The Magic Words of Healing

Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 28.21-22

“It is not easy to explain whether foreign and unrepeatable words undermine our confidence more than uncommon Latin ones which our mind makes seem ridiculous since it is always casting about for something  huge and strong enough to move a god, that is, something to force the mind’s will on divine power.

Homer claims that Ulysses, when he was wounded in the thigh, stopped the flow of blood with a song; Theophrastus says there is a verse to heal sciatica; Cato has passed down a song to help dislocated limbs; Marcus Varro has one for gout. It is reported that the dictator Caesar, after a single severe accident to his vehicle, would, as soon as he took his seat, repeat three times a song for a safe journey—a thing which we know many people do now.”

neque est facile dictu externa verba atque ineffabilia abrogent fidem validius an Latina inopinata et quae inridicula videri cogit animus semper aliquid inmensum exspectans ac dignum deo movendo, immo vero quod numini imperet. dixit Homerus profluvium sanguinis vulnerato femine Ulixen inhibuisse carmine, Theophrastus ischiadicos sanari, Cato prodidit luxatis membris carmen auxiliare, M. Varro podagris. Caesarem dictatorem post unum ancipitem vehiculi casum ferunt semper ut primum consedisset, id quod plerosque nunc facere scimus, carmine ter repetito securitatem itinerum aucupari solitum.

 

 

This reminds me of the tradition that granted Pythagoras’ songs healing power:

Porphyry, On the Life of Pythagoras

30. “[Pythagoras] healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations. He adapted these treatments to his companions, while he himself heard the harmony of everything because he could understand the unity of the spheres and the harmonies of the stars moving with them. It is not our nature to hear this in the least.”

30. κατεκήλει δὲ ῥυθμοῖς καὶ μέλεσι καὶ ἐπῳδαῖς τὰ ψυχικὰ πάθη καὶ τὰ σωματικά. καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἑταίροις ἡρμόζετο ταῦτα, αὐτὸς δὲ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς ἁρμονίας ἠκροᾶτο συνιεὶς τῆς καθολικῆς τῶν σφαιρῶν καὶ τῶν κατ’ αὐτὰς κινουμένων ἀστέρων ἁρμονίας, ἧς ἡμᾶς μὴ ἀκούειν διὰ σμικρότητα τῆς φύσεως.

32. “Diogenes says that Pythagoras encouraged all men to avoid ambition and lust for fame, because they especially inculcate envy, and also to stay away from large crowds. He used to convene gatherings at his house at dawn himself, accompanying his singing to the lyre and singing some ancient songs of Thales. And he also sang the songs of Hesiod and Homer, as many as appeared to calm his spirit. He would also dance some dances which he believed brought good mobility and health to the body. He used to take walks himself but not with a crowd, taking only two or three companions to shrines or groves, finding the most peaceful and beautiful places.”

32. Διογένης φησὶν ὡς ἅπασι μὲν παρηγγύα φιλοτιμίαν φεύγειν καὶ φιλοδοξίαν, ὥπερ μάλιστα φθόνον ἐργάζεσθαι, ἐκτρέπεσθαι δὲ τὰς μετὰ τῶν πολλῶν ὁμιλίας. τὰς γοῦν διατριβὰς καὶ αὐτὸς ἕωθεν μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκίας ἐποιεῖτο, ἁρμοζόμενος πρὸς λύραν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φωνὴν καὶ ᾄδων παιᾶνας ἀρχαίους τινὰς τῶν Θάλητος. καὶ ἐπῇδε τῶν ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ὅσα καθημεροῦν τὴν ψυχὴν ἐδόξαζε. καὶ ὀρχήσεις δέ τινας ὑπωρχεῖτο ὁπόσας εὐκινησίαν καὶ ὑγείαν τῷ σώματι παρασκευάζειν ᾤετο. τοὺς δὲ περιπάτους οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἐπιφθόνως μετὰ πολλῶν ἐποιεῖτο, ἀλλὰ δεύτερος ἢ τρίτος ἐν ἱεροῖς ἢ ἄλσεσιν, ἐπιλεγόμενος τῶν χωρίων τὰ ἡσυχαίτατα καὶ περικαλλέστατα.

33. “He loved his friends overmuch and was the first to declare that friends possessions are common and that a friend is another self. When they were healthy, he always talked to them; when they were sick, he took care of their bodies. If they were mentally ill, he consoled them, as we said before, some with incantations and spells, others by music. He had songs and paeans for physical ailments: when he sang them, he relieved fatigue. He also could cause forgetfulness of grief, calming of anger, and redirection of desire.”

