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applied himself much to the study of pharmacy, and Aetius mentions some of the remedies which this royal apothecary recommended in the treatment of fevers. I wish not to see his example followed. A king ought to have nothing to do with the laboratory. Nechepsus should have tried to govern his kingdom well, and should have left the care of the sick to Petosiris.
Herodotus tells us that in Egypt there were physicians for every different part of the body, and for every different disease. Some modern writers have concluded from this statement, that the science must have been very imperfect in that country. For what reason? The presence of many quacks does not necessarily imply the absence of all regular physicians. Among ourselves we hear of innumerable oculists, aurists, dentists, empirics, and mountebanks, who daily proffer, at an exorbitant price, their perilous aid to the blind, the deaf, the toothless, and the impotent. We do not thence conclude, that medicine is imperfectly taught at Edinburgh, or unskilfully practised in London.
A foreign author has lately observed, that as the profession of medicine in Egypt was confined to one class of men, and was transmitted as by inheritance from father to son, it was impossible that it could ever have been successfully cultivated in that country, Is improvement then incompatible with such a practice? Is study, or emulation, or research, impeded by it? If genius be in some cases excluded, how much oftener is native talent likely to be fostered and matured, where the teacher is a father, and where the pupil is a son; where filial accomplishment is the fruit of paternal care, and where affectionate age imparts all its knowledge to grateful youth! Did Hippocrates lose any thing by being descended from the Asclepiades, or by having received his early education from his father Heraclides, himself a physician? Learning is rareGenius is rarer still. He, who has been bred from his youth to a profession, and whose attention has been constantly turned to it, is surely more likely, ceteris paribus, to succeed in it, than he whom chance, or necessity, or even inclination, determines to adopt it at a later period of life.
We likewise hear it observed, that as the physicians of Egypt were compelled by law to follow exactly the prescriptions contained in their medical books, the science must have remained stationary;
and that nothing proves more the ignorance both of the people and of the practitioners, than their imagining that any set of general rules could answer in every particular case. The anomalies in disease are infinite; the morbid affections show themselves under innumerable forms; the pathology of the physician ought to vary with the malady of the patient. These remarks may be very just, but they can only apply to the Egyptians, when the days of their glory were gone by, and when the trilling and mysterious writings, falsely ascribed to Thoth, (εύδηλον ότι πάσαι λήροί εισι) remained the sole and uncertain guides of a degenerate people. (Diodor. l. 1. Iamblich. de Myster. Ægypt. L. vii. Galen. Facultat. Simplic. Medic. L. VI.)
Some scattered accounts of the medicines employed by the Egyptians may be found in the Greek and Roman writers. Of the nepenthes Homer has said enough for a poet, but not enough for a physician. (Odyss. 4.) Some writers have fancied that it was a preparation of opium; but neither Homer, nor Diodorus Siculus, has described it as a narcotic. The Egyptians administered the sea-onion, or squill, which they called the eye of Typhon, in cases of dropsy. They also employed the detitns, which is chiefly composed of the oxyd of iron, in the cure of the same dis
They made much use of external applications; and frequently employed unguents, in which, according to Galen, they mixed verdigris and the white of lead. An account of the remedy employed by Nechepsus, for diminishing the size of stones in the bladder, may be found in Aetius. In the treatment of fevers the practice of the Egyptians appears to have been very rational. They observed the critical days, and were forbidden by their laws to administer a cathartic in fevers before the fourth day. Hence we may conclude, that the doctrine of the crudity, the coction, and the crisis, was obtained by the Greeks from the Egyptians. Certain it is, that among a people so temperate as the Egyptians, and who had the habit of purging themselves once every month, this practice might be extremely proper. Whether, or not, it be always prudent to wait for the operation of the coction in the beginning of inflammatory fevers, (as is done at this day in the south of Europe) before a cathartic is administered, I am not competent to decide. That the Egyptians occasionally resorted to phlebotomy in cases of ple
thora, of pleuresies, and of inflammatory disorders, may be reasonably supposed. The story told by Pliny of the hippopotamus, which, when it feels itself oppressed by a redundance of blood, presses its body against the stem of a reed that has been cut to a sharp point, seems to be a sort of bieroglyphical indication of the practice of venesection in Egypt. In the progress of diseases the Egyptian physicians often took their Sıcéyvwois from the position of the patient while in bed; (Diodor. L. 1.) and their example, I believe, is followed by most of our clinical professors. They made much use of camomile, (ävbenss) and other simples. The dubious encomium of Isocrates on the medicines of the Egyptians has been frequently cited to prove, that their pharmacopoeia must have been extremely limited. I am inclined to think, that the compliment, which Isocrates paid upon this occasion to Egyptian pharmacy, proves, as sometimes happens when orators pay compliments, positively nothing at all. Let us examine this matter a little more closely
