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

The Key to a Long Life: Magic (Or Maybe Climate and Diet)

Lucian, Octogenarians 3-5

“Homer claims that Nestor, obviously, the wisest of the Achaians, lived more than three generations, a man the poet explains to us was best trained in both mind and body. And the prophet Teiresis, well tragedy has him living through six generations. It might be credible that a man dedicated to the gods and who followed a reverent diet might live as long as possible.

It is recorded that whole clans of people are very long-lived thanks to their way of life—for example, the people of the Egyptians called holy-authors, the exegetes of myth in Assyria and Arabia, and the people the Indians call Brahmans, men who pursue philosophy with precision. There are also the people called the magoi, that prophetic clan dedicated to the gods among the Persians, Parthians, Bactrians, Khoasmians, Arians, Sacae, Medes, and among many other barbarian people. The magoi are strong and live many years because they learn to use magic and eat with considerable discipline.

There are, in addition, entire peoples who are long-lived: for example, some people record that the Sêres live up to 300 years. According to some authors, this is because of the weather; others claim that it is their soul or their diet that is responsible for the length of their lives—for, they claim that the whole nation drinks only water. It is reported that the people of Athos live 130 years or that the Chaldeans live over a hundred and that they rely on barley bread as a medicine to keep their vision sharp.”

Νέστορα μὲν οὖν τὸν σοφώτατον τῶν Ἀχαιῶν ἐπὶ τρεῖς παρατεῖναι γενεὰς Ὅμηρος λέγει, ὃν συνίστησιν ἡμῖν γεγυμνασμένον ἄριστα καὶ ψυχῇ καὶ σώματι. καὶ Τειρεσίαν δὲ τὸν μάντιν ἡ τραγῳδία μέχρις ἓξ γενεῶν παρατεῖναι λέγει. πιθανὸν δ᾿ ἂν εἴη ἄνδρα θεοῖς ἀνακείμενον καθαρωτέρᾳ διαίτῃ χρώμενον ἐπὶ μήκιστον βιῶναι. καὶ γένη δὲ ὅλα μακρόβια ἱστορεῖται διὰ τὴν δίαιταν, ὥσπερ Αἰγυπτίων οἱ καλούμενοι ἱερογραμματεῖς, Ἀσσυρίων δὲ καὶ Ἀράβων οἱ ἐξηγηταὶ τῶν μύθων, Ἰνδῶν δὲ οἱ καλούμενοι Βραχμᾶνες, ἄνδρες ἀκριβῶς φιλοσοφίᾳ σχολάζοντες, καὶ οἱ καλούμενοι δὲ μάγοι, γένος τοῦτο μαντικὸν καὶ θεοῖς ἀνακείμενον παρά τε Πέρσαις καὶ Πάρθοις καὶ Βάκτροις καὶ Χωρασμίοις καὶ Ἀρείοις καὶ Σάκαις καὶ Μήδοις καὶ παρὰ πολλοῖς ἄλλοις βαρβάροις, ἐρρωμένοι τέ εἰσι καὶ πολυχρόνιοι διὰ τὸ μαγεύειν διαιτώμενοι καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀκριβέστερον. ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἔθνη ὅλα μακροβιώτατα, ὥσπερ Σῆρας μὲν ἱστοροῦσι μέχρι τριακοσίων ζῆν ἐτῶν, οἱ μὲν τῷ ἀέρι, οἱ δὲ τῇ γῇ τὴν αἰτίαν τοῦ μακροῦ γήρως προστιθέντες, οἱ δὲ καὶ τῇ διαίτῃ· ὑδροποτεῖν γάρ φασι τὸ ἔθνος τοῦτο σύμπαν. καὶ Ἀθῴτας δὲ μέχρι τριάκοντα καὶ ἑκατὸν ἐτῶν βιοῦν ἱστορεῖται, καὶ τοὺς Χαλδαίους ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑκατὸν ἔτη βιοῦν λόγος, τούτους μὲν καὶ κριθίνῳ ἄρτῳ χρωμένους, ὡς ὀξυδορκίας τοῦτο φάρμακον·

Image result for medieval manuscript tiresias
The Witch of Endor, by the Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, 15th century

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

Have We Tried Using Bay Leaves on Coronavirus?