33.τοὺς δὲ φίλους ὑπερηγάπα, κοινὰ μὲν τὰ τῶν φίλων εἶναι πρῶτος ἀποφηνάμενος, τὸν δὲ φίλον ἄλλον ἑαυτόν. καὶ ὑγιαίνουσι μὲν αὐτοῖς ἀεὶ συνδιέτριβεν, κάμνοντας δὲ τὰ σώματα ἐθεράπευεν, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς δὲ νοσοῦντας παρεμυθεῖτο, καθάπερ ἔφαμεν, τοὺς μὲν ἐπῳδαῖς καὶ μαγείαις τοὺς δὲ μουσικῇ. ἦν γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλη καὶ πρὸς νόσους σωμάτων παιώνια, ἃ ἐπᾴδων ἀνίστη τοὺς κάμνοντας. ἦν <δ’> ἃ καὶ λύπης λήθην εἰργάζετο καὶ ὀργὰς ἐπράυνε καὶ ἐπιθυμίας ἀτόπους ἐξῄρει.

British Library - Royal 6.E.vi,  f. 396v. - Detail of a historiated initial 'C'(onstellacio) of an astrologer observing the sky, and the devil in a circle.
Image from medievalists.net

“The One You Love”: The Best Love Poem Ever

Sappho, fr. 16

Some say a force of horsemen, some say infantry
and others say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
thing on the dark earth, but I say it is
the one you love

It is altogether simple to make this understood
since she whose beauty outmatched all,
Helen, left her husband
a most noble man

And went sailing to Troy
Without a thought for her child and dear parents
[Love] made her completely insane
And led her astray

This reminds me of absent Anaktoria

I would rather watch her lovely walk
and see the shining light of her face
than Lydian chariots followed by
infantrymen in arms

Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
τω τις ἔραται

πά]γχυ δ’ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ’· ἀ γὰρ πολὺ περσκέθοισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
τὸν πανάριστον
/ [κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον

καλλίποισ’ ἔβας ‘ς Τροίαν πλέοισα
/ ὂσ τὸ πὰν] σέβασ τροΐα[σ ὄ]λεσσ[ε,
κωὐδὲ παῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων τοκήων
πάμπαν ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ’ αὔταν
οὐκ ἀέκοισαν
/ πῆλε φίλει]σαν

Κύπρις· εὔκαμπτον γὰρ ἔφυ βρότων κῆρ
] κούφως τ . . . οη . . . ν
κἄμε νῦν Ἀνακτορίας ὀνέμναι-
σ’ οὐ παρεοίσας

/ Ὠροσ. εὔκ]αμπτον γαρ [ἀεὶ τὸ θῆλυ]
αἴ κέ] τισ κούφωσ τ[ὸ πάρον ν]οήσῃ.
οὐ]δὲ νῦν, Ἀνακτορί[α, τ]ὺ μέμναι
δὴ] παρειοῖσασ,

τᾶς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι
πεσδομάχεντας.

 

petrarch1

Aelian, Fragment 187/190 (from Stobaeus 3.29.58)

“Solon the Athenian, the son of Eksêkestides, when his nephew sang some song of Sappho at a drinking party, took pleasure in it and asked the young man to teach it to him. When someone asked why he was eager to learn it, he responded: “So, once I learn it, I may die.”

Σόλων ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ᾿Εξηκεστίδου παρὰ πότον τοῦ ἀδελφιδοῦ αὐτοῦ μέλος τι Σαπφοῦς ᾄσαντος, ἥσθη τῷ μέλει καὶ προσέταξε τῷ μειρακίῳ διδάξει αὐτόν. ἐρωτήσαντος δέ τινος διὰ ποίαν αἰτίαν τοῦτο σπουδάσειεν, ὃ δὲ ἔφη ‘ἵνα μαθὼν αὐτὸ ἀποθάνω.’

“Habit Just Like Nature”: Tawdry Tuesday, Confused Biology Edition

There is a lot in this that is interesting, challenging, and infuriating (both syntactically and semantically). Beyond a regressive albeit typically Aristotelian assumption that (1) there is an absolute category of “according to nature” and (2) the category of the natural is good, we find the objectionable and horrific positioning of non-heteronormative men and all women as monstrous. (In more canonical work, Aristotle clearly claims that women are a deformed human, less than male.)  But within all of this, we have a fascinating acknowledgement that human sexuality and desire is shaped by culture and habit.

Aristotle, Problems 4.26

“Why is it that some men enjoy being passive in sex and some also enjoy being active, while others do not? Is this because for each effluent there is a place into which it is received naturally and when effort is applied, it causes the force to swell as it exits and then it expels it? Examples of this include urine in the bladder, food which has been digested in the stomach, tears in the eyes, mucus in the nose, or blood in the veins.

