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gypsum, or hemlock, or hellebore,—who was made to swallow an emetic, and to suffer a glyster the next,—who was bled and blistered the third,—who was daily compelled to walk, I know not how many stadia, with naked feet, and under a burning sun, in summer,—and who was doomed to seek for the return of health in winter, and especially when the north wind blew, by bathing his feeble and emaciated body in the river. All this severity was exercised towards him by the express directions of Æsculapius himself, with whom he was persuaded to fancy that he conversed in his dreams, and frequently beheld in nocturnal visions. Upon one occasion the God (perhaps fatigued with the importunities of his votary) ordered him to lose one hundred and twenty pounds (aíogas sixogi xal éxætòr) of blood. The unhappy man, not having so much in his body, wisely took the liberty of interpreting the oracle in bis own way, and parted with no more blood than he could conveniently spare. (See the Sacred Orations of Aristides.)
That knowledge, in which the Asclepiades were manifestly so deficient in later ages, can scarcely be imagined to have belonged to them in remoter periods. Some of the more extravagant admirers of Homer have lauded the medical knowledge of the father of poetry; and have celebrated the names of Machaon and Podalirius,
1 the sons of ÆEsculapius, who were both present at the siege of Troy. But an army-surgeon, who had never read the Iliad, would be strangely surprised to hear that the best cure for a wounded man is cheese, onions and meal, mixed up with the wine of Pramnos. I know not what Hotspur would have said to such a remedy for “an inward bruise;" but such was the medicine administered to the wounded Machaon by the experienced Nestor. (Il. 4.)
The first regular school of medicine in Europe was established about the 56th Olympiad by Pythagoras at Crotona in Magna Græcia. Alcmæon, who, by the dissection of animals, brought comparative anatomy to the aid of his science, and Democides, the celebrated physician of Darius, were both of this school. But Pythagoras, it will be easily admitted, had acquired his medical knowledge among the Egyptians; and consequently to that people we must trace the sudden acquaintance with medicine, which was displayed by the immediate successors of the Samian sage. In fact the diætetic system observed in the school of Crotona; the doctrine of the Pythagoreans which teaches that heat and æther are the principles of life and motion ; and the theory of numbers, as
1 ; applied to critical days and years, are clearly of Egyptian origin. (Diog. Laert. L. viii. Aristot. de Anima. Phot. Biblioth. 187.
. Cels. L. iii.)
Before I speak of the school of Cos, and of the great man who gave it celebrity, I must say a few words of Democritus. This philosopher, who died about the 104th Olympiad, had travelled in the East, and had made a long residence in Egypt. Whatever may be thought of his physics and his metaphysics, neither of which I am disposed to praise, it cannot be denied that he had amassed a prodigious store of facts, and had gleaned abundantly from Oriental and Egyptian traditions. Among other pursuits he occupied himself with the study of medicine and with the dissection of animals. Celsus says that he was the medical preceptor of Hippocrates. Certain eulogists of the sage of Cos seem inclined to deny this. They speak of him as if he had acquired his skill by the unaided efforts of his own genius. No one who has read his works, I mean those that are genuine, such as the mgoywatixò, the treatise Περί αέρων, υδάτων, τόπων, &c., can question the abilities of Hippocrates. There is a conciseness in his style, an acuteness in his reasoning, and a good sense in his observations, which bear the stamp of a powerful mind. It seems to be no very serious objection to the genuineness of his productions, and to be no very certain proof of the frequency of interpolations, that his language admits of all the dialects of Greece. This might easily happen in the works of a man, who from his profession must have been in the habit of constantly conversing with persons of every different republic of the Grecian continent, and who, having probably little leisure to write, was more occupied with his subject than his style. But although the splendid merits of Hippocrates be unquestionable, yet is it a great deal too much to say with Soranus, that medicine was invented by Apollo, improved by Æsculapius, and brought to perfection by the physician of Cos.
As nobody can speak seriously of the existence of the two fabulous divinities, the words of Soranus really imply, that Hippocrates brought medicine to perfection without any assistance from the learning, example, or guidance of others. This is to contradict all experience. No science was ever suddenly brought to perfection. Hippocrates himself has said, “Ο βίος βραχύς, η δε τέχνη μαχρή.I speak not of the scandalous calumny of Andreas; but can it be supposed, that Hippocrates was not informed by Democritus of the opinions of the Egyptians and Orientalists upon many subjects relative both to the causes and the treatment of diseases ? Is it likely, that he was ignorant of the medical secrets of the Pythagoreans, which had been divulged by his countrymen, Epicharmus and Metrodorus ? This great physiciau himself holds, in different parts of his works, a language which resembles extremely that of the Pythagoreans, and which would hardly have occurred to the self-taught sagacity of any individual. He dwells much upon the influence of æther and spirit, and seems to have been persuaded that there is a principle in nature, which is the source of heat and light, which pervades the universe, and which is the proximate cause of vitality. He also teaches, that nothing is produced, and that nothing perishes, but that every thing changes its state by mixtion and separation.
