear without and within with the salve, ere the silk rot. If it draw together, arrange it with the hand, anoint again soon.”649

Against pediculi quicksilver and old butter are to be mingled together in a mortar, and the resulting salve to be applied to the body. This is precisely the mercurial ointment of modern pharmacy used for the same purpose.

Religion, magic, and medicine were oddly mixed up by our Saxon forefathers. Thus the Leech Book tells us650 for the “dry” disease we should “delve about sour ompre (i.e. sorrel dock), sing thrice the Pater noster, jerk it up, then while thou sayest sed libera nos a malo, take five slices of it and seven peppercorns, bray them together, and while thou be working it, sing twelve times the psalm Miserere mei, Deus, and Gloria in excelsis deo, and the Pater noster; then pour the stuff all over with wine, when day and night divide, then drink the dose and wrap thyself up warm.” Here is an exorcism for fever. “A man shall write this upon the sacramental paten, and wash it off into the drink with holy water, and sing over it.... In the beginning, etc. (John i. 1). Then wash the writing with holy water off the dish into the drink, then sing the Credo, and the Paternoster, and this lay, Beati immaculati, the psalm (cxix.), with the twelve prayer psalms, I adjure you, etc. And let each of the two651 then sip thrice of the water so prepared.”652 The demon theory of disease was still in force; even at Glastonbury we find the following exorcism:653278 “For a fiend sick man, when a devil possesses the man or controls him from within with disease; a spew drink, lupin, bishopwort, henbane, cropleek; pound these together, add ale for a liquid, let stand for a night, add fifty libcorns (or cathartic grains), and holy water. A drink for a fiend sick man, to be drunk out of church bell.”654

“Githrife, cynoglossum, yarrow, lupin, betony, attorlothe, cassock, flower de luce, fennel, church lichen, lichen, of Christ’s mark or crosse, lovage; work up the drink off clear ale, sing seven masses over the worts, add garlic and holy water, and drip the drink into every drink which he will subsequently drink, and let him sing the psalm, Beati immaculati, and Exurgat, and Salvum me fac, Deus,655 and then let him drink the drink out of a church bell, and let the mass priest after the drink sing this over him: Domine, sancte pater omnipotens.”656 Again, “For the phrenzied; bishopwort, lupin, bonewort, everfern,657 githrife, elecampane; when day and night divide, then sing thou in the church litanies, that is, the names of the hallows or saints, and the Paternoster; with the song go thou, that thou mayest be near the worts and go thrice about them, and when thou takest them go again to church with the same song, and sing twelve masses over them, and over all the drinks which belong to the disease, in honour of the twelve apostles.”658

The Leech Book has “a salve against nocturnal goblin visitors,” a remedy “against a woman’s chatter,” which is to go to bed, having eaten only a root of radish; “that day the chatter cannot harm thee.”659 Red niolin, a plant which grows by running water, if put under the bolster, will prevent the devil from scathing a man within or without. There is “a lithe drink against a devil and dementedness,” and a cure for a man who is “overlooked.”

If the man’s face is turned toward the doctor when he enters the sick room, “then he may live; if his face be turned from thee, have thou nothing to do with him.” “In case a man be lunatic, take of a mere-swine or porpoise, work it into a whip, swinge the man therewith; soon he will be well. Amen.”660

A salve against temptation of the devil contains many herbs, must have nine masses said over it, and must be set under the altar for a while; then it is very good for every temptation of the fiend, and for a man full of elfin tricks, and for typhus fever.661


Cancer is to be cured with goat’s gall and honey. Our forefathers made very light of such trifles as cancer and lunacy, it will be perceived. Joint pains (rheumatism) are cured by singing over them, “Malignus obligavit; angelus curavit; dominus salvavit,” and then spitting on the joints. “It will soon be well with him,” adds the Saxon leech, in his usual cheery manner.662 Pepper is to be chewed for the toothache; “it will soon be well with them.” Horrible applications of pepper, salt, and vinegar were recommended to be applied to sore eyes. If the eyes were swollen, “take a live crab, put his eyes out, and put him alive again into the water, and put the eyes on the neck of the man who hath need; he will soon be well.”

There are light drinks “against the devil and want of memory,” “for a wild heart,” and “pain of the maw.” There is treatment for the bite of “a gangwayweaving spider,” and remedies in case a woman cannot “kindle a child.” Neuralgia and megrims are not the new disorders they are generally supposed to be, as we find remedies “for headache, and for old headache, and for ache of half of the head.”

“Poison” was lightly treated with holy water and herbs. Snake-bite was cured with ear-wax and a collect. For bite of an adder you said one word “Faul”; “it may not hurt him.” “Against bite of snake, if the man procures and eateth rind which cometh out of paradise, no venom will damage him. Then said he that wrote this book that the rind was hard gotten.” If, by chance, one drank a creeping thing in water, he was to cut into a sheep instantly and drink the sheep’s blood hot. Lest a man tire with much travelling over land, he must take mugwort and put it into his shoe, saying, as he pulls up the root, “I will take thee, artemisia, lest I be weary on the way;” and having taken it, he must sign it with the sign of the cross.

“Over the whole face of Europe, while the old Hellenic school survived in Arabia, the next to hand resource became the established remedy, and the searching incision of the practised anatomist was replaced by a droning song.”663

Such medical learning as existed amongst the Angles, Saxons, and Goths was found only in a corrupted state in the monasteries. As we have seen, the herbal remedies were, for the most, useless or worse, and the treatment was so intermingled with magic ceremonies and religious superstitious uses, that Greek science, so far as it related to the healing art, was all but smothered by absurdities.


“The Saxon leeches were unable to use the catheter, the searching knife, and the lithotrite; they knew nothing of the Indian drugs, and were almost wholly thrown back on the lancet wherewith to let blood, and the simples from the field and garden.”664

“For a very old headache” one must “seek in the maw of young swallows for some little stones, and mind that they touch neither earth, nor water, nor other stones; look out three of them, put them on the man; he will soon be well. They are good for head ache and for eye wark, and for the fiend’s temptations, and for the night mare, and for knot, and for fascination, and for evil enchantments by song.”665

As a specimen of a regular Anglo-Saxon prescription, take the following, as given in the MS. Cott.: Vitellius; c. 3:—

For the foot-adle (the gout), “Take the herb datulus, or titulosa, which we call greater crauleac—tuberose isis. Take the heads of it and dry them very much, and take thereof a pennyweight and a half, and the pear tree and Roman bark, and cummin, and a fourth part of laurel-berries, and of the other herbs half a pennyweight of each, and six peppercorns, and grind all to dust, and put two egg-shells full of wine. This is true leechcraft. Give it the man till he be well.”

Venesection was in use, but it must have often done more harm than good, as its use was regulated, not so much by the necessities of the case as by the season and courses of the moon. Bede gives a long list of times when bleeding was forbidden. In the Cottonian library there is a Saxon MS., which tells us that the second, third, fifth, sixth, ninth, eleventh, fifteenth, seventeenth, and twentieth days of the month are bad for bleeding.

Medicine of the Welsh.

The Welsh claim that medicine was practised as one of “the nine rural arts,” by the ancient Cymry, before they became possessed of cities and a sovereignty, that is, before the time of Prydain ab Ædd Mawr, that is to say, about a thousand years before the Christian era.666

As in other nations of antiquity, the practice of medicine was in the hands of the priests, the Gwyddoniaid, or men of knowledge: they were the depositaries of such wisdom as existed in the land, and they practised almost entirely by means of herbs. The science of plants was one of the three sciences, the others being theology and astronomy.667

In the following Triad (one of the poetical histories of the Welsh bards) we learn that,281—“The three pillars of knowledge, with which the Gwyddoniaid were acquainted, and which they bore in memory from the beginning: the first was a knowledge of Divine things, and of such matters as appertain to the worship of God and the homage due to goodness; the second, a knowledge of the course of the stars, their names and kinds, and the order of times; the third, a knowledge of the names and use of the herbs of the field, and of their application in practice, in medicine, and in religious worship. These were preserved in the memorials of vocal song, and in the memorials of times, before there were bards of degree and chair.”668

The Welsh do not appear to have had any gods of medicine or to have pretended to derive their knowledge of the healing art from any divinities. In the reign of Prydian the Gwyddoniaid were divided into three orders, Bards, Druids, and Ovates. The Ovates occupied themselves especially with the natural sciences. In the Laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud, “medicine, commerce, and navigation” were termed “the three civil arts.”669

This legislator lived about the year 430 B.C., at which early period it would seem that the art of medicine was encouraged and protected by the State.670

As Hippocrates lived 400 B.C., it has been thought possible that the British Ovates may have learned something of his teaching from the Phoceans, who traded between Marseilles and Britain. Later we have proof that the physicians of Myddvai held the Father of Medicine in great esteem.

It is customary amongst the English to ridicule the pretensions of the Welsh to the high antiquity of their knowledge of the arts and sciences, but classical writers bear witness to the wisdom and learning of the Druids. Strabo speaks of their knowledge of physiology. Cicero was acquainted with one of the Gallic Druids, who was called Divitiacus the Æduan, and claimed to have a thorough knowledge of the laws of nature. Pliny mentions the plants used as medicines by the Druids, such as the mistletoe, called Oll iach, omnia sanantem, or “All heal,” the selago (Lycopodium selago, or Upright Fir Moss), and the Samolus or marshwort (Samolus valerandi, or Water Pimpernel).671

One of the Medical Triads in the Llanover MS. is that by Taliesin; it runs thus:—

“There are three intractable substantial organs: the liver, the kidney, and the heart.

“There are three intractable membranes: the dura mater, the peritoneum, and the urinary bladder.


“There are three tedious complaints: disease of the knee joint, disease of the substance of a rib, and phthysis; for when purulent matter has formed in one of these, it is not known when it will get well.”

Howel Dda (or the good) in the year 930 A.D. compiled the following laws of the Court Physician:—

“Of the mediciner of the household, his office, his privilege, and his duty, this treats.

1. The twelfth is the mediciner of the household.

2. He is to have his land free: his horse in attendance: and his linen clothing from the queen, and his woollen clothing from the king.

3. His seat in the hall within the palace is at the base of the pillar to which the screen is attached, near which the king sits.

4. His lodging is with the chief of the household.

5. His protection is, from the time the king shall command him to visit a wounded or sick person, whether the person be in the palace or out of it, until he quit him, to convey away an offender.

6. He is to administer medicine gratuitously to all within the palace, and to the chief of the household; and he is to have nothing from them except their bloody clothes, unless it be for one of the three dangerous wounds, as mentioned before; these are a stroke on the head unto the brain; a stroke in the body unto the bowels; and the breaking of one of the four limbs; for every one of these three dangerous wounds the mediciner is to have nine score pence and his food, or one pound without his food, and also the bloody clothes.

7. The mediciner is to have, when he shall apply a tent, twenty-four pence.

8. For an application of red ointment, twelve pence.

9. For an application of herbs to a swelling, four legal pence.

10. For letting blood, fourpence.

11. His food daily is worth one penny half-penny.

12. His light every night is worth one legal penny.

13. The worth of a medical man is one penny.

14. The mediciner is to take an indemnification from the kindred of the wounded person, in case he die from the remedy he may use, and if he do not take it, let him answer for the deed.

15. He is to accompany the armies.

16. He is never to leave the palace, but with the king’s permission.

17. His saraad is six kine, and six score of silver, to be augmented.

18. His worth is six score and six kine, to be augmented.”

Elsewhere we meet with the following particulars:—

“Of the three conspicuous scars this is:

“There are three conspicuous scars: one upon the face; another upon the foot; and another upon the hand; thirty pence upon the foot; three-score pence upon the hand; six-score pence on the face. Every unexposed scar, fourpence. The cranium, fourpence.”672


“For every broken bone, twenty pence; unless there be a dispute as to its diminutiveness; and if there be a dispute as to the size, let the mediciner take a brass basin, and let him place his elbow upon the ground, and his hand over the basin, and if its sound be heard, let four legal pence be paid; and if it be not heard, nothing is due.”673

This singular test is explained in another passage, thus:—

“Four curt pennies are to be paid to a person for every bone taken from the upper part of the cranium, which shall sound on falling into a copper basin.”674

A very curious regulation was that if the physician got drunk and anybody insulted him, he could claim no recompense, because “he knew not at what time the king might want his assistance.”

The physicians of Myddvai flourished in the time of Rhys Gryg in the early part of the thirteenth century. His domestic physician was Rhiwallon, who was assisted by his three sons Cadwgan, Gruffydd, and Einion. They lived at Myddvai, in the present county of Caermarthen. By command of the prince, these physicians made a collection of the most valuable prescriptions for the treatment of the various diseases of the human body. This collection was not reduced to writing previously, though many of the recipes were no doubt in use some centuries before. The original manuscript is in the British Museum, and there is a copy in Jesus College, Oxford, in the Red Book, which has been published with an English translation by the Welsh MSS. Society.675 The descendants of this family of physicians continued to practise medicine without intermission until the middle of the last century. This most interesting volume also contains a second portion, which purports to be a compilation by Howel the physician, son of Rhys, son of Llewelyn, son of Philip the physician, a lineal descendant of Einion the son of Rhiwallon. Some medical prescriptions assumed the form of proverbs such as the following:—

Medical Maxims.

(From the Book of Iago ab Dewi.)

“He who goes to sleep supperless will have no need of Rhiwallon of Myddvai.

A supper of apples—breakfast of nuts.

A cold mouth and warm feet will live long.

To the fish market in the morning, to the butcher’s shop in the afternoon.

Cold water and warm bread will make an unhealthy stomach.


The three qualities of water: it will produce no sickness, no debt, and no widowhood.

To eat eggs without salt will bring on sickness.

It is no insult to deprive an old man of his supper.

An eel in a pie, lampreys in salt.

An ague or fever at the fall of the leaf is always of long continuance, or else is fatal.

A kid a month old—a lamb three months.

Dry feet, moist tongue.

A salmon and a sermon in Lent.

Supper will kill more than were ever cured by the physicians of Myddvai.

A light dinner, a less supper, sound sleep, long life.

Do not wish for milk after fish.

To sleep much is the health of youth, the sickness of old age.

Long health in youth will shorten life.

It is more wholesome to smell warm bread than to eat it.

A short sickness for the body, and short frost for the earth, will heal; either of them long will destroy.

Whilst the urine is clear, let the physician beg.

Better is appetite than gluttony.

Enough of bread, little of drink.

The bread of yesterday, the meat of to-day, and the wine of last year will produce health.

Quench thy thirst where the washerwoman goes for water.

Three men that are long-lived: the ploughman of dry land, a mountain dairyman, and a fisherman of the sea.

The three feasts of health: milk, bread, and salt.

The three medicines of the physicians of Myddvai: water, honey, and labour.

Moderate exercise is health.

Three moderations will produce long life; in food, labour, and meditation.

Whoso breaks not his fast in May, let him consider himself with the dead.

He who sees fennel and gathers it not, is not a man, but a devil.

If thou desirest to die, eat cabbage in August.

Whatever quantity thou eatest, drink thrice.

God will send food to washed hands.

Drink water like an ox, and wine like a king.

One egg is economy, two is gentility, three is greediness, and the fourth is wastefulness.


If persons knew how good a hen is in January, none would be left on the roost.

The cheese of sheep, the milk of goats, and the butter of cows are the best.

The three victuals of health: honey, butter, and milk.

The three victuals of sickness: flesh meat, ale, and vinegar.

Take not thy coat off before Ascension day.

If thou wilt become unwell, wash thy head and go to sleep.

In pottage without herbs there is neither goodness nor nourishment.

If thou wilt die, eat roast mutton and sleep soon after it.

If thou wilt eat a bad thing, eat roast hare.

Mustard after food.

He who cleans his teeth with the point of his knife may soon clean them with the haft.

A dry cough is the trumpet of death.”

One of the laws of Howel Dda permitted divorce for so trifling a cause as an unsavoury or disagreeable breath.676

Poppies bruised in wine were used to induce sleep. For agues the treatment was to write in three apples on three separate days an invocation to the Trinity; “on the third day he will recover.” Saffron was used for many complaints; it is a drug still largely used by the poor, who have unbounded faith in it, but it is almost inert. If a person lost his reason, he was ordered to take primrose juice, “and he will indeed recover.” There were regular tables of lucky and unlucky days for bleeding. Fennel juice was supposed to act as a sort of anti-fat, and the roots of thistles were given as a purgative. If a snake should crawl into a man’s mouth, the patient was to take camomile powder in wine. An irritable man was to drink celery juice; “it will produce joy.” As we might have expected, the leek was supposed to have many virtues; wives who desired children were told to eat leeks. Leek juice and woman’s milk was good for whooping cough. The juice was also used for deafness, heart-burn, headache, and boils. Mustard purifies the brain, is an antidote to the bite of an adder, is good for colic, loss of hair, palsy, and many other things. To ascertain the fate of a sick person, bruise violets and apply them to the eyebrows; “if he sleep, he will live, but if not he will die.”

Radishes were supposed to prevent hydrophobia. “That is the greatest remedy, to remove a bone from the brain (to trephine) with safety.” Dittany was the antidote for pain. Mouse-dung was used as a remedy for spitting of blood, and a plaster of cow-dung for gout. An eye-water was made from rotten apples. The berries of mistletoe were286 made into a confection as a remedy for epilepsy. “Let the sick person eat a good mouthful (they gave large doses in those days) thereof, fasting morning, noon, and night. It is proven.” Sage was supposed to strengthen the nerves (nerves in those days!). Nettles, goose-grass, blessed-thistle, and rosemary were favourite remedies. Then we have numerous curious charms and “medical feats discovered through the grace of God.” Here is one: “Take a frog alive from the water, extract his tongue (frogs have long been subject to vivisection), and put him again in the water. Lay this same tongue upon the heart of sleeping man, and he will confess his deeds in his sleep.” A charm for the toothache runs thus: “Saint Mary sat on a stone, the stone being near her hermitage, when the Holy Ghost came to her, she being sad. Why art thou sad, mother of my Lord, and what pain tormenteth thee? My teeth are painful, a worm called megrim has penetrated them, and I have masticated and swallowed it. I adjure thee, daffin O negrbina, by the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the Virgin Mary, and God, the munificent physician, that thou dost not permit any disease, dolour, or molestation to affect this servant of God here present, either in tooth, eye, head, or in the whole of her teeth together. So be it. Amen.”

All the herbs and plants (so far as was possible) which were used in the doctor’s practice were directed to be grown by him in his garden and orchard, so that they might be at hand when required.

In the table of weights and measures used by the ancient Welsh physicians, we learn that twenty grains of wheat make one scruple, four podfuls make one spoonful, four spoonfuls make one eggshellful, four eggshellfuls make one cupful. The physician also for his guidance had the following curious table:—Four grains of wheat = one pea, four peas = one acorn, four acorns = one pigeon’s egg, four pigeon’s eggs = one hen’s egg, four hen’s eggs = one goose’s egg, four goose’s eggs = one swan’s egg.

“For treating a stroke on the head unto the brain, a stroke in the body unto the bowels, and the breaking of one of the four limbs, the wounded person was to receive three pounds from the one who wounded him; and that person had also to pay for the medical treatment of the sufferer a pound without food, or nine-score pence with his food, and the bloody clothes.”677

The physicians of Myddvai recognised five kinds of fevers; viz., latent, intermittent, ephemeral, inflammatory, and typhus. The doctor’s “three master difficulties” were a wounded lung, a wounded mammary gland, and a wounded knee joint. “There are three bones which will never unite when broken—a tooth, the knee pan, and the os frontis.”



Sources of Arabian Learning.—Influence of Greek and Hindu Literature.—The Nestorians.—Baghdad and its Colleges.—The Moors in Spain.—The Mosque Schools.—Arabian Inventions and Services to Literature.—The great Arab Physicians.—Serapion, Rhazes, Ali Abbas, Avicenna, Albucasis, and Averroes.