It is the same way when it comes to semen in the testicles and penis. When people do not have the same natural passages, either because those which flow to the penis have been blocked up—as what happens with eunuchs and those like eunuchs or for some other reason—then the secretion flows instead into the anus. For this is the direction it goes. An indication of this is the spasming of that part of the body during sexual intercourse and the simultaneous weakening of the area around the anus. So, if someone is extreme in desire, then the material (semen) comes together there, with the result that, whenever desire develops, the place where desire is located yearns for friction.

Desire can arise from both nourishment and imagination. But whenever it is moved by anything, then the pneuma increases there and the effluent flows to the place where it is most natural. So, when the semen is light or full of pneuma, then upon its release the erections stop, as they often do with young children and old men, when no liquid is expelled or when the moisture has dried up.

But if someone has neither of these experiences, he feels desire until something happens. The more effeminate men are set up by nature in such a way that no semen—or very little—is kept in that place it is designated for by nature but instead into that area we mentioned above. The reason for this is because they are arranged against nature. For, even though they are male they are developed in such away that this part of their bodies is deformed. This deformity makes them either completely ruined or twisted. But it is not complete destruction, because then he would be a woman. For this reason it is necessary that things be distorted and the force of the expulsion of the semen should move through some other place.

This is why they cannot be pleased, like women. For there is little ejaculate and it is not compelled to exit, but instead it cools quickly. The desire to be passive develops in the men whose semen cools in the anus; those whose bodies cool semen in both places, desire to play both roles. Yet, they desire more to play the part based on where a greater preponderance of semen is cooling.

For some people this activity comes from habit. It turns out that people enjoy doing the things they do and ejaculate when they do. Therefore, they long to do the things which makes this happen and practice can become something more like nature. For this reason, whoever has not learned to submit passively to sex before puberty but instead start the practice at the time of puberty, desire the same thing, to be passive in sex. This is because of the memory they keep from the experience and the pleasure that comes with the memory and it is from the habit they develop, as if it were natural. Really, many other things and habit too develop as if they are natural. If one happens to be libidinous and soft, then each of these things happens with greater speed.”

 

Διὰ τί ἔνιοι ἀφροδισιαζόμενοι χαίρουσι, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἅμα δρῶντες, οἱ δ᾿ οὔ; ἢ ὅτι ἔστιν ἑκάστῃ περιττώσει τόπος ǁ εἰς ὃν πέφυκεν ἀποκρίνεσθαι κατὰ φύσιν, καὶ πόνου ἐγγινομένου τὸ πνεῦμα ἐξιὸν ἀνοιδεῖν ποιεῖ, καὶ συνεκκρίνει αὐτήν, οἷον τὸ μὲν οὖρον εἰς κύστιν, ἡ δ᾿ ἐξικμασμένη τροφὴ εἰς κοιλίαν, τὸ δὲ δάκρυον εἰς ὄμματα, μύξαι δ᾿ εἰς μυκτῆρας, | αἷμα δὲ εἰς φλέβας; ὁμοίως δὴ τούτοις καὶ ἡ γονὴ εἰς ὄρχεις καὶ αἰδοῖα. οἷς δὴ οἱ πόροι μὴ κατὰ φύσιν ἔχουσιν, ἀλλ᾿ἢ διὰ τὸ ἀποτυφλωθῆναι τοὺς εἰς τὸ αἰδοῖον, οἷον συμβαίνει τοῖς εὐνούχοις καὶ εὐνουχίαις, ἢ καὶ ἄλλως, εἰς τὴν ἕδραν συρρεῖ ἡ τοιαύτη ἰκμάς· καὶ γὰρ διεξέρχεται ταύτῃ. σημεῖον | δ᾿ ἐν τῇ συνουσίᾳ ἡ συναγωγὴ τοῦ τοιούτου τόπου καὶ ἡ σύντηξις τῶν περὶ τὴν ἕδραν. ἐὰν οὖν ὑπερβάλλῃ τις τῇ λαγνείᾳ, τούτοις ἐνταῦθα συνέρχεται, ὥστε ὅταν ἡ ἐπιθυμία γένηται, τοῦτ᾿ ἐπιθυμεῖ τῆς τρίψεως εἰς ὃ συλλέγεται. ἡ δ᾿ ἐπιθυμία καὶ ἀπὸ σιτίων καὶ ἀπὸ διανοίας γίνεται. ὅταν | γὰρ κινηθῇ ὑφ᾿ ὁτουοῦν, ἐνταῦθα τὸ πνεῦμα συντρέχει, καὶ τὸ τοιοῦτο περίττωμα συρρεῖ οὗ πέφυκεν. κἂν μὲν λεπτὸν ᾖ ἢ πνευματῶδες, τούτου ἐξελθόντος, ὥσπερ αἱ συντάσεις τοῖς παισὶ καὶ τοῖς ἐν ἡλικίᾳ ἐνίοτε, οὐθενὸς ὑγροῦ ἐκκριθέντος, παύονται, ὅταν τε κατασβεσθῇ τὸ ὑγρόν.

