Writing about the Cause of Madness

Pseudo-Hippocrates. Epist. 17 9.352, 354, 356 

“When I [Hippocrates] was near [Democritus], he happened to be writing something eagerly and forcefully when I arrived. So I said. “First, tell me what you are writing about.” And, after he paused for a bit, said “madness.”

So I said, “But what are you writing about madness?” He responded, “What would I write except what it may be, how it afflicts human beings, and in what way it may be treated. This is why,” he continued, “I cut up all these animals you are looking at. It is not because I hate god’s works, but because I am researching the nature and the function of the bile.

For you know that the bile is the cause of madness in humans most of the time, since it appears naturally in most people, even though some have less of it and others have more. Illnesses emerge from an unbalanced amount, implying that the material is sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful.”

I added, “By Zeus, Democritus, you are speaking truthfully and prudently and this is why I think you are blessed for having achieving such a sense of peace. This has certainly not been allotted to me.”

Then he asked, “Why, Hippocrates, has it not?” I responded, “Because fields, my home, children, debts, illnesses, deaths, servants, marriages and all these kinds of things cut off any chance for it.”

At this, that man fell into his customary behavior—he laughed deeply and mocked me and then was silent for the rest of the time.”

ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐπλησίαζον, ἔτυχεν ὅτε ἐπῆλθον αὐτέῳ, τι1 δή ποτε γράφων ἐνθουσιωδῶς καὶ μεθ’ ὁρμῆς. [. . .]

[ΙΠ.] “καὶ πρῶτόν γε τί τοῦτο τυγχάνεις γράφων φράζε.” [. . .]

ὁ δ᾽ ἐπισχὼν ὀλίγον, “περὶ μανίης,” ἔφη. [. . .]

[ΙΠ.] “ἀλλὰ τί περὶ μανίης γράφεις;”

“τί γάρ,” εἶπεν, “ἄλλο, πλὴν ἥτις τε εἴη, καὶ ὅκως ἀνθρώποισιν ἐγγίνεται, καὶ τίνα τρόπον ἀπολωφέοιτο· τά τε γὰρ ζῷα ταῦτα ὁκόσα, ἔφη, ὁρῇς, τουτέου μέντοι γε ἀνατέμνω εἵνεκα, οὐ μισέων θεοῦ ἔργα, χολῆς δὲ διζήμενος φύσιν καὶ θέσιν· οἶσθα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων παρακοπῆς ὡς αἰτίη ἐπιτοπολὺ αὕτη πλεονάσασα, ἐπεὶ πᾶσι μὲν φύσει ἐνυπάρχει, ἀλλὰ παρ’ οἷς μὲν ἔλαττον, παρ’ οἷς δέ τι πλέον· ἡ δ’ ἀμετρίη αὐτέης νοῦσοι τυγχάνουσιν, ὡς ὕλης ὅτε μὲν ἀγαθῆς, ὁτὲ δὲ φαύλης ὑποκειμένης.”

κἀγὼ, “νὴ Δία,” ἔφην, “ὦ Δημόκριτε, ἀληθέως γε καὶ φρονίμως λέγεις, ὅθεν εὐδαίμονά σε κρίνω τοσαύτης ἀπολαύοντα ἡσυχίης· ἡμῖν δὲ μετέχειν ταύτης οὐκ ἐπιτέτραπται.”

ἐρεομένου δὲ “διὰ τί, ὦ Ἱππόκρατες, οὐκ ἐπιτέτραπται;” “ὅτι,” ἔφην, “ἢ ἀγροὶ ἢ οἰκίη ἢ τέκνα ἢ δάνεια ἢ νοῦσοι ἢ θάνατοι ἢ δμῶες ἢ γάμοι ἢ τοιαῦτά τινα τὴν εὐκαιρίην ὑποτάμνεται.” ἐνταῦθα δὴ ὁ ἀνὴρ εἰς τὸ εἰωθὸς πάθος κατηνέχθη, καὶ μάλα ἀθρόον τι ἀνεκάγχασε, καὶ ἐπετώθασε, καὶ τὸ λοιπὸν ἡσυχίην ἦγεν.