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.

There’s a new version of Perseus using the Scaife viewer: check out the passages here.

A Healthy Mind in A Healthy (Greek) Body

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.12

“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?”

πάσαις δὲ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος χρείαις πολὺ διαφέρει ὡς βέλτιστα τὸ σῶμα ἔχειν· 6ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ δοκεῖς ἐλαχίστην σώματος χρείαν εἶναι, ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι, τίς οὐκ οἶδεν, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πολλοὶ μεγάλα σφάλλονται διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑγιαίνειν τὸ σῶμα; καὶ λήθη δὲ καὶ ἀθυμία καὶ δυσκολία καὶ μανία πολλάκις πολλοῖς διὰ τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν ἐμπίπτουσιν οὕτως, ὥστε καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἐκβάλλειν. 7τοῖς δὲ τὰ σώματα εὖ ἔχουσι πολλὴ ἀσφάλεια καὶ οὐδεὶς κίνδυνος διά γε τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν τοιοῦτόν τι παθεῖν, εἰκὸς δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία τῶν διὰ τὴν καχεξίαν γιγνομένων τὴν εὐεξίαν χρήσιμον εἶναι. καίτοι τῶν γε τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐναντίων ἕνεκα τί οὐκ ἄν τις νοῦν ἔχων ὑπομείνειεν;

There’s a new version of Persues using the Scaife Viewer: check out the passage above here.

Xenophon elaborates on some of this earlier

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.5

“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.”

Οὔτοι χρὴ ὅτι ἡ πόλις οὐκ ἀσκεῖ δημοσίᾳ τὰ πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἰδίᾳ ἀμελεῖν, ἀλλὰ μηδὲν ἧττον ἐπιμελεῖσθαι. εὖ γὰρ ἴσθι, ὅτι οὐδὲ ἐν ἄλλῳ οὐδενὶ ἀγῶνι οὐδὲ ἐν πράξει οὐδεμιᾷ μεῖον ἕξεις διὰ τὸ βέλτιον τὸ σῶμα παρεσκευάσθαι· πρὸς πάντα γάρ, ὅσα πράττουσιν ἄνθρωποι, χρήσιμον τὸ σῶμά ἐστιν· ἐν πάσαις δὲ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος χρείαις πολὺ διαφέρει ὡς βέλτιστα τὸ σῶμα ἔχειν· ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ δοκεῖς ἐλαχίστην σώματος χρείαν εἶναι, ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι, τίς οὐκ οἶδεν, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πολλοὶ μεγάλα σφάλλονται διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑγιαίνειν τὸ σῶμα; καὶ λήθη δὲ καὶ ἀθυμία καὶ δυσκολία καὶ μανία πολλάκις πολλοῖς διὰ τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν ἐμπίπτουσιν οὕτως, ὥστε καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἐκβάλλειν. τοῖς δὲ τὰ σώματα εὖ ἔχουσι πολλὴ ἀσφάλεια καὶ οὐδεὶς κίνδυνος διά γε τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν τοιοῦτόν τι παθεῖν, εἰκὸς δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία τῶν διὰ τὴν καχεξίαν γιγνομένων τὴν εὐεξίαν χρήσιμον εἶναι. καίτοι τῶν γε τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐναντίων ἕνεκα τί οὐκ ἄν τις νοῦν ἔχων ὑπομείνειεν;

Αἰσχρὸν δὲ καὶ τὸ διὰ τὴν ἀμέλειαν γηρᾶναι, πρὶν ἰδεῖν ἑαυτὸν ποῖος ἂν κάλλιστος καὶ κράτιστος τῷ σώματι γένοιτο. ταῦτα δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν ἰδεῖν ἀμελοῦντα· οὐ γὰρ ἐθέλει αὐτόματα γίγνεσθαι.