ἐὰν δὲ μηδέτερον | τούτων πάθῃ, ἐπιθυμεῖ ἕως ἄν τι τούτων συμβῇ. οἱ δὲ φύσει θηλυδρίαι οὕτω συνεστᾶσιν ὥστ᾿ ἐκεῖ μὲν μὴ ἐκκρίνεσθαι ἢ ὀλίγην, οὗπερ τοῖς ἔχουσι κατὰ φύσιν ἐκκρίνεται, εἰς δὲ τὸν τόπον τοῦτον. αἴτιον δὲ ὅτι παρὰ φύσιν συνεστᾶσιν· ἄρσενες γὰρ ὄντες οὕτω διάκεινται ὥστε ἀνάγκη τὸν τόπον | τοῦτον πεπηρῶσθαι αὐτῶν. πήρωσις δὲ ἡ μὲν ὅλως ποιεῖ φθόρον, ἡ δὲ διαστροφήν. ἐκείνη μὲν οὖν οὐκ ἔστιν· γυνὴ γὰρ ἂν ἐγένετο. ἀνάγκη ἄρα παρεστράφθαι καὶ ἄλλοθί που ὁρμᾶν τῆς γονικῆς ἐκκρίσεως. διὸ καὶ ἄπληστοι, ὥσπερ αἱ γυναῖκες· ὀλίγη γὰρ ἡ ἰκμάς, καὶ οὐ βιάζεται ἐξιέναι,  καὶ | καταψύχεται ταχύ. καὶ ὅσοις μὲν ἐπὶ τὴν ἕδραν, οὗτοι πάσχειν ἐπιθυμοῦσιν, ὅσοις δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀμφότερα, οὗτοι καὶ δρᾶν καὶ πάσχειν· ἐφ᾿ ὁπότερα δὲ πλεῖον, τούτου μᾶλλον ἐπιθυμοῦσιν. ἐνίοις δὲ γίνεται καὶ ἐξ ἔθους τὸ πάθος τοῦτο. ὅσα γὰρ ἂν ποιῶσι, συμβαίνει αὐτοῖς χαίρειν καὶ προΐεσθαι | τὴν γονὴν οὕτως. ἐπιθυμοῦσιν οὖν ποιεῖν οἷς ἂν ταῦτα γίνηται, καὶ μᾶλλον τὸ ἔθος ὥσπερ φύσις γίνεται. διὰ τοῦτο ὅσοι ἂν μὴ πρὸ ἥβης ἀλλὰ περὶ ἥβην ἐθισθῶσιν ἀφροδισιάζεσθαι, δισιάζεσθαι, ǁ διὰ τὸ γίνεσθαι αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ χρείᾳ τὴν μνήμην, ἅμα δὲ τῇ μνήμῃ τὴν ἡδονήν, διὰ [δὲ] τὸ ἔθος ὥσπερ πεφυκότες ἐπιθυμοῦσι πάσχειν· τὰ μέντοι πολλὰ καὶ τὸ ἔθος ὥσπερ πεφυκόσι γίνεται. ἐὰν δὲ τύχῃ λάγνος | ὢν καὶ μαλακός, καὶ θᾶττον ἕκαστα τούτων συμβαίνει.

Pederastic erotic scene: intercrural sex between a teenager (on the left, with long hair) and a young man (on the right, with short hair). Fragment of a black-figure Attic cup, 550 BC–525 BC.

The assertion late in this segment, that “many things and habit too develop as if they are natural” τὰ μέντοι πολλὰ καὶ τὸ ἔθος ὥσπερ πεφυκόσι γίνεται is the closest thing to the attributed “habit is second nature.” Given the genealogy and the implications of this belief, it is, well, complicated.

Heroes, Isolation, and Madness

The notion of the depressive and insane artist (etc.) is an ancient one. In this passage it is also related to the stories of heroes. The different symptoms of madness Aristotle offers here are interesting. For instance, Bellerophon’s avoidance of other humans is seen as a symptom rather than a cause of his madness.

Aristotle, Problems 30

“What reason is it that all those men who are preeminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the other arts are clearly melancholic and are so much so that they are also overcome by the afflictions from the black bile, as is implied in the tales of Herakles of the heroes? For that figure seems to be of this nature and because of this the ancients called the illnesses of epilepsy a sacred disease after him. And his madness toward his children and the outbreak of open sores before he vanished on Mt. Oitê make this clear. For this comes to many because of the black bile. These sores developed on the Spartan Lysander before his death.

