“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.”
“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.’
From the annals of quack cures not to tell presidents about….
Pliny, Natural History 23. 157
“Some people have suggested using ten berries in a drink against scorpion stings. You can use the same to relieve a relaxed uvula: gargle quarter pound of berries or leaves reduced in three measure of water when it is still warm. To treat a headache, use an uneven number of berries crushed and warmed in oil. The leaves of the delphic bay, once pounded, may stop the spread of the plague if you smell them: this works even better when they are burned.”
quidam adversus scorpionum ictus decem bacas dari iubent potu, item et in remedio uvae iacentis quadrantem pondo bacarum foliorumve decoqui in aquae sextariis tribus ad tertias, eam calidam gargarizare et in capitis dolore inpari numero bacas cum oleo conterere et calfacere. laurus Delphicae folia trita olfactaque subinde pestilentiae contagia prohibent, tanto magis si et urantur.
“For all of the uses of the body it makes a big difference to keep it in as good a condition as possible. Even for thinking, in which the use of the body seems least important, who does not know that many things fail in its practice because the body is not healthy? Forgetfulness, depression, ill temper and madness often strike the mind so badly because of bodily afflictions that it drives out understanding.
There is great stability for those who have strong bodies and there is, at least, no danger from suffering something like this because of physical affliction. No, it is likely that the useful help will develop as the opposite to those things that happen from affliction. And, indeed, what wouldn’t someone who has some sense try to forestall the opposite to those things I have mentioned?”
“Certainly it is necessary—since the city does not provide public expenses for war—not to overlook it privately, nor otherwise to care for yourself less. Know well that you be no worse off in any other struggle or action because you have put your body in better shape. For the body is useful in everything people do. In all functions of the body it makes a big difference that the body is as healthy as possible. Even in something you might think the body is of little use—thinking—who doesn’t know that great errors come from having a sick body?
Forgetfulness, loss of spirit, ill-temper and madness often impinge upon perception because of the weakness of the body so badly that all knowledge is expelled. But for those who are healthy in body it is a great protection and they suffer no suffer no such risk of suffering this kind of thing because of the weakness of their body. It is probably that for those who have a healthy condition they will have the opposite experience. And, certainly, won’t anyone with some sense endure anything for the opposite of these things that have been mentioned?”
Anyway, is it not shameful to grow old because of carelessness before seeing how beautiful and strong a person you might be thanks to your body? It is not possible to witness this for someone who doesn’t make an effort. For it is not willing to develop on its own.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Always be on guard against the matter which is greatest in this, once you choose to honor yourself. For it is possible always to keep at hand the memory of the hideousness of the soul of those who get angry and the beauty of those who are untroubled by rage.
For whoever, thanks to being accustomed to a mistaken behavior over time, has developed a stain of emotions which cannot be washed away, must for as great an amount of time attend to each of those beliefs by which a man might become noble and good, should he heed them. We lose sight of a thing that falls easily from our minds because they have been previously filled by these emotions.
Therefore this must be pursued by each of those who want to be saved as if there were no proper season for taking it easy; and all of us must turn toward accusing ourselves, and we must listen to [others] gently, not for the sake of castigating them but for shaping them in turn.
Keep the door of your home open all the time and permit those who understand to enter at every opportune moment. If you are prepared in this way, be bold enough to be discovered as overcome by any of the major mistakes by none of those who enter. Just as it is possible to banish a bad feeling for one who is unwilling, it is easy to banish great ones for one who has made this decision.
When your door is open all the time, as I said, then let there be plenty of time for people who understand to enter. As all the other people who enter a public space attempt to act properly, so too act in the same way in your private home. But those who are ashamed before others only because they might be caught, do not feel shame before themselves alone: but you, feel shame before yourself especially, if you follow this precept.”
“A sick man doesn’t look for a an eloquent doctor, but if he finds one who is able to heal him and can speak articulately about what needs to be done, he will accept it well. Yet he still will not praise luck for finding so well-spoken a doctor.
This is the same kind of a thing as a knowledgeable ship captain who is good-looking! Why do you caress my ears? Why do you amuse me? There is different work to be done! I need to be cauterized, stitched, or forced to a diet. You were called for these things! You need to treat an ancient disease, a serious and common one. You have as much responsibility as a doctor does in a plague.
Are you worrying about words? Rejoice if you can merely handle things. When will you learn much? When will you plant in your mind what you have learned so it cannot escape? When will you practice it? It is not enough to commit these things to memory: they need to be attempted in deeds. The happy person is not the one who knows but who acts.”
Non quaerit aeger medicum eloquentem, sed, si ita conpetit, ut idem ille, qui sanare potest, compte de iis, quae facienda sunt, disserat, boni consulet. Non tamen erit, quare gratuletur sibi, quod inciderit in medicum etiam disertum. Hoc enim tale est, quale si peritus gubernator etiam formosus est. Quid aures meas scabis? Quid oblectas? Aliud agitur; urendus, secandus, abstinendus sum. Ad haec adhibitus es.
Curare debes morbum veterem, gravem, publicum. Tantum negotii habes, quantum in pestilentia medicus. Circa verba occupatus es? Iamdudum gaude, si sufficis rebus. Quando, quae multa disces? Quando, quae didiceris, adfiges tibi ita, ut excidere non possint? Quando illa experieris? Non enim ut cetera, memoriae tradidisse satis est; in opere temptanda sunt. Non est beatus, qui scit illa, sed qui facit.
“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.”