Dosso Dossi, 1540

Fire and Ice, Madness and Habit

Parmenides, R44 = Generation and Corruption Arist. GC 1.8 325a2–23

“So, then, for these reasons, too, people make claims about the truth. And even if it seems to be the case that these assertions are correct about arguments, it is nearly close to madness to think the same way when it comes to facts.

For no crazy person is so twisted as to believe that fire and ice are the same thing! No, beautiful things and those which seem beautiful only appear not to be different at all to some people because of habit, because of madness.”

οἱ μὲν οὖν οὕτως καὶ διὰ ταύτας τὰς αἰτίας ἀπεφήναντο περὶ τῆς ἀληθείας· ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων μὲν δοκεῖ ταῦτα συμβαίνειν, ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν πραγμάτων μανίᾳ παραπλήσιον εἶναι τὸ δοξάζειν οὕτως· οὐδένα γὰρ τῶν μαινομένων ἐξεστάναι τοσοῦτον ὥστε τὸ πῦρ ἓν εἶναι δοκεῖν καὶ τὸν κρύσταλλον, ἀλλὰ μόνον τὰ καλὰ καὶ τὰ φαινόμενα διὰ συνήθειαν, ταῦτ’ ἐνίοις διὰ τὴν μανίαν οὐθὲν δοκεῖ διαφέρειν.

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From  Tacuinum Sanitatis (c. 1390-1400)

A School of Madness and the Cynic’s Life

Empedocles, R88 : (Ps.-?) Hipp. Haer. 7.29.1–3 et 31.2–4

“Markiôn of Pontos was much crazier than these people: after dismissing many of the notions of the majority of people and moving into even more shame, he proposed that there were two principles of everything, claiming there was one good deity and one bad one. Because he thought that he had invented something new, he created his own school filled with madness and a cynic life, since he was something of a bellicose person.

This guy, somehow believing that he would evade most people in failing to be a follower of Christ but really of Empedocles who happened to come from a much earlier period and laid out the belief that there were two causes of the universe, Strife and Attraction…”

[29.1–3] Μαρκίων δὲ ὁ Ποντικὸς πολὺ τούτων μανικώτερος, τὰ πολλὰ τῶν πλειόνων παραπεμψάμενος ἐπὶ τὸ ἀναιδέστερον ὁρμήσας δύο ἀρχὰς τοῦ παντὸς ὑπέθετο, ἀγαθόν <θεόν>1 τινα λέγων καὶ τὸν ἕτερον πονηρόν· καὶ αὐτὸς δὲ νομίζων καινόν τι παρεισαγαγεῖν σχολὴν ἐσκεύασεν ἀπονοίας γέμουσαν καὶ κυνικοῦ βίου, ὤν τις μάχιμος· οὗτος νομίζων λήσεσθαι τοὺς πολλούς ὅτι μὴ Χριστοῦ τυγχάνοι μαθητὴς ἀλλ’ Ἐμπεδοκλέους πολὺ αὐτοῦ προγενεστέρου τυγχάνοντος, ταὐτὰ ὁρίσας ἐδογμάτισε δύο εἶναι τὰ τοῦ παντὸς αἴτια, Νεῖκος καὶ Φιλίαν. [. . .]

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Diogenes the Cynic in his Barrel

Hippocrates: Unmarried Women are Sad Because of Periods

Hippocrates of Cos, On Girls [Peri Parthenôn] 1

“Let’s talk first concerning the disease which is called sacred and paralyzed people and the many anxieties which frighten people seriously enough that they lose their minds and believe that they see evil spirits by night or even at times by die or sometimes on all hours. Many have hanged themselves before because of this kind of vision, more often women than men.

For a woman’s nature is more depressed and sorrowful. And young women, when they are at the age of marriage and without a husband, suffer terribly at the time of their menstruation, which they did not suffer earlier in life. For blood collects later in their uterus so that it may flow out. When, then, the mouth of the exit does not create an opening, the blood pools up more because of food and the body’s growth. When the blood has nowhere to flow, it rises up toward the heart and the diaphragm. When these organs are filled, the heart is desensitized and from this transformation it becomes numb. Madness overtakes women because of this numbness.”