Diogenes Laertius, 1.37.2

“When someone asked who is lucky, [Thales said] “whoever has a healthy body, a sophisticated mind, and teachable nature.”

τίς εὐδαίμων, “ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος.”

Juvenal, Satire 10.356

“We must beg for a healthy mind in a healthy body”

orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

Zuordnung der Tierkreiszeichen zu den Körperteilen; Homo signorum, Heinrich von Laufenberg, Regimen, ca. 1450/60

Murofamy: More Rat Facts

Plutarch, Natural Phenomena 4 912 F

“Cargoes of salt on ships generate rats because of their frequent copulation.”

καὶ τὰ ἁληγὰ τῶν πλοίων πλείους τρέφει μῦς διὰ τὸ πολλάκις συμπλέκεσθαι.

 

Pliny, Natural History 44.116

“The smoke of a yew tree kills rodents.”

taxi arboris fumus necat mures.

 

Plutarch, Table Talk 5 685 E

“Salt-ferrying vessels produce an endless multitude of rats—as some people claim—because the female rats get pregnant without intercourse whenever they lick the salt.”

τὰ δ᾿ ἁληγὰ πλοῖα πλῆθος ἐκφύει μυῶν ἄπλετον, ὡς μὲν ἔνιοι λέγουσι, τῶν θηλειῶν καὶ Eδίχα συνουσίας κυουσῶν, ὅταν τὸν ἅλα λείχωσιν·

 

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 17.17

“Amyntas in his work which he named Stages writes that in the Caspian land there are many herds of cattle and horses almost beyond counting. He adds this as well, that in some seasons an unconquerable plague of rats blights the land. He continues with evidence, saying that even though the rivers flow at that of year with a huge surge, the rats swim fearlessly and they even hold on to each other’s tales, biting down on one another, to form a bridge and they they cross the strait in this way.

After swimming into the farmland, he says, they grind down the roots of crops and swarm over trees and once they use their fruits for their meals they sever the branches too just because they are not able to eat them. For this reason, the Caspians—in order to ward off this invasion of rats and the ruin they bring—do not kill the predatory birds which come in turn, flying down from the clouds, and fulfill their nature by freeing the Caspians of this plague.

Caspian foxes are so numerous that they frequent both the sheepfolds in the country and they also appear in cities. By Zeus, a fox will show up in a house not to steal something or ruin it, but like some kind of pet. The Caspian foxes wag their tails just like pet dogs in our land.

The rats of the terrible plague afflicting the Caspians are almost the same in size when you look a them as the ikhneumenos of Egypt, but they are wild, and terrible, and they have teeth strong enough to cut and even eat metal. The rats in Teridon, Babylonia are like this too—and traders bring their skins to sell among the Persians. Indeed, these skins are soft and can be sewn together as a tunic to warm people. And they call them kandutanes, because it is dear to them.

Here is something amazing about these rats: if a pregnant female is caught and her fetus is removed, when the female fetus is dissected and examined, it also has a baby.”

᾽Αμύντας ἐν τοῖς ἐπιγραφομένοις οὕτως ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ Σταθμοῖς κατὰ τὴν γῆν τὴν Κασπίαν καὶ βοῶν ἀγέλας λέγει πολλὰς καὶ κρείττονας ἀριθμοῦ εἶναι καὶ ἵππων. ἐπιλέγει δὲ ἄρα καὶ ἐκεῖνο, ἐν ὡρῶν τισι περιτροπαῖς μυῶν ἐπιδημίας γίνεσθαι πλῆθος ἄμαχον· καὶ τὸ μαρτύριον ἐπάγει λέγων, τῶν ποταμῶν τῶν ἀεννάων σὺν πολλῶι τῶι ῥοίζωι φερομένων, τοὺς δὲ καὶ μάλα ἀτρέπτως ἐπινήχεσθαί τε αὐτοῖς καὶ τὰς οὐρὰς ἀλλήλων ἐνδακόντας ἕρμα τοῦτο ἴσχειν, καὶ τοῦ διαβάλλειν τὸν πόρον σύνδεσμόν σφισιν ἰσχυρότατον ἀποφαίνει τόνδε.