In addition to this there are tales about Ajax and Bellerophon. The first of them was completely mad; but the second pursued isolated places, which is how Homer depicts him as “when that man was hated by all the gods / then he wandered alone on the Alêian plain / consuming his heart and avoiding the path of other people.”

And many other heroes seem to have shared afflictions with these men. In later times, Empedocles, Plato, Socrates and many other famous people [suffered] too. In addition, most of those who worked at poetry [suffered]. In many people like this the diseases develop from a kind of mixture in the body while in others there is a clear nature predisposing them to these maladies. But all, to put it simply, as has been said, are this way somehow because of nature.”

1. Διὰ τί πάντες ὅσοι περιττοὶ γεγόνασιν ἄνδρες ἢ κατὰ φιλοσοφίαν ἢ πολιτικὴν ἢ ποίησιν ἢ τέχνας φαίνονται μελαγχολικοὶ ὄντες, καὶ οἱ μὲν οὕτως ὥστε καὶ λαμβάνεσθαι τοῖς ἀπὸ μελαίνης χολῆς ἀρρωστήμασιν, οἷον λέγεται τῶν [τε] ἡρωϊκῶν τὰ περὶ τὸν Ἡρακλέα; καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος ἔοικε | γενέσθαι ταύτης τῆς φύσεως, διὸ καὶ τὰ ἀρρωστήματα τῶν ἐπιληπτικῶν ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνου προσηγόρευον οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἱερὰν νόσον. καὶ ἡ περὶ τοὺς παῖδας ἔκστασις καὶ ἡ πρὸ τῆς ἀφανίσεως ἐν Οἴτῃ τῶν ἑλκῶν ἔκφυσις γενομένη τοῦτο δηλοῖ· καὶ γὰρ τοῦτο γίνεται πολλοῖς ἀπὸ μελαίνης χολῆς. συνέβη δὲ καὶ | Λυσάνδρῳ τῷ Λάκωνι πρὸ τῆς τελευτῆς γενέσθαι τὰ ἕλκη ταῦτα. ἔτι δὲ τὰ περὶ Αἴαντα καὶ Βελλεροφόντην, ὧν ὁ μὲν ἐκστατικὸς ἐγένετο παντελῶς, ὁ δὲ τὰς ἐρημίας ἐδίωκεν, διὸ οὕτως ἐποίησεν Ὅμηρος

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ καὶ κεῖνος ἀπήχθετο πᾶσι θεοῖσιν,
ἤτοι ὁ κὰπ πεδίον τὸ Ἀλήϊον οἶος ἀλᾶτο
ὃν | θυμὸν κατέδων, πάτον ἀνθρώπων ἀλεείνων.

καὶ ἄλλοι δὲ πολλοὶ τῶν ἡρώων ὁμοιοπαθεῖς φαίνονται τούτοις. τῶν δὲ ὕστερον Ἐμπεδοκλῆς καὶ Πλάτων καὶ Σωκράτης καὶ ἕτεροι συχνοὶ τῶν γνωρίμων. ἔτι δὲ τῶν περὶ τὴν ποίησιν οἱ πλεῖστοι. πολλοῖς μὲν γὰρ τῶν τοιούτων γίνεται νοσήματα ἀπὸ | τῆς τοιαύτης κράσεως τῷ σώματι, τοῖς δὲ ἡ φύσις δήλη ῥέπουσα πρὸς τὰ πάθη. πάντες δ᾿ οὖν ὡς εἰπεῖν ἁπλῶς εἰσί, καθάπερ ἐλέχθη, τοιοῦτοι τὴν φύσιν.

Another figure often seen as less than sane is Philoktetes who his described as (2.721)

“He lies there on the island suffering strong pains
In fertile Lemnos where the sons of the Achaeans left him
Suffering with an evil wound from a murderous watersnake.”

ἀλλ’ ὃ μὲν ἐν νήσῳ κεῖτο κρατέρ’ ἄλγεα πάσχων
Λήμνῳ ἐν ἠγαθέῃ, ὅθι μιν λίπον υἷες ᾿Αχαιῶν
ἕλκεϊ μοχθίζοντα κακῷ ὀλοόφρονος ὕδρου·

When Odysseus is described in book 5 of the Odyssey, his first line is identical with Philoktetes’ (Od. 5.13-15):

“He lies there on the island suffering strong pains
In the halls of Kalypso the nymph who holds him
By necessity. He is not able to return to his paternal land.”

ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ἐν νήσῳ κεῖται κρατέρ’ ἄλγεα πάσχων,
νύμφης ἐν μεγάροισι Καλυψοῦς, ἥ μιν ἀνάγκῃ
ἴσχει· ὁ δ’ οὐ δύναται ἣν πατρίδα γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι·

If we can imagine an “abnormal mental state” for these figures, the implication is the inverse, perhaps, of what Aristotle indicates for Bellerophon. Their madness is caused by isolation rather than causing it. When commenting upon Odysseus’ first appearance in book 5, an ancient scholar records Aristonicus’ comment that the language is more fit (οἰκειότερον ἐν ᾿Ιλιάδι) for the Iliad at 2.721 where Philoktetes is described. He adds that it would be right for him instead to be “tortured in his heart” (νῦν δὲ ἔδει τετιημένος ἦτορ εἶναι, Schol. H ad Od. 5.13).

Psychologists have studied the emotional and physical effects of isolation over the past few generations. These studies reinforce important themes of the Odyssey, namely that individual identity is constitutive of social relationships without which we cease to be ourselves. Modern studies of isolated individuals have shown that limited social engagements have deleterious emotional effects including a rise in fear and paranoia and a decrease in self-esteem. Some have even argued that over time, the brain of an isolated person has fewer neural connections and a thinner cerebral cortex. Inmates have difficulties with memory, distorted perceptions of reality, and display a deterioration of language function. Isolation’s biological changes affect the very parts of the brain that facilitate social interaction, higher order analytical thinking, and the ability to plan and act in the world.

Image result for GReek vase Philoctetes

David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependency of Discourse. Ann Arbor. 2000.

39: “Beginning with ancient Greece, Thiher’s study demonstrates that literary stories of mental discordance have provided the foundation for scientific explanations of cognitive deviance. Rather than view this historical material as superficial and primitive, Thiher argues for a historical vision of madness as that which could productively give voice to the existence of disparate, and even antithetical, “realities”.

Some inspirations

Andersen, H. S., Sestoft, D. D., Lillebæk, T. T., Gabrielsen, G. G., Hemmingsen, R. R., & Kramp, P. P. (2000), ―”A Longitudinal Study of Prisoners on Remand: Psychiatric Prevalence, Incidence and Psychopathology in Solitary vs.Non-Solitary Confinement.‖ , 102(1), 19.

Betty Gilmore and Nanon M. Williams. The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons. Dallas 2014.

Fatos Kaba, Andrea Lewis, Sarah Glowa-Kollisch, James Hadler, David Lee, Howard Alper, Daniel Selling, Ross MacDonald, Angela Solimo, Amanda Parsons, and Homer Venters.  “Solitary Confinement and Risk of Self-Harm Among Jail Inmates.” American Journal of Public Health: March 2014, Vol. 104, No. 3, pp. 442-447.

Shruti Ravindran. “Twilight in the Box.” Aeon 27 February 2014.

Thiher, Allen. 1999. Revels in Madness: Insanity in Medicine and Literature. Ann Arbor.

 

Loss of Speech Is Not Melancholy

from Galen, In Hippocratis Aphorismo

‘We call dumb [akratê] the tongue which is unstable because it cannot articulate the voice clearly or which is immoveable and paralyzed in every way. And some part of the body which is paralyzed is called apoplectic.

I do not know what the reason is that people say that these things are melancholic. For the sorts of things are rightly the signs of melancholy, which indeed all of the Greeks together agree, are fear or despair which lasts for a long time, this sort of thing is melancholic. Otherwise we say that melancholic maladies also include sores and boils, both rough and itchy, dark and white.

But loss of control of the tongue does not seem to be believed to be one of any of these kinds of afflictions nor of that called melancholy by everyone, just as apoplexy is not of this kind.”

 ᾿Ακρατῆ μὲν ὀνομάζει γλῶσσαν ἤτοι τὴν ἀστήρικτον ὡς μὴ διαθροῦσαν ἀκριβῶς τὴν φωνὴν ἢ τὴν ἀκίνητόν τε καὶ παραλελυμένην παντάπασιν. ἀπόπληκτον δέ τι τοῦ σώματος τὸ παραλελυμένον. διὰ τί δὲ ἐξαίφνης γινόμενα ταῦτα μελαγχολικὰ ὑπάρχειν φησὶν οὐκ οἶδα. μελαγχολίας μὲν γὰρ, ἣν δὴ καὶ συνήθως ἅπαντες ῞Ελληνες ὁμολογοῦσιν, ὀρθῶς εἴρηται πρὸς αὐτοῦ τὰ τοιαῦτα γνωρίσματα, ἢν φόβος ἢ δυσθυμία πολὺν χρόνον ἔχουσα διατελέῃ, μελαγχολικὸν τὸ τοιοῦτον. ἄλλως δὲ μελαγχολικὰ λέγομεν εἶναι πάθη τούς τε καρκίνους καὶ τοὺς ἰλέφαντας, ἔτι τε λέπρας καὶ ψώρας καὶ μέλανας ἀλφούς. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ τῶν τοιούτων παθῶν τινος οὔτε τῆς ὑπὸ πάντων ὀνομαζομένης μελαγχολίας ὁρᾶται προηγουμένη γλώσσης ἀκράτεια, καθά-περ οὐδὲ μορίου τινὸς ἀποπληξία.

