Apollo = The Devil; Medicine = Murder

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (

“The country people use kitchen physic, and common experience tells us, that they live freest from all manner of infirmities, that make least use of apothecaries’ physic. Many are overthrown by preposterous use of it, and thereby get their bane, that might otherwise have escaped: some think physicians kill as many as they save, and who can tell, Quot Themison aegros autumno occiderit uno? How many murders they make in a year, quibus impune licet hominem occidere, that may freely kill folks, and have a reward for it, and according to the Dutch proverb, a new physician must have a new churchyard; and who daily observes it not?

Many that did ill under physicians’ hands, have happily escaped, when they have been given over by them, left to God and nature, and themselves; ’twas Pliny’s dilemma of old, every disease is either curable or incurable, a man recovers of it or is killed by it; both ways physic is to be rejected. If it be deadly, it cannot be cured; if it may be helped, it requires no physician, nature will expel it of itself. Plato made it a great sign of an intemperate and corrupt commonwealth, where lawyers and physicians did abound; and the Romans distasted them so much that they were often banished out of their city, as Pliny and Celsus relate, for 600 years not admitted.

It is no art at all, as some hold, no not worthy the name of a liberal science (nor law neither), as Pet. And. Canonherius a patrician of Rome and a great doctor himself, one of their own tribe, proves by sixteen arguments, because it is mercenary as now used, base, and as fiddlers play for a reward. Juridicis, medicis, fisco, fas vivere rapto, ’tis a corrupt trade, no science, art, no profession; the beginning, practice, and progress of it, all is naught, full of imposture, uncertainty, and doth generally more harm than good.

The devil himself was the first inventor of it: Inventum est medicina meum, said Apollo, and what was Apollo, but the devil? The Greeks first made an art of it, and they were all deluded by Apollo’s sons, priests, oracles. If we may believe Varro, Pliny, Columella, most of their best medicines were derived from his oracles. Aesculapius his son had his temples erected to his deity, and did many famous cures; but, as Lactantius holds, he was a magician, a mere impostor, and as his successors, Phaon, Podalirius, Melampius, Menecrates, (another God), by charms, spells, and ministry of bad spirits, performed most of their cures.”

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