At the time of the incursions of the barbarians of the North, when Spain, the South of France, Italy, and North Africa, with their adjacent islands, were ravaged by these hordes, multitudes of those who could escape so far found a refuge in the East; and there is good reason for supposing that by such means a vast store of the accumulated knowledge of civilized Europe found its way to Eastern lands. Science in its turn has come back to us through the Saracens, who afterwards invaded Southern Europe.678

It is not correct to speak of the Arabians or the Saracens as the source of the culture which is known as Arabian and Saracenic. The magnificent civilization of the Greek world fell to pieces like a noble but ruined temple, and its precious relics went to form a score of other civilizations which ultimately arose from its ruins. It was not the Semitic peoples of Arabia which restored the philosophy and science of the decayed Græco-Roman world, it was the Persians, the Greeks of Asia Minor, the people of Alexandria, and the cultured Eastern nations, generally, which having been subdued by the Arabs, at once began to impart to their conquerors the culture which they lacked. The ignorant followers of the Prophet who burned the Alexandrian Library knew not what they did; the time was to come when Greek culture was to reach them partly from the city whose literary treasures they had destroyed, and partly through Syrian and Persian influences. By these roads came the medical sciences to the Saracens. The second library of Alexandria, consisting of 700,000 volumes, was destroyed by them, A.D. 642; but we must conclude that many medical and other scientific works were preserved, as the Jews and the Nestorians (banished from Constantinople to Asia) first made the Arabians acquainted with Greek288 authors by translating them into Syriac, whence they were in turn translated into Arabic. Justinian I. (A.D. 529) banished the Platonists of Athens, when Chosröes I., surnamed Nushirwan, or “the generous mind,” one of the greatest monarchs of Persia, hospitably received them at his court. He caused the best Greek, Latin, and Indian works to be translated into Persian, and valued Græco-Roman medical science so highly that he offered a suspension of hostilities for the single physician Tribunus.

The East in a great measure owed its acquaintance with the rich treasures of Greek literature to the heresy of Nestorius. Nestorius was a Syrian by birth, and became bishop of Constantinople. Having denied that the Virgin Mary ought to be called “Mother of God,” he was summoned to appear before the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), and was deposed. Nestorian communities were formed, and the heretical opinions rapidly spread, patronized as they were for political purposes by the Persian kings. The Mahometan conquests in the seventh century, by overthrowing the supremacy of orthodoxy, afforded great encouragement to the Nestorians, as by denying that Mary was the mother of God, as the Catholics maintained, the Nestorians in calling her the mother of Christ more nearly approached the Mahometan conception of a pure monotheism. Barsumas, or Barsaumas, bishop of Nisibis (435-485 A.D.), was one of the most eminent leaders of the new heresy. He succeeded in gaining many adherents in Persia. Maanes, bishop of Ardaschiv, was his principal coadjutor; he was the means of propagating the Nestorian doctrines in Egypt, Syria, Arabia, India, Tartary, and even China.

The Caliphs.

In the time of Mohammed himself (569-609), the Arabians had physicians who had been educated in the Greek schools of medicine living amongst them. Pococke mentions a Greek physician named Theodunus, who was in the service of Hajáj Ibn Yúsuf in the seventh century. He wrote a sort of medical compendium for the use of his son. Hajáj seems also to have employed another Greek doctor named Theodocus, who had numerous pupils.679

The House of Ommiyah encouraged the cultivation of the sciences. The Caliph Moawiyah, who resided at Damascus, founded schools, libraries, and observatories there, and invited the learned of all nations, especially Greeks, to settle there, and teach his people their arts and sciences.680


In the seventh century, Alexandria under the rule of Islam was in possession of many medical schools in which the principles of Galen were taught.681

Alkinani, an Arabian Christian, who afterwards was converted to Islamism, was chiefly instrumental in introducing medical teaching into Antioch and Harran from Alexandria.682

The Caliph Almansor had studied astronomy. Almamon, the seventh of the Abbassides, collected from Armenia, Syria, and Egypt all the volumes of Grecian science he could obtain; they were translated into Arabic, and his subjects were earnestly exhorted to study them. “He was not ignorant,” says Abulpharagius, “that they are the elect of God, His best and most useful servants, whose lives are devoted to the improvement of their rational faculties.” Succeeding princes of the line of Abbas, and their rivals the Fatimites of Africa and the Ommiades of Spain, says Gibbon, were the patrons of the learned, “and their emulation diffused the taste and the rewards of science from Samarcand and Bochara to Fez and Cordova.”683

It was Almamon who caused the works of the fathers of Indian medical science to be translated first into Persian and then into Arabic; thus it was that the Saracens became familiar with the medical wisdom of Susruta and Charaka in the eighth century of our era.684

Charaka is frequently mentioned in the Latin translations of Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Rhazes (Al Rasi), and Serapion (Ibn Serabi).685

Chaldee works at this time were also translated into Persian. In the first centuries of the Hijra the Caliphs of Baghdad caused a considerable number of works upon Hindu medicine to be translated into Persian.686 At the time of Mohammed there existed a famous school of medicine at Senaa in Southern Arabia, the principal of which, Harit Ben Kaldah, had learned his profession in India.687

When the son of Mesuach, a young Nestorian Christian, first entered Baghdad, it is said688 that he appeared to have discovered a new world. He applied himself to the study of medicine, philosophy, and astronomy. He became a “treasure of learning,” and was chosen to attend Prince Almamon, the son of Haroun-al-Raschid, who, when he became Caliph in 813, invited learned men of all religions and of all nations to his court, collected from them the names of all the great authors and the titles of their books which had been published in290 Greek, Syriac, and Persian, and then sent to all parts of the world to purchase them.

The Arabs studied Aristotle; and when Western Europe had long been sunk in intellectual darkness and had forgotten him, the Saracens taught him to the Christians of the West. “He was read at Samarcand and at Lisbon,” says Freeman, “when no one knew his name at Oxford or Edinburgh.”689 In his own tongue at Constantinople and Thessalonica he had never been forgotten. Such learning and science as the Saracens did not receive from India, such as the Arabic numerals, came to them from the West. They developed and improved much, but they probably invented nothing. Freeman says690 that after careful investigation he observed three things: first, that whatever the Arabs learned was from translations of Greek works; secondly, that they made use of only an infinitesimal portion of Greek literature; thirdly, that many of their most famous literary men were not Mahometans at all, but Jews or Christians.691 Greek poetry, history, and philosophy had little charm for them. Gibbon says there is no record of an Arabian translation of any Greek poet, orator, or historian.692

Learned Nestorians, Jacobites, and Jews in Persia and Syria occupied themselves with translations from Greek authors, and contributed greatly to the extension of Western culture in Eastern lands.693 To the world at large Mahomet was but an impostor; to the Arab of the seventh century he was a true prophet and the greatest of benefactors.

When the Persian king reproached the Arabs with their poverty and their savage condition, the reply of the Saracen envoy contains a grand summary of the immediate results of Mahomet’s teaching.694

“Whatever thou hast said,” replied Sheikh Maghareh, “respecting the former condition of the Arabs is true. Their food was green lizards; they buried their infant daughters alive; nay, some of them feasted on dead carcases and drank blood; while others slew their relations, and thought themselves great and valiant, when by such an act they became possessed of more property; they were clothed with hair garments; knew not good from evil; and made no distinction between that which is lawful and that which is unlawful. Such was our state. But God, in His mercy, has sent us by a holy prophet a sacred volume, which teaches us the true faith.”695

George Backtischwah, or Bocht Jesu, was a Greek physician, a descendant of the persecuted Christians of the Greek empire, who embracing the heresy of Nestorius had been compelled to fly for safety291 and peace to the Persians. Al-Manzor (754-775) invited Backtischwah to his court, and this physician was the first to present to the Arabians translations of the medical works of the Greeks. The Nestorians had founded a school of medicine in the province of Gondisapor, which was already famous in the seventh century. From this school issued a crowd of learned Nestorians and Jews, famous for their knowledge of medicine and surgery, but still more for their ability to endow the East with all the treasures of Greek literature.696


The city of Baghdad was built by the Caliph Almansor, in A.D. 763, on the ruins of a very ancient city; it soon became the most splendid city in the East. Almansor had personally cultivated science, and was a lover of letters and of learned men. He offered rewards for translations of Greek authors on philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine.

A college was established by the Caliph which ultimately became famous. Public hospitals and a medical school were also established by the same enlightened ruler. Meryon says697 that there is reason to suppose that in the laboratories established at Baghdad for the preparation of medicines the science of chemistry may have first originated.698

The son of Mesuach presided over the translations of the works of Galen and all the treatises of Aristotle into Arabic; but when they had extracted the science from Greek literature, they consigned all the rest of it to the flames, as dangerous to the Moslem faith.699

Many Christian physicians were employed at Baghdad.

The vizier of a Sultan gave two hundred thousand pieces of gold to found a college at Baghdad, which he endowed with an annual revenue of fifteen thousand dinars.700 Under the reign of Haroun-al-Raschid and his successors this school flourished vigorously, and many translations of Greek medical works were made therein.

The Arabians have greatly distinguished themselves in the science of medicine. In the city of Baghdad eight hundred and sixty physicians, says Gibbon, were licensed to practise. The names of Mesua and Geber, of Rhazis and Avicenna are not less famous than are those of the greatest names amongst the Greeks themselves. The independent medical literature of the Saracens arose in the ninth century, and gradually developed292 till it reached the zenith of its glory in the eleventh. The mosques were then the universities, and besides that of Baghdad, Bassora, Cufa, Samarcand, Ispahan, Damascus, Bokhara, Firuzabad, and Khurdistan, not omitting the schools of the Fatimites in Alexandria, were centres of Eastern science and art, and the equally famous universities of Cordova, Seville, Toledo, Almeria, Murcia, Granada, and Valencia, sustained in Europe the dignity of the Arabian learning. When the conquest of Africa was complete, Spain was invaded, and about the year 713 was reduced to a Moslem province. Cordova became not less distinguished for learning than Baghdad, and many writers were given to the world from the adjacent towns of Malaga, Almeria, and Murcia. Gibbon says that above seventy public libraries were opened in the cities of Andalusia.

In the words of Professor Nicholl, “The Semitic race is essentially unscientific, and adverse to the presentation of philosophical or moral truth in a scientific form. The Indo-European genius, on the contrary, tends irresistibly towards intellectual system, or science.” This will at once be perceived when we examine the Vedas, the works of any Greek author, or those of Teutonic speculative writers, and then turn to any Semitic books. We instantly perceive that in the latter we have nothing but belief or intuition, with more or less of the doctrine of Revelation or Inspiration. In the works of Aryan origin, on the contrary, we are at the opposite pole; we have speculation, inquiry, an insatiable desire to solve the mystery of things—the analytical spirit which asks a reason for every phenomenon in the universe. In the Semitic races this resolves itself into either a living faith and a pure life corresponding thereto, or into a reckless fanaticism founded on fatalism. In the Aryan races we have the most daring intellectual activity, or the driest dogmatism.701

It was in Spain that the Semitic and Aryan intellects met and happily blended. Spain remembered the advantages of Roman influences long after they were withdrawn. The Goths, who spread themselves over the Peninsula, preserved the remains of the civilization which the Romans had left; and the Jews, afterwards to be treated with such cruel and base ingratitude by the nation which they had so greatly benefited, advanced the cause of education by their numerous schools and learned writers.702

On this stage, then, we find the Semitic and the Indo-Germanic races transferring to each other the characteristics with which they were most happily endowed by nature.

The mosque schools of the Arabians were conducted on the model of293 the Alexandrian schools. The old Egyptian and Jewish colleges were to some extent the prototypes of these, and some writers think that our own universities were suggested by those of the Saracens. How great and famous some of these must have been, may be learned from the fact that, as we have stated, no less than six thousand professors and students were collected together at Baghdad at one time. There were lecture rooms, laboratories, hospitals, and residences for teachers and students, besides the great halls which must have been required for the vast libraries which the Caliphs collected. It was in Spain perhaps that Saracenic learning shone most brilliantly. In the early part of the eighth century was founded the noble university of Cordova, the city which, under Arabian rule, was called the “Centre of Religion, the Mother of Philosophers, the Light of Andalusia.” It contained 300 mosques, 200,000 houses, and 1,000,000 inhabitants, besides forty hospitals.703

Abou-Ryan-el-Byrouny (died 941) travelled forty years studying mineralogy, and his treatise on precious stones, says Sismondi,704 is a rich collection of facts. Aben-al-Beïthar of Malaga travelled over all the mountains and plains of Europe in search of plants, and rendered most important services to botany. He wandered over the sands of Africa and the remotest countries of Asia, examining and collecting animals, fossils, and vegetables, and published his observations in three volumes, which contained more science than any naturalist had previously recorded.705

In one sense the Arabians were the inventors of chemistry, and never was the science applied to the arts of life more beneficially than by the Saracens in Spain.

Mahomet was skilled in the knowledge of medicine, and certain of his aphorisms are extant concerning the healing art. Gibbon says706 that the temperance and exercise his followers preached, deprived the doctors of the greater part of their practice. The only medicine recommended by the Koran is honey (see Surah xvi. 71). “From its (the bee’s) belly cometh forth a fluid of varying hues, which yieldeth medicine to man.” There is evidence of a belief in magic in the Koran as a charm against evil, and of incantations capable of producing ill consequences to those against whom they were directed. The 113th chapter of the Koran was written when Mohammed believed that, by the witchcraft of wicked persons, he had been afflicted with rheumatism. Mohammedan peoples use as amulets to avert evil from themselves or possessions, a small Koran encased in silk or leather, or some of the294 names of God, or of the prophets or saints, or the Mohammedan creed engraven on stone or silver.

Da’wah, or the system of incantation used by Mohammedans, is employed to cause the cure, or the sickness and death of a person. The Mohammedans have an elaborate system of exorcism, which is fully explained by Mr. Thomas Patrick Hughes.707

Uroscopy, or the art of judging diseases by inspection of the urine, was a great feature of Arabian as of Greek medical practice. It was, however, with the former usually conducted with jugglery and charlatanism, and there was seldom anything scientific about it.

As the religion of the Moslems forbade dissection, the sciences of anatomy and physiology and the art of surgery remained as they were borrowed from the Greek writers.

The Arabian faculty always stipulated for their fees beforehand; they disapproved of gratuitous treatment, because, as they declared, “no one gets even thanks for it!”

There must have been female doctors, who, in the East, had abundant opportunities for practice, as men were not permitted by the customs of the times to examine women. These female obstetricians performed the gravest operations, such as embryotomy and lithotomy.708

Hospitals were established at Damascus for lepers, the poor, the blind, and the sick, under the rule of the Caliph Walid.

Paper is an Arabic invention. True, it has been made from silk from the remotest ages in China, but by the Arabs it was first made at Samarcand, A.D. 649; and cotton paper, such as we use now, was made at Mecca, A.D. 706. The art was soon afterwards introduced by the Arabs into Spain, where it was brought to the highest perfection.709 Gunpowder was known to the Arabs a hundred years before Europeans mention it.710 The compass was used by them nearly two centuries before the Italians and French used it. The number of Arabic inventions which we unsuspectingly enjoy, without being aware of their origin, is prodigious. Could we bring to light the literary treasures of the Escurial, we should know something of the industrious host of Arabians who have done so much for the learning of the Western world, and whose names and deeds have received from us no recognition. Their historical, geographical, and scientific dictionaries and histories would alone entitle them to the gratitude of an age which would know how to appreciate them.

Sismondi says that295 “Medicine and philosophy had even a greater number of historians than the other sciences; and all these different works were embodied in the historical dictionary of sciences compiled by Mohammed-Aba-Abdallah, of Granada.”

The Great Arabian Physicians.

Honain, a Christian physician, flourished at Baghdad in the middle of the ninth century. He travelled in Greece that he might perfect himself in the language, and he read the works of all the great writers of that country. On his return to Baghdad he was invited by the Caliph to undertake the translation of the Greek authors. His best known translation is The Aphorisms of Hippocrates with the Commentaries of Galen. He wrote on midwifery, and was a good oculist.

Serapion the Elder (of Damascus), who flourished in the ninth century, was a Syrian physician, of whom little or nothing is known except that he wrote two works, one of which is in the Bodleian in MS., entitled Aphorismi magni momenti de Medicina Practica. The other is entitled Kunnásh, and has been translated into Latin.

The classical period of Arabian medicine begins with—

Rhazes, “the Arabic Galen,” whose real name was Abú Becr Mohammed Ibn Zacaríyá Ar-Razi, was born at Rai, near Chorásán, probably about the middle of the ninth century after Christ. His famous work, On the Small Pox and Measles, was translated from the original Arabic into Syriac, and from that language into Greek. This is the first extant medical treatise in which the small-pox is certainly mentioned.711 This famous book has been published in various languages about thirty-five times; a greater number of editions, says Dr. Greenhill, than almost any other ancient medical treatise has passed through. He was skilled in philosophy, astronomy, and music, as well as in medicine, which he began to study when he was forty years old. He became one of the most celebrated physicians of his time, and was appointed physician to the hospital at Rai, and afterwards to that of Baghdad, where he became so famous as a teacher that pupils flocked to him from all parts. He afterwards resided at the court of Cordova. He died at an advanced age about A.D. 932. More than two hundred titles of his works have been preserved; but his small-pox treatise is the only one which has been published in the original Arabic. It is a remarkable and a very interesting fact that he explained the nature of the small-pox and measles by the theory of fermentation.712

The largest work of Rhazes is Al-Háwí, or the Comprehensive book, commonly called “Continens.” In the Latin translation this fills two folio volumes. Although little more than a sort of medical common296place book, it has a value in that it has preserved for us many fragments from the works of ancient physicians which we should not otherwise have possessed. Another important work of Rhazes is the Ketábu-l-Mansúri, or Liber ad Almansorem, so called from being dedicated to Mansur, prince of Chorásán. It was intended to instruct the physician in everything which it was necessary for him to know. It is chiefly a compilation, but was a popular text-book in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Rhazes taught the external use of arsenic, mercurial ointments, and sulphate of copper, and the internal use of brandy, nitre, borax, coral, and gems.

Ali Ben el Abbas (Ali Abbas), who lived in the latter part of the tenth century, was a Persian physician, who wrote a medical text book, entitled the Royal Book. Up to the time of Avicenna, this was the standard authority on medicine amongst the Arabs, and was several times translated into Latin. In the theory of medicine and partly in its practice he followed the Greeks, but imitated the use of the excellent materia medica of the Arabs. He wrote also on ophthalmology and obstetrics.

Avicenna, or Ebn Sina, was called “the Prince of Physicians,” and was the greatest philosopher produced by the Arabs in the East. He was born in the province of Bokhara, in 980 A.D. It is related that at the age of sixteen he had learned all the science of a physician. Having cured Prince Nouh of a serious malady, he became a court favourite. After travelling for a while he composed his great work, the Canon of Medicine, by which his name was made famous both in Asia and Europe for several centuries. In the midst of the troubles of an adventurous life, he wrote a hundred gigantic books, the greatest of which was the Al-Schefà.

Ishak Ben Soleiman (830-940) wrote on dietetics, and is said to have been the first to introduce senna.

Serapion the Younger (about 1070). His work, De Simplicibus Medicamentis, was published in Latin at Milan in 1473.

Mesue the younger (about 1015) was a pupil of Avicenna, and physician to the court at Cairo. He rendered great services to pharmacy by teaching the method of preparing extracts from medicinal plants.