ἐς τὰς ἀρούρας δὲ ἀπονηξάμενοι, φησί, καὶ τὰ λήια ὑποκείρουσι καὶ διὰ τῶν δένδρων ἀνέρπουσι καὶ τὰ ὡραῖα δεῖπνον ἔχουσι καὶ τοὺς κλάδους δὲ διακόπτουσιν, οὐδὲ ἐκείνους κατατραγεῖν ἀδυνατοῦντες. οὐκοῦν ἀμυνόμενοι οἱ Κάσπιοι τὴν ἐκ τῶν μυῶν ἐπιδρομήν τε ἅμα καὶ λύμην φείδονται τῶν γαμψωνύχων, οἵπερ οὖν καὶ αὐτοὶ κατὰ νέφη πετόμενοι εἶτα αὐτοὺς ἀνασπῶσιν, καὶ ἰδίαι τινὶ φύσει τοῖς Κασπίοις ἀναστέλλουσι τὸν λιμόν. ἀλώπηκες δὲ αἱ Κάσπιαι, τὸ πλῆθος αὐτῶν τοσοῦτόν ἐστιν ὡς καὶ ἐπιφοιτᾶν οὐ μόνον τοῖς αὐλίοις τοῖς κατὰ τοὺς ἀγρούς, ἤδη γε μὴν καὶ ἐς τὰς πόλεις παριέναι. καὶ ἐν οἰκίαι ἀλώπηξ φανεῖται οὐ μὰ Δία ἐπὶ λύμηι οὐδὲ ἁρπαγῆι, ἀλλὰ οἷα τιθασός· καὶ ὑποσαίνουσί τε αἱ Κάσπιοι καὶ ὑπαικάλλουσι τῶν παρ᾽ ἡμῖν κυνιδίων <δίκην>.

οἱ δὲ μύες οἱ τοῖς Κασπίοις ἐπίδημον ὄντες κακόν, μέγεθος αὐτῶν ὅσον κατά γε τοὺς Αἰγυπτίων ἰχνεύμονας ὁρᾶσθαι, ἄγριοι δὲ καὶ δεινοὶ καὶ καρτεροὶ τοὺς ὀδόντας, καὶ διακόψαι τε καὶ διατραγεῖν οἷοί τε εἰσὶ καὶ σίδηρον. τοιοῦτοι δὲ ἄρα καὶ οἱ μύες οἱ ἐν τῆι Τερηδόνι τῆς Βαβυλωνίας (F 7) εἰσίν, ὧνπερ οὖν καὶ τὰς δορὰς οἱ τούτων κάπηλοι ἐς Πέρσας ἄγουσι φόρτον. εἰσὶ δὲ ἁπαλαί, καὶ συνερραμέναι χιτῶνές τε ἅμα γίνονται καὶ ἀλεαίνουσιν αὐτούς. καλοῦνται δὲ ἄρα οὗτοι κανδυτᾶνες, ὡς ἐκείνοις φίλον.

θαυμάσαι δὲ τῶν μυῶν τῶνδε ἄξιον ἄρα καὶ τοῦτο· ἐὰν ἁλῶι μῦς κύουσα, κἆιτα ἐξαιρεθῆι τὸ ἔμβρυον, αὐτῆς δὲ διατμηθείσης ἐκείνης εἶτα μέντοι καὶ αὐτὸ διανοιχθῆι, καὶ ἐκεῖνο ἔχει βρέφος.