 

Roman de la rose Date d'édition : 1300-1340 Type : manuscrit Langue :Français
Roman de la Rose (14th Century)

Hippocratic Precept: Don’t Blackmail Sick People for Money

Corpus Hippocratica, Precepts 4.10

“The way you address a patient requires some kind of a theory too. For, if you begin talking about payment, then something else occurs in every situation. You will leave the sick person with the kind of impression that you will abandon him and leave if there is no agreement and that you don’t care and you will not apply any relief in the present.

Therefore, you should not make an issue about payment. For we believe that this kind of thought is harmful when someone is sick, and even more so if the sickness is intense. For the swiftness of a sickness which does not provide ample time for changing your mind urges the one who practices medicine well not to seek profit but to think more of reputation. It is, therefore, better to rebuke patients who have been saved rather than to blackmail those who are facing ruin.”

παραινέσιος δ’ ἂν καὶ τοῦτ’ ἐπιδεηθείη τῆς θεωρίης· εἰ γὰρ ἄρξαιο περὶ μισθαρίων· ξυμβάλλει γάρ τι καὶ τῷ ξύμπαντι· τῷ μὲν ἀλγέοντι τοιαύτην διανόησιν ἐμποιήσεις τὴν, ὅτι [οὐκ] ἀπολιπὼν αὐτὸν πορεύσῃ μὴ ξυνθέμενος, καὶ ὅτι ἀμελήσεις, καὶ οὐχ ὑποθήσῃ τινὰ τῷ παρεόντι. ἐπιμελεῖσθαι οὖν οὐ δεῖ περὶ στάσιος μισθοῦ· ἄχρηστον γὰρ ἡγεύμεθα ἐνθύμησιν ὀχλεομένου τὴν τοιαύτην, πουλὺ δὲ μᾶλλον, ἢν ὀξὺ νόσημά τι· νούσου γὰρ ταχυτὴς καιρὸν μὴ διδοῦσα ἐς ἀναστροφὴν οὐκ ἐποτρύνει τὸν καλῶς ἰητρεύοντα ζητεῖν τὸ λυσιτελές, ἔχεσθαι δὲ δόξης μᾶλλον· κρέσσον οὖν σωζομένοισιν ὀνειδίζειν ἢ ὀλεθρίως ἔχοντας προμύσσειν.

Image result for medieval manuscript doctor seeing patient

A New Year’s Day Tradition — Hangovers: Words for Them and Some Dubious Cures

Crapulous: def. 2: Sick from excessive indulgence in liquor.

kraipale

 Latin: crapula, from Grk. Kraipalê

Apuleius, Apologia 59

“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)

Κραιπάλη: ὁ ἐκ πολλῆς οἰνώσεως παλμός. καὶ Κραιπαλῶν, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐκ μέθης ἀτακτοῦντα, μεθύοντα. ἀπὸ τοῦ κάρα πάλλειν τοὺς μεθύοντας. ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ σφάλλεσθαι τῶν καιρίων.

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.”

Κραιπαλώδης· τῆς ψυχῆς τὰ ἐλαττώματα κατηπίσταντο, εἴτε κραιπαλώδης τις εἴη καὶ μέθυσος εἴτε φιλήδονος καὶ ἐν τοῖς αἰδοίοις ἔχων τὸν ἐγκέφαλον.

Kraipalaikômos“Hangover-revel”: Metonymically, this a song that happens while drunk

Κραιπαλαίκωμος: μετωνυμικῶς ὁ κατὰ μέθην γινόμενος ὕμνος.

Image result for Ancient Greek puking vase

Hippocrates of Cos, Epidemics 2.30

“If someone has head pain from a hangover, have him drink a cup of unmixed wine. For different head pains, have the patient eat bread warm from unmixed wine.”

Ἢν ἐκ κραιπάλης κεφαλὴν ἀλγέῃ, οἴνου ἀκρήτου κοτύλην πιεῖν· ἢν δὲ ἄλλως κεφαλὴν ἀλγέῃ, ἄρτον ὡς θερμότατον ἐξ οἴνου ἀκρήτου ἐσθίειν.

Plutarch, Table-Talk 3 (652F)

“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.”

 ἰῶνταί γε μὴν τὰς περὶ τὸ σῶμα τῶν μεθυσκομένων καὶ κραιπαλώντων κακώσεις εὐθὺς μὲν ὡς ἔοικε περιστολῇ καὶ κατακλίσει συνθάλποντες, μεθ᾿ ἡμέραν δὲ λουτρῷ καὶ ἀλείμματι καὶ σιτίοις, ὅσα μὴ ταράττοντα τὸν ὄγχον ἅμα πράως ἀνακαλεῖται τὸ θερμὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ οἴνου διεσπασμένον καὶ πεφυγαδευμένον ἐκ τοῦ σώματος.