Albucasis was a skilful Arab physician, who wrote a work on surgery, entitled Al Tassrif, which contains much ingenious matter on the appliances of practical surgery. He died at Cordova about 1106. His work treats of the application of the actual cautery, so much employed by the Arabs, of ligation of arteries in continuity, of the danger of amputating above the knee or elbow, of stitching the bowel with threads297 scraped from the intestinal coat, operations for hare-lip and cataract, and fistula by cutting, ligature and cautery. He advised the use of silver catheters as now employed, in place of the copper ones used previously. He recommended anatomy as a valuable aid to surgery.713

Avenzoar, one of the most famous of Arabian physicians, was born near Seville in the latter part of the twelfth century. He was instructed in medicine by his father, whose family had long been connected with the healing art. He was the rational improver of Arabian medicine by the rejection of useless theories, and asserted for medicine a place among the advancing sciences of observation. He made it a constant practice to analyse the medicines he used, so that he might acquaint himself with their exact composition. He was loaded with favours by the prince of Morocco, and died at the age of ninety-two in A.D. 1262.

Ebn Albaithar (died about 1197) was a Moorish Spaniard, renowned for his medical and botanical science. He traversed many regions of the west of Africa and Asia to enlarge his botanical knowledge. He passed some years at the court of Saladin, and wrote on the Virtues of Plants, and on poisons, metals, and animals.

Averroes, or Ebn Rosch, was born at Cordova in 1126. He learned theology, philosophy, and medicine from the great teachers of his time. He was the greatest Arabian inquirer in the West, as Avicenna was in the East. He exercised the greatest influence both in his own and succeeding ages. He has been called “the Mohammedan Spinoza,” having been a religious freethinker. The study of Aristotle awakened in him a species of pantheism. He was more a philosopher than a physician, but as he had made important observations in medicine, he deserves a place amongst the heroes of the healing art. He was bitterly persecuted amongst his co-religionists for treating the Koran as a merely human work. He taught that the small-pox never attacks the same person more than once. In practice he held very rational views of the action of remedies, and taught that the work of the doctor was chiefly to apply general principles to individual cases. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle so famous as to have gained him the name of “the Commentator.” He expounded the Republic of Plato. He was a most voluminous writer, and was considered by his contemporaries and by our schoolmen as a prodigy of science.714

There is a very interesting account of the Indian physicians at the court of Baghdad in a translation made from a MS. in the Rich collection in the British Museum.715 The history is from the work of Ibn Abu298 Usaibiâh, who lived at the beginning of the thirteenth century of our era.

Kankah the Indian was a great philosopher as well as a physician; he investigated the properties of medicines “and the composition of the heavenly bodies” (!).

Sanjahal, another learned Indian, wrote on medicine and astrology. From the science of the stars he applied himself to the symptoms of diseases, on which he wrote a book in ten chapters. He gave the symptoms of four hundred and four diseases. He also wrote on The Imagination of Diseases. Shánák wrote on poisons and the veterinary art. Jawdar was a philosopher and a physician who wrote a book on nativities. Mankah the Indian was learned in the art of medicine, and “gentle in his method of treatment.” He lived in the days of Haroun-al-Raschid.

Salih, son of Bolah the Indian, was “well skilled in treatment, and had power and influence in the promotion of science.”

Kankah the Indian, says Prof. H. Wilson, was very celebrated in the history of Arabian astronomy. He says that it is certain that the astronomy and medicine of the Hindus were cultivated anteriorly to those of the Greeks, by the Arabs of the eighth century. “It is clear that the Charaka, the Susruta, the treatises called Nidán on diagnosis, and others on poisons, diseases of women, and therapeutics, all familiar to Hindu science, were translated and studied by the Arabs in the days of Haroun and Mansur, either from the originals, or translations made at a still earlier period into the language of Persia.”716

We may conveniently mention here the famous Jew of Spain, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or Maimonides (died 1198), a native of Cordova, who was profoundly learned in mathematics, medicine, and other arts. He retired to Egypt, where he wrote books on medicine, which were much read. He advised his patients never to sleep in the daytime, and at night only on the side. He recommended them not to retire to rest till three to four hours after supper.717

Medical etiquette was rather strict.299 “Operations performed by the hand, such as venesection, cauterization, and incision of arteries, are not becoming a physician of respectability and consideration. They are suitable for the physician’s assistants only. These servants of the physician should also do other operations, such as incision of the eyelids, removing the veins in the white of the eye, and the removal of cataract. For an honourable physician nothing further is becoming than to impart to the patient advice with reference to food and medicine. Far be it from him to practise any operation with the hand. So say we!”718

Dentistry was practised, but it was considered by the Arabs, as by the Greek and Roman doctors, a very inferior branch of the profession, and was, for the most part, as with ourselves, till very recently relegated to uneducated persons. Midwifery also was, to a great extent, neglected by the higher class of physicians. The Arabian faculty esteemed most highly medicine proper, though pharmacy and materia medica were especially studied. The professors were paid by the State, and handsomely as a rule. Their text books were the works of the Greek physicians, especially Hippocrates and Galen. A sort of matriculation examination was required before a student could enter the great schools, and he was subjected to professional examinations (not very severe, presumably) before he was permitted to practise. The Arabian physicians were usually men of the highest culture; not only were they men of science, but of philosophy and literature also. Great mystery was combined with Arabian medical practice; astrology was the handmaid of medicine, and charms entered largely into therapeutics. The physicians wrote prescriptions with purgative ink; so that “take this!” was meant literally when the doctor gave the patient his prescription. It had to be swallowed in due form.

Although the great civilizations of the East date their origins from a period far more remote than those of the West, they have lagged far behind the West in progress. Professor Freeman defines European society as progressive, legal, monogamous, and, for the last fifteen hundred years, a Christian society; the East he defines as stationary, arbitrary, polygamous, and Mahometan.719 The dominant note of Oriental history is sameness; a monotony which enables us to read in the story of to-day that which took place amongst Eastern peoples a thousand years ago. The history of a single city of Europe is of infinitely greater interest to the student of humanity and the history of civilization than that of a whole nation of the East. The history of Florence alone is of greater importance, from this point of view, than that of all China. There is, however, one marvellous history, that of Mahomet and his creed, which excels in interest that of any other man of the Oriental nations. “Nowhere,” says Freeman, “in the history of the world can we directly trace such mighty effects to the personal agency of a single mortal.”720



Alchemy the parent of Chemistry.

Learning in Europe was greatly advanced by the foundation of the famous monastery of Monte Cassino, by St. Benedict, near Naples, in the year 529. The religious houses of this order, of which Monte Cassino was the parent, were the means of sheltering in those troublous times the men who devoted themselves to literature and secular learning, as well as to the severities of the religious life. In these peaceful abodes men learned how to make the desert blossom as the rose, agriculture and other civilizing occupations were studied and successfully practised, and from the sixth century to the ninth such medical knowledge as existed in Europe chiefly emanated from these abodes of piety, industry, and temperance. Missionaries issued from them to convert and civilize the nations; and wherever the monks went, they acted as the healers of the sick, as well as the spiritual advisers of the sinner. Everywhere they cultivated medicinal plants, whose properties they learned to understand; by interchange of thought and comparison of opinions every monastery, with its constant going and coming of the brethren, became an exchange of knowledge: the science of Spain was carried to Italy, that of Italy to France and England, which in their turn contributed to the general stock of information such items of knowledge as they possessed. “If science,” says Schlegel,721 “was then of a very limited range, it was still quite proportioned to the exigencies and intellectual cultivation of the age; for mankind cannot transcend all the degrees of civilization by a single bound, but must mount slowly and in succession its various grades.”

Alcuin (735-804), the great reviver of learning in the eighth century, was an ecclesiastic who instructed Charlemagne and his family in rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and divinity. “France,” says a great writer, “is indebted to Alcuin for all the polite learning it boasted in that and the following ages. The universities of Paris, Tours, Fulden, Soissons, and many others, owe to him their origin and increase.” By301 the benefits he obtained from Charlemagne for the Christian schools which he founded, education began to revive in Europe, and by the Emperor’s command schools were established in every convent and cathedral throughout his vast empire, wherein not clerics alone, but the sons of the nobility who were destined for a secular life, could receive the highest education at that time attainable. “The monasteries became a kind of fortress in which civilization sheltered itself under the banner of some saint; the culture of high intelligence was preserved there, and philosophic truth was reborn there of religious truth. Political truth, or liberty, found an exponent and a defender in the monk, who searched into everything, said everything, and feared nothing. Without the inviolability and the leisure of the cloister, the books and the languages of the ancient world would never have been transmitted to us, and the chain which connects the past with the present would have been snapped. Astronomy, arithmetic, geometry, civil law, physic and medicine, the profane authors, grammar, and the belles lettres, all the arts, had a succession of professors uninterrupted from the first days of Clovis down to the age when the universities, themselves religious foundations, brought science forth from the monasteries. To establish this fact it is enough to name Alcuin, Anghilbert, Eginhard, Treghan, Loup de Terrières, Eric d’Auxerre, Hincmar, Odo of Clugny, Cherbert, Abbon, Fulbert.”722

The Origin of Chemistry.

The great importance of the science of chemistry in its connection with that of medicine, compels some allusion to its origin. Without question alchemy was the forerunner of chemistry. Beginning in the search for the means of transmuting base metals into gold, it ultimately endowed us with a far more precious knowledge—the art of preparing many of our most valuable medicines.

The first authentic account of alchemy is an edict of Diocletian about A.D. 300, in which a diligent search is ordered to be made in Egypt for all the ancient books which treated of the art of making gold and silver, that they might be destroyed. This shows that the pursuit must have been of great antiquity. Fable credits Solomon, Pythagoras, and Hermes amongst its adepts. We find nothing more about it till its revival by the Arabians some five or six hundred years later.723

The word Alchemy is mentioned for the first time by the Byzantines. The art of transmuting metals under the name of Chemia, is first spoken of by Suidas, who wrote in the tenth century. The Byzantines began302 to make chemical experiments about the seventh century; all the books they quote were attributed to Hermes. What is known as the Hermetic philosophy was synonymous with alchemy, but the books were really the work of the monks of the period.724

The earliest works on alchemy which we possess are those of Geber of Seville, who lived probably about the eighth or ninth century. His works were entitled Of the Search of Perfection, Of the Sum of Perfection, Of the Invention of Verity. He divided metals into the more or less perfect, gold the most perfect, silver the next, etc. His aim was to convert inferior metals into gold; that which should turn base metals into gold would be also a universal medicine, would cure or prevent diseases, prolong life, and make the body beautiful and strong. The philosopher’s stone would embrace in itself all perfections. Alchemy led to chemistry; it is even declared by some to have been the mother of chemistry. Some have thought that without the hope of making gold and other precious things, men would never have been inspired to investigate the secrets of nature and sustained in the arduous and often dangerous work of the chemist. But this is to take far too low a view of the scientific mind in all ages. The search for truth, the passion for investigating and interrogating nature has happily never wholly depended upon mercenary motives, and men have devoted their lives as ardently to scientific researches, by which they could never have hoped to gain a single penny, as did those alchemists of old, who bent over their crucibles in the vain search for the perfect magistery.725

Gibbon says,726 “The science of chemistry owes its origin and improvement to the industry of the Saracens. They first invented and named the alembic for the purposes of distillation, analysed the substances of the three kingdoms of nature, tried the distinction and affinities of alkalis and acids, and converted the poisonous minerals into soft and salutary medicines.” Gibbon somewhat exaggerates. Analysis and affinity were discovered at a much later period. It was Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who advanced chemical science towards its present high position.

Nonnus (10th century) wrote “a compendium of the whole art of medicine,” in 290 chapters. It is a mere compilation, and the author is only worthy of remembrance in medical history as the earliest Greek medical writer who mentions distilled rose-water, an article originally derived from the Arabians.



School of Montpellier.—Divorce of Medicine from Surgery.

An important era in the history of medicine in Europe was the rise of the universities. It is not possible to fix precisely the date of the foundation of these great centres of learning, but we may sufficiently for our purpose fix the twelfth century as approximately the period in which Bologna, Montpellier, Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris were regularly established.

Cambridge University took its rise in all probability somewhere in the twelfth century, “originating in an effort on the part of the monks of Ely to render a position of some military importance also a place of education.”727

The most ancient universities in Europe are said to be those of Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, and Salamanca. The following dates are approximate: Bologna, 1116; Oxford, 879; Cambridge, twelfth century; Cordova, 968; Paris, 792, renovated 1200; Palenza, 1209, removed to Salamanca, 1249. Salamanca was founded 1239; Naples, 1224; Montpellier, 1289; Rome, 1243; Salerno, 1233.728

The University of Bologna was famous as a school of law and letters so early as the twelfth century. In the next it became distinguished for its medical teaching. It was in such perfection that its professors were classed as physicians, surgeons, barber surgeons, and oculists. But still, anatomy, except in so far as it assisted the surgeon, was neglected. Roger, Roland, Jamerio, Bruno, and Lanfranc, seemed alone to have paid much attention to it, and then only to borrow from Galen.729 The medical faculty became celebrated after 1280, when Thaddeus Florentinus was a teacher in it.

The University of Padua was founded 1179.

In 1268 it possessed three teachers of medicine and the same number of teachers of natural science.

Montpellier was the first great rival of Salerno as a school of medicine. Its charter dates from 1229.

Medicine was not taught at Paris during the twelfth century. John304 of Salisbury, writing in the year 1160, says that those who desired to study medicine had to go either to Salerno or Montpellier. But, says Laurie,730 physicians of eminence are recorded as having taught at Paris after this date, and the subject was formally lectured upon not later than 1200. Degrees or licences in physic were granted in 1231.

The University of Naples was founded in 1224, by the Emperor Frederick II. Originally all the faculties were represented, but in 1231 medicine was forbidden, as by Imperial decree it could only be taught at Salerno.

The University of Prague was founded in 1348 by Charles IV. of Bohemia, as a complete university from the outset.

School of Montpellier.

The origin of the medical school of Montpellier is obscure. Probably it originated in the tenth century, and there is little doubt that the Jews of Spain were concerned in its foundation. The Arabs found firm friends in the Jewish people of Spain, their monotheism proving a bond of union which ensured the sympathy of each, and the school of Montpellier became the rallying-point of Arabian and Jewish learning. Europe has rendered too little gratitude for the intellectual blessings bestowed on her by the Hebrews. A nation of Eastern origin, and having very extensive relations with Eastern commerce, the Israelites acted as the medium for transmitting the intellectual and material wealth of Eastern countries to Western peoples. We owe to them much of our acquaintance with Saracenic medicine and pharmacy. They translated for us Arabic books, and they introduced to Western markets the precious drugs of far-distant Eastern lands. The school of medicine of Montpellier first became famous in the beginning of the twelfth century. Averroism prevailed, and a practical empirical spirit distinguished the school from the dogmatic and scholastic teaching of other universities. It has been attempted to show that a Jewish doctor from Narbonne first taught medicine at Montpellier. When Benjamin of Tudela went to the university in 1160, he says that he found many Jews amongst the inhabitants. Adalbert, Bishop of Mayence, went to Montpellier in 1137 to learn medicine from the doctors, “that he might understand the deeply hidden meaning of things.” In 1153 the Archbishop of Lyons went there for treatment, and John of Salisbury said that medicine was to be acquired either at Salerno or Montpellier. Men called the school the “Fountain of Medical Wisdom,” and it soon rose to great importance on account of its unlimited freedom in teaching.731


Cardinal Conrad made a law that no one should act as a teacher of medicine in the university who had not been examined in it and received a licence to teach. In 1230 it was ordered that no one should practise medicine until he had been examined, and that to the satisfaction of two masters in medical science chosen as examiners by the bishop. To engage in practice without the certificate of the examiners and the bishop was to incur the sentence of excommunication.732 Surgeons, however, were not compelled to undergo examination. Medicine flourished at Montpellier with great independence; it was not merged with the other faculties, and it was not subjected to clerical influences.733 Even Louis XIV. was obliged to withdraw a decree ordering the union of the medical with the other faculties.734

Every student was compelled (1308) to attend medical lectures for at least five years, and to practise medicine for eight months, before being allowed to graduate. In 1350 the degree of Magister had to be taken in addition.735

The most brilliant period in the history of the medical school of Montpellier was that of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Its fame was sounded throughout the world. From all parts invalids went to Montpellier to seek its famous physicians. King John of Bohemia, and the Bishop of Hereford, were of the number.

Divorce of Medicine from Surgery.

Surgery became separated from medicine in Alexandria, but it was not until the middle of the twelfth century that the ecclesiastics were restrained from undertaking any bloody operations. The universities rejected surgery under the pretext, “ecclesia abhorret a sanguine” (the church abhors the shedding of blood). It is therefore to this epoch, as Mr. Cooper says,736 that we must refer the true separation of medicine from surgery; the latter was entirely abandoned to the ignorant laity.

At the Council of Tours, A.D. 1163, the practice of surgery was denounced as unfit for the hands of priests and men of literature, the consequence being that the surgeon became little better than a sort of professional servant to the physician, the latter not only having the sole privilege of prescribing internal medicines, but even that of judging and directing when surgical operations should be performed. Then the subordinate surgeon was only called upon to execute with his knife, or306 his hand, duties which the more exalted physician did not choose to undertake; and, in fact, he visited the patient, did what was required to be done, and took his leave of the case, altogether under the orders of his master.737

John of Salisbury, one of the most learned men of the twelfth century, gives an account of the state of medicine in that period, which is very suggestive. “The professors of the theory of medicine are very communicative; they will tell you all they know, and, perhaps, out of their great kindness a little more. From them you may learn the nature of all things, the causes of sickness and of health, how to banish the one and how to preserve the other; for they can do both at pleasure. They will describe to you minutely the origin, the beginning, the progress, and the cure of all diseases. In a word, when I hear them harangue, I am charmed; I think them not inferior to Mercury or Æsculapius, and almost persuade myself that they can raise the dead. There is only one thing that makes me hesitate. Their theories are as directly opposite to one another as light and darkness. When I reflect on this, I am a little staggered. Two contradictory propositions cannot both be true. But what shall I say of the practical physicians? I must say nothing amiss of them. It pleaseth God, for the punishment of my sins, to suffer me to fall too frequently into their hands. They must be soothed, and not exasperated. That I may not be treated roughly in my next illness, I dare hardly allow myself to think in secret what others speak aloud.”

In another work, however, the writer delivers himself with greater freedom. Speaking of newly-fledged medicos, he says: “They soon return from college, full of flimsy theories, to practise what they have learned. Galen and Hippocrates are continually in their mouths. They speak aphorisms on every subject, and make their hearers stare at their long, unknown, and high-sounding words. The good people believe that they can do anything, because they pretend to all things. They have only two maxims which they never violate: never mind the poor, never refuse money from the rich.”

Robert of Gloucester738 does not write very highly of the skill in surgery possessed by the Anglo-Normans. Speaking of the Duke of Austria, who took King Richard the First prisoner, his verses import that when307 “he fell off from his horse and sorely bruised his foot, his physicians declared that if it was not immediately smitten off, he would die; but none would undertake the performance of the operation; till the Duke took a sharp axe, and bid the chamberlain strike it off, and he smote thrice ere he could do it, putting the Duke to most horrid torture. And Holinshed tells us that in the time of Henry the Third there lived one Richard, surnamed Medicus, ‘a most learned physician, and no less expert in philosophy and mathematics;’ but makes not the least mention of surgery. Also some authors have attributed the death of Richard the First (wounded in the shoulder at the Castle of Chalezun), to the unskilfulness of those who had the care of the wound, and not from the quarrel’s being poisoned, as others have insinuated.”739

The university title of Doctor was not known in England before the reign of Henry II.740

Richard Fitz-Nigel, Bishop of London, was apothecary to Henry II. Many bishops and dignitaries of the Church were physicians to kings and princes.741 Most of the practitioners of medicine and teachers of physic were churchmen, either priests or monks.