Rats

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

Know-nothings, Faith-healers, and Quacks: Mystifying and Abusing Mental Illness

Hippocrates of Cos, The Sacred Disease 1 and 2

“This work is about that disease which people call “sacred”. It does not seem to me to be more divine or more sacred than any of the rest of the diseases, but it also has a natural cause and people have assumed it is sacred because of their own inexperience and their considerable wonder over how different it seems to them.”

[…]

Περὶ τῆς ίερῆς νούσου καλεομένης ὧδ᾿ ἔχει. οὐδέν τί μοι δοκεῖ τῶν ἄλλων θειοτέρη εἶναι νούσων οὐδὲ ἱερωτέρη, ἀλλὰ φύσιν μὲν ἔχει καὶ πρόφασιν, οἱ δ᾿ ἄνθρωποι ἐνόμισαν θεῖόν τι πρῆγμα εἶναι ὑπὸ ἀπειρίης καὶ θαυμασιότητος, ὅτι οὐδὲν ἔοικεν ἑτέροισι·

“Those who first claimed that the disease is divinely caused seem to me to be something like the wizards, snake-oil salesmen, faith-healers, and quacks of today, those kinds of men who pretend to great piety and superior knowledge. These kinds of healers shelter themselves and use superstition as a shield against their own helplessness when they have nothing they can do to help. They claim that this affliction is sacred so it won’t be clear that they don’t know anything. They add a ready-made story and throw in a treatment in order to keep their own position strong.”

Ἐμοὶ δὲ δοκέουσιν οἱ πρῶτοι τοῦτο τὸ νόσημα ἱερώσαντες τοιοῦτοι εἶναι ἄνθρωποι οἷοι καὶ νῦν εἰσι μάγοι τε καὶ καθάρται καὶ ἀγύρται καὶ ἀλαζόνες, οὗτοι δὲ καὶ προσποιέονται σφόδρα θεοσεβέες εἶναι καὶ πλέον τι εἰδέναι. οὗτοι τοίνυν παραμπεχόμενοι καὶ προβαλλόμενοι τὸ θεῖον τῆς ἀμηχανίης τοῦ μὴ ἔχειν ὅ τι προσενέγκαντες ὠφελήσουσι, καὶ ὡς μὴ κατάδηλοι ἔωσιν οὐδὲν ἐπιστάμενοι, ἱερὸν ἐνόμισαν τοῦτο τὸ πάθος εἶναι· καὶ λόγους ἐπιλέξαντες ἐπιτηδείους τὴν ἴησιν κατεστήσαντο ἐς τὸ ἀσφαλὲς σφίσιν αὐτοῖσι,

As Vivian Nutton makes clear in the overview of Mental Illness in the Ancient World (available in Brill’s New Pauly), Hippocrates Breaks from Ancient Near Eastern and Early Greek tradition here in offering physical explanations for mental illness of all kinds instead of divine explanations. Platonic and Aristotelian traditions follow with variations on somatism (the body as the cause), adding in addition to the humors, bile, and disharmony among the organs, habits (excessive consumption, actions) and environments. These approaches were refined by Hellenistic doctors and the work of Rufus and Galen where treatments also came to include psychotherapeutic as well as the physical treatments. The swing towards demonic possession as an explanation during Late Antiquity and the Christian middle ages took mental health approaches back towards the ‘sacred’ explanations of pre-rational antiquity.

Some other posts about mental health from antiquity. Oftentimes translators keep the ancient Greek term melancholy (“black bile”)

Galen says loss of speech is not melancholy

Women, misogyny, and suicide

Lykanthropy as a type of melancholy

Hippocrates on melancholic desire for isolation

Hippocrates and Galen on hallucination and depression

The positive side of delusion

Aristotle on Mind-body connection

Music for healing mental affliction

Galen on the use of narcotics

Celsus on abusive treatments for mental illness

Seneca and Epictetus on Sick Days for Mental Health

Seneca and Plutarch on Whether Peace of Mind Helps

Epictetus, Treatises Collected by Arrian, 2.15: To those who cling tenaciously to any judgments they have made 

“Whenever some people hear these words—that it is right to be consistent, that the moral person is free by nature and never compelled, while everything else may be hindered, forced, enslaved, subjected to others—they imagine that it is right that they maintain every judgment they have made without compromising at all.