The reader, who will take the trouble of turning to the pages of Porphyry and Iamblichus, will find no great difficulty in tracing these doctrines to the Pythagoreans and from them to the Egyptians.
Hippocrates considered the fourth day after an attack of fever, as the first critical day. Aristotle mentions, that the Egyptian physicians were responsible for the consequences, if they administered medicines in similar cases before the fourth day. (Politic. 1. iii.)
It has been thought by some that Hippocrates was acquainted with the circulation of the blood; and this opinion has, I believe, been strenuously maintained by his editor, the learned Vander Linden; but I have not had an opportunity of examining the arguments of this professor. There are certainly some objections to the pretensions of Harvey, which it is not easy to remove.
Without speaking of Servetus, who perished a victim to bigotry in 1553, I cannot help thinking, that the circulation of the blood was known to various writers about that period. It would be high presumption in me, who am not of the profession, to offer any decided opinion upon this subject; but I have met with some passages, especially in the works of Cisalpinus, which seem to me to indi
cate, that the truth in question must have been known before the time of Harvey. I cannot then fix the time, when the discovery was made. It is however evident that if Hippocrates knew the fact, he could not have made the discovery. His ignorance of anatomy must have rendered this impossible. Consequently if he knew the fact, he must have received his information from a foreign source; and where shall we look for that source, if not in Egypt?
I pass over the names of various physicians of the Coan and Cnidian schools, to come immediately to those of the two great luminaries of the medical profession at Alexandria. Herophilus and Erasistratus florished in that city during the reign of Ptolemy Soter. They were the first anatomists, if we believe their admirers, who had ever dissected human bodies. It is a little perplex
, . ing to be thus forced to confess, that the anatomical knowledge of the Greeks was chiefly attained after their establishment in Egypt. In order to efface the impressions, which might be made on the minds of the ignorant by this acknowledgment, the modern eulogists of Grecian science have earnestly labored to prove, that the Egyptians were utterly unacquainted with anatomy, and that the Greeks could have acquired no physiological knowledge from a people, whose ignorance of the structure of the human frame is attested by all antiquity. Herodotus tells us, that none of the surgeons of Egypt could cure the sprained ankle of Darius, who was obliged to have recourse to the advice of a Greek. From Aulus Gellius we learn that the Egyptians fancied, that the human heart increases in weight until fifty years of age, and diminishes after that period. They believed, as Pliny reports, that a nerve goes directly from the heart to the little finger, and for this reason they were accustomed to bathe this finger in lustral water.
Such are the proofs by which it is established, that the ancient Egyptians could have been no anatomists and no physiologists. But may it not have happened that the credit obtained by Democides was very easily purchased ? It seems indeed very possible, that if the Persian monarch had only continued to lie quietly on his sofa, until the Greek physician had time to arrive from Samos, the sprained ankle might have been cured without his assistance. If the tales told by Aulus Gellius and Pliny had been copied from
any authentic records preserved by the priests of Egypt, some attention might be paid to them; but it is contrary to every principle of criticism to form an opinion of the anatomical knowledge of the physicians of a country from the erroneous notions, which the vulgar may have adopted concerning the structure of the human body. The lower orders of people in Scotland will tell you in their dialect, that whisky is the best thing in a cold day for warming the heart. Would you therefore say, that the anatomists of Edinburgh hold that the heart is placed in the stomach ?
It is more seriously argued, that the laws of Egypt which forbade dissection—that the custom of embalming bodies—that the belief of the soul's return to inhabit its material mould—th the abhorrence with which the attendants drove the embalmer, who had opened a body, from the chamber of the dead—and that the religious care with which the mummies were placed in the catacombs, prove it to be highly improbable, that the Egyptians had ever permitted the practice of dissecting human bodies. I shall make a few reflections on these observations.
I am not aware, that any law existed in Egypt which forbade dissection. Most certainly tradition, as far as we can trust to it, favors a contrary belief. Hear the words of Pliny:--tradunt et præcordiis necessarium hunc succum: quando phthisin cordi intus inhærentem non alio potuisse depelli compertum sit in Ægypto, regibus corpora mortuorum ad scrutandos morbos insecantibus.
But we are told, that the kings, of whom Pliny meant to speak, must have been the Ptolemies. Why? Had Egypt no kings before the Ptolemies ? Besides, Pliny clearly intimates, that the kings of whom he speaks had themselves dissected the dead. I never heard that any of the Ptolemies ever held the dissecting knife. We have seen that Nechepsus, an ancient
, king of Egypt, practised medicine. Manetho says that another king, named Athothis, wrote books on anatomy. It is contended that Manetho is wrong in his chronology. But what is this to the purpose ? Both Manetho and Julius Firmicus may have committed errors about dates ; but they would hardly have asserted, that Nechepsus was a pharmacist, and Athothis an anatomist, if no tradition had existed so justify their assertions. Then, when Pliny distinctly states, that the kings of Egypt dissected dead bodies, it is surely more reasonable to suppose that he meant the ancient