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.

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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 [. . .].”

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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

Animal Perception and Understanding

Plutarch, The Cleverness of Animals Moralia 961 a-b

“And here is the argument of Strato the Natural Philosopher demonstrating that it is not possible to sense anything at all without the power of thought. It is true that we may travel over letters with our sight and words fall on our ears which escape us since we are paying attention to other things. But later the mind returns, changes, and pursues each of the details which were overlooked. And this is what the saying means “the mind sees and the mind hears, but the rest is deaf and blind.” And so experiences which impact the eyes or ears do not yield understanding unless thought is present.

This is why Kleomenes the king, when a performance was applauded at a symposium and he was asked whether it seemed fine to him, he said that others should think about it, since he was worrying about the Peloponnese. From this it is necessary that all creatures who have perception also have understanding, if we are able to perceive through understanding.”

Καίτοι Στράτωνός γε τοῦ φυσικοῦ λόγος ἐστὶν ἀποδεικνύων ὡς οὐδ᾿ αἰσθάνεσθαι τὸ παράπαν ἄνευ τοῦ νοεῖν ὑπάρχει· καὶ γὰρ γράμματα πολλάκις ἐπιπορευομένους τῇ ὄψει καὶ λόγοι προσπίπτοντες τῇ ἀκοῇ διαλανθάνουσιν ἡμᾶς καὶ διαφεύγουσι πρὸς ἑτέροις τὸν νοῦν ἔχοντας· εἶτ᾿ αὖθις ἐπανῆλθε καὶ μεταθεῖ καὶ διώκει τῶν προειμένων ἕκαστον ἀναλεγόμενος· ᾗ καὶ λέλεκται: “νοῦς ὁρῇ καὶ νοῦς ἀκούει, τἄλλα κωφὰ καὶ τυφλά”

ὡς τοῦ περὶ τὰ ὄμματα καὶ ὦτα πάθους, ἂν μὴ παρῇ τὸ φρονοῦν, αἴσθησιν οὐ ποιοῦντος. διὸ καὶ Κλεομένης ὁ βασιλεύς, παρὰ πότον εὐδοκιμοῦντος ἀκροάματος, ἐρωτηθεὶς εἰ μὴ φαίνεται σπουδαῖον, ἐκέλευσεν ἐκείνους σκοπεῖν, αὐτὸς3 γὰρ ἐν Πελοποννήσῳ τὸν νοῦν ἔχειν. ὅθεν ἀνάγκη πᾶσιν, οἷς τὸ αἰσθάνεσθαι, καὶ τὸ νοεῖν ὑπάρχειν, εἰ τῷ νοεῖν αἰσθάνεσθαι πεφύκαμεν

Check out more Plutarch on the Scaife Viewer!

British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 47r

Night Terrors and Anxiety Attacks in Hippocrates

Hippocrates of Cos, Critical Days  302

“And whenever the liver swells more against his lungs, someone goes mad. He thinks he sees before his eyes creeping things and all kinds of beasts, fighting soldiers even as he believes that he is fighting with them. He speaks as if he is seeing these things and lashes out and threatens if someone forbids him from going out. If he stands, he may not be able to raise his legs and falls. His feet are always cold and whenever he sleeps, he jumps up from slumber and has witnessed frightening dreams.

We know that this fitfulness and fearing comes from dreams: whenever he calms down, he describes the kinds of dreams that he shaped out with his body and was describing with his tongue. He suffers these things in this way. And there are times when he is speechless for a whole day and night, gasping deeply for breath. When he stops this mad episode, he is immediately sensible again and if someone asks him a question, he responds right away and understands everything which was said. But, then later again, he falls under the same symptoms. This malady strikes most often when someone is abroad, especially if someone is walking on a deserted road. But it does happen other times too.’

καὶ ὁκόταν τὸ ἧπαρ μᾶλλον ἀναπτυχθῇ πρὸς τὰς φρένας, παραφρονέει· καὶ προφαίνεσθαί οἱ δοκέει πρὸ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἑρπετὰ καὶ ἄλλα παντοδαπὰ θηρία, καὶ ὁπλίτας μαχομένους, καὶ αὐτὸς αὐτοῖς δοκέει μάχεσθαι· καὶ τοιαῦτα λέγει ὡς ὁρέων, καὶ ἐξέρχεται, καὶ ἀπειλεῖ, ἢν μή τις αὐτὸν ἐῴη διεξιέναι· καὶ ἢν ἀναστῇ, οὐ δύναται αἴρειν τὰ σκέλεα, ἀλλὰ πίπτει. οἱ δὲ πόδες αἰεὶ ψυχροί γίνονται· καὶ ὁκόταν καθεύδῃ, ἀναΐσσει ἐκ τοῦ ὕπνου, καὶ ἐνύπνια ὁρῇ φοβερά. τῷδε δὲ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἀπὸ ἐνυπνίων ἀναΐσσει καὶ φοβέεται· ὅταν ἔννοος γένηται, ἀφηγεῖται τὰ ἐνύπνια τοιαῦτα ὁκοῖα καὶ τῷ σώματι ἐποίεέ τε καὶ τῇ γλώσσῃ ἔλεγε. ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ὧδε πάσχει. ἔστι δ᾿ ὅτε καὶ ἄφωνος γίνεται ὅλην τὴν ἡμέρην καὶ τὴν νύκτα, ἀναπνέων πολὺ ἀθρόον πνεῦμα. ὅταν δὲ παύσηται παραφρονέων, εὐθὺς ἔννοος γίνεται, καὶ ἢν ἐρωτᾷ τις αὐτόν, ὀρθῶς ἀποκρίνεται, καὶ γινώσκει πάντα τὰ λεγόμενα· εἶτ᾿ αὖθις ὀλίγῳ ὕστερον ἐν τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἄλγεσι κεῖται. αὕτη ἡ νοῦσος προσπίπτει μάλιστα ἐν ἀποδημίῃ, καὶ ἤν πῃ ἐρήμην ὁδὸν βαδίσῃ· λαμβάνει δὲ καὶ ἄλλως.