But the first issue is that the judgment should be a good one. For, if I wish to maintain the state of my body, it should be when it is healthy, well-exercised. If you show me that you have the tones of a fevered mind and brag about it, I will say ‘Dude, look for a therapist. This is not health, but sickness.’ “

ιε′. Πρὸς τοὺς σκληρῶς τισιν ὧν ἔκριναν ἐμμένοντας.

῞Οταν ἀκούσωσί τινες τούτων τῶν λόγων, ὅτι βέβαιον εἶναι δεῖ καὶ ἡ μὲν προαίρεσις ἐλεύθερον φύσει καὶ ἀνανάγκαστον, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα κωλυτά, ἀναγκαστά, δοῦλα, ἀλλότρια, φαντάζονται ὅτι δεῖ παντὶ τῷ κριθέντι ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἀπαραβάτως ἐμμένειν. ἀλλὰ πρῶτον ὑγιὲς εἶναι δεῖ τὸ κεκριμένον. θέλω γὰρ εἶναι τόνους ἐν σώματι, ἀλλ’ ὡς ὑγιαίνοντι, ὡς ἀθλοῦντι· ἂν δέ μοι φρενιτικοῦ τόνους ἔχων ἐνδεικνύῃ[ς] καὶ ἀλαζονεύῃ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς, ἐρῶ σοι ὅτι ‘ἄνθρωπε, ζήτει τὸν θεραπεύσοντα. τοῦτο οὐκ εἰσὶ τόνοι, ἀλλ’ ἀτονία’.

 

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Hygeia [“Health”] and her father Asklepios Taken from Pinterest

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

Why Wives Should Learn Geometry and Plato. And, an Eclipse

Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom (Moralia138a-146a : Conjugalia Praecepta)

“These kinds of studies, foremost, distract women from inappropriate matters. For, a wife will be ashamed to dance when she is learning geometry. And she will not receive spells of medicine if she is charmed by Platonic dialogues and the works of Xenophon. And if anyone claims she can pull down the moon, she will laugh at the ignorance and simplicity of the women who believe these things because she herself is not ignorant of astronomy and she has read about Aglaonikê. She was the daughter of Hêgêtor of Thessaly because she knew all about the periods of the moon and eclipses knew before everyone about the time when the moon would be taken by the shadow of the earth. She tricked the other women and persuaded them that she herself was causing the lunar eclipse.”

τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα μαθήματα πρῶτον ἀφίστησι τῶν ἀτόπων τὰς γυναῖκας· αἰσχυνθήσεται γὰρ ὀρχεῖσθαι γυνὴ γεωμετρεῖν μανθάνουσα, καὶ φαρμάκων ἐπῳδὰς οὐ προσδέξεται τοῖς Πλάτωνος ἐπᾳδομένη λόγοις καὶ τοῖς Ξενοφῶντος. ἂν δέ τις ἐπαγγέλληται καθαιρεῖν τὴν σελήνην, γελάσεται τὴν ἀμαθίαν καὶ τὴν ἀβελτερίαν τῶν ταῦτα πειθομένων γυναικῶν, ἀστρολογίας μὴ ἀνηκόως ἔχουσα καὶ περὶ Ἀγλαονίκης ἀκηκουῖα τῆς Ἡγήτορος τοῦ Θετταλοῦ θυγατρὸς ὅτι τῶν ἐκλειπτικῶν ἔμπειρος οὖσα πανσελήνων καὶ προειδυῖα τὸν χρόνον, ἐν ᾧ συμβαίνει τὴν σελήνην ὑπὸ γῆς σκιᾶς ἁλίσκεσθαι, παρεκρούετο καὶ συνέπειθε τὰς γυναῖκας ὡς αὐτὴ καθαιροῦσα τὴν σελήνην.

 

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