Πρῶτον περὶ τῆς ἱερῆς νούσου καλεομένης, καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀποπληκτικῶν, καὶ περὶ τῶν δειμάτων, ὁκόσα φοβεῦνται ἰσχυρῶς ἄνθρωποι, ὥστε παραφρονέειν καὶ ὁρῆν δοκέειν δαίμονάς τινας ἐφ᾿ ἑωυτῶν δυσμενέας, ὁκότε μὲν νυκτός, ὁκότε δὲ ἡμέρης, ὁκότε δὲ ἀμφοτέρῃσι τῇσιν ὥρῃσιν. ἔπειτα ἀπὸ τῆς τοιαύτης ὄψιος πολλοὶ ἤδη ἀπηγχονίσθησαν, πλέονες δὲ γυναῖκες ἢ ἄνδρες· ἀθυμοτέρη γὰρ καὶ λυπηροτέρη ἡ φύσις ἡ γυναικείη. αἱ δὲ παρθένοι, ὁκόσῃσιν ὥρη γάμου, παρανδρούμεναι, τοῦτο μᾶλλον πάσχουσιν ἅμα τῇ καθόδῳ τῶν ἐπιμηνίων, πρότερον οὐ μάλα ταῦτα κακοπαθέουσαι. ὕστερον γὰρ τὸ αἷμα ξυλλείβεται ἐς τὰς μήτρας, ὡς ἀπορρευσόμενον· ὁκόταν οὖν τὸ στόμα τῆς ἐξόδου μὴ ᾖ ἀνεστομωμένον, τὸ δὲ αἷμα πλέον ἐπιρρέῃ διά τε σιτία καὶ τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος, τηνικαῦτα οὐκ ἔχον τὸ αἷμα ἔκρουν ἀναΐσσει ὑπὸ πλήθους ἐς τὴν καρδίην καὶ ἐς τὴν διάφραξιν. ὁκόταν οὖν ταῦτα πληρωθέωσιν, ἐμωρώθη ἡ καρδίη, εἶτ᾿ ἐκ τῆς μωρώσιος νάρκη, εἶτ᾿ ἐκ τῆς νάρκης παράνοια ἔλαβεν.

Hippocrates should have consulted a woman physician like Trotula

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

A Measure of Wine for Madness or Pain

Two fragments from Euenus

Anth. Pal. 11.49 Εὐήνου 

“The best measure of Bacchus is not too much
Nor too little
For this he is the cause of pain or madness.
He is happy to be mixed fourth with three Nymphs—
Then he is most prepared for the bedroom.
But if he puffs too much, he turns away from loves
And dips into sleep, the next-door neighbor of death.”

Βάκχου μέτρον ἄριστον ὃ μὴ πολὺ μηδ᾿
ἐλάχιστον·
ἔστι γὰρ ἢ λύπης αἴτιος ἢ μανίης.
χαίρει κιρνάμενος δὲ τρισὶν Νύμφαισι τέταρτος·
τῆμος καὶ θαλάμοις ἐστὶν ἑτοιμότατος.
εἰ δὲ πολὺς πνεύσειεν, ἀπέστραπται μὲν ἔρωτας,
βαπτίζει δ᾿ ὕπνῳ, γείτονι τοῦ θανάτου.

5 Stob. 3.20.2 Εὐήνου

“Anger often eclipses humans’ hidden mind.
This is much worse than madness.”

πολλάκις ἀνθρώπων ὀργὴ νόον ἐξεκάλυψεν
κρυπτόμενον· μανίης πουλὺ χερειότερον.

Nouvelle acquisition latine 1673, fol. 76v, Marchand de vin. Tacuinum sanitatis, Milano or Pavie (Italy), 1390-1400.

Genius or Madness? An Epistle on Democritus

Hippocrates, Letter 10

A man of ours takes the greatest risks in the city now, Hippocrates, who both in the present moment and in the future has been a hope for fame for the city. May this, by the all the gods, never be a source of envy! When he has become so sick because of the great wisdom which possesses him that as a result he was afraid he might not obtain it—well, that’s how Democritus himself lost hits mind, and then abandoned our city of Abdera.