St. Hildegard (1098-1179), Abbess of Ruppertsberg, near Bingen on the Rhine, was a famous physician and student of nature, who wrote a treatise on Materia Medica. Her pharmacy was in advance of her time, and to this eminent lady physician we are indebted for the attempts to disguise the nastiness of physic; she enveloped the remedy in flour, which was then made into pancakes and eaten.742 Meyer says that her work entitled Physica “is a treatise on Materia Medica, unmistakably founded on popular traditions.” Her visions and revelations concerning physical and medical questions are contained in her work “Divinorum operum simplicis hominis liber.” She was a true reformer within the Church, and her pure life was singularly devoted and unselfish; she was, in fact, a Woman Physician, who should be the patron saint of our lady doctors.



The Monks of Monte Cassino.—Clerical Influence at Salerno.—Charlemagne.—Arabian Medicine gradually supplanted the Græco-Latin Science.—Constantine the Carthaginian.—Archimatthæus.—Trotula.—Anatomy of the Pig.—Pharmacopœias.—The Four Masters.—Roger and Rolando.—The Emperor Frederick.

The connecting link between the ancient and the modern medicine was the school of Salerno. It is true that Hippocrates and Galen in Arabian costume re-entered Europe after a long absence in the East, when the Moors occupied a great part of Spain; but great as was this Saracenic influence on medical science, it was not to be compared with the powerful and permanent influence secured by the native growth of medical science which sprung up on Italian soil.

The origin of this celebrated mediæval institution is involved in obscurity; it has been generally understood to have sprung from the monastery of Monte Cassino, founded by St. Benedict in the sixth century. St. Benedict probably possessed some medical knowledge, and it is certain that many of his order did. The Benedictines had houses in La Cava and Salerno. The legends of the wonderful cures wrought by St. Benedict would naturally attract crowds of sufferers to the doors of the learned and charitable monks. There would consequently be abundant opportunities for the study of diseases and their remedies; and though there was probably little enough of what could strictly be called scientific medical practice, there was doubtless as much effort to cure or mitigate suffering as was consistent with the rule of a learned religious order. Some writers think that the famous school of Salerno existed as early as the seventh century, that Greek thought and traditions lingered there long after they had ceased to exist in other parts of Italy; and they argue that as it was, as is now clearly shown, a purely secular institution, it was independent in origin and constitution of any monastic connection. Others maintain that it was founded by the Arabs; but, as Daremberg points out,743 the first invasions of the Saracens in Sicily and Italy, dating from the middle of the ninth309 century, had for their objects simply pillage and slaughter; and there is nothing whatever to show in the whole course of their devastations the slightest desire to found literary or scientific institutions. The Saracens never sojourned at Salerno, and before the end of the eleventh century there is no trace of Arabian medicine in the works written by the great teachers of Salerno. It is as unnecessary as it is unjust to seek any other origin for the Salernian school than that of the Benedictines of Monte Cassino.744 Bede, Cuthbert, Auperth, and Paul were brought up at that monastery, and we know that medicine was always cultivated to a certain extent in those ancient abodes of learning and religion. As Balmez says concerning Monte Cassino,745 “the sons of the most illustrious families of the empire are seen to come from all parts to that monastery; some with the intention of remaining there for ever, others to receive a good education, and some to carry back to the world a recollection of the serious inspirations which the holy founder had received at Subiaco.” It seems, therefore, that the origin of the medical school of Salerno was somewhat on this wise: a lay spirit of science was developed, and many young men having no aptitude for the monastic life, but desirous to devote themselves entirely to the healing art as an honourable and lucrative profession, doubtless desired to form themselves into a society or school for this end; they would receive encouragement from their more liberal and enlightened monastic teachers to settle in a beautiful and healthy resort of invalids such as Salerno had long been considered, and to pursue their medical studies under the supervision of the men most competent to instruct them. Dr. Puschmann, quoting from S. de Renzi,746 states that in documents of the years 848 and 855, Joseph and Joshua are named as doctors practising there. The Lombard Regenifrid lived there in the year 900; he was physician to Prince Waimar of Salerno. Fifty years later the doctor Petrus was raised to the bishopric of Salerno. Many doctors of this time were clerics, but there were also many who were Jews.747 This ancient people, hated and persecuted in every other relation of life, were popular as physicians in the Middle Ages. The books studied and expounded were Hippocrates and Galen, which were translated into Latin before A.D. 560.748

Its cosmopolitan sentiments probably gave rise to the story that is 310told in an ancient Salernian chronicle, rediscovered by S. de Renzi, to the effect that the school was founded by four doctors; namely, the Jewish Rabbi Elinus, the Greek Pontus, the Saracen Adala, and a native of Salerno, who each lectured in his native tongue.749

It is said that Charlemagne in 802 A.D. greatly encouraged this Salerno school by ordering Greek works of medicine to be translated from the Arabic into Latin. Salernum, in consequence of the medical and public instructions given by the monks in the neighbouring monastery, became known as a civitas Hippocratica.750

Bertharius, abbot from 856, was a very learned man; and it is stated that there are still in existence two manuscripts of his which contain a collection of hygienic and medicinal rules and prescriptions.751

Alphanus (SECUNDUS) (flourished about 1050), a distinguished monastic philosopher and theologian, wrote a treatise on The Union of the Soul and Body, and another on The Four Humours. He carried with him, when he removed to Florence, many manuscripts and a great quantity of medicines. During the eleventh century Salerno rose to great importance, not only from its situation as a port from which the Crusaders departed to the wars, but from the daily widening influence of its medical school.

Petrocellus wrote on the practice of medicine about 1035; he was the author of the Compendium of Medicine. Gariopontus (died before 1056) wrote a work entitled Passionarius Galeni. These are the two most ancient works of this school which have reached our times, says Daremberg. The medicine of Salerno before the year 1050 was a combination of methodism in its doctrines and of Galenisms in its prescriptions.752 We find, says Baas,753 in Gariopontus the first intimation of the inhalation of narcotic vapours in medicine, while the ancients could only produce anæsthesia by compression and the internal use of such drugs as mandragora and belladonna. Herodotus says754 that the Scythians used the vapour of hemp seed to intoxicate themselves by inhaling it, but this was not for medicinal purposes.

Desiderius was abbot of Salerno, and afterwards became Pope Victor III. in 1085. He is said to have been medicinæ peritissimus.755

About this time flourished Constantine, the Carthaginian Christian, whose fame was European, and who finally placed Salerno in the front as a great and specialized public school of medicine. He travelled far in the East, and is said to have learned mathematics, necromancy, and the sciences in Babylon. He visited India and Egypt, and when he returned to Carthage he was the most learned man of his time in all311 that related to medical science. Naturally he was suspected of witchcraft, and he fled for refuge to Salerno. Robert Guiscard the Norman held him in the highest favour, and under his protection he published many works of medicine of his own, and made many translations of medical books from the Arabic. He ultimately retired to the monastery of Monte Cassino, where he died in 1087. We may safely date the establishment of the splendid reputation of the Salerno school from the time of his settlement there.756

Daremberg does not allow that the influence of Constantine was so great as is generally supposed. He points out that it was not in the middle of the eleventh but at the end of the twelfth century that Arabian medicine was substituted in the school of Salerno, as in the West generally, for the Græco-Latin. And it is perfectly true that if we examine the medical writings of this period we find very little progress from the times of the ancients, except in pharmacy and the knowledge of drugs and their properties. Daremberg’s researches go to prove that many of Constantine’s works, previously supposed to have been original, were but cunningly disguised translations from the Arabic. By altering the phraseology, and suppressing such proper names as would have led to suspicion of the origin of his treatises, he obtained credit for a great mass of literary work which had really another source.757

Jean Afflacius, a disciple of Constantine, wrote The Golden Book on the Treatment of Diseases, and another work On the Treatment of Fevers.758 Daremberg says that these works of Afflacius show no more traces of Arabian influence than the works of his contemporaries.

He advised that the air of the sick-room should be kept cool by the evaporation of water, and he administered iron in enlargement of the spleen.

ARCHIMATTHÆUS lived soon after Constantine; his name occurs about the year 1100 as the author of two important books on medicine, The Instruction of the Physician and The Practice. The former work is occupied with advice, sometimes exaggerated, on the dignity of the healing art; and though it appears childish enough to our more sophisticated age, it is not without evidence of a desire to instruct the doctor in all that relates to the welfare of the patient and the dangers incurred by any deviation from the strictest code of professional rectitude. It is unfortunately, however, blended with so much that is crafty and sly that it approaches in some directions very closely to312 charlatanism. Archimatthæus very minutely instructs the doctor how to comport himself when called to visit a patient.759

He should place himself under the protection of God and under the care of the angel who accompanied Tobias. On the way to the patient’s home he should take care to learn from the messenger sent for him the state of the patient, so that he may be, on reaching the bedside, well posted in all that concerns the case; then if, after he has examined the urine and the state of the pulse, he is not able to make an accurate diagnosis, he will at least be able, thanks to his previous information, to impress the patient with the conviction that he completely understands his case, and so will gain his confidence. The author considers it very important that the sick person, before the arrival of the physician, should send for a priest to hear his confession, or at least promise to do so; for if the doctor were to see reason to suggest this himself, it would give the patient cause to suppose that his case was hopeless. “Upon entering the house of his patient, the physician should salute all with a grave and modest air, not exhibiting any eagerness, but seating himself to take breath; he should praise the beauty of the situation,760 the good arrangements of the house, the generosity of the family; by this means he wins the good opinion of the household, and gives the sick person time to recover himself a little.” After the most careful directions as to the examination of the patient, the author takes the doctor from the house with as much artfulness as he has brought him hither. He is to promise the patient a good recovery, but privately to the friends he is to explain that the illness is a very serious one: “if he recovers, your reputation is increased; if he succumbs, people will not fail to remember that you foresaw the fatal termination of the disease.” If he is asked to dine, “as is the custom,” he is to show himself neither indiscreet nor over-nice. If the table is delicate, he is not to become absorbed in its pleasures, but to leave the table every now and then to see how the patient progresses, so as to show that he has not been forgotten while the doctor was feasting. He is honestly to demand his fee, and then go in peace, his heart content and his purse full. In the Practice of the same author, we have, says Daremberg, a true Clinic, the first work of the kind since the Epidemics of Hippocrates; it exhibits a skilful practitioner, a good observer, and a bold therapeutist. The doctrines and methods are those of Hippo313crates and Galen, but not of the Arabs. It is also interesting as proving that at this period the distinction was established between the true physicians and the common physicians, or the specialists and the general practitioners or physician-apothecaries.

A remarkable and interesting feature in the history of the school of Salerno is the fact that some of its most famous professors of medicine were ladies. About the year 1059, Trotula, a female physician, wrote a well-known book on the diseases of women, and their treatment before, during, and after labour. She discusses all branches of pathology, even of the male sexual organs.761 It was supposed that she was the wife of John Platearius the elder, and that she belonged to the noble family of Roger. Her person and name were at one time considered legend and myth, but M. Renzi’s investigations have proved her to be sufficiently historical. Trotula lived at Salerno, as is shown by the Compendium Salernitanum, and she practised in that city, as is clear from her work on the diseases of women. Her name occurs variously as Trotula, Trotta, and Trocta.762

Abella wrote a treatise De Natura Seminis Humani; she was a colleague of Trotula’s. Costanza Calenda was the daughter of the principal of the medical school, and was distinguished both for her beauty and her talents; she left no writings. Mercuriadis and Rebecca Guarna were doctresses of the fifteenth century. They wrote chiefly on midwifery and diseases of women.763

Copho, in the early part of the twelfth century, was an anatomist, and probably a Jew; he wrote the Anatomy of the Pig. Students were instructed in dissections by operating on dead animals when, as in those days, human bodies were not accessible. The pig was killed by severing the vessels of the neck, and was then hung up by the hind legs, and when the blood had escaped the body was used for teaching purposes; it was not dissected in the modern sense at all, the examination consisting merely in observation of the great cavities and the vital organs, according to the suggestions of Galen and the old anatomists.764

Nicholas Præpositus, about 1140, was the president of the school, and wrote a famous book called the Antidotarium—a Pharmacopœia as we should call it. This book of recipes was compiled from the works of the Arabian doctors Mesues, Avicenna, Actuarius, Nicolaus Myrepsus, as well as from Galen. It is interesting as giving the forms which the compounders of the prescriptions were sworn on their oath to observe;314 they promised to make up all their potions, syrups, etc., “secundum prædictam formam,” and they further promised that their drugs should be fresh and sufficient. It shows also that there was a habit of writing a prescription when a patient was visited; this, it seems, was a custom which originated with the Arabian physicians.765

Nicholas was also the author, says Dr. Baas,766 of a work called “Quid pro Quo,” which was a list of drugs which were equivalent to other drugs, and might be used as substitutes for each other in case of either running short. Dr. Baas says our expression “Quid pro Quo” originated from this.

The writings of Bartholomæus and of Copho the Younger (between 1100 and 1120), says Daremberg, are of great interest in the history of medicine; they show how great was the freedom of spirit which existed at Salerno at this time. Copho described certain diseases which were not referred to in the works of other writers of Salerno; for example, ulceration of the palate and trachea, polypi, scrofulous tumours of the throat, condylomata, etc. Bartholomæus and Copho also held certain original ideas as to the classification of fevers. Copho distinguished between medicine for the rich and for the poor: the rich are delicate, and must be cured agreeably; the poor wish only to be cured at as little cost as possible. Thus the nobles must be purged with finely powdered rhubarb, the poor, with a decoction of mirobalanum, sweetened or not. Naturally the more precious drugs would be used for the wealthy, and probably the poor, who could not afford the complicated and terrible confections of mediæval pharmacy, might have congratulated themselves on being treated with a few simples instead of the precious messes which the wealthy had to swallow.

Johannes Platearius deserves notice as having been the inventor of the term “Cataracta,” in place of the ancient Egyptian “ascent” and the Greek “hypochosis,” in classical Latin “suffusio humorum” (Hirsch).767

Matthæus Platearius was the son of the above; he composed a Practica Brevis and other books on medicine; it is not certain at what precise date they flourished.

ÆgidiusCorbolensis,” canon of Paris, physician to Philip Augustus, king of France (1165-1213), wrote a poem on the decline of Salerno as a medical school; he describes the doctors as caring nothing for books which were not full of recipes, and the professors as merely beardless boys.


The famous but somewhat mysterious “Four Masters” were commentators on the surgery of Roger and Roland.

Musandinus wrote on the diet of the sick; bleeding was recommended for the want of appetite in convalescents, and patients were rather to be purged to death than permitted to die constipated.

Bernard the Provincial recommends wine for the delicate stomachs of bishops; he said they could not bear emetics unless they were administered on a full stomach. His treatise was written between the years 1150 and 1160. He did much to simplify the materia medica of his time, advising the poor not to waste their means on costly foreign drugs, but to gather simples from the fields. It is interesting to find in the thirteenth century police regulations which required in many cities of Italy that physicians should inspect druggists’ shops and see that their medicines were pure and fresh. Pharmacy, it seems, was already becoming divorced from medical practice.768

In the middle of the twelfth century there appeared a didactic poem called Schola Salernitana, Flos Medicinæ, or Regimen Sanitatis, or Regimen Virile. This celebrated work went through hundreds of editions.769

Dr. Handerson, in his translation of Baas’ History of Medicine, says it had other titles than those given above, as Medicina Salernitana, De Conservanda Bona Valetudine, Lilium Sanitatis, Compendium Salernitanum, etc. The work was for centuries the physician’s vade mecum. It is not known who was the author; originally it was put forth as emanating from “the whole school of Salerno to the king of England,” namely, Robert, son of William the Conqueror, who was cured of a wound at Salerno in 1101. The poem consisted of some two thousand lines. Dr. Handerson gives the following translation of a few lines of this curious work:—

“Salerno’s school in conclave high unites,
To counsel England’s king, and thus indites:
If thou to health and vigour would’st attain,
Shun mighty cares, all anger deem profane;
From heavy suppers and much wine abstain;
Nor trivial count it, after pompous fare,
To rise from table and to take the air;
Shun idle noonday slumbers, nor delay
The urgent calls of nature to obey:
These rules if thou wilt follow to the end,
Thy life to greater length thou may’st extend.”


It has been translated into English by Thomas Paynell in 1530, by John Harrington in 1607, and by Alexander Croke in 1830.

The poem is a composite work, and its form was doubtless adopted for facility of committing to memory an important text-book of health rules.

Roger, or Ruggiero, known as Roger of Parma or of Palermo, lived about 1210, was a student, and for a long time a professor in Salerno. He was a celebrated surgeon, who practised trepanning of the sternum and stitching of the intestine. He was the first to describe a case of hernia pulmonis, to use the term seton, and to prescribe the internal use of sea-sponge for the removal of bronchocele.770 He knew how to arrest hæmorrhage by styptics, sutures, and ligatures.

He was the earliest special writer on surgery in Italy.771 His later editor Rolando exhibits an acquaintance with surgery, which shows that, although the art had not been previously written upon in Italy, it was very well understood at Salerno. De Renzi says that some of the operations described are trephining, the removal of polypi from the nose, resection of the lower jaw, the operation for hernia and lithotomy. Malignant tumours of the rectum and uterus are referred to.772

Salerno was the first school in Europe in which regular diplomas in medicine were granted to students who had been duly instructed and had passed an examination in accordance with the requirements of the legal authorities. The great patron of Salerno, Frederick II., in the year 1240 confirmed the law of King Roger, passed in the year 1137, or as some say in 1140, with reference to licences to practise medicine. That ancient enactment was that, “Whoever from this time forth desires to practise medicine must present himself before our officials and judges, and be subject to their decision. Any one audacious enough to neglect this shall be punished by imprisonment and confiscation of goods. This decree has for its object the protection of the subjects of our kingdom from the dangers arising from the ignorance of practitioners.”773

Frederick’s law was:317 “Since it is possible for a man to understand medical science, only if he has previously learnt something of logic, we ordain that no one shall be permitted to study medicine until he has given his attention to logic for three years. After these three years he may, if he wishes, proceed to the study of medicine. In this study he must spend five years, during which period he must also acquire a knowledge of surgery, for this forms a part of medicine. After this, but not before, permission may be given him to practise, provided that he passes the examination prescribed by the authorities and at the same time produces a certificate showing that he has studied for the period required by the law.” “The teachers must, during this period of five years, expound in their lectures the genuine writings of Hippocrates and Galen on the theory and practice of medicine.” “But even when the prescribed five years of medical study are passed, the doctor should not forthwith practise on his own account, but, for a full year more he should habitually consult an older experienced practitioner in the exercise of his profession.”

“We decree that in future no one is to assume the title of doctor, to proceed to practise or to take medical charge, unless he has previously been found competent in the judgment of teachers at a public meeting in Salerno, has moreover by the testimony in writing of his teachers and of our officials approved himself before us or our representatives in respect of his worthiness and scientific maturity, and in pursuance of this course has received the state-licence to practise. Whoever transgresses this law, and ventures to practise without a licence, is subject to punishment by confiscation of property and imprisonment for a year.” “No surgeon shall be allowed to practise until he has submitted certificates in writing of the teachers of the faculty of medicine, that he has spent at least one year in the study of that part of medical science which gives skill in the practice of surgery, that in the colleges he has diligently and especially studied the anatomy of the human body, and is also thoroughly experienced in the way in which operations are successfully performed and healing is brought about afterwards.”774

For centuries after this barbers in other countries practised surgery without let or hindrance.

The doctor was bound to give advice to the poor gratis, and to inform against apothecaries who did not make up his prescriptions in accordance with the law. The doctor’s fee in the daytime within the town was half a gold tarenus; outside the city he could demand from three to four tareni, exclusive of his travelling expenses.775 Doctors were not permitted to keep drug-shops. Apothecaries were obliged to compound the medicines in conformity with the doctor’s prescriptions, and the price they charged was regulated by law. Inspectors of drug-shops were appointed to visit and report. The punishment of death was318 imposed on the officials who neglected their duties.776 These laws have served as the pattern for succeeding enactments for the regulation of medical education and practice.

