A Rich Man’s Plague from Kisses

Pliny, Natural History, 26 3 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“This plague didn’t exist among our ancestors. It first invaded Italy during the principate of Tiberius Claudius when some Roman knight from Perusia, secretary to a quaestor, brought the infection with him after he had been serving in Asia Minor. Women, enslaved people, and those of the low or humble classes tend not to get this disease, but it spreads quickly through nobles thanks to a brief kiss. Many of those who endured the medicine for the sickness handled the scar more foully than the disease. It was cured by burning treatments and the symptom would return unless the flesh was burned up almost to the bone in that spot.

Many physicians came from Egypt—that parent of these kinds of blights—in order to dedicate themselves to this work only, gaining a considerable profit, since it is true that Manilius Cornutus, a man of praetorian rank and legate in Aquitania, paid two hundred thousand for the treatment of his disease.

It does often happen, however, that new kinds of diseases are experienced en masse. What discovery would be more surprising? Some afflictions appear in a certain part of the world and attack certain body parts or people of specific ages or stations—as if a sickness were selective—one harming children, another adults, this one for the nobles, and that one for the poor.”

III. Non fuerat haec lues apud maiores patresque nostros, et primum Ti. Claudi Caesaris principatu medio inrepsit in Italiam quodam Perusino equite Romano quaestorio scriba, cum in Asia adparuisset, inde contagionem eius inportante. nec sensere id malum feminae aut servitia plebesque humilis aut media, sed proceres veloci transitu osculi maxime, foediore multorum qui perpeti medicinam toleraverant cicatrice quam morbo. causticis namque curabatur, ni usque in ossa corpus exustum esset, rebellante taedio. adveneruntque ex Aegypto genetrice talium vitiorum medici hanc solam operam adferentes magna sua praeda, siquidem certum est Manilium Cornutum e praetoriis legatum Aquitanicae provinciae HS CC elocasse in eo morbo curandum sese. acciditque contra saepius ut nova genera morborum gregatim sentirentur. quo mirabilius quid potest reperiri? aliqua gigni repente vitia terrarum in parte certa membrisque hominum certis vel aetatibus aut etiam fortunis, tamquam malo eligente, haec in pueris grassari, illa in adultis, haec proceres sentire, illa pauperes?

Roman Emperor Trajan making offerings to Egyptian Gods, on the Roman Mammisi at the Dendera Temple complex, Egypt

Searching For the Land of Truth Inside Oneself

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·

Image result for medieval manuscript insane person
Medieval Manuscript Images, Pierpont Morgan Library, Hours of Anne of France. MS M.677 fol. 211r

Have You Tried Stabbing the Coronavirus?

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 34.151

“There are other medicinal applications of iron beyond surgery. For when a circle is drawn around both adults and infants—or of they carry a sharp iron weapon with them—it is useful against poisonous drugs. Iron nails which have been taken out of tombs are useful protections against nightmares if they are hammered down before a threshold.

A small penetration with an iron weapon which has wounded a man is effective against sudden side and chest pains. Some afflictions are treated by cauterization, especially true for the bite of a rabid dog, since even when the disease has advanced and those afflicted are starting to exhibit fear of water, they experience relief at cauterization. The drinking of water which has been heated with burning iron is good for many symptoms, but especially for dysentery.”

XLIV. Medicina e ferro est et alia quam secandi. namque et circumscribi circulo terve circumlato mucrone et adultis et infantibus prodest contra noxia medicamenta, et praefixisse in limine evulsos sepulchris clavos adversus nocturnas lymphationes, pungique leviter mucrone, quo percussus homo sit, contra dolores laterum pectorumque subitos, qui punctionem adferant. quaedam ustione sanantur, privatim vero canis rabidi morsus, quippe etiam praevalente morbo expaventesque potum usta plaga ilico liberantur. calfit etiam ferro candente potus in multis vitiis, privatim vero dysentericis.

Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462, Folio 16r

An Untold Number of Gods and the Path to Eternal Fame

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.5 16–18

“This is the reason it is possible to estimate a greater number of divinities than there are humans: individuals make a number of gods equal to their number by adopting their own Junos and Genii. Indeed, some peoples have animals, even horrible ones, for gods and many others too shameful to report, such as swearing by rotten food or other similar things.

Believing in marriage among the gods but without anyone being born from them for such a great span of time or that some are always old and graying while others are eternally young even children, or that some gods are dark-colored, winged, crippled born from eggs, or dying and living on alternating days, these beliefs are like childhood delusions. But it is beyond every kind of shame to imagine adultery among them, then strife and hatred, and that there are powers of thieves and criminals. “God” is a person helping another person; this is the path to eternal fame.”

quamobrem maior caelitum populus etiam quam hominum intellegi potest, cum singuli quoque ex semetipsis totidem deos faciant Iunones Geniosque adoptando sibi, gentes vero quaedam animalia et aliqua etiam obscena pro dis habeant ac multa dictu magis pudenda, per fetidos cibos et alia similia iurantes. matrimonia quidem inter deos credi tantoque aevo ex eis neminem nasci, et alios esse grandaevos semper canosque, alios iuvenes atque pueros, atricolores, aligeros, claudos, ovo editos et alternis diebus viventes morientesque, puerilium prope deliramentorum est; sed super omnem inpudentiam adulteria inter ipsos fingi, mox iurgia et odia, atque etiam furtorum esse et scelerum numina. deus est mortali iuvare mortalem, et haec ad aeternam gloriam via.

File:Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Florence, Plut. 82.4.jpg
Pliny the Elder, Natural History in ms. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 82.4, fol. 3r.

Ancient Greek Depression and the Brain: Galen and Hippocrates

Galen, De Locis Affectis 8.190-191

“Fear always plagues people with melancholy but they don’t always have the same kind of abnormal (para phusin) thoughts. For example, one person believes that he has grown a shell and because of this he avoids everyone who nears him so that he might not break it. When another hears the roosters singing, just as if the birds strike their wings before their song, he also slaps his arms against his sides and imitates the animals’ voice. Fear comes to another that Atlas who is supporting the universe might drop it because he is worn out and for this reason he will be crushed and he will destroy us with him.

But there are ten thousand other fantasies. The melancholic differ from one another, but even though they all exhibit fear, despair, blaming of life and hatred for people, they do not all want to die. For some, fear of death is the principle source of their depression. Some will seem paradoxical to you because they fear death and desire death at the same time.

For this reason it seems right that Hippocrates divided all of these symptoms into two groups: fear (phobos) and despair (dusthumia). Because of this sort of despair, they hate everyone they see and are always gloomy and they are afraid like children are frightened in deep darkness and uneducated adults too. As external darkness makes nearly all people afraid, except for those who are bold by nature or have been well-educated for it, so too the color of the black bile overshadows places of thought with darkness and makes people afraid.

The fact that the humors and altogether the equilibrium (krâsis) of the body may alter the reality of the mind is agreed upon by the best doctors and philosophers and I have shown already in one publication in which, by pursuing the body’s balances, I demonstrated the abilities of the mind. For this reason, those who are ignorant about the power of humors do not dare to write anything about melancholy. Of these, there are also those of the school of Erasistratos. It is right to be amazed at him for people’s common thoughts, as with many other beliefs about which not a few philosophers and doctors are ignorant. Therefore, nearly everyone calls melancholy a sickness, indicating through this name that its cause is bile.”

ἀεὶ μὲν οὖν  οἱ φόβοι συνεδρεύουσι τοῖς μελαγχολικοῖς, οὐκ ἀεὶ δὲ ταὐτὸν εἶδος τῶν παρὰ φύσιν αὐτοῖς γίγνεται φαντασιῶν, εἴγε ὁ μέν τις ὀστρακοῦς ᾤετο γεγονέναι, καὶ διὰ τοῦτ’ ἐξίστατο τοῖς ἀπαντῶσιν, ὅπως μὴ συντριβείη· θεώμενος δέ τις ἄλλος ἀλεκτρυόνας ᾄδοντας, ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνοι τὰς πτέρυγας προσέκρουον πρὸ ᾠδῆς, οὕτω καὶ αὐτὸς τοὺς βραχίονας προσκρούων ταῖς πλευραῖς ἐμιμεῖτο τὴν φωνὴν τῶν ζώων. φόβος δ’ ἦν ἄλλῳ, μή πως ὁ βαστάζων τὸν κόσμον ῎Ατλας ἀποσείσηται κεκμηκὼς αὐτὸν, οὕτως τε καὶ αὐτὸς συντριβείη καὶ ἡμᾶς αὐτῷ συναπολέσειεν·

