Earlier posts examine Hippocratic and Galenic takes on different signs of ‘melancholy’, which is generally the ancient diagnosis that best corresponds to madness or depression. In this letter, Hippocrates seems to describe a manic dedication to one thing paired with other antisocial symptoms.
Hippocrates, Epistles 12
“We might encounter good fortune and then we will arrive, as we imagine, with better hopes as was made clear in the letter, if the case is that the man is not displaying madness but instead some overwhelming strength of spirit—this despite the fact that he is considering neither children nor wife nor relatives nor any other thing at all—and he has spent day and night by himself, staying alone for the most part in caves or deserted places or under the shadow of trees or in soft grasses or alongside the quiet flows of water.
It is many times the case for those suffering from melancholy to exhibit these kinds of behaviors. Such people are sometimes quiet and solitary and love isolation too. They keep themselves apart from people and consider their own tribe to be a foreign sight.
But it is not unreasonable for those who have been dedicated to education to shake off other thoughts because of a single category in wisdom. For, just as slaves and slavewomen who are yelling and fighting in their homes, when their mistress suddenly appears, step apart in quiet because they are afraid, in the same way too the rest of the thoughts in human minds are servants of evils; but when the sight of wisdom made itself seen, the rest of the sufferings have retreated like slaves.
It is not only the insane who desire caves and peace at all, but many people who have contempt for human affairs do too because of a desire not to be troubled. For whenever the mind, struck by external thoughts, longs to rest the body, then it returns to peace as soon as possible and, standing straight up, searches in a circle in himself for the land of truth in which there is no father, mother, wife, child, brother, relative, slaves, nor chance, nor at all any of those things which create a disturbance.”
῎Ελθοιμεν δ’ ἂν αἰσίῃ τύχῃ, καὶ ἀφιξόμεθα ὡς ὑπολαμβάνομεν χρηστοτέρῃσιν ἐλπίσιν [ἢ] ὡς ἐν τῇ γραφῇ παραδεδήλωται, οὐ μανίην ἀλλὰ ψυχῆς τινὰ ῥῶσιν ὑπερβάλλουσαν διασαφηνέοντος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς, μήτε παίδων μήτε γυναικὸς μήτε ξυγγενέων μήτε οὐσίης μήτε τινὸς ὅλως ἐν φροντίδι ἐόντος, ἡμέρην δὲ καὶ εὐφρόνην πρὸς ἑωυτῷ καθεστεῶτος καὶ ἰδιάζοντος, τὰ μὲν πολλὰ ἐν
ἄντροισι καὶ ἐρημίῃσιν ἢ ἐν ὑποσκιάσεσι δενδρέων, ἢ ἐν μαλθακῇσι ποίῃσιν, ἢ παρὰ συχνοῖσιν ὑδάτων ῥείθροισιν. Συμβαίνει μὲν οὖν τὰ πολλὰ τοῖσι μελαγχολῶσι τὰ τοιαῦτα· σιγηροί τε γὰρ ἐνίοτε εἰσὶ καὶ μονήρεες, καὶ φιλέρημοι τυγχάνουσιν· ἀπανθρωπέονταί τε ξύμφυλον ὄψιν ἀλλοτρίην νομίζοντες· οὐκ ἀπεοικὸς δὲ καὶ τοῖσι περὶ παιδείην ἐσπουδακόσι τὰς ἄλλας φροντίδας ὑπὸ μιῆς τῆς ἐν σοφίῃ διαθέσιος σεσοβῆσθαι.
῞Ωσπερ γὰρ δμῶές τε καὶ δμωΐδες ἐν τῇσιν οἰκίῃσι θορυβέοντες καὶ στασιάζοντες, ὁκόταν ἐξαπιναίως αὐτοῖσιν ἡ δέσποινα ἐπιστῇ, πτοηθέντες ἀφησυχάζουσι, παραπλησίως καὶ αἱ λοιπαὶ κατὰ ψυχὴν ἐπιθυμίαι ἀνθρώποισι κακῶν ὑπηρέτιδες· ἐπὴν δὲ σοφίης ὄψις ἑωυτέην ἐπιστήσῃ, ὡς δοῦλα τὰ λοιπὰ πάθεα ἐκκεχώρηκεν.
Ποθέουσι δ’ ἄντρα καὶ ἡσυχίην οὐ πάν- τως οἱ μανέντες, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων πρηγμάτων ὑπερφρονήσαντες ἀταραξίης ἐπιθυμίῃ· ὁκόταν γὰρ ὁ νοῦς ὑπὸ τῶν ἔξω φροντίδων κοπτόμενος ἀναπαῦσαι θελήσῃ τὸ σῶμα, τότε ταχέως ἐς ἡσυχίην μετήλλαξεν, εἶτα ἀναστὰς ὄρθριος ἐν ἑωυτῷ περιεσκόπει κύκλῳ χωρίον ἀληθείης, ἐν ᾧ οὐ πατὴρ, οὐ μήτηρ, οὐ γυνὴ, οὐ τέκνα, οὐ κασίγνητος, οὐ ξυγγενέες, οὐ δμῶες, οὐ τύχη, οὐχ ὅλως οὐδὲν τῶν θόρυβον ἐμποιησάντων·