In 1252 King Conrad created the school of Salerno a university, but King Manfred in 1258 by his restoration of Naples University left Salerno only its medical school.

On the 29th of November, 1811, a decree of the French Government put an end to the oldest school of medicine in Europe.

Daremberg concludes his admirable treatise on the school of Salerno with a pathetic account of a visit which he made to that city in 1849; he tells how he wandered through its streets, once so active with the movements of the students and professors of the medical sciences, and he laments that not a single remembrance of its illustrious masters remains to remind the visitor of its ancient glories. Not a stone of the edifices, not an echo of its traditions, not even a manuscript in any library remains to remind us of the learned and venerable men and women who did so much for medicine in those dark ages. A few years back I visited Salerno myself, and I found not even a decent hotel in which to remain a night or two. I rested at the best hostelry I could find, and after dinner proposed to the friend who accompanied me, that on the following day we should visit Pæstum and see its noble ruined temples. As we chatted and turned over the pages of the visitors’ book, we came across a long and doleful account of an Englishman who some few years previously had visited Pæstum from Salerno, and was captured by brigands; he was detained their prisoner for many weeks, and only at last liberated, after threats of mutilation, by the payment of a heavy ransom. We did not go to Pæstum; we left Salerno early the following morning and went to Amalfi. The hotel was gloomy and crumbling into decay, the rooms were all empty, the landlord was suggestive of the host in some of the old stories of our boyish days. Thus has Salerno fallen. Most travellers now make La Cava their headquarters, and do not stay at Salerno at all.



The Crusades.—Astrology.

The Crusades were of the highest importance to the development of Western civilization; they brought the European world into contact with the ancient wisdom of the East, they greatly stimulated commerce, aroused a spirit of restlessness and inquiry, and thus enlarged men’s minds, stimulated them to adventure and heroic deeds, improved the art of war and the invention of arms, etc. By bringing the Crusaders into contact with the Saracens many new medicines were introduced into practice; physicians followed the armies to the East, and thus had opportunities of studying the healing art as practised in the midst of ancient civilizations. To a great extent the present advantages we enjoy are due to the influence of the Crusades, which brought to Europe many arts and sciences we should not have otherwise learned.

One of the evil consequences of the Crusades was the introduction into Europe of epidemic diseases and contagious disorders which have always had their home in the East. Thus were introduced the plague, leprosy, and the disorders which are bred of filth and promiscuous living.

In the thirteenth century very few who possessed either medical or surgical skill were not priests or monks, chiefly mendicants. The profession became very lucrative, and so many monks devoted themselves to the healing art that they neglected their spiritual duties, and were consequently forbidden to leave their monasteries for a longer period than two months at a time.777 In this century astrology was closely related to the practice of medicine. It was believed that an intimate association existed between the heavenly bodies and those of men, and no cure could be attempted without consulting the astrological oracle.

M. Jules Andrieu says that medical science, “like the other sciences, began by being astrological. The first encyclopædia was astrology.”778320 Certainly it was one of the modes most anciently and universally practised for discovering the most important things relating to the lives and fortunes of those who believed in it. It was flattering to men to believe that the heavenly bodies are interested in their welfare, and the events of life were awaited with resignation and composure by those who believed they were regulated by the stars in their courses; they applied themselves therefore to diagrams and calculations to learn the simplest and most obvious details of their lives.

M. Littré, member of the Institute and the Academy of Medicine at Paris, in his Fragment de Médecine Rétrospective,779 describes seven “miracles” which took place in France at the end of the thirteenth century at the tomb of St. Louis. He states the simple facts as written in the chronicles of the period. He does not dispute them, does not ridicule nor ignore them, but endeavours to give a pathological interpretation of them. He notices in the first place that at the moment of cure the patient felt a sharp pain—the part affected seemed to be stretched or touched, and sometimes a sort of cracking sensation in the bone was experienced, then movements became possible, although the lengthening of the limb and the possibility of moving it freely were not experienced immediately; the cure was not so sudden, a period of weakness, long or short, always followed the miracle, and the part only gradually regained its use. The cracking of the bone is just what the surgeon finds when he moves a joint which has become fixed by disuse; without breaking down these adhesions, he can do nothing to restore the articulation. In cases of rheumatic paralysis a similar state of things is observed. Of course in the accounts of the healing at the tomb of St. Louis we expect to find errors and exaggerations due to the preoccupation and ignorance of those who wrote the reports, but we at once recognise the cracking and the pain as genuine pathological details; we should not expect a natural cure without these symptoms. To what shall we attribute them? M. Littré gives the explanation in the words of M. le docteur Onimus, published in La Philosophic positive sur la Vibration nerveuse.780 The ascending action or vibration expresses the influence of the physical on the moral; the descending action or vibration expresses the influence of the moral on the physical. In these cases it is the descending action which we have to consider. This action is exerted on the muscular portion of the affected part; it contracts energetically; it breaks down the pathological adhesions if they exist; it restores the bones violently to their place; this done, the patient is in a condition to use the limb, but not without passing through a period of debility which requires time for recovery. It is a violent321 extension produced by muscular contractions. Surgery has frequently to break down such adhesions and destroy false anchyloses. Here the force is not exerted by a strange hand, but by an influence which is exerted on the muscles themselves, and this in a far more beneficent manner than surgery can afford. What is the exciting cause of these energetic contractions? That which we find in all miracles of this sort—a strong persuasion, a complete confidence. Under a profound emotion born of these sentiments, the patient, feeling that the cure was in the extension of the part, had a belief which he could understand. Of course such faith is not possible in every case. On one side there must be the mental condition which can receive in its fulness the emotion born of persuasion and confidence, and on the other that the lesions must be susceptible of cure. To a certain degree there are lesions which escape all this sort of treatment. Herbert Spencer points out781 that muscular power fails with flagging emotions or desires which lapse into indifference, and conversely that intense feeling or passion confers a great increase in muscular force. It is brain and feeling generated by the mind which give strength to the person who thinks strongly.

Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), one of the greatest of the schoolmen, combined with his religious speculations so great a knowledge of physical science and mechanics that he was reputed as a sorcerer. He constructed automata, some of which could speak; wrote on anatomy, physiology, botany, chemistry, astronomy, magnetism, acclimatization of plants and animals, etc. He digested, interpreted, and systematized the whole of the writings of Aristotle in accordance with the teaching of the Church. He was called, not only “Albert the Great,” but “the Universal doctor.” To his labours and those of Thomas Aquinas may be explained the reverence for Aristotle entertained by the clergy of the Roman and Anglican churches even to the present day.

Thomas Aquinas (1225 circ.-1274), was the great Dominican theologian who wrote the Summa Theologiæ. In his famous work he incidentally dealt with medical and physiological questions. The source of all motion is the heart. The soul is created anew in each conception. Moisture, heat, and æther alone are necessary for the generation of an individual; the lower animals originate even from putrefying matter. He wrote commentaries on the works of Aristotle, and derived many of his scientific ideas from this great master. The biology of St. Thomas, as may be imagined, is exceedingly feeble, yet it too often forms the only knowledge of the subject which continental clergymen possess.


Raymond Lulli (1235-1315) was a man of great intellect, who sought the secrets of transmutation of metals and the philosopher’s stone. He was a bold thinker, an astrologer, and a physician of great repute. Naturally he was accused of magic. His acquaintance with the Arabians directed his mind to the study of chemistry. He wrote on medical subjects, the titles of his best known works being De Pulsibus et Urinis, De Medicina Theorica et Practica, De Aquis et Oleis.

Roger Bacon (1214-1298). By theologians he was believed to be in league with the devil, because of his belief in astrology and his scientific attainments. It is probable that his reputed invention of certain optical instruments was really due to his acquaintance with Arabic, as the Arabians were familiar with the camera, burning glass, and microscope, which have been attributed to him. Neither is it the fact that he invented gunpowder, as is usually supposed. Bacon wrote voluminously on theology, philosophy, and science. Although he believed in astrology and the philospher’s stone, he had a true scientific idea of the value of experiment, which forcibly reminds us of the Francis Bacon which future ages would reveal.

“Experimental science,” he said, “has three great prerogatives over all other sciences: (1) it verifies their conclusions by direct experiments; (2) it discovers truths which they could never reach; (3) it investigates the secrets of nature, and opens to us a knowledge of past and future.”782 As an instance of his method, Bacon gives an investigation into the phenomena of the rainbow, which is doubtless a very remarkable example of inductive research.

Roger Bacon proved himself far in advance of his time by his insistence of the supremacy of experiment. So different was his mental attitude in this regard from the temper of his time that Whewell finds it difficult to conceive how such a character could then exist.783 He learned much from Arabian writers, but certainly not from them did he learn to emancipate himself from the bondage to Aristotle which everywhere enslaved them. Doubtless he learned from Aristotle himself to call no man master in science, for the Stagyrite declared that all knowledge must come from observation, and that science must be collected from facts by induction.784 Probably the truth about Aristotle is that Bacon’s objections were directed against the Latin translations of the Greek philosopher, which were very bad ones. Of both Avicenna and Averroes he speaks respectfully, and it is doubted whether any passages323 in Bacon’s works can be construed into opposition to Aristotle’s own authority.785

Wood says786 that Roger Bacon was accounted the fourth in order of the chief chemists the world had ever produced, their names being (1) Hermes Trismegistus, the first chemist, (2) Geber, (3) Morienus Romanus, (4) Roger Bacon, (5) Raymond Lulli, (6) Paracelsus.

Roger Bacon made such prodigious chemical experiments at Oxford and Paris “that none could be convinced to the contrary but that he dealt with the devil.”

Jean Pitard (1228-1315) founded the surgical society in France, which exercised a very important influence on the development of the healing art in that country, under the title of the “College de Saint Côme.”787 At a time when surgery of the lower character was practised by barbers, this important corporation of educated men broke off from the inferior association and combined to form an academy of the higher surgery.

Peter de Maharncourt was an Oxford student, so “excellent in chemical experiments that he was instituted Dominus Experimentorum.”788 He not only worked in metallurgy, but interested himself in “the experiments of old women, their charms, magical spells, and verses that they used to repeat when they applied or gave anything to their patients.”

Nicholas Myrepsus (circ. A.D. 1250), “Actuarius,” i.e. physician-in-ordinary, wrote a vast work on materia medica, containing 2,656 prescriptions for every disease, real or imaginary, which afflicts our race. He had studied at Salerno.

John Actuarius (circ. 1283) was a medical genius in advance of his age. He wrote a useful materia medica and a treatise on the kidney secretion, in which he explains the use of a graduated glass for estimating the amount of sediments, which he classifies according to their colours. He appeared, says Haeser, “like the last flickerings of a dying flame” just before the Turks destroyed the glorious work of the Greeks in the civilized world.

In Edward the First’s reign the king’s physician had twelve pence per day for his expenses in visiting the Countess of Gloucester, the king’s daughter, when she was ill.789

The art of poisoning was brought to considerable perfection in the324 Middle Ages, and there is abundant evidence of the fact that women were commonly agents in it.790

In Edward the Third’s reign the ladies of the household were both nurses and doctors. Regular practitioners were few, and the mistress of the house and her maidens were compelled to do the best they could in their absence. Medicinal herbs were cultivated in every garden, and were either dried or made into decoctions and kept ready for use. Many of these fair practitioners were reputed to be very skilful in medical practice. Chaucer, in the “Nonne-Prestes Tale,” has left a faithful picture of the domestic medicine of the period in the character of Dame Pertelot.



Revival of Human Anatomy.—Famous Physicians of the Century.—Domestic Medicine in Chaucer.—Fellowship of the Barbers and Surgeons.—The Black Death.—The Dancing Mania.—Pharmacy.

Revival of Human Anatomy.

Brighter days dawned for medical science after the close of the thirteenth century, up to which era the Saracenic learning prevailed. While human dissections were impossible, the sciences of anatomy and philosophy had made no advance beyond the point at which they were left by Galen, and as he dissected only animals they were necessarily left in a very imperfect state. It is not known precisely when human dissection was revived; probably the school of Salerno, under the influence of Frederick II., has a right to the honour. In 1308, however, we find the senate of Venice decreeing that a body should be dissected annually,791 and it is known that such dissections took place at Bologna in 1300. We have, however, nothing very definite on the subject till a few years later. Italy gave birth to the first great anatomist of Europe.

The father of modern anatomy was Mondino, who taught in Bologna about the year 1315. Under his cultivation “the science first began to rise from the ashes in which it had been buried.”792 His demonstrations of the different parts of the human body at once attracted the notice of the medical profession of Europe to the school of Bologna. He died in 1325. Though he had a penetrating faculty of observation, he was not altogether original, as he copied Galen and the Arabians. He divided the body into three cavities: the upper, containing the animal members; the lower, the natural members; and the middle, the spiritual members. His anatomy of the heart is wonderfully accurate, and he came very near to the discovery of the circulation of the blood.793 He described seven pairs of nerves at the base of the brain, and was evidently acquainted with the anatomy of that organ.


He is said to have had the assistance of a young lady, Alassandra Giliani, as prosector. Anatomical demonstrations in those days were, at the best, very imperfect. The demonstrator did not actually himself dissect; this was done by a barber-surgeon with a razor, the lecturer merely standing by and pointing out the objects of interest to the students with his staff. Nor did the process occupy much time; four lessons served to explain the mysteries of the human frame: the first was on the abdomen, the second on the organs of the chest, the third on the brain, and the fourth on the extremities.794 The bodies were buried, or placed in running or boiling water, to soften the tissues and facilitate their examination. Dissections first took place at Prague in 1348, Montpellier after 1376, Strasburg, 1517. In Italy, sometimes, a condemned criminal was first stabbed in prison by the executioner, and then conveyed at once to the dissecting room, for the use of the doctors.

The most famous physicians of this period were:—

Petrus Apono, or Pietro of Abano (1250-1315), a famous physician, who lived at Abano near Padua, and who had studied medicine and other sciences at Padua and Paris. He travelled in Greece and other parts, acquired a knowledge of the Greek language, and was a devoted student of the works of Averroes. He endeavoured to mediate between the Arabian and the Greek physicians in their controversies on medicine, and wrote with that view his work, entitled the Conciliator differentiarum philosophorum et precipue medicorum. He knew enough of physiology to be aware that the brain is the source of the nerves, and the heart that of all the blood-vessels. He meddled with astrology, and was accused of practising magic, of possessing the philosopher’s stone. He was found guilty on his second trial by the Inquisition; but as he died before the trial was completed, he was merely burned in effigy.

Jacob de Dondis (1298-1359) was a physician, who was a professor at Padua, and was famous as the author of an herbal with plates containing descriptions of simple medicines.

Arnold of Villa Nova (1235-1312), physician, alchemist, and astrologer, did much to advance chemical science, and whose work, the Breviarium Practicæ, is not a mere compilation. He advised his pupils, when they failed to find out what was the matter with their patients, to declare that there was “some obstruction of the liver,”—a practice much in vogue even in the present day. He was the first to administer brandy, which he called the elixir of life (Baas). He discovered the art of preparing distilled spirits (Thomson).

Collections of medical cases first began to be preserved in an in327telligible form in the thirteenth century; they were called consilia. Those by Fulgineus (before 1348), by Montagnana (died 1470), and by Baverius de Baveriis, of Imola (about 1450), are said to be interesting.795

Gordonius was a Scottish professor at Montpellier, who in 1307 wrote the Practica seu Lilium Medicinæ; it went through several editions, and was translated into French and Hebrew.

Sylvaticus (ob. 1342) wrote a sort of medical glossary and dictionary.

Gilbertus Anglicanus (about 1290) wrote a compendium of medicine, also called Rosa Anglicana, a work of European reputation, said to contain good observations on leprosy.

John of Gaddesden was an Oxford man and a court physician, who between 1305 and 1317 wrote the Rosa Anglica seu Practica Medicinæ,—a work which, though of little merit, remained popular up to the sixteenth century. Some of his remedies are very curious. For loss of memory he prescribed the heart of a nightingale, and he was a firm believer in the efficacy of the king’s touch for scrofula. For small-pox he prescribed the following treatment, as soon as the eruption appeared: “Cause the whole body of your patient to be wrapped in scarlet cloth, or in any other red cloth, and command everything about the bed to be made red. This is an excellent cure.” Again, for epilepsy, the method of cure was as follows: “Because there are many children and others afflicted with the epilepsy, who cannot take medicines, let the following experiment be tried, which I have found to be effectual, whether the patient was a demoniac, a lunatic, or an epileptic. When the patient and his parents have fasted three days, let them conduct him to a church. If he be of a proper age, and of his right senses, let him confess. Then let him hear Mass on Friday, and also on Saturday. On Sunday let a good and religious priest read over the head of the patient, in the church, the gospel which is read in September, in the time of vintage, after the feast of the Holy Cross. After this, let the priest write the same gospel devoutly, and let the patient wear it about his neck, and he shall be cured. The gospel is, ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’” These quotations are both from the Medical Rose; and as the author was at the head of his profession, numbered princes amongst his patients, and was extolled by writers of the time, it doubtless fairly represents the practice of the period. The medicine of the period embraced the demon theory of disease and the belief in the efficacy of amulets, or more correctly of characts.


Domestic Medicine in Chaucer’s Time.

Chaucer (1340-1400), in the Nonnes Preestes Tale, tells us how in his time people took care of their health by attention to diet; and how, when folk were sick, and doctors not handy, nor medicines to be had at the chemist’s close by, the wise women were able, not only to prescribe skilfully, but to supply the requisite medicines from their own store or garden.

“A poure widewe, somdel stoupen in age,
Was whilom dwelling in a narwe cotage
Beside a grove, stonding in a dale.

Hire diete was accordant to hire cote.
Repletion ne made hire never sike;
Attempre diete was all hire physike
And exercise, & hertes suffisance.
The goute let hire nothing for to dance,
No apoplexie shente not hire hed,
No win ne dranke she, neyther white ne red.
‘Now, sire,’ quod she, ‘whan we flee fro the bemes,
For Goddes love, as take som laxatif;
Up peril of my soule, & of my lif,
I conseil you the best, I wol not lie.
That both of coler, & of melancolie
Ye purge you; and for ye shul not tarie,
Though in this toun be non apotecarie,
I shal myself two herbes techen you,
That shal be for your hele, & for your prow;
And in our yerde, the herbes shal I finde,
The which han of hir propretee by kinde
To purgen you benethe, & eke above.
Sire, forgete not this for Goddes love;
Ye ben ful colerike of complexion;
Ware that the Sonne in his ascention
Ne find you not replete of humours hote:
And if it do, I dare wel lay a grote,
That ye shul han a fever tertiane,
Or elles an ague, that may be your bane.
A day or two ye shal han digestives
Of wormes, or ye take your laxatives,
Of laureole, centaurie, & fumetere,
Or elles of ellebor, that groweth there,
Of catapuce, or of gaitre-beries,
Or herbe ive growing in our yerd, that mery is;
Picke hem right as they grow, and ete hem in.’”

Chaucer has indicated for us, in his Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, who were the great medical authors studied by English physicians of the period.


Besides Æsculapius, whose works certainly could not have reached the “Doctour of Physicke,” he read Dioscorides, the famous writer on Materia Medica (A.D. 40-90). Rufus (of Ephesus, about A.D. 50). Old Hippocras = Hippocrates. Hali = Ali Abbas (died 994). Gallien = Galen. Serapion; there were two, the elder and the younger. Rasis = Rhazes (A.D. 850-923). Avicen = Avicenna (died 1170). Averriois = Averroes (died 1198). Damascene = Janus Damascenus, alias Mesue the elder (780-857). Constantin = Constantinus Africanus (1018-1085). Bernard = Bernardus Provincialis (about 1155). Gatisden = John of Gaddesden (about 1305). Gilbertin = Gilbert of England (about 1290).

“His study was but little on the Bible,” says the poet, who also intimates that as gold in physic is a cordial, he was partial to fees.