ἄλλα τε μυρία τοιαῦτα φαντασιοῦνται. διαφέρονται δὲ ἀλλήλων οἱ μελαγχολικοὶ, τὸ μὲν φοβεῖσθαι καὶ δυσθυμεῖν καὶ μέμφεσθαι τῇ ζωῇ καὶ μισεῖν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἅπαντες ἔχοντες, ἀποθανεῖν δ’ ἐπιθυμοῦντες οὐ πάντες, ἀλλ’ ἔστιν ἐνίοις αὐτῶν αὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο κεφάλαιον τῆς μελαγχολίας, τὸ περὶ τοῦ θανάτου δέος· ἔνιοι δὲ ἀλλόκοτοί σοι δόξουσιν, ἅμα τε καὶ δεδιέναι τὸν θάνατον καὶ θανατᾷν. ὥστε ὀρθῶς ἔοικεν ὁ ῾Ιπποκράτης εἰς δύο ταῦτα ἀναγαγεῖν τὰ συμπτώματα αὐτῶν πάντα, φόβον καὶ δυσθυμίαν· ἐπί γέ τοι τῇ τοιαύτῃ δυσθυμίᾳ  μισοῦσιν πάντας, οὓς ἂν βλέπωσιν, καὶ σκυθρωποὶ διὰ παντός εἰσι, δειμαίνοντες, ὥσπερ ἐν σκότῳ βαθεῖ τά τε παιδία φοβεῖται καὶ τῶν τελείων οἱ ἀπαίδευτοι. καθάπερ γὰρ καὶ τὸ ἔξωθεν σκότος εἰς φόβον ἄγει σχεδὸν ἅπαντας ἀνθρώπους, πλὴν τῶν ἤτοι πάνυ φύσει τολμηρῶν, ἢ πεπαιδευμένων, οὕτως καὶ τῆς μελαίνης χολῆς τὸ χρῶμα παραπλησίως σκότῳ τὸν φρονοῦντα τόπον ἐπισκιάζον ἐργάζεται τοὺς φόβους.

ὅτι γὰρ οἵ τε χυμοὶ καὶ ὅλως ἡ τοῦ σώματος κρᾶσις ἀλλοιοῖ τὰς ἐνεργείας τῆς ψυχῆς, ὡμολόγηται τοῖς ἀρίστοις ἰατροῖς τε καὶ φιλοσόφοις, ἐμοί τε δι’ ἑνὸς ὑπομνήματος ἀποδέδεικται, καθ’ ὃ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος κράσεσιν ἀκολουθούσας ἀπέδειξα τὰς τῆς ψυχῆς δυνάμεις· ὅθεν οὐδὲ γράψαι τι περὶ μελαγχολίας ἐτόλμησαν οἱ τὴν τῶν χυμῶν δύναμιν ἀγνοήσαντες, ἐξ ὧν εἰσι καὶ οἱ περὶ τὸν ᾿Ερασίστρατον.  ἄξιον δέ ἐστι κᾀν τούτῳ θαυμάσαι τὰς κοινὰς ἐννοίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὥσπερ καὶ τἄλλα πολλὰ δόγματα, περὶ ὧν ἠγνόησαν οὐκ ὀλίγοι φιλοσόφων τε καὶ ἰατρῶν· ἅπαντες γοῦν ὀνομάζουσιν τὸ πάθος τοῦτο μελαγχολίαν, ἐνδεικνύμενοι διὰ  τῆς προσηγορίας τὸν αἴτιον αὐτοῦ χυμόν.