When he forgot everything, even himself before, he was awake both night and day and was laughing at everything great and small and believing that he would accomplish nothing at all for his whole life. Someone marries, another goes into business, another is a public speaker, another serves in office, he is old, he votes, he votes against things, he is sick, he is wounded, he dies. He laughs at everything, even when he sees the downcast and angry or even those who are happy.

The man is researching into the matters of Hades and he is writing these things and he says that the air is full of ghosts and he heeds the voices of birds. He often gets up alone at night and seems to be singing songs in the silence. And he claims that he often travels into the boundlessness and says that there are an endless number of Democriteis like himself. He lives with his skin ruined as ruined judgment. We fear these things, Hippocrates, and we are anxious about them: so save us, and come home quickly and help our country, do not put us off.”

     Κινδυνεύεται τὰ μέγιστα τῇ πόλει νῦν, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ἀνὴρ τῶν ἡμετέρων, ὃς καὶ τῷ παρόντι χρόνῳ καὶ τῷ μέλλοντι αἰεὶ κλέος ἠλπίζετο τῇ πόλει· μηδὲ νῦν ὅδε, πάντες θεοὶ, φθονηθείη· οὕτως ὑπὸ πολλῆς τῆς κατεχούσης αὐτὸν σοφίης νενόσηκεν, ὥστε φόβος οὐχ ὁ τυχὼν, ἂν φθαρῇ τὸν λογισμὸν Δημόκριτος, ὄντως δὴ τὴν πόλιν ἡμῶν ᾿Αβδηριτῶν καταλειφθήσεσθαι. ᾿Εκλαθόμενος γὰρ ἁπάντων καὶ ἑωυτοῦ πρότερον, ἐγρηγορὼς καὶ νύκτα καὶ ἡμέρην, γελῶν ἕκαστα μικρὰ καὶ μεγάλα, καὶ μηδὲν οἰόμενος εἶναι τὸν βίον ὅλον διατελεῖ. Γαμεῖ τις, ὁ δὲ ἐμπορεύεται, ὁ δὲ δημηγορεῖ, ἄλλος ἄρχει, πρεσβεύει, χειροτονεῖται, ἀποχειροτονεῖται, νοσεῖ, τιτρώσκεται,  τέθνηκεν, ὁ δὲ γελᾷ πάντα, τοὺς μὲν κατηφεῖς τε καὶ σκυθρωποὺς, τοὺς δὲ χαίροντας ὁρῶν. Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου,

Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου, καὶ γράφει ταῦτα, καὶ εἰδώλων φησὶ πλήρη τὸν ἠέρα εἶναι, καὶ ὀρνέων φωνὰς ὠτακουστεῖ, καὶ πολλάκις νύκτωρ ἐξαναστὰς μοῦνος ἡσυχῇ ᾠδὰς ᾄδοντι ἔοικε, καὶ ἀποδημεῖν ἐνίοτε λέγει ἐς τὴν ἀπειρίην, καὶ Δημοκρίτους εἶναι ὁμοίους ἑωυτῷ ἀναριθμήτους, καὶ συνδιεφθορὼς τῇ γνώμῃ τὸ χρῶμα ζῇ. Ταῦτα φοβούμεθα, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ταῦτα ταραττόμεθα, ἀλλὰ σῶζε, καὶ ταχὺς ἐλθὼν νουθέτησον τὴν ἡμῶν πατρίδα, μηδὲ ἡμᾶς ἀποβάλῃς·

Suda s.v. γλουτῶν

“Democritus of Abdera was called the “Laugher” because he laughed at the useless seriousness of human beings”

ὅτι ὁ Δημόκριτος ὁ ᾿Αβδηρίτης ἐπεκλήθη Γελασῖνος διὰ τὸ γελᾶν πρὸς τὸ κενόσπουδον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

 

More on Democritus:

Robert Burton’s Sketch

Aulus Gellius with Laberius’ Play on Democritus’ Blinding

From ‘The Book of Macharius on the eye’, late 14th-century. BL, Sloane MS 981, f.68.