Fellowship of Barbers and Surgeons.

On the 10th of September, 1348, says Anthony à Wood,796 “appeared before Mr. John Northwode, D.D., Chancellor of the University of Oxford, John Bradey, Barber, Richard Fell, Barber Surgeon, Thomas Billye, Waferer, and with them the whole Company and Fellowship of Barbers within the precincts of Oxford, and intending thenceforward to join and bind themselves in amity and love, brought with them certain ordinations and statutes drawn up in writings for the weal of the Craft of Barbers, desiring the said Chancellor that he would peruse and correct them, and when he had so done, to put the University seal to them. Thus the Barbers of Oxford were formed into a Corporation, one of their ordinations being that no man nor servant of the Craft of Barbers or Surgery should reveal any infirmity or secret disease they have, to their customers or patients. Of which, if any one should be found guilty, then he was to pay 20s., whereof 6s. 8d. was to go to Our Lady’s box, 6s. 8d. to the Chancellor, or in his absence, to the Commissary, and 6.s. 8d. to the Proctors.” The Barbers, Surgeons, Waferers, and makers of singing bread were all of the same fellowship. They all continued in one society till the year 1500, when the Cappers or Knitters of Caps, sometimes called Capper-Hurrers, were united to them.797 In 1551 the Barbers and Waferers laid aside their charter and took one in the name of the City; but Wood says they lived without any ordination, statutes, or charter till 1675, when they received a charter from the University.798

The Black Death.

A great pestilence desolated Asia, Europe, and Africa in the fourteenth century, which was known as The Black Death. Its origin was330 oriental, and it was distinguished by boils and tumours of the glands, accompanied by black spots. Many patients became stupefied and fell into a deep sleep; they became speechless, their tongues were black, and their thirst unquenchable. Their sufferings were so terrible that many in despair committed suicide. Those who waited upon the sick caught the disease, and in Constantinople many houses were bereft of their last inhabitant. Guy de Chauliac, the physician (born about 1300), bravely defied the plague when it raged in Avignon for six or eight weeks, although the form which it there assumed was distinguished by the pestilential breath of the patients who expectorated blood, so that the near vicinity of the persons who were sick was certain death. The courageous de Chauliac, when all his colleagues had fled the city, boldly and constantly assisted the sufferers. He saw the plague twice in Avignon—in 1348, and twelve years later. Boccacio, who was in Florence when it raged in that city, has described it in the Decameron. No medicine brought relief; not only men, but animals sickened with it and rapidly expired. Boccacio himself saw two hogs, on the rags of a person who had died of the plague, fall dead, after staggering a little as if they had been poisoned. Multitudes of other animals fell victims to the epidemic in the same way. In France many young and strong persons died as soon as they were struck, as if by lightning. The plague spread over England with terrible rapidity. It first broke out in the county of Dorset; advancing to Devonshire and Somersetshire, it reached Bristol, Gloucester, Oxford, and London. The annals of contemporaries record the awful fact that throughout the land only a tenth of the population remained alive. The contagion spread from England to Norway. Poland and Russia suffered later in a similar manner, although the disease did not always manifest itself in the same form in every case. Only two medical descriptions of the disease have come down to us—one by Guy de Chauliac, the other by Raymond Chalin de Vinario. Chauliac notices the fatal coughing of blood; Vinario in addition describes fluxes of blood from the bowels, and bleeding at the nose. What were the causes which produced so dreadful a plague, it is impossible to discover with certainty.

Dr. Hecker, to whose work on the subject799 I am indebted for the information concerning it, says that331 “mighty revolutions in the organism of the earth, of which we have credible information, had preceded it. From China to the Atlantic the foundations of the earth were shaken, throughout Asia and Europe the atmosphere was in commotion, and endangered, by its baneful influence, both vegetable and animal life.”

In 1337, 4,000,000 of people perished by famine in China in the neighbourhood of Kiang alone. Floods, famines, and earthquakes were frequent, both in Asia and Europe. In Cyprus a pestiferous wind spread a poisonous odour before an earthquake shook the island to its foundations, and many of the inhabitants fell down suddenly and expired in dreadful agonies after inhaling the noxious gases. German chemists state that a thick stinking mist advancing from the east spread over Italy in thousands of places, and vast chasms opened in the earth which exhaled the most noxious vapours.

The Dancing Mania.

In the year 1374 a strange delusion arose in Germany, a convulsion infuriating the human frame, and afflicting the people for more than two centuries. It was called the dance of St. John or of St. Vitus, and those affected by it performed a wild dance while screaming and foaming with fury. The sight of the afflicted communicated the mania to the observers, and the demoniacal epidemic soon spread over the whole of Germany and the neighbouring countries to the north-west.

Bands of men and women went about the streets forming circles hand in hand, and danced madly for hours together, until they fell in a state of exhaustion to the ground. They complained, when in this state, of great oppression, and groaned as if in extreme pain, till they were tightly bandaged round their waists with cloths, when they speedily recovered. While dancing they were insensible to external impressions, but their minds were in a condition of great exaltation, and they saw in their fancies heavenly beings and visitants from the world of spirits. At Aix-la Chapelle, at Cologne, and in 1418 at Strasburg, the “Dancing Plague” infatuated the people by thousands.800

Hecker attributes the madness to the recollection of the crimes committed by the people during the visitation of the Black Plague, to the previous inundations, the wretched condition of the people of Western and Southern Germany in consequence of the incessant feuds of the barons, to hunger, bad food, and the insecurity of the times. Dancing plagues had often occurred before; in 1237 more than a hundred children were suddenly seized by it at Erfurt, and several other dates are given by historians for similar occurrences. Physicians did not attempt the cure of the malady, but left it to the priests, as it was considered to be due to demoniacal possession.

Hecker says801 that Paracelsus in the sixteenth century was the first physician who made a study of St. Vitus’s dance. The great reformer of medicine said:332 “We will not, however, admit that the saints have power to inflict diseases, and that these ought to be named after them, although many there are who, in their theology, lay great stress on this supposition, ascribing them rather to God than to nature, which is but idle talk. We dislike such nonsensical gossip, as is not supported by symptoms, but only by faith, a thing which is not human, whereon the gods themselves set no value.”


The drug dealers of the Middle Ages had little or no relationship to our apothecaries and pharmacists.

The word apotheca meant a store or warehouse, and its proprietor was the apothecarius. From the word apotheca the Italians derive their bottéga, and the French their boutique, a shop. The thirteenth and fourteenth century apothecary, therefore, was altogether a different person from our own. It is probable that the Arabian physicians about the time of Avenzoar, in the eleventh century, began to abandon to druggists the business of compounding their prescriptions; the custom would then have spread to Spain, Sicily, and South Italy, where the Saracen possessions lay. This explains how so many Arabic terms became introduced into chemical nomenclature, such as alembic. Persons who prepared preserves, etc., were called confectionarii, and they made up medicines, and those who kept medicine shops were called stationarii. The physicians at Salerno had the inspection of the stationes.

Beckmann finds no proof that physicians at that time sent their prescriptions to the stationes to be dispensed. He says: “It appears rather that the confectionarii prepared medicines from a general set of prescriptions legally authorized, and that the physicians selected from these medicines kept ready for use, such as they thought most proper to be administered to their patients.”802



Faith Healing.—Charms and Astrology in Medicine.—The Revival of Learning.—The Humanists.—Cabalism and Theology.—The Study of Natural History.—The Sweating Sickness.—Tarantism.—Quarantine.—High Position of Oxford University.


Medicine in mediæval Christian history is simply the history of miracles of healing wrought by saints or by their relics. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, for example, is full of saintly cures and marvels of healing. The study of medical science under such circumstances could have had but little encouragement. Doctors were but of secondary importance where holy relics and saintly personages were everywhere present to cure.

In the Catholic Church there are special saints who are invoked for almost every sort of disease.

Pettigrew803 gives the above list, but probably it might be considerably extended.

Charms and Astrology.

A curious little MS. volume was discovered amongst the MSS. at Loseley, which contained a Latin grammar, a Treatise on Astrology, various medical recipes and precautions, with forms for making wills. It had probably been a monk’s manual. The writing was the character of the fifteenth century. Some of the medical recipes and astrological precautions are said to be taken from “Master Galien (Galen), leche,” thus:—“For all manner of fevers. Take iii drops of a woman’s mylke yt norseth a knave childe, and do it in a hennes egge that ys sedentere (or sitting), and let hym suppe it up when the evyl takes hym.—For hym—that may not slepe. Take and wryte yese wordes into leves of lether: Ismael! Ismael! adjuro te per Angelum Michaelum ut soporetur homo iste; and lay this under his bed, so yt he wot not yerof, and use it all-way lytell, and lytell, as he have nede yerto.” Under the head,—“Here begyneth ye waxingge of ye mone, and declareth in dyvers tymes to let blode, whiche be gode. In the furste begynynge of the mone it is profetable to yche man to be letten blode; ye ix of the mone, neyther be (by) nyght ne by day, it is not good.”804


One Simon Trippe, a physician, writing to a patient to excuse himself for not being able to visit him, says: “As for my comming to you upon Wensday next, verely my promise be past to an old pacient of mine, a very good gentlewoman, one Mrs. Clerk, wch now lieth in great extremity. I cannot possibly be with you till Thursday. On Fryday and Saterday the signe wilbe in the heart; on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, in the stomake; during wch tyme it wilbe no good dealing with your ordinary physicke untill Wensday come sevenight at the nearest, and from that time forwards for 15 or 16 days passing good.”805

This is very similar to what we find in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, where (A.D. 686) “a holy Bishop having been asked to bless a sick maiden, asked ‘when she had been bled?’ and being told that it was on the fourth day of the moon, said: ‘You did very indiscreetly and unskilfully to bleed her on the fourth day of the moon; for I remember that Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, said that bleeding at that time was very dangerous, when the light of the moon and the tide of the ocean is increasing; and what can I do to the girl if she is like to die?’”806

Holinshed says807 that a lewd fellow, in the sixth year of Richard the Second, “took upon him to be skilful in physick and astronomy,” predicted that the rise of a “pestilent planet” would cause much sickness and death amongst the people; but as the pestilence did not appear, the fellow was punished severely. Stow records808 that one Roger Bolingbroke, in the second year of Henry the Sixth (1423), was accused of necromancy and endeavouring by diabolical arts to consume the king’s person. He was seized with all his instruments of magic and set upon a scaffold in St. Paul’s Churchyard, where he abjured his diabolical arts in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and many other prelates. The punishment for witchcraft was hanging or burning alive.

Strutt says809 that it was extremely dangerous in those days to pretend to any supernatural knowledge; as every one believed in the influence of malignant spirits, and that they were obedient to the call of the necromancers. “No contagion could happen among the cattle of a farmer, but the devil was the cause, and some conjurer was sought out; so that if any wretched vagabonds of fortune-tellers could be found, they were instantly accused of this horrid crime, and perhaps burnt alive.”810


The Revival of Learning.

Pope Nicholas V. (1389-1455) was a man of great intellectual sympathies. He was not devoted to any one branch of learning, but was “a well-informed dillettante, wandering at will wherever his fancy led him.” Æneas Sylvius said of him: “From his youth he has been initiated into all liberal arts; he is acquainted with all philosophers, historians, poets, cosmographers, and theologians; and is no stranger to civil and canon law, or even to medicine.” He was the patron of scholars, and was equally devoted to ecclesiastical and profane literature. Although he was the son of a physician, it is not true that he was ever one himself, as has been stated.811 It is pleasant, however, to reflect that this pope, whose name is most intimately associated with the revival of learning, probably imbibed much of the scientific lore of his time which his father’s profession would encourage, and that taste for learning and that liberal spirit which has always been associated with the medical profession. The Humanists—as those who devoted themselves to the Humanities, such as philology, rhetoric, poetry, and the study of the ancient classes, were called—found a friendly reception at the papal court.

Nicholas of Cusa was the reforming Cardinal Bishop of Brixen (1401-1464). Giordano Bruno called him “the divine Cusanus.” In physical science he was greatly in advance of his age, and he united moral worth with intellectual gifts of the highest order.

Pope Pius II., better known in literature as Æneas Sylvius, pope from 1458 to 1464, was also a great friend to the Humanists, a man of great intellectual power. He stands forth in history as “the figure in whom the mediæval and the modern spirit are most distinctly seen to meet and blend,” ere the age of science begins to strangle the age of superstition. Professor Creighton says that Pius II. is the first writer “who consciously applied a scientific conception of history to the explanation and arrangement of passing events.”812

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), “the Faust of the Renaissance,” excelled not only as an artist, but in all kinds of experimental investigation. He was an anatomist, botanist, physiologist, and chemist. Had he applied himself wholly to science, he would have been foremost in that branch to which he devoted his wonderful energies. He was one of the greatest and earliest of natural philosophers. He has been declared to have been “the founder of the study of the anatomy and structural classification of plants, the founder, or at least the chief337 reviver, of the science of hydraulics—[the discoverer of] the molecular composition of water, the motion of waves, and even the undulatory theory of light and heat. He discovered the construction of the eye and the optical laws of vision, and invented the camera obscura. He investigated the composition of explosives and the application of steam power.”813

Matthew de Gradibus, of Fiuli, near Milan, in 1480 composed treatises on the anatomy of the human body. He first described the ovaries of the female correctly.

Gabriel de Zerbis (about 1495), of Verona, an eminent but verbose anatomist, dissected the human subject, and recognised the olfactory nerves. He mentioned the oblique and circular muscular fibres of the stomach.

Alexander Achillini (1463-1512), of Bologna, the pupil of Mondino, is known in the history of anatomy as the first who described the two bones of the ear (tympanal bones), the malleus and incus. In 1503 he showed that the tarsus (or ankle and instep bones) were seven in number, so painfully and slowly was such a simple thing in human anatomy settled in those times. He was more accurately acquainted with the intestines than any of his predecessors.

Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1536) was born at Cologne, and was a profound student of what is known as “Occult Philosophy,” a strange jumble of astrology, alchemy, cabalism, theology, and the teaching of the so-called “Hermetic Books.” This sort of thing has of late years again become fashionable under the revived name of Theosophy.

He seems to have been sufficiently harmless; but as he knew much more of physical science than was considered consistent with good churchmanship in those times, he was persecuted by the monk Catilinet, and was forced to fly from place to place.

Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522) was the first great German humanist. His services to learning were chiefly in connection with the restoration of Hebrew and Greek letters in Germany. He worshipped truth as his god, was interested in philosophy, especially in that of the Cabala, in which he sought a theosophy which should reconcile science with religion. His sentiments brought him into conflict with the Inquisition, but by appeal to Rome, after a long and tedious process, the trial was quashed; the consequence being that the lovers of learning and progress banded themselves together against the opponents of learning, and assured the progress of the principles of the Renaissance in Germany. Reuchlin was the author of a celebrated work, entitled De Verbo Mirifico.


The Sweating Sickness.

The disease known as the sweating sickness first made its appearance in England in 1485, after the battle of Bosworth. It followed in the rear of Henry’s victorious army, and spread in a few weeks from Wales to the metropolis. It is described by Hecker814 as being “a violent inflammatory fever, which, after a short rigor, prostrated the powers as with a blow; and amidst painful oppression at the stomach, headache, and lethargic stupor, suffused the whole body with a fetid perspiration.”

Holinshed815 describes it thus: “Suddenlie a deadlie burning sweat so assailed their bodies and distempered their blood with a most ardent heat, that scarce one amongst an hundred that sickened did escape with life; for all in maner as soone as the sweat took them, or within a short time after, yeelded the ghost. Two lord mayors and six aldermen died within one week. Many who went to bed at night perfectly well were dead on the following morning; the victims, for the most part, were the robust and vigorous. One attack gave no security against a second; many were seized even a third time.” The whole of England was visited by this plague by the end of the year. When it reached Oxford, professors and students fled in all directions, and the University was entirely deserted for six weeks. Medicine afforded little or no relief. Even Thomas Linacre, the founder of the Royal College of Physicians in 1518, does not in his writings say a word about the disease. As the doctors failed to help the people, their common sense had to suffice them in their need. They decided to take no violent medicine, but to apply moderate heat; take little food and drink, and quietly wait for twenty-four hours—the crisis of the disorder. “Those who were attacked during the day, in order to avoid any chill, immediately went to bed in their clothes; and those who sickened by night did not rise from their beds in the morning; while all carefully avoided exposing to the air even a hand or foot.”816

The five years preceding the outbreak of this epidemic had been unusually wet, and inundations had been frequent. It is probable that this was one of the causes which contributed to the unhealthy condition of the atmosphere. The disease partook of the character of rheumatic fever, with great disorder of the nervous system.817 In addition to the profuse and injurious perspiration, oppressed respiration, extreme anxiety, nausea, and vomiting, indicating that the functions of the eighth pair of nerves were disturbed, were the general symptoms of339 the malady. A stupor and profound lethargy indicated cerebral disturbance, possibly from a morbid condition of the blood.


Tarantism was a disease somewhat akin to the dancing mania. Nicholas Perotti (1430-1480) first described it. It was believed to originate from the bite of the Apulian spider, called the tarantula, as it was named by the Romans. Those who were bitten, or who believed themselves to have been bitten, became melancholic and stupefied, but greatly sensible to the influence of music. As soon as they heard their favourite melodies, they sprang up and danced till they sank exhausted to the ground. Others became hysterical, and some even died in a paroxysm of tears or laughter. By the close of the fifteenth century Tarantism had spread beyond the boundaries of Apulia in which it originated, and many other cities and villages of Italy were afflicted with the mania. Thus when the spider made his appearance the merry notes of the Tarantella resounded as the only cure for its bite, or the mental poison received through the eye, and thus the Tarantali cure became established as a popular festival.818

Quarantine, according to William Brownrigg, who wrote in 1771 a book on the plague, was first established by the Venetians in 1484. Dr. Mead was probably the source of this information.819

Theories connected with the origin of the soul have continued to occupy the attention of theologians, philosophers, and physicians from the time of Pythagoras to our own day. Up to the ninth century their speculations were entirely idle, when Theophilus made his discovery of the capillary vessels of the male organs—a discovery which was further developed when in the fifteenth century Mattheus de Gradibus first enunciated the idea that these organs and the ovaria of birds are homologous structures; and thus originated the knowledge of the germ cells known as the ova of De Graaf.820

The fame of the University of Oxford was so high in the early part of the fifteenth century (1420) that a MS. in the Bodleian, quoted by Anthony à Wood,821 says that other universities were but little stars in comparison with this sun.340 “Other studies excel in some particular science, as Parys, in divinity; Bologna, law; Salerno, physick; and Toulouse, mathematics; but Oxford as a true well of wisdom doth goe beyond them in all these. The bright beams of its wisdom spread over the whole world.”

The practice of medicine became daily more honourable.

Holinshed says,822 in his description of the people in the Commonwealth of England, that “Who soeur studieth the lawes of the realme, who so abideth in the vniuersitie giuing his mind to his booke, or professeth physicke and the liberall sciences—and can liue without manuell labour, and thereto is able and will beare the port, charge and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for monie haue a cote and armes bestowed vpon him by heralds—and reputed for a gentleman euer after.”

Medicine was a flourishing study at Cambridge, especially at Merton College, in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.823

The origin of syphilis in Europe has been the subject of much learned discussion. It appeared with such violence and frequency in the year 1490 in France, Italy, and Spain, that the scourge was considered to have only then been introduced into Europe from America.

“Its enormous prevalence in modern times,” says Dr. Creighton,824 “dates, without doubt, from the European libertinism of the latter part of the fifteenth century.” It is pretty certain that syphilis had existed in Europe from ancient times. What appeared with so much virulence and such wide distribution in 1490 was simply a redevelopment of the malady on a scale hitherto unknown.

Facsimile of a miniature from the Epistre de Othea, by Christine de Pisan. (Fifteenth century MS. in Burgundy Library, Brussels.)