 

*Erasistratos was a doctor and author during the Hellenistic period.

I found this passage from reading: Patricia A. Clark and M. Lynn Rose. 2016. “Psychiatric Disability in the Galenic Medical Matrix.” In Christian Laes, Chris Goodey, and M. Lynn Rose (eds.). Disabilities in Roman Antiquity: Disparate Bodies a Capite Ad Calcem. Leiden: 45-72.

Image result for Ancient Greek medicine
A relief from Ephesus

The modern debate about “mind” verses “brain” has its origins in antiquity and notions of the “soul” and the “body”. Hippocrates presents one of the earliest arguments that everything is physical and biological.

Hippocrates of Cos, On the Sacred Disease 14

 “People should know that our pleasures, happiness, laughter, and jokes from nowhere else [but the brain] and that our griefs, pains, sorrows, depressions and mourning come from the same place. And through it we think especially, and ponder, and see and hear and come to perceive both shameful things and noble things and wicked things and good things as well as sweet and bitter, at times judging them so by custom, at others by understanding what is advantageous based on distinguishing what is pleasurable and not in the right time and [that] these things are not the same to us.

By this very organ we become both sane and delirious and fears and horrors attend us sometimes at night and sometimes at day. This brings us bouts of sleeplessness and makes us mistake-prone at terrible times,  bringing thoughts we cannot follow, and deeds which are unknown, unaccustomed or untried.

Yes, we suffer all these things from or brain when it is not health but is hotter than natural, too cold or too wet or too dry or suffers any other kind of thing contrary to its custom. We go insane because of its moistness. For whenever it is wetter than natural, it is forced to move. And when it moves, neither sight can be still nor hearing. Instead, we hear and see different things at different times and the tongue talks about the kinds of things it sees and hears each time. But a person can think as long as the brain remains still.”

 Εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, ὅτι ἐξ οὐδενὸς ἡμῖν αἱ ἡδοναὶ γίνονται καὶ αἱ εὐφροσύναι καὶ γέλωτες καὶ παιδιαὶ ἢ ἐντεῦθεν καὶ λῦπαι καὶ ἀνίαι καὶ δυσφροσύναι καὶ κλαυθμοί. Καὶ τούτῳ φρονεῦμεν μάλιστα καὶ νοεῦμεν καὶ βλέπομεν καὶ ἀκούομεν καὶ γινώσκομεν τά τε αἰσχρὰ καὶ τὰ καλὰ καὶ τὰ κακὰ καὶ ἀγαθὰ καὶ ἡδέα καὶ ἀηδέα, τὰ μὲν νόμῳ διακρίνοντες, τὰ δὲ τῷ ξυμφέροντι αἰσθανόμενοι, τῷ δὲ καὶ τὰς ἡδονὰς καὶ τὰς ἀηδίας τοῖσι καιροῖσι διαγινώσκοντες, καὶ οὐ ταὐτὰ ἀρέσκει ἡμῖν. Τῷ δὲ αὐτῷ τούτῳ καὶ μαινόμεθα καὶ παραφρονέομεν, καὶ δείματα καὶ φόβοι παρίστανται ἡμῖν τὰ μὲν νύκτωρ, τὰ δὲ μεθ’ ἡμέρην, καὶ ἐνύπνια καὶ πλάνοι ἄκαιροι, καὶ φροντίδες οὐχ ἱκνεύμεναι, καὶ ἀγνωσίη τῶν καθεστεώτων καὶ ἀηθίη καὶ ἀπειρίη. Καὶ ταῦτα πάσχομεν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐγκεφάλου πάντα, ὅταν οὗτος μὴ ὑγιαίνῃ, ἀλλ’ ἢ θερμότερος τῆς φύσιος γένηται ἢ ψυχρότερος ἢ ὑγρότερος ἢ ξηρότερος, ἤ τι ἄλλο πεπόνθῃ πάθος παρὰ τὴν φύσιν ὃ μὴ ἐώθει. Καὶ μαινόμεθα μὲν ὑπὸ ὑγρότητος· ὅταν γὰρ ὑγρότερος τῆς φύσιος ᾖ, ἀνάγκη κινεῖσθαι, κινευμένου δὲ μήτε τὴν ὄψιν ἀτρεμίζειν μήτε τὴν ἀκοήν, ἀλλ᾿ ἄλλοτε ἄλλα ὁρᾶν καὶ ἀκούειν, τήν τε γλῶσσαν τοιαῦτα διαλέγεσθαι οἷα ἂν βλέπῃ τε καὶ ἀκούῃ ἑκάστοτε· ὅσον δ᾿ ἂν ἀτρεμήσῃ ὁ ἐγκέφαλος χρόνον, τοσοῦτον καὶ φρονεῖ ὁ ἄνθρωπος.