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Image from the British Library

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

Ancient Shock Treatments for Mental Health

Celsus, On Medicine, 3.21-23

“If [the patient] is sick with an insane mind, he should be treated well with certain torments. When he does or says anything troubling, he must be corrected with starvation, chains, and beating. He must be forced to pay attention, to learn something, and to keep it in his memory. He will change in this way so that he will be compelled bit by bit by fear to think about what he is doing.

Sudden fear and complete horror is a good for this sickness and so is anything else which troubles the spirit intensely. For a certain change may happen when the mind is in a different state from where it usually is. For insane hilarity is better treated by the frightening I just described. Excessive sadness, however, needs light and long-lasting massage twice a day along with cold water poured over the head and immersing the body in water and oil.

Here are some common treatments: insane people should exercise vigorously, be given lengthy massages, and then fed neither fat nor wine. Once they are purged of what they ate before, they should have food of medium weight. You should not leave them alone or with people they don’t know or those they hate or ignore. It is best if they get a change of scenery and if their minds improve, they need to be shaken up with an annual trip.”

Si vero consilium insanientem fallit, tormentis quibusdam optime curatur. Ubi perperam aliquid dixit aut fecit, fame, vinculis, plagis coercendus est. Cogendus est et attendere et ediscere aliquid et meminisse: sic enim fiet, ut paulatim metu cogatur considerare quid faciat. Subito etiam terreri et expavescere in hoc morbo prodest, et fere quicquid animum vehementer turbat. Potest enim quaedam fieri mutatio, cum ab eo statu mens, in quo fuerat, abducta est. Interest etiam, ipse sine causa subinde rideat, an maestus demissusque sit: nam demens hilaritas terroribus iis, de quibus supra (§ 21) dixi, melius curatur. Si nimia tristitia, prodest lenis sed multa bis die frictio, item per caput aqua frigida infusa, demissumque corpus in aquam et oleum. Illa communia sunt, insanientes vehementer exerceri debere, multa frictione uti, neque pinguem carnem neque vinum adsumere; cibis uti post purgationem ex media materia quam levissimis; non oportere esse vel solos vel inter ignotos, vel inter eos, quos aut contemnant aut neglegant; mutare debere regiones et, si mens redit, annua peregrinatione esse iactandos.

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Medieval Breaking Wheel

How To Talk to a (Potentially Deranged) Patient

Rufus of Ephesus, Quest. Medic. 2

“It is right to ask someone who is sick questions from which something of the matters concerning the sickness might be diagnosed and might be treated better. First, I advise to make inquiries from the one who is sick himself. For you might from this learn how much the person is sick or healthy in respect to judgment along with his strength and weakness and what type of sickness and what place he has suffered.

If the patient answers right away and properly and plausibly and without stumbling in speech or sense and if it is according to is typical matter—if he is otherwise orderly, in a gentle and orderly way, but, if otherwise bold or fearful, in a brash or timid manner—it is right to consider him to be in his right mind. But if you ask him some things and he should answer others or forget in the middle of speaking, if his speech is unsteady and unclear and there are shifts from his first manner to the opposite, these are all signs of being deranged.”

     ᾿Ερωτήματα χρὴ τὸν νοσοῦντα ἐρωτᾶν, ἐξ ὧν ἂν καὶ διαγνωσθείη τι τῶν περὶ τὴν νόσον ἀκριβέστερον καὶ θεραπευθείη κάλλιον. πρῶτον δὲ ἐκεῖνο ὑποτίθημι τὰς πεύσεις αὐτοῦ τοῦ νοσοῦντος ποιεῖσθαι. μάθοις γὰρ ἂν ἐνθένδε ὅσα τε κατὰ γνώμην νοσεῖ ἢ ὑγιαίνει ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ῥώμην αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀσθένειαν, καὶ τίνα ἰδέαν νόσου καὶ τίνα τόπον πεπονηκὼς <εἴη>. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἐφεξῆς τε ἀποκρίνοιτο καὶ μνημονικῶς καὶ τὰ εἰκότα καὶ μηδαμῆ σφαλλόμενος μήτε τῇ γλώττῃ μήτε τῇ γνώμῃ καὶ εἰ καθ’ ὁρμὴν τὴν οἰκείαν, —εἰ μέν ἐστιν ἄλλως κόσμιος, πράως καὶ

κοσμίως, ὁ δ’ αὖ φύσει θρασὺς ἢ δειλὸς θρασέως ἢ δεδοικ<ότ>ως—τοῦτον μὲν χρὴ νομίζειν τὰ γοῦν κατὰ γνώμην καλῶς ἔχειν. εἰ δὲ καὶ ἄλλα σὺ μὲν ἐρωτᾷς, ὁ δὲ ἄλλα ἀποκρίνοιτο καὶ εἰ μεταξὺ λέγων ἐπιλανθάνοιτο, αἱ δὲ τρομώδεις καὶ ἀσαφεῖς γλῶσσαι καὶ αἱ μεταστάσεις ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀρχαίου τρόπου πρὸς τὸ ἐναντίον, πάντα ταῦτα παρακρουστικά.

 

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Sloane MS 1975, f. 91v