[Face p. 340



Hospitals in Mexico.—Anatomy and Human Sacrifices.—Midwives as Spiritual Mothers.—Circumcision.—Peru.—Discovery of Cinchona Bark.

Little or nothing is known of the ancient history of Mexico and Peru. Mexico, anciently called Anahuac, was probably conquered by the Aztecs, who founded the city of Mexico about 1325. It was discovered in 1517. Peru was long governed by the Incas, said to be descended from Manco Capac, who ruled in the eleventh century. It was explored and conquered by Pizarro, 1524-1533.

For the purposes of this work the history of these countries dates from the time of their discovery, as the Spaniards in their blind fanaticism destroyed most of their literature. Don Juan de Zumarraga was one of the darkeners of human intelligence; he diligently collected all the Mexican manuscripts, especially from Tezcuco, the literary capital of the Mexican empire, and burned them in one great bonfire in the market-place of Tlatelolco.825

Las Casas says that there were public hospitals in the cities of Mexico, Tlascala, and Cholula, expressly endowed for the relief of the sick. As surgeons attended the Mexican armies, it is evident that they had attained some skill in medicine and surgery. They used the temazcalli, or vapour-bath, practised bleeding, and knew the medicinal properties of many herbs. They professed to have learned this wisdom from their ancestors, the Tultecas, whose knowledge of chemistry they likewise extolled. As human sacrifices were of daily occurrence in the city of Mexico, they must have acquired some knowledge of anatomy, which would assist them in the practice of surgery.826

Midwives were treated by the ancient Mexicans with great deference. They were termed “spiritual mothers,” and were believed to be under the immediate inspiration of the god Tezcatlipoca. Aglio says that the treatment of lying-in women was very similar to that among the Jews.827


The ancient Mexicans practised circumcision, and venerated the Tequepatl, or flint knife, with which the rite was performed.828

Among the many vegetable products which America introduced to Europe were maize, potatoes, chocolate, tobacco, ipecacuanha, and Peruvian bark, from which we obtain quinine. The discovery of this valuable medicine was due to the Jesuit missionaries. The second wife of the viceroy, the Count of Chinchon, accompanied him to Peru. In 1628 she was attacked by a tertian fever. Her physician was unable to cure her. At about the same time an Indian of Uritusinga, near Loxa, in the government of Quito, had given some fever-curing bark to a Jesuit missionary. He sent some of it to Torres Vasquez, who was rector of the Jesuit College at Lima and confessor to the viceroy. Torres Vasquez cured the vice-queen by administering doses of the bark.... The remedy was long known as Countess’s Bark and Jesuit’s Bark, and Linnæus gave the name Chinchona [after the viceroy Chinchon] to the genus of plants which produces it.... Various species of this precious tree are found throughout the eastern cordillera of the Andes for a distance of 2,000 miles. We owe guaiacum, sarsaparilla, sassafras, logwood, jalap, seneka, serpentaria, and many other valuable drugs to the same part of the world.

Frezier, in his voyage to the South Sea and along the coasts of Chili and Peru in the years 1712, 1713, and 1714, says concerning Lima: “There is an herb called Carapullo, which grows like a tuft of grass, and yields an ear, the decoction of which makes such as drink it delirious for some days. The Indians make use of it to discover the natural disposition of their children. All the time when it has its operation, they place by them the tools of all such trades as they may follow—as by a maiden, a spindle, wool, scissors, cloth, kitchen furniture, etc.; and by a youth, accoutrements for a horse, awls, hammers, etc.; and that tool they take most fancy to in their delirium, is a certain indication of the trade they are fittest for, as I was assured by a French surgeon, who was an eye-witness to this verity.”





The Dawn of Modern Science.—The Reformation of Medicine.—Paracelsus—The Sceptics.—The Protestantism of Science.—Influenza.—Legal Recognition of Medicine in England.—The Barber-Surgeons.—The Sweating Sickness.—Origin of the Royal College of Physicians of London.—“Merry Andrew.”—Origin of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.—Caius.—Low State of Midwifery.—The Great Continental Anatomists.—Vesalius.—Servetus.—Paré.—Influence of the Reformation.—The Rosicrucians.—Touching for the Evil.—Vivisection of Human Beings.—Origin of Legal Medicine.

The discovery of America in 1492 fitly typifies the still grander mental world about to disclose its wonders to the newly liberated minds of scientific investigators. The revolt against authority in religion was paralleled by a scientific Protestantism; the mind of man, long held in bondage to absurd and groundless fancies, struggled to set itself free, to investigate, to test and explore on its account, instead of accepting for granted doctrines elaborated in the philosopher’s brains.

The revolt of medicine against the authority of Galen may be compared to the revolt against Aristotle in philosophy. The authority of the Arabian schools was overthrown, the principles of Hippocrates were in the ascendant. The era of the Renaissance was not more an era of Protestantism than an age of Scepticism. Faith had become credulity, and credulity had sunk into imbecility. The power of the printing press, the spread of humanism, the beginning of scientific inquiry, the discovery of the splendid treasure of classic literature, long buried beneath the dust of dark and barbarous ages, the widening of the mental horizon as the world doubled itself before the prows of the discoverers’ vessels—all these factors brought about the new birth of Science. It was the golden age of the medical sciences. Anatomy and surgery awoke, from their long slumber, and Europe entered upon a period of scientific investigation such as the world had never known before. Medicine formed an alliance with what are called its accessory sciences; chemistry liberated from slavery to the alchemist, botany set free from the delusions of the doctrine of “signatures,” pharmacy elevated into a branch of medical science from the kitchen and the346 confectioner’s store-room, lent their aid, in conjunction with the hydraulics and pneumatics of the natural philosopher, to advance it. All these things meant revolt against the old order, Protestantism against the outworn creeds of Greek and Arabian dogmatists. They meant more than this. Ere the ground could be cleared for the new palace of physical science which the glorious sixteenth century was to rear, scepticism must lend its withering and desolating aid; foul undergrowths must be destroyed; evil germs, bred of the stagnant marshes of the dark ages, must perish under the wholesome, if ruthless, disinfectants of reason and unbelief. There was a stern need of this. The demon theory of disease had lasted from primeval ages up to this dawn of the sixteenth century. From glacial times, through savage ages and religions, and often in beautifully poetic faiths, the disease-demon held its own. Even in the hallowed and renovating pages of the gospels the disease-demon stalks unchallenged save by the thaumaturgist. Now he is to be banished from the mind of civilized man for ever; and to reach this goal atheism was needed. The sixteenth century, so far as medicine and physical science are concerned, opens with the Cabalist Theosophists, Trithemius, Cornelius Agrippa, Cardan, and their followers. Giordano Bruno, the aggressive atheist and martyr of science, Montaigne, the philosophic sceptic, Charron, the opponent of all religion, and Rabelais, the witty scoffer at the gross corruptions of orthodoxy, helped to clear the ground for the work of the scientists. Meanwhile Paracelsus, from his chair at Basel University, having made an auto-da-fe of ancient and dogmatic medicine, lays the foundation-stone of the medicine of the modern era.

An army of savants begins to work for science as well as literature. Linacre has introduced Italian Humanism to the doctors of England; Caius busies himself with the Greek and Latin texts of the great writers on medicine; Gesner, the German Pliny, and Aldrovandi promote the study of natural history. Everywhere men are busy with the beginnings of electricity, chemistry, mineralogy, botany, and the other sciences which are to be the handmaidens of medicine. One clear voice is heard from Basel. It is that of Paracelsus, exhuming physical science: “You Italy, you Dalmatia, you Sarmatia, Athens, Greece, Arabia, and Israel, follow me. Come out of the night of the mind!”

The teacher of Paracelsus, who exercised the greatest influence upon his mental development, was the celebrated Trithemius, the abbot of the Spanheim Benedictines (about 1500), who was so famous a student of chemistry and the occult philosophy that scholars and mighty nobles went on pilgrimages and princes sent ambassadors, to his monastery to347 gather some fragments of his vast learning. Amongst many works, he published several on magical subjects, and was the first who told the wondrous story of Dr. Faustus, in whose magical doings he was a devout believer.829 His famous library consisted of the rare possession of two thousand volumes. Cornelius Agrippa was his pupil, and in a letter which he sent to his old master, with the manuscript of his Occult Philosophy, we find a passage which throws a light on the studies of the worthy abbot: “We conferred much about chemical matters, magic, cabalism, and other things which at the present time lie hidden as secret sciences and arts.”830

Theophrastus Bombastus Paracelsus of Hohenheim (1493-1541), “The Reformer of Medicine,” “Luther Alter,” effected a revolution in medicine, and is one of the most remarkable characters, not only in the history of the medical profession, but in that of civilization. There was so much in this great man’s conduct to admire, and so much of which to disapprove, that it is not surprising that he has been either wholly praised or entirely condemned, and by very few considered dispassionately. Perhaps Mr. Browning, in his noble poem Paracelsus, has given the world the truest conception of a man who did for his profession and for humanity the enormous service of liberating medicine from a slavish adhesion to authority, though it must be admitted that he was guilty of extravagances and excesses we may find it difficult to excuse, even though for the most part they were faults common to his country and his age. Paracelsus was born ten years later than Luther, at Einsiedeln, near Zurich. He studied under the abbot Trithemius of Spanheim, who was a great adept in magic, alchemy, and astrology. Under this teacher he acquired a taste for occult studies, and formed a determination to use them for the welfare of mankind. Trithemius was a theosophist. As was the custom of the times, Paracelsus became an itinerant student after his course at the University of Basel. He studied chemistry in the laboratory of the Fuggers at Schwatz, in the Tyrol.

Attached to the armies, he travelled widely as a military surgeon in the Netherlands, the Romagna, Naples, Venice, Denmark. He worked in the mines, that he might acquire a knowledge of metals, working as a common labourer for his bread. In Bohemian fashion he wandered over the world, visiting Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Tartary, and the East. He picked up his scientific knowledge by any means rather than from books. He said,348 “Reading never made a doctor, but practice is what forms a physician. For all reading is a footstool to practice, and a mere feather broom. He who meditates discovers something.” And so he held converse with the common folk, and talked and drank with boors, shepherds, Jews, gypsies, and tramps, gaining odd scraps of knowledge wherever he could. He had no books. His only volume was Nature, whom he interrogated at first-hand. He would rather learn medicine and surgery from an old country nurse than from an university lecturer. If there was one thing which he detested more than another, it was the principle of authority. He bent his head to no man.

In the year 1525 Paracelsus went to Basel, where he was fortunate in curing Froben, the great printer, by his laudanum, when he had the gout. Froben was the friend of Erasmus, who was associated with Œcolampadius, and soon after, upon the recommendation of Œcolampadius, he was appointed by the city magnates a professor of physics, medicine, and surgery, with a considerable salary; at the same time they made him city physician, to the duties of which office he requested might be added inspector of drug shops. This examination made the druggists his bitterest enemies, as he detected their fraudulent practices; they combined to set the other doctors of the city against him, and as these were exceedingly jealous of his skill and success, poor Paracelsus found himself in a hornet’s nest. We find him a professor at Basel University in 1526. He has become famous as a physician, the medicines which he has discovered he has successfully used in his practice; he was now in the eyes of his patients at least,

“The wondrous Paracelsus, life’s dispenser,
Fate’s commissary, idol of the schools and courts.”

He began his lectures at Basel by lighting some sulphur in a chafing dish, and burning the books of his great predecessors in the medical art, Avicenna, Galen, and others, saying: “Sic vos ardebitis in gehennâ.” He boasted that he had read no books for ten years, though he protested that his shoe-buckles were more learned than the authors whose works he had burned.

It must have been a wonderful spectacle when this new teacher took his place before his pupils. The benches occupied hitherto by a dozen or two of students were crowded with an eager audience anxious for the new learning. Literature had been exhumed many years before, and now it was the turn of Science! Leaving the morbid seclusion of the cloisters, men had given up dreaming for inquiry, and baseless visions for the acquisition of facts. This was the childhood of our science, and its days were bright with the poetry of youth. It is a sight to arouse349 our enthusiasm to see in the early dawn of our modern science this man standing up alone to pit himself against the whole scientific authority of his day. He rises from the crucibles and fires where his predecessors had been vainly seeking for gold and silver, ever and again pretending to have found them, and always going empty-handed to a deluded world. Henceforth, he says, his alchemy shall serve a nobler purpose than gold seeking; it shall aid in the healing of disease. He casts aside the sacred books of medicine which have been handed down the ages by his predecessors; destroying them, he declares, with an earnestness which is less tinged by arrogance than by conviction, that these men had been blind guides, that he alone has the clue of the maze, and he forsakes all to follow Truth, though she lead him to death. In his generous impulse to serve mankind he has spoken harshly of his opponents. They would not have helped him, any way. He was above them; they could not understand him, so they hated him, and he scorned them. As too often happens to such heroes, he forgot the love of his neighbour in his love for mankind.

Paracelsus found his pupils holding fast by the teachings of the school of Salerno, and there seems no ground for supposing that the healing art had made the slightest progress in Europe from the foundation of that school in 1150, except perhaps in pharmacy. On the day that Paracelsus stood up before his audience at Basel University, he cried, “Away with Ætius, Oribasius, Galen, Rhasis, Serapion, Avicenna, Averroes, and the other blocks!” He had diplomas sent him from Germany, France, and Italy, and a letter from Erasmus.

In 1528 we find him at Colmar, in Alsatia. He has been driven by priests and doctors from Basel.

He had been called to the bedside of some rich cleric who was ill. He cured him, but so speedily that his fee was refused. Though not at all a mercenary man (for he always gave the poor his services gratuitously), he sued the priest; but the judge refused to interfere, and Paracelsus used strong language to him, and had to fly to escape punishment. We must not be too hard upon the canon. Disease was treated with profound respect in those days, and great patients liked to be cured with deliberation and some ceremonial.

The closing scenes of the life of Paracelsus were passed in a cell in the hospital of Salzburg, in the year 1541, when he died at the age of forty-eight, a martyr of science. Recent investigations in contemporary records have proved that he had been attacked by the servants of certain physicians who were his jealous enemies, and that in consequence of a fall he sustained a fracture of the skull, which proved fatal in a few days.


Within a period of time covering fifteen years he had written some 106 treatises on medicine, alchemy, natural history and philosophy, magic, and other subjects. He despised University learning. “The book of Nature,” he declared, “was that which the physician should read, and to do so he must walk over its leaves.” His library consisted of a Bible, St. Jerome on the Gospels, a volume on medicine, and seven manuscripts. His epitaph tells but a part of his honours. “Here lies Philippus Paracelsus, the famous doctor of medicine, who, by his wonderful art, cured bad wounds, lepra, gout, dropsy, and other incurable diseases, and to his own honour divided his possessions among the poor.”

This but feebly expresses what medicine owes to him. He discovered the metal zinc, and hydrogen gas. In place of the elaborate concoctions and filthy messes which were given as medicines in his time, he taught doctors to give tinctures and quintessences of drugs. He invented laudanum, and anticipated our discovery of transfusion of blood. He opposed the barbarous method of reducing dislocations and dealing with fractures, introduced the use of mercury in the treatment of syphilis, and came very near to the discoveries which go under the name of Darwinism. He taught that chemistry was to be employed, not in making gold, but for the preparation of medicines; and he introduced into practice mineral remedies, including mineral baths, iron, sulphur, antimony, arsenic, gold, tin, lead, etc. Amongst the vegetable remedies employed by him was arnica.

Paracelsus used chemical principles, says Sprengel, for the explanation of particular diseases. “Most or all diseases, according to him, arise from the effervescence of salts, from the combustion of sulphur, or from the coagulation of mercury.”831

His ætiology attributed diseases to five causes:—1. The Ens astrale (a certain power of the stars); this means no more than foul air. 2. The Ens veneni (power of poison), arising from errors of assimilation and digestion. 3. The Ens naturale (power of nature or of the body); diatheses. 4. Ens spirituale (power of the spirit); the disorders which arise from perverted ideas. 5. Ens Dei (power of God); the injuries or causes of disease predetermined by God.832

When Paracelsus came upon the scene of medical history, alchemy had just begun to lose its credit. The true students of science had discovered its deceptions and had abandoned it to the quacks. It has often happened, and happens still, that certain pretended sciences, when cast aside as worthless, are taken from their hiding-places and made to351 do duty in another and perhaps nobler form. Paracelsus set himself the task of rehabilitating alchemy. The deeper thinkers, the more ardent truth-seekers in religion and science, imbued with philosophy and penetrated by the scholasticism of the age, were quite ready for a new reign of theosophical medicine to take the place of the Arabian polypharmacy.

George Agricola (1494-1555) was a physician who practised in Bohemia, and was the first to raise mineralogy to the dignity of a science. He did so much for it, in fact, that no great advance was made in it from the point at which he left it, till the eighteenth century.

Conrad Gesner (1516-1565), surnamed the German Pliny, was a famous naturalist of vast erudition, and imbued with an enthusiastic love of science. In 1541 he was professor of physics and natural history at Zurich. He wrote several books on ancient medicine and botany. To prepare himself to write his History of Animals, he read 250 authors, travelled nearly all over Europe, and gathered information from every source, even from hunters and shepherds. His medical works show that he was far above the absurd fancies and prejudices of his time.

Andreas Cæsalpinus (1519-1603), the first systematical botanist, and the founder of the work which Linnæus developed, studied, if he did not also teach, anatomy and medicine at Pisa. He had a clear idea of the circulation of the blood, at least through the lungs, and he was the first to use the term “circulation.” Claims have been made on his behalf as the discoverer of the circulation; but they cannot be substantiated, as he did not know of the direct flow of the blood from the arteries to the veins.

Cardan (1501-1576), a physician and astrologer, was also a half-crazy magician. He was a skilful physician, and visited King Edward VI. to calculate his nativity, and Cardinal Beaton to cure him in his sickness.

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was an Italian philosopher of the Renaissance, who, from a determination to study the universe for himself, threw off the restraints of the Christian religion and revolted against the authority of Aristotle and tradition. His most popular and characteristic work is the Spaccio. He was not an atheist, as has been asserted, but a pantheist. He considered the soul of man as a thinking monad, and as immortal. He was burnt at the stake for his opinions, which, it must be admitted, were in some respects detrimental to morality as well as to faith.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), the sceptical founder of a new philosophy, and one of the most delightful of essayists, anticipated the352 scientific spirit by his minute and critical observation upon the curious facts connected with human nature.

François Rabelais (c. 1490-1553) entered the faculty of medicine at Montpellier.

Euricus Cordus (1486-1535), who studied medicine at Erfurt, is famous for the following admirable epigram:—

“Three faces wears the doctor: when first sought,
An angel’s—and a God’s, the cure half wrought;
But, when that cure complete, he seeks his fee,
The Devil looks then less terrible than he.”

His son, Valerius Cordus (1515-1544), was the discoverer of sulphuric ether.

Antonio Benivieni (c. 1500), a physician of Florence, was the morning star of a new era for surgery, when he insisted that the compilations of the ancients and Arabians ought to be given up for the observation of nature.833 Thus, before the time of Ambroise Paré (1509-1590), the way for the reception of the true modern surgery was prepared in Italy by the efforts of those who strove to induce educated and talented men to devote their attention to this branch of the healing art.


A violent and extensive catarrhal fever prevailed in France and Europe generally in 1510. Hecker considers there is evidence that it had its origin in the remotest parts of the East.834 His description of this influenza is as follows:353 “The catarrhal symptoms, which, on the appearance of disorders of this kind, usually form their commencement, seem to have been quite thrown into the background by those of violent rheumatism and inflammation. The patient was first seized with giddiness and severe headache; then came on a shooting pain through the shoulders and extending to the thighs. The loins, too, were affected with intolerably painful dartings, during which an inflammatory fever set in with delirium and violent excitement. In some the parotid glands became inflamed, and even the digestive organs participated in the deep-rooted malady; for those affected had, together with constant oppression at the stomach, a great loathing for all animal food, and a dislike even of wine. Among the poor as well as the rich many died, and some quite suddenly, of this strange disease, in the treatment of which the physicians shortened life not a little by their purgative treatment and phlebotomy, seeking an excuse for their ignorance in the influence of the constellations, and alleging that astral diseases were beyond the reach of human art.”