On the Sacred Disease, 9

“For these reasons I think that the brain has the most power in the human being. For when it happens to be healthy, it is our interpreter of all the things that happen from the air. And air furnishes intelligence. The eyes, and ears, and tongue and hands and feet do the kinds of things the brain decides. Indeed, the portion of intelligence distributed throughout the body comes from the air. The brain is the emissary to understanding. For whenever a person draws breath inside it rushes first to the brain and then it spreads through the rest of the body once it leaves its distilled form in the brain, that very thing which is thought and has judgment. If it were to enter the body first and the rain later, it would leave understanding in the flesh and the arteries and then go hot and impure into the brain, all mixed up with the bile from flesh and blood, with the result that it would uncertain.”

Κατὰ ταῦτα νομίζω τὸν ἐγκέφαλον δυναμιν ἔχειν πλείστην ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ· οὗτος γὰρ ἡμῖν ἐστι τῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἠέρος γινομένων ἑρμηνεύς, ἢν ὑγιαίνων τυγχάνῃ· τὴν δὲ φρόνησιν ὁ ἀὴρ παρέχεται. οἱ δὲ ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ τὰ ὦτα καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες καὶ οἱ πόδες οἷα ἂν ὁ ἐγκέφαλος γινώσκῃ, τοιαῦτα πρήσσουσι·† γίνεται γὰρ ἐν ἅπαντι τῷ σώματι τῆς φρονήσιος, ὡςἂν μετέχῃ τοῦ ἠέρος.† ἐς δὲ τὴν σύνεσιν ὁ ἐγκέφαλός ἐστιν ὁ διαγγέλλων· ὅταν γὰρ σπάσῃ τὸ πνεῦμα ὥνθρωπος ἐς ἑωυτόν, ἐς τὸν ἐγκέφαλον πρῶτον ἀφικνεῖται, καὶ οὕτως ἐς τὸ λοιπὸν σῶμα σκίδναται ὁ ἀήρ, καταλελοιπὼς ἐν τῷ ἐγκεφάλῳ ἑωυτοῦ τὴν ἀκμὴν καὶ ὅ τι ἂν ᾖ φρόνιμόν τε καὶ γνώμην ἔχον· εἰ γὰρ ἐς τὸ σῶμα πρῶτον ἀφικνεῖτο καὶ ὕστερον ἐς τὸν ἐγκέφαλον, ἐν τῇσι σαρξὶ καὶ ἐν τῇσι φλεψὶ καταλελοιπὼς τὴν διάγνωσιν ἐς τὸν ἐγκέφαλον ἂν ἴοιθερμὸς ἐὼν καὶ οὐκ ἀκραιφνής, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπιμεμιγμένος τῇ ἰκμάδι τῇ ἀπό τε τῶν σαρκῶν καὶ τοῦ αἵματος, ὥστε μηκέτι εἶναι ἀκριβής.

Image result for ancient greek medicine hippocrates of cos

Edmund Wilson. “On Free Will and How the Brain is Like a Colony of Ants.” Harper’sSeptember 2014, 49-52.

“The self does not exist as a paranormal being living on its own within the brain. It is, instead, the central dramatic character of the confabulated scenarios. In these stories, it is always on center stage—if not as participant, then as observer and commentator—because that is where all of the sensory information arrives and is integrated.”