The passage in question is to be found in a discourse, which ought to be entitled Censura Polycratis, but which, (one would think for the purpose of contradicting Virgil,) is generally called Laudatio Busiridis. The case may be briefly stated. A sophist, named Polycrates, wrote a defence of Busiris, and an accusation against Socrates. This was probably a mere exercise of skill. To renew the calumnies, which had been vomited against Socrates by his worthless enemies, after an Athenian audience had wept for the death of the most virtuous of the Greeks, and after the most vehement of his accusers had been brought to the scaffold, would have argued not only so much malignity, but so much folly, that we can hardly imagine that a heart bad enough, and a head weak enough, to execute such a task, could have been found in the same individual. But allowing that such was the truth, let us ask what perverse sophistry could have induced a citizen of Athens seriously to praise the conduct of a foreign, ancient, and odious tyrant, whose very existence is doubtful, and about whom no creature living could take any interest? From these things I argue, that the apology for Busiris, and the crimination of Socrates, were intended by the conceited sophist who wrote them, as proofs of his skill and ingenuity; just as that literary braggart, Şchioppius, undertook to
prove that Scaliger was an ignorant ninoy, and that Tully did not know how to write Latin. But if the intention of Polycrates were really to traduce the memory of Socrates, and to praise the Egyptian tyrant as a wise and virtuous Prince, he succeeded very ill in his preposterous enterprise, for be admitted the merit of the instructor of Alcibiades, and attributed crimes to Busiris, with which that monarch had not been charged either by tradition or by fable. Isocrates, therefore, reprehends Polycrates as being equally ignorant of the duties of an accuser, and of an apologist; and proceeds to point out, but in a style entirely ironical, how this sophist ought to have praised Busiris. He finishes his eulogy, by stating that though others may justly object to him, that he cannot prove the truth of a word that he has said, yet that he ought not at least to be blamed by the professed advocate of the Egyptian tyrant. It follows, therefore, that Busiris was really praised neither by Isocrates, nor by Polycrates. It is probable, that other sophists, and even poets, had imitated the example of Polycrates, and with better success had celebrated the name of this king of Egypt. But as the character of Busiris, whether real or fictitious, was that of a cruel and sanguinary barbarian, it was impossible to praise him. Crime cannot be praised. Hence the language of Virgil may be clearly understood.
Cetera quæ vacuas tenuissent carmina mentes
Aut inlaudati nescit Busiridis aras? The Roman poet appears to me to have had in view the ironical discourse of which I have been speaking; is it not idle then to cite a passage from this discourse to prove, that the Egyptians had made no progress in pharmacy, and that their whole materia medica consisted of a few simples ? What indeed are we to believe of the assertion, when we are told, that the Egyptians employed no dangerous medicines, but only such as might be taken like their daily food? This is the language of irony and not of eulogy. Exaggeration is never the expression of truth. The praises lavished upon the Egyptians by Isocrates, while he represented Busiris as the author of their best and wisest institutions, and while he affected to show Polycrates how he ought to have written the panegyric of a murderer and a tyrant, are evidently wholly ironical.
It is from having examined the history of medicine in Greece, that I have been induced to think that the physicians of that country were more indebted for their knowledge to the Egyptians than is generally imagined. Long after the Egyptians had arrived at a high state of refinement, the Greeks continued to be rude and unlettered barbarians. Who can seriously believe that the sciences were cultivated in Greece before the Trojan war? I should as soon believe, that Orpheus had taught the rocks and the woods of mount Hæmus to dance in cadence to the sound of his lyre, as that he gave lessons in philosophy and metaphysics to the savage warriors of Thrace. The Greeks vaunted their early 'acquaintance with medicine: but what are we really to think of the medical skill of Musæus, who was the son of Eumolpus and the Moon- of that of Melampus, who was instructed by a serpent in the language of the birds—or of that of Tristæus, who received his education under the auspices of the centaur Chiron, and of the nymphs of Libya ?
The Greek priests, who practised medicine, and who uttered their fallacious oracles to the sick, generally pretended to be descended from Æsculapius, and were thence 'called Asclepiades. The influence of these quacks over the minds of the people lasted for many ages, and continued to be prevalent, both in Greece and in Asia Minor, for several centuries after the establishment of the regular medical schools. Various examples of the artifices as well as of the ignorance of the Asclepiades, may be found in the writings of Pausanias, Philostratus, and Plutarch; but the most fagrant instances of their fraud, and even of their cruelty, are exhibited in the orations of Aristides. This person, who in other respects appears to have been a man of learning and talent, was entirely infatuated by their mummeries. Though he lived so late as the second century, when knowledge and philosophy were very generally diffused, yet he allowed himself to give credit to the most puerile tales that ever imposed upon a distempered imagination. During ten successive years Aristides continued to be the dupe and the victim of the Asclepiades. Neither the gradual ruin of his health, nor his docility, nor his patience under his sufferings, could move the pity of these unrelenting mountebanks. There was no respite from torture. The patients of the brutal Callianax were happy in comparison with Aristides, who one day was purged with