Legal Recognition of Medical Practitioners.

The first Act of Parliament dealing with the medical profession in England was passed in the year 1511, and is entitled “An Act for the Appointing of Physicians and Surgeons,” the preamble of which runs as follows:—

“Forasmuch as the science and cunning of Physick and Surgery (to the perfect knowledge of which be requisite both great learning and ripe experience) is daily within this realm exercised by a great multitude of ignorant persons, of whom the greater part have no manner of insight in the same, nor in any other kind of learning; some also can read no letters on the book, so far forth that common artificers, as smiths, weavers, and women, boldly and accustomably take upon them great cures, and things of great difficulty, in the which they partly use sorcery and witchcraft, partly apply such medicines unto the disease as be very noxious, and nothing meet therefore, to the high displeasure of God, great infamy to the faculty, and the grievous hurt, damage, and destruction of many of the king’s liege people; most especially of them that cannot discern the uncunning from the cunning. Be it therefore (to the surety and comfort of all manner of people) by the authority of this present Parliament enacted:—That no person within the city of London, nor within seven miles of the same, take upon him to exercise and occupy as a Physician or Surgeon except he be first examined, approved, and admitted by the Bishop of London, or by the Dean of St. Paul’s, for the time being, calling to him or them four Doctors of Physic, and for Surgeons, other expert persons in that faculty; and for the first examination such as they shall think convenient, and afterwards alway four of them that have been so approved.835 ...

“That no person out of the said city and precinct of seven miles of the same, except he have been (as is aforesaid) approved in the same, take upon him to exercise and occupy as a Physician or Surgeon, in any diocese within this realm; but if he be first examined and approved by the Bishop of the same diocese, or, he being out of the diocese, by his vicar-general; either of them calling to them such expert persons in the said faculties, as their discretion shall think convenient....”836


The Barber-Surgeons.

The occupation of shaving and trimming beards was anciently considered a profession, and was united to that of surgery. In the reign of Louis XIV. of France the hairdressers were formally separated from the Barber-Surgeons, who were incorporated as a distinct medical body.

A London Company of Barbers was formed in 1308, and the first year of the reign of Edward IV. (1462) the barbers were incorporated by a charter which was confirmed by many succeeding monarchs. In 1540 the Company of Barbers, and those who practised purely as Surgeons, were united as “the commonalty of Barbers and Surgeons of London.” It was enacted (32 Hen. VIII.) that “No person using any shaving or barbery in London shall occupy any surgery, letting of blood, or other matter, except only drawing of teeth.” The Surgeons’ corporation in London two years later petitioned Parliament to be exempted from bearing arms and serving on juries, so that they might be free to attend to their practice.837 Their petition was granted, and all medical men are in the enjoyment of these privileges at the present time.

An Act of Parliament was passed in 1540 allowing the United Companies of Barbers and Surgeons to have yearly four bodies of criminals for purposes of dissection. This is supposed to have been the first legislative enactment passed in any country for promoting the study of anatomy.838

Surgery in England in the reign of Henry VIII. was in a deplorable condition. Thomas Gale thus describes the surgeons of the time:—

“I remember when I was in the wars at Montreuil, in the time of that most famous prince, Henry VIII., there was a great rabblement there that took upon them to be surgeons. Some were sow-gelders, and some horse-gelders, with tinkers and cobblers. This noble sect did such great cures that they got themselves a perpetual name; for like as Thessalus’ sect were called Thessalonians, so was this noble rabblement, for their notorious cures, called dog-leeches; for in two dressings they did commonly make their cures whole and sound for ever, so that they felt neither heat nor cold, nor no manner of pain after. But when the Duke of Norfolk, who was then general, understood how the people did die, and that of small wounds, he sent for me and certain other surgeons, commanding us to make search how these men came to their death, whether it were by the grievousness of their355 wounds or by the lack of knowledge of the surgeons; and we, according to our commandment, made search through all the camp, and found many of the same good fellows which took upon them the names of surgeons; not only the names but the wages also. We asking of them whether they were surgeons or no, they said they were; we demanded with whom they were brought up, and they, with shameless faces, would answer, either with one cunning man, or another, which was dead. Then we demanded of them what chirurgery stuff they had to cure men withal; and they would show us a pot or a box which they had in a budget, wherein was such trumpery as they did use to grease horses’ heels withal, and laid upon scabbed horses’ backs, with verval and such like. And others that were cobblers and tinkers used shoemaker’s wax, with the rust of old pans, and made therewith ‘a noble salve,’ as they did term it. But in the end this worthy rabblement was committed to the Marshalsea, and threatened to be hanged for their worthy deeds, except they would declare the truth—what they were and of what occupations; and in the end they did confess, as I have declared to you before.”

Gale says in another place: “I have, myself, in the time of King Henry VIII., helped to furnish out of London, in one year, which served by sea and land, three score and twelve surgeons, which were good workmen, and well able to serve, and all Englishmen. At this present day there are not thirty-four of all the whole company of Englishmen, and yet the most part of them be in noblemen’s service, so that if we should have need, I do not know where to find twelve sufficient men. What do I say? sufficient men? Nay; I would there were ten amongst all the company worthy to be called surgeons.”

In the year 1518 the Barbers and Surgeons were united in one company. The Barbers were restricted from performing any surgical operations, except drawing teeth, and the Surgeons, on their part, had to abandon shaving and trimming beards. Physicians were permitted to practise surgery.

In the year 1542 it became necessary to pass an Act to further regulate the practice of Surgery, the chief points of which are the following:356 “Whereas in the Parliament holden at Westminster, in the third year of the King’s Most Gracious Reign, amongst other things, for the avoiding of sorceries, witchcrafts, and other inconveniences, it was enacted, That no person within the City of London, nor within seven miles of the same, should take upon him to exercise and occupy as Physician and Surgeon, except he be first examined, admitted, and approved by the Bishop of London, etc.... Sithence the making of which said Act, the Company and Fellowship of Surgeons of London, minding onely their owne lucres, and nothing the profit or ease of the diseased or patient, have sued, troubled, and vexed divers honest persons, as well men as women, whom God hath endueed with the knowledge of the nature, kind and operation of certain herbs, roots and waters, and the using and ministering of them, to such as have been pained with custumable diseases, as women’s breasts being sore, a pin and the web in the eye, uncomes of the hands, scaldings, burnings, sore mouths, the stone, stranguary, saucelin, and morphew, and such other like diseases.... And yet the said persons have not taken anything for their pains or cunning.... In consideration whereof, and for the ease, comfort, succour, help, relief, and health of the King’s poor subjects, inhabitants of this his realm, now pained or diseased, or that hereafter shall be pained or diseased, Be it ordained, etc., that at all time from henceforth it shall be lawful to every person being the King’s subject, having knowledge and experience of the nature of herbs, roots and waters, etc., to use and minister according to their cunning, experience, and knowledge ... the aforesaid statute ... or any other Act notwithstanding.”

The Sweating Sickness.

In 1517 England was visited by a third attack of the Sweating Sickness. Public business was suspended, the King moved his court from place to place, and a panic seized the people. Erasmus, writing to Wolsey’s physician, says: “I am frequently astonished and grieved to think how it is that England has been now for so many years troubled by a continual pestilence, especially by a deadly sweat, which appears in a great measure to be peculiar to your country. I have read how a city was once delivered from a plague by a change in the houses, made at the suggestion of a philosopher. I am inclined to think that this also must be the deliverance for England.” He proceeds to suggest that better ventilation is necessary for dwellings; he remarks that the glass windows admit light, but not air; that such air as does enter comes in as draughts, through holes and corners full of pestilential emanations. The floors laid with clay and covered with rushes, the bottom layer of which was unchanged sometimes for twenty years, harboured expectorations, vomitings, filth, and all sorts of abominations.

He advises that the use of rushes should be given up, that the rooms should be so built as to be exposed to the light and fresh air on two or three sides, and that the windows be so constructed as to be easily opened or closed. He declares that at one time, if he ever entered a room which had not been occupied for some months, he was sure to357 take a fever. He suggests that the people should eat less, especially of salt meats, and that proper officers be appointed to keep the streets and suburbs in better order. Erasmus was thus our first sanitary reformer.

Aubrey gives839 a selection of the favourite prescriptions in use at this period against the Sweating Sickness:—

“Take endive, sowthistle, marygold, m’oney and nightshade, three handfuls of all, and seethe them in conduit water, from a quart to a pint, then strain it into a fair vessel, then delay it with a little sugar to put away the tartness, and then drink it when the sweat taketh you, and keep you warm; and by the grace of God ye shall be whole.”

“Take half an handful of rew, called herbe grace, an handful marygold, half an handful featherfew, a handful sorrel, a handful burnet, and half a handful dragons, the top in summer, the root in winter; wash them in running water, and put them in an earthen pot with a pottle of running water, and let them seethe soberly to nigh the half be consumed, and then draw aback the pot to it be almost cold, and then strain it into a fair glass and keep it close, and use thereof morn and even, and when need is oftener; and if it be bitter, delay it with sugar candy; and if it be taken afore the pimples break forth, there is no doubt but with the grace of Jesu it shall amend any man, woman or child.”

“Another very true medicine.—For to say every day at seven parts of your body, seven paternosters, and seven Ave Marias, with one Credo at the last. Ye shal begyn at the ryght syde, under the ryght ere, saying the ‘paternoster qui es in cœlis, sanctificetur nomen tuum,’ with a cross made there with your thumb, and so say the paternoster full complete, and one Ave Maria, and then under the left ere, and then under the left armhole, and then under the left the [thigh?] hole, and then the last at the heart, with one paternoster, Ave Maria, with one Credo; and these thus said daily, with the grace of God is there no manner drede hym.”

The Royal College of Physicians of London Established.

The Royal College of Physicians of London was founded by Henry VIII. for the repression of irregular and unlearned medical practice. The Letters Patent constituting the College were dated 23rd September, 1518. The king was moved to this by the example of similar institutions in Italy and elsewhere, by the solicitations of Thomas Linacre, one of his own physicians, and by the advice and recommendation of Cardinal Wolsey. Six physicians are named in the358 Letters Patent as constituting the College, viz., John Chambre, Thomas Linacre, and Ferdinand de Victoria, the king’s physicians; and Nicholas Halsewell, John Francis, and Robert Yaxlery, physicians, “and all men of the same faculty, of and in London, and within seven miles thereof, are incorporated as one body and perpetual community or college.”840

Dr. Chambre was a priest before he became a physician. He was educated at Oxford, studied at Padua, where he graduated in physic.

Dr. Thomas Linacre was a distinguished scholar and physician, who was born A.D. 1460. In 1484 he was elected a fellow of All Souls’, Oxford; the next year he went to Bologna, where he studied under Pulitian; he then went to Florence, where he became acquainted with Lorenzo the Great; from Florence, he went to Rome, and thence to Venice and Padua, which at that time was the most celebrated school of physic in the world, and took the degree of Doctor of Medicine with the highest applause. Linacre founded (1524) two Physic Lectures at Oxford and one at Cambridge, but “they were not performed till divers years after Linacre’s death, on account of the troubles concerning religion.”841

Dr. Andrew Borde, Carthusian monk, physician, wit and buffoon, lived in the reign of Henry VIII. He took his physician’s degree at Montpellier in 1532, and afterwards became one of the court physicians on his return to England. He was a learned, genial, and sensible doctor, but possessed “a rambling head and an inconstant mind,” as Anthony à Wood says. He wrote voluminously. His chief works, the Breviary of Health, The Dietary of Health, and The Book of the Introduction to Knowledge, have been edited by Dr. F. J. Furnivall, and published for the Early English Text Society in a volume which is one of the most entertaining works on medicine ever written. Borde earned his title of “Merry Andrew” (a name which has become a household word) from attending fairs and revels, and conducting himself with the buffoonery which ill became so learned a man. Doubtless, however, it endeared him to his countrymen of the period. His medical works are full of prescriptions for various complaints, and many of them are exceedingly valuable and fully equal to the best treatment followed now.

Thomas Vicary was probably born between 1490 and 1500, was not a trained surgeon, but “a meane practiser” at Maidstone. In 1525 he was junior of the three Wardens of the Barbers’ or Barber-Surgeons’ Company in London. In 1528 he was Upper or First Warden of the359 Company, and one of the surgeons to Henry VIII., at £20 a year. In 1530 he was Master of the Barber-Surgeons’ Company, and at the head of his profession till his death in 1561 or 1562. As Dr. Furnivall says, he was “the Paget of his great Tudor time.” Soon after the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII., at the request of the City of London, handed over the monastic hospitals, Bartholomew’s and others, to the Corporation of London. He gave to Bartholomew’s a small endowment (nominally £333 odd) out of old houses which he charged with pensions to parsons. The city raised £1000 for repairs and reopened the hospital for one hundred patients, and on 29th September, 1548, appointed Chief-Surgeon Vicary as one of the six new governors of the hospital. The reorganization of the hospital was in a large measure due to this excellent man and intelligent surgeon. In 1548 he published the first English work on Anatomy, The Anatomie of the Body of Man, which was reprinted by the Surgeons of Bartholomew’s in 1577. This text-book held the field for 150 years.842

Those who are interested in the origin of our oldest and greatest hospital in London will find much valuable information in the Truly Christian Ordre of the Hospital of S. Bartholomewes, 1552, published as Appendix XVI. in Dr. Furnivall’s Vicary, p. 291.

Robert Copland in 1547 or 48 published his book called The Hy Way to the Spitt House. This is an important and interesting account of the scamps and rogues who resorted to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, in the time of Henry VIII., after the Statute 22nd Hen. VIII. (1530-1), against vagabonds. At that time the hospital gave temporary lodging to almost all the needy, as well as a permanent home to the deserving poor and sick; and sisters attended to them. Copland learns from the porter all about the ne’er-do-wells and the rascals who sought to impose on the charity.843

The old herbalists were often very patient and devoted investigators, who experimented upon themselves, and by these means accumulated a great number of facts of great use in the art of medicine. Conrad Gesner was one of these; he used to eat small portions of wild herbs, and test their effects on his own person, sitting down in the study with the plants around him.844

Sir William Butts, M.D. (died 1545), was physician to Henry VIII., and was the friend of Wolsey, Cranmer, and Latimer. He was360 knighted by Henry, and is immortalised in Shakspeare’s play of Henry VIII.

George Owen, M.D. (died 1558), was physician to Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Queen Mary. It has been said that Edward VI. was brought into the world by Dr. Owen, who performed the Cæsarian operation on his mother.

John Caius, M.D. (1510-1573), entered Gonville Hall, Cambridge, 1529. He at first studied divinity, but in 1539 went to Padua to study medicine under Montanus. Whilst at Padua, Caius lodged in the same house with the anatomist Vesalius, devoting no less attention to anatomy than his companion. He took the degree of doctor of medicine at Padua. He was public professor of Greek in that University; in 1543 he visited all the great libraries of Italy, collecting MSS., with the view of giving correct editions of the works of Galen and Celsus. In 1552 he was residing in London, and published an account of the Sweating Sickness which prevailed in 1551. He was physician to Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth. Dr. Caius enlarged and augmented the resources of the college at Cambridge, at which he had been educated; and he rendered eminent service to the College of Physicians by defending its rights against the illegal practices of the surgeons, who interfered with the proper functions of the physicians. His munificent foundation at Cambridge is a claim on the gratitude of the English nation, and ensures him a high place for ever in the annals of our universities. The visitor to Cambridge will not fail to remember that it was he who built the three singular gates at his college, inscribed to Humility, to Virtue and Wisdom, and to Honour. But he has another lasting claim to respect on the grounds that he first introduced the study of practical anatomy into this country, and was the first publicly to teach it, which he did in the hall of the Barber-Surgeons, shortly after his return from Italy. Dr. Caius was a profound classical scholar, and left numerous works on the Greek and Latin medical authors. As a naturalist, linguist, critic, and antiquary, he was no less distinguished than as a physician.

Edward Wotton, M.D. (died 1555), seems to have been the first English physician who applied himself specially to the study of natural history. He made himself famous by his work on this subject, entitled De Differentiis Animalium.

Dr. Geynes (died 1563) was cited before the College of Physicians for impugning the authority of Galen; he recanted and humbly acknowledged his heresy, and was duly pardoned. The circumstance is a curious illustration of the sentiments of the times.845


Simon Ludford was originally a friar who became an apothecary in London, who was admitted by the University of Oxford to the baccalaureate in medicine, although totally ignorant and incompetent. The College reproved the University, and he was compelled to undergo a course of study, when he was ultimately admitted doctor of medicine in Oxford, and Fellow of the College of Physicians in 1563.

William Gilbert, M.D. (born 1540), engaged in experiments relative to the magnet, achieving results which Galileo declared to be “great to a degree which might be envied,” and which induced Galileo to turn his mind to magnetism.846

Thomas Penny, M.D. (practised in London, 1570-1). Gerard styles him “a second Dioscorides, for his singular knowledge of plants.” He was also one of the first Englishmen who studied insects.

Peter Turner, M.D. (died 1614), was physician to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and one of the greatest botanists of his age.

Thomas Muffet, M.D., the learned friend of distinguished physicians and naturalists, was esteemed in his day the famous ornament of the body of physicians (died 1604).

Berenger of Capri (died 1527) flourished at Bologna (1518). He was a zealous anatomist, and declared that he had “dissected more than one hundred human bodies.” He was the first who recognised the larger proportional size of the male chest than the female, and the converse concerning the pelvis. He discovered the two arytenoid cartilages in the larynx, first accurately described the thymus, and gave a good description of the brain and the internal ear, in which he noticed the malleus and incus. He rectified some of the mistakes of Mondino, but was, like all other anatomists before Harvey, deeply perplexed about the heart and the circulation. He investigated the structure of the valves of the heart.

The art of midwifery, up to the middle of the sixteenth century, was in the lowest possible condition. In 1521, a doctor named Veites was condemned to the flames in Hamburg, for engaging in the business of midwifery. In the year 1500, the wife of one Jacob Nufer, of Thurgau, a Swiss sow-gelder, being in peril of her life in pregnancy, though thirteen midwives and several surgeons had attempted to deliver her in the ordinary way, it occurred to her husband to ask permission of the authorities, and the help of God, to deliver her “as he would a sow.” He was completely successful, and thus performed the first Cæsarian operation on the living patient, who lived to bear362 several other children in the natural way, and died at the age of seventy-seven. Another sow-gelder performed the operation of ovariotomy on his own daughter, in the sixteenth century.

François Rousset (about 1581), physician to the Duke of Savoy, was the first to write upon the Cæsarian operation. The improvement in printing and engraving caused the works of the Greek, Roman, and Arabian writers to be more widely known, and manuals were published for the instruction of midwives. The first book of this kind was by Eucharius Roslein, at Worms, called the Rose Garden for Midwives (1513). Vesalius (1543) rendered great services to the obstetric art by his anatomical teaching; and when Rousset published his treatise, the operation became popular, and was constantly performed on the living subject, sometimes even when it was not absolutely necessary. Pineau, a surgeon of Paris, in 1589, first suggested division of the pubes to facilitate difficult labour.

In the year 1535 (27 Henry VIII.), Wood says847 that at Oxford “divers scholars, upon a foresight of the ruin of the clergy, had and did now betake themselves to physick, who as yet raw and inexpert would adventure to practise, to the utter undoing of many. The said visitors ordered, therefore, that none should practise or exercise that faculty unless he had been examined by the physick professor concerning his knowledge ther