For a good overview of issues of brain, mind and consciousness from multiple disciplinary perspectives, see Dennett, Dale C. 2017. From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. New York.

Hippocrates on the Problems and Solution to Menstruation

Hippocrates, On Girls

“Blood returns only slowly from the heart and mind because the veins there are transverse and the place is really important and is inclined toward madness and anger. Whenever these parts are filled, a wandering shiver moves about with a fever. When the situation is like this, a woman goes into a rage because of the inflammation. She wants to murder because of the rotting. And because of the depression, she is frightened and afraid. The compression around the heart cause them to want to self-harm and because of the evil state of the blood, her mind is sad and sorrowful and longs for evil.

She also names weird and frightening things that push women to leap or to throw themselves in wells or hang themselves. Even when there are no visions, there’s some strange pleasure that makes her long for death as if it is a kind of good thing. When a woman is sensible again, women will dedicate many different things to Artemis, including really expensive women’s cloaks all because they are tricked by prophets.

Relief from this disease comes whenever there is nothing impeding the flow of blood. I tell young women who are suffering this kind of thing to live with a man as soon as possible, since, if they are pregnant, they become healthy. Otherwise, a girl will be overtaken by this disease or another in puberty or a little latter on.  Barren married women sometimes suffer these things.”

ἐκ δὲ τῆς καρδίης καὶ τῶν φρενῶν βραδέως παλιρροεῖ· ἐπικάρσιαι γὰρ αἱ φλέβες καὶ ὁ τόπος ἐπίκαιρος ἔς τε παραφροσύνην καὶ μανίην ἕτοιμος. ὁπόταν γὰρ πληρωθέωσι ταῦτα τὰ μέρεα, καὶ φρίκη ξὺν πυρετῷ ἀναΐσσει πλανήτης. ἐχόντων δὲ τούτων ὧδε, ὑπὸ μὲν τῆς ὀξυφλεγμασίης μαίνεται, ὑπὸ δὲ τῆς σηπεδόνος φονᾷ, ὑπὸ δὲ τοῦ ζοφεροῦ φοβέεται καὶ δέδοικεν, ὑπὸ δὲ τῆς περὶ τὴν καρδίην πιέξιος ἀγχόνας κραίνουσιν, ὑπὸ δὲ τῆς κακίης τοῦ αἵματος ἀλύων καὶ ἀδημονέων ὁ θυμὸς κακὸν ἐφέλκεται.

ἕτερον δὲ καὶ φοβερὰ ὀνομάζει· καὶ κελεύουσιν ἅλλεσθαι καὶ καταπίπτειν ἐς φρέατα ἢ ἄγχεσθαι, ἅτε ἀμείνονά τε ἐόντα καὶ χρείην ἔχοντα παντοίην. ὁκότε δὲ ἄνευ φαντασμάτων, ἡδονή τις ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἐρᾷ τοῦ θανάτου ὥσπερ τινὸς ἀγαθοῦ. φρονεούσης δὲ τῆς ἀνθρώπου, τῇ Ἀρτέμιδι αἱ γυναῖκες ἄλλα τε πολλὰ καὶ τὰ ἱμάτια τὰ πολυτελέστατα καθιεροῦσι τῶν γυναικείων, κελευόντων τῶν μάντεων ἐξαπατεώμεναι. ἡ δὲ τῆσδε ἀπαλλαγή, ὁκόταν μὴ ἐμποδίζῃ τι τοῦ αἵματος τὴν ἀπόρρυσιν. κελεύω δὴ τὰς παρθένους, ὁκόταν τι τοιοῦτο πάσχωσιν, ὡς τάχιστα ξυνοικῆσαι ἀνδράσιν· ἢν γὰρ κυήσωσιν, ὑγιέες γίνονται.  εἰ δὲ μή, ἢ εὐθέως ἅμα τῇ ἥβῃ ἢ ὀλίγον ὕστερον ἁλώσεται, εἴπερ μὴ ἑτέρῃ νούσῳ. τῶν δὲ ἠνδρωμένων γυναικῶν στεῖραι ταῦτα πάσχουσιν.

