“Bouts of depression and a longing for death afflicted Parmeniskos before too; but he was in turns touched by a sense of elation. Once, in Olynthos during the Autumn, he went to bed without a voice and rested, not even trying to begin speaking for some time. At other times, he spoke a bit, but then again went silent. Sleep overcame him but then he would be awake, turning repeatedly in silence and delirium. His hand would go to his hypochondria as if he were in pain. Sometimes he would turn away and lie very still. He had a continuous fever but was breathing easily. He said afterwards that he knew who the people who entered were. Sometimes, he would refuse the water they offered for a whole day and night; at other times, he would grab the pitcher and drink it all. He had urine as thick as a mule’s. But he was better by the 14th day.”
“Daos, boy, I am not well
I am depressed because of these events. By the gods
I am not under my own control. I am almost completely crazy.
That fine brother of mine is forcing me
To such insanity with his vile behavior.
He is about to get married!”
“In this way strength is drawn from natural philosophy against death; so too is determination against the fears of religion and a calmness of mind once the ignorance of all natural mysteries has been removed. So too comes moderation, once the nature and number of desires have been explained. And, finally, as I was just arguing, we can learn how to divine a lie from the truth, since this philosophy provides the Rule or Judgment of knowledge.”
Sic e physicis et fortitudo sumitur contra mortis timorem et constantia contra metum religionis et sedatio animi, omnium rerum occultarum ignoratione sublata, et moderatio, natura cupiditatum generibusque earum explicatis, et, ut modo docui, cognitionis regula et iudicio ab eodem illo constituto veri a falso distinctio traditur.
“Where in the world is Crassus? Did he slink back to Alexandria because he was tired of his home? Is he cleaning his walls? Or, more likely, is the drunk suffering from a hangover?”
Crassus ipse ubi gentium est? An Alexandriam taedio domus remeavit? An parietes suos detergit? An, quod verius est, ex crapula helluo attemptatur?
From the Suda:
“Kraipalê: The pounding that comes from drinking too much wine. We also have the participle “carousing” which is when someone acts poorly because of drinking, or just being drunk. It derives from the word “head” (kara) and “pound” (pallein). Or, it could also come from screwing up (sphallesthai) timely matters (kairiôn)
Kraipalôdês: “Prone to drunkenness”: The ancients knew well the weaknesses of the spirit, weather it was a person who was prone to excessive drinking or a love-seeker who has his brain in his genitals.”
“Those who are suffering bodily from drinking and being hungover can find relief from sleeping immediately, warmed with a cover. On the next day, they can be restored with a bath, a massage, and whatever food does not cause agitation but restores the warmth dispelled and lost from the body by wine.”
“Wine (being of a wet nature) stretches those who are slow and makes them quick, but it tends to restrain those who are quick already. On that account, some who are melancholic by nature become entirely dissipated in drunken stupors (kraipalais). Just as a bath can make those who are all bound up and stiff more readily able to move, so does it check those who are already movable and loose, so too does wine, which is like a bath for your innards, accomplish this same thing.
Why then does cabbage prevent drunkenness (kraipale)? Either because it has a sweet and purgative juice (and for this reason doctors use it to clean out the intestines), even though it is itself of a cold nature. Here is a proof: doctors use it against exceptionally bad cases of diarrhea, after preparing it by cooking it, removing the fiber, and freezing it. It happens in the case of those suffering from the effects of drunkenness (kraipalonton) that the cabbage juice draws the wet elements, which are full of wine and still undigested, down to their stomachs, while the body chills the rest which remains in the upper part of the stomach. Once it has been chilled, the rest of the moist element can be drawn into the bladder. Thus, when each of the wet elements has been separated through the body and chilled, people are likely to be relieved of their drunkenness (akraipaloi). For wine is wet and warm.”
“This misery and fear have easily relieved me of my hangover.”
miseria haec et metus crapulam facile excusserunt
If you have read this far, you’re probably not that hungover
Plautus, Rudens 585-590
“But why am I standing here, a sweating fool?
Maybe I should leave here for Venus’ temple to sleep off this hangover
I got because I drank more than I intended?
Neptune soaked us with the sea as if we were Greek wines
And he hoped to relieve us with salty-beverages.
Shit. What good are words?”
sed quid ego hic asto infelix uuidus?
quin abeo huc in Veneris fanum, ut edormiscam hanc crapulam,
quam potaui praeter animi quam lubuit sententiam?
quasi uinis Graecis Neptunus nobis suffudit mare,
itaque aluom prodi sperauit nobis salsis poculis;
quid opust uerbis?
Plautus, Stichus 226-230
“I am selling Greek moisturizers
And other ointments, hangover-cures
Little jokes, blandishments
And a sycophant’s confabulations.
I’ve got a rusting strigil, a reddish flask,
And a hollowed out follower to hide your trash in.”
uel unctiones Graecas sudatorias
uendo uel alias malacas, crapularias;
ac periuratiunculas parasiticas;
robiginosam strigilim, ampullam rubidam,
parasitum inanem quo recondas reliquias.
“The male organ has differences akin to those throughout the whole body. For some animals are completely sinewy, others are not. And this is the only one of the appendages which experiences increase and decrease in size without any disease. The first of these qualities is useful for copulation; the second is good for the use of the rest of the body. For it would impede the rest of the body if it were always distended.
By nature, then, it is made up of those kinds of materials which are able to do both of these things. For it has both sinew and cartilage and for this reason it can contract and expand and can admit air into itself.”
20 “Sexual excitement is also due to an exiting of breath. If its rush finds some exit while arousal is ongoing then it does not make the semen ejaculate. But instead, it cools. Then, it ruins the rigidity of the penis.”
4.23 “Why does rigidity and increase happen to the penis? Is it for two reasons? First, is it because that weight develops on the bottom of the testicles, raising it—for the testicles are like a fulcrum? And is it because the veins become full of breath [pneuma]? Or does the mass become bigger because of an increase in moisture or some change in position or from the development of moisture itself? Extremely large things are raised less when the wight of the fulcrum is far away.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.