Aristotle, Problemata 873a-b

“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.”

καὶ ὁ οἶνος (ὑγρὸς γάρ ἐστι τὴν φύσιν) τοὺς μὲν βραδυτέρους ἐπιτείνει καὶ θάττους ποιεῖ, τοὺς δὲ θάττους ἐκλύει. διὸ ἔνιοι τῶν μελαγχολικῶν τῇ φύσει ἐν ταῖς κραιπάλαις ἐκλελυμένοι γίνονται πάμπαν. ὥσπερ γὰρ τὸ λουτρὸν τοὺς μὲν συνδεδεμένους τὸ σῶμα καὶ σκληροὺς εὐκινήτους ποιεῖ, τοὺς δὲ εὐκινήτους καὶ ὑγροὺς ἐκλύει, οὕτως ὁ οἶνος, ὥσπερ λούων τὰ ἐντός, ἀπεργάζεται τοῦτο.

Διὰ τί ἡ κράμβη παύει τὴν κραιπάλην; ἢ ὅτι τὸν  μὲν χυλὸν γλυκὺν καὶ ῥυπτικὸν ἔχει (διὸ καὶ κλύζουσιν αὐτῷ τὴν κοιλίαν οἱ ἰατροί), αὐτὴ δ’ ἐστὶ ψυχρά. σημεῖον δέ· πρὸς γὰρ τὰς σφοδρὰς διαρροίας χρῶνται αὐτῇ οἱ ἰατροί, ἕψοντες σφόδρα καὶ ἀποξυλίζοντες καὶ ψύχοντες. συμβαίνει δὴ τῶν κραιπαλώντων τὸν μὲν χυλὸν αὐτῆς εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν κατασπᾶν τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς ὑγρά, οἰνηρὰ καὶ ἄπεπτα ὄντα, αὐτὴν δὲ ὑπολειπομένην ἐν τῇ ἄνω κοιλίᾳ ψύχειν τὸ σῶμα. ψυχομένου δὲ ὑγρὰ λεπτὰ συμβαίνει εἰς τὴν κύστιν φέρεσθαι. ὥστε κατ’ ἀμφότερα τῶν ὑγρῶν ἐκκρινομένων διὰ τοῦ σώματος, καὶ καταψυχομένου, εἰκότως ἀκραίπαλοι γίνονται· ὁ γὰρ οἶνος ὑγρὸς καὶ θερμός ἐστιν.

Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 11.14          

“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;
cauillationes, assentatiunculas,
ac periuratiunculas parasiticas;
robiginosam strigilim, ampullam rubidam,
parasitum inanem quo recondas reliquias.

This is a topic we have covered at great length before

Alexis, fr. 287

“Yesterday you drank too much and now you’re hungover.
Take a nap—this will help it. Then let someone give you
Cabbage, boiled.”

ἐχθὲς ὑπέπινες, εἶτα νυνὶ κραιπαλᾷς.
κατανύστασον· παύσῃ γάρ. εἶτά σοι δότω
ῥάφανόν τις ἑφθήν.

Nikokharês

“Tomorrow we will boil acorns instead of cabbage
To treat our hangover.”

εἰσαύριον .. ἀντὶ ῥαφάνων ἑψήσομεν
βαλάνιον, ἵνα νῷν ἐξάγῃ τὴν κραιπάλην.

Alexis, fr. 390

“If only we got hangovers before we drank
Then no one would ever drink more
Than is good for them. But now, because
We do not expect to escape drinking’s penalty,
We too eagerly drink unmixed wines”

εἰ τοῦ μεθύσκεσθαι πρότερον τὸ κραιπαλᾶν
παρεγίνεθ’ ἡμῖν, οὐδ’ ἂν εἷς οἶνόν ποτε
προσίετο πλείω τοῦ μετρίου. νυνὶ δὲ τὴν
τιμωρίαν οὐ προσδοκῶντες τῆς μέθης
ἥξειν προχείρως τοὺς ἀκράτους πίνομεν.

Sopater

“It is sweet for people to drink at dawn
Streams of honey when they are struck by thirst
Driven by the last night’s hangover”

νᾶμα μελισσῶν ἡδὺ μὲν ὄρθρου
καταβαυκαλίσαι τοῖς ὑπὸ πολλῆς
κραιπαλοβόσκου δίψης κατόχοις.

Related image
Illumination from a copy of Li livres dou santé by Aldobrandino of Siena. British Library manuscript Sloane 2435, f. 44v.