Hippocrates sticks to this logic elsewhere too.

Joseph Mallord William Turner – Vision of Medea, 1828

Fertility Troubles? Have You Tried a Puppy?

Hippocrates of Cos, On Barrenness 3

The following is a penultimate step in a treatment for female infertility

“During the final vapor bath, at that moment when she is about to stop the treatment, cut open the youngest puppy you can find, pound down every kind of fragrant and dry aromatic spices. After you have removed the puppy’s innards, fill it as much as you can with the aromatics and pack them in. Put wood underneath, put the puppy in the pot and add in some extremely fragrant wine before you raise the temperature through the pipe.

As much as her strength will allow, have the woman stay in the vapor bath the entire day, continuing the heating and asking her whether she thinks that the smell of the herbs is coming through her mouth. For this is no small sign that the woman being treated has conceived.”

(3) Τὴν τελευταῖαν δὲ πυρίην, ὅταν μέλλῃς ἀφιέναι τῆς θεραπείης, σκυλάκιον ὅτι νεώτατον ἀνασχίσας, ἀρωμάτων παντοδαπῶν ὅτι εὐωδεστάτων καὶ ξηροτάτων κόψας, τὰ ἐντοσθίδια ἐξελὼν τοῦ σκυλακίου ἐμπλῆσαι καὶ σάξαι ὅτι μάλιστα τῶν ἀρωμάτων, ξυλήφια δὲ ὑποθείς, ἐς τὸν ἐχῖνον ἐνθεὶς τὸ σκυλάκιον, οἴνου ὡς εὐωδεστάτου ἐπιχέαι, καὶ πυριῆν διὰ τοῦ αὐλοῦ· καὶ ὅπως κατὰ δύναμιν εἶναι ὅλην τὴν ἡμέρην ἐπὶ ταύτης τῆς πυρίης, πυριῆσαί τε καὶ ἐρωτᾶν αὐτήν, εἰ ὀδμὴ διὰ τοῦ στόματος δοκέει ὄζειν τῶν ἀρωμάτων· σημεῖον γὰρ οὐ σμικρὸν ἐς ξύλληψιν τῇ θεραπευομένῃ.

Image result for medieval manuscript puppies
Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, ms. 143, fol. 174r

Forget Plagues, Running Can Kill You!

Hippocrates of Cos, Epidemics 48

“A young man who had run on a rough road developed pain in his heel, especially close to the bottom. The area did not permit any draining of liquid because it was still producing moisture. On the fourth day, after his run, the whole area started turning dark right up to the joint of the ankle and below to the arch of the foot. It did not break out completely, instead he died first. He lived twenty full days after his run.”

Νεηνίσκος ὁδὸν τρηχείην τροχάσας ἤλγει τὴν πτέρνην, μάλιστα τὸ κάτω μέρος, ἀπόστασιν δὲ ὁ τόπος οὐκ ἐλάμβανεν οὐδεμίαν ὡς ξυνάγων ὑγρόν. ἀλλὰ τεταρταίῳ τε ἐόντι αὐτῷ ἐμελαίνετο πᾶς ὁ τόπος ἄχρι τοῦ ἀστραγάλου καλεομένου καὶ τοῦ κοίλου τοῦ κατὰ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ ποδός, καὶ τὸ μελανθὲν οὐ περιερράγη, ἀλλὰ πρότερον ἐτελεύτα· τὰς πάσας δὲ ἐβίου ἡμέρας εἴκοσιν ἀπὸ τοῦ δρόμου.

File:Greek vase with runners at the panathenaic games 530 bC.jpg
These men are running to their doom. A vase for the Panathenaic games

Laughing at Babies

Pseudo-Hippocrates, Letter 9.360 (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

 “I [Hippocrates] said, “Know that you should explain the reason for your laughter.” And [Democritus], after glaring at me for a bit, said, “you believe that there are two reasons for my laughter, good things and bad things. But I laugh for one reason: the human being. Humans are full of ignorance but empty of correct affairs, acting like babies in their little plots, and also laboring over endless toil without winning any profit.

