“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.”
“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.”
“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.
In Massachusetts, April has seen a record 21 days of rain. It is raining today in Boston.
Theophrastus, Concerning Weather Signs 13
“Many shooting stars [are indications of] rain or wind and the wind or rain will originate from their directions. If the rays of the sun are thick together at sunrise or sunset, it might be a sign of rain.
It is also a sign when during sunrise the raise have the color of an eclipse. And also when there are clouds that are similar to the hair of wool—that’s a sign of rain. Many bubbles rising on the surface of rivers are signs of rain. And, generally speaking, when a rainbow appears around or through the light of the lamp, it means rain from south.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“There are some who find fault with medicine because of doctors who are not willing to attempt cases completely overpowered by diseases, saying that while doctors will try to heal patients whose diseases would heal themselves, they do not touch cases for which there is a great need of help—and, if [medicine] were truly an art, it would be necessary to treat all diseases equally.
The people who say these things, if they are really criticizing doctors because they do not care about the people who say these kinds of things as if they were delirious, perhaps they might make a more pointed critique than the one they offer. For, if someone believes that a skill can do something it cannot do or a exhibit a character which it does not have by nature, he is ignorant with the kind of ignorance that is closer to madness than a lack of education. For it is possible for us to master some fields by a natural disposition and with the tools of the art and then to become practitioners of these fields, but it is not possible for others.”
“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.”