Humans travel to the ends of the earth and over the uncharted wilds with unchecked desires, minting silver and gold and never stopping in the pursuit of possession, but always throwing a fit for more, so that there’s never one bit less than others have. And then, they are not at all ashamed to call themselves happy.”

[ΙΠ.] “ἴσθι δὲ νῦν περὶ σέο γέλωτος τῷ βίῳ λόγον δώσων.”

ὁ δὲ μάλα τρανὸν ἐπιδών μοι, “δύο,” φησὶ, “τοῦ ἐμοῦ γέλωτος αἰτίας δοκέεις, ἀγαθὰ καὶ φαῦλα· ἐγὼ δὲ ἕνα γελῶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἀνοίης μὲν γέμοντα, κενεὸν δὲ πρηγμάτων ὀρθῶν, πάσῃσιν ἐπιβουλῇσι νηπιάζοντα, καὶ μηδεμιῆς ἕνεκεν ὠφελείης ἀλγέοντα τοὺς ἀνηνύτους μόχθους, πείρατα γῆς καὶ ἀορίστους μυχοὺς ἀμέτροισιν ἐπιθυμίῃσιν ὁδεύοντα, ἄργυρον τήκοντα καὶ χρυσὸν, καὶ μὴ παυόμενον τῆς κτήσιος ταύτης, αἰεὶ δὲ θορυβεύμενον περὶ τὸ πλέον, ὅκως αὐτοῦ ἐλάσσων μὴ γένηται· καὶ οὐδὲν αἰσχύνεται λεγόμενος εὐδαίμων [. . .].”

Image result for medieval manuscript crying baby

A Rich Man’s Plague from Kisses

Pliny, Natural History, 26 3 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“This plague didn’t exist among our ancestors. It first invaded Italy during the principate of Tiberius Claudius when some Roman knight from Perusia, secretary to a quaestor, brought the infection with him after he had been serving in Asia Minor. Women, enslaved people, and those of the low or humble classes tend not to get this disease, but it spreads quickly through nobles thanks to a brief kiss. Many of those who endured the medicine for the sickness handled the scar more foully than the disease. It was cured by burning treatments and the symptom would return unless the flesh was burned up almost to the bone in that spot.

Many physicians came from Egypt—that parent of these kinds of blights—in order to dedicate themselves to this work only, gaining a considerable profit, since it is true that Manilius Cornutus, a man of praetorian rank and legate in Aquitania, paid two hundred thousand for the treatment of his disease.

It does often happen, however, that new kinds of diseases are experienced en masse. What discovery would be more surprising? Some afflictions appear in a certain part of the world and attack certain body parts or people of specific ages or stations—as if a sickness were selective—one harming children, another adults, this one for the nobles, and that one for the poor.”

III. Non fuerat haec lues apud maiores patresque nostros, et primum Ti. Claudi Caesaris principatu medio inrepsit in Italiam quodam Perusino equite Romano quaestorio scriba, cum in Asia adparuisset, inde contagionem eius inportante. nec sensere id malum feminae aut servitia plebesque humilis aut media, sed proceres veloci transitu osculi maxime, foediore multorum qui perpeti medicinam toleraverant cicatrice quam morbo. causticis namque curabatur, ni usque in ossa corpus exustum esset, rebellante taedio. adveneruntque ex Aegypto genetrice talium vitiorum medici hanc solam operam adferentes magna sua praeda, siquidem certum est Manilium Cornutum e praetoriis legatum Aquitanicae provinciae HS CC elocasse in eo morbo curandum sese. acciditque contra saepius ut nova genera morborum gregatim sentirentur. quo mirabilius quid potest reperiri? aliqua gigni repente vitia terrarum in parte certa membrisque hominum certis vel aetatibus aut etiam fortunis, tamquam malo eligente, haec in pueris grassari, illa in adultis, haec proceres sentire, illa pauperes?

Roman Emperor Trajan making offerings to Egyptian Gods, on the Roman Mammisi at the Dendera Temple complex, Egypt