« ElőzőTovább »
We must also observe, that all the offensive arms which they used in the heroic times were of brass s. There is room to think, that wounds made with sucli arms, were not as difficult to cure as wounds made with arms of iron. In as much as the rust of copper taken internally, is pernicious and mortal, by so much is it useful when employed externally. Verdigrease deterges and dries the ulcers; it consumes the fungus and superfluous flesh. They make alfo a very salutary use of vitriol to abate inflammations. There could result none but good effects from the copper remaining in the wounds. That metal has in itself a styptic virtue. The filings of copper enter into the composition of many remedies which they use to prevent the corruption of the fleth. Some authors even pretend, that a nail of brass put into the flesh of a dead animal will hinder it from corrupting a. Finally, the discovery of the property of copper for healing wounds is very ancient. All antiquity agrees to say, that Achilles had cured Telephus with the rust of his lance, of which the point was copper. This hero passes for the first who had found out the good effects of verdigrease in the treatment of wounds *.
The notion, that, by the virtue of certain words, they could stop the blood and heal wounds, is a very ancient superstition. At this time men are not so infatuated with them. These illegitimate means which a false religion had given birth to, and which credulity had maintained, were in use at all times and among all people y. Homer furnithes us with very striking proofs of the credit which the Greeks gave to these impostors. Ulysses relates, that having been dangerously wounded by a wild boar, the sons of Autolycus bound up the wound, and stopped the blood by pronouncing certain words z. There is also great reason to think, that
r Sce infra, book 5. chap. 3.
* It is the fentment of Aristotle, problem. 35. sect. 1. p. 683. See allo Pluts t. 2. p. 659.
u Plut. 1. 2. p. 659. ; Journ. des scavans, Juillet. 1678. p. 159.
there was much superstition in the wonderful knot, the invention of which they attributed to Hercules. The ancients pretended, that that knot had a very particular virtue for healing wounds ..
The care of regulating the nourishment of the wounded is one of the principal objects of physic. It is of absolute necessity and of very great consequence, to prescribe, on these occasions to the sick, rules for eating and drinking. We are always surprised at the regimen which Homer makes his wounded heroes observe. Machaon, son of Æsculapius, was himself a very able physician. He was a soldier as well as a physician. He was wounded dangerously in the shoulder in a sally which the Trojans made. Nestor immediately brought him back to his tent. Scarce are they entered there, but Machaon took a drink mixed with wine, in which they had put the scrapings of cheese and barley-flour b. What ill effects must not this mixture produce, since wine alone, in the opinion of persons of skill, is very opposite to the healing of wounds? The meats which Machaon afterwards used, do not appear any way proper for the state in which he found himself c.
The conduct which Homer makes his heroes observe, is so extraordinary, that Plato could not help remarking it; but, at the same time, he endeavours to find, in the manner of living in the heroic times, reasons for excusing such a regimen. Yet I doubt, if the motives on which Plato founds the defence of Homer, be as solid as they are ingenious d. It is better to attribute, with a very learned author in these mat. ters, this irregular conduct to their ignorance of the true principles of medicine. It is certain, that, in the heroic times, that part of this science which concerns the dieting of the fick was abfolutely unknown
a Plin. l. 28. c. 6. p. 455. 6 Iliad. 1.11. v. 506. 507. & 637. &c. Mad. Dacier has translated Capota asyxáé by wheat flour. But it is certain, that änpitov never signified but barley-flour. See Plat, repub. I. 2. p.630.
Besides we know, that the mixed drink which Homer calls - xuxeas, they made anciently with barley-flour. See the schol. of Euripid, ad Orest. p. 209. edit. Steph. .. Iliad. 1.11. v 629. d In Tone, p. 366.; repub. 1. 3. p. 622. & 623.
Plato had not Homer before him when he writ this part of his Republic. He confounds the personages, by saying, that it was Eurypilus who took the drink in question. It was, according to Homer, Machaon himself. We do not see that Eurypilus, after he is wounded, is said to have taken any thing. It is a small inattention of Plato, into which M. Le Clerc has equally fallen. Hif. de la med, I, 1.8.42. L12
I have said in the first part of this work, that, according to all appearances, they did not know to bleed anciently That remedy does not seem to have been in use among the Egyptians. With respect to the Greeks, we do not find the least trace of it in Homer; yet bleeding must have been known and practised in the heroic times, if we would refer to the testimony of Ætien of Byzantium. That geographer says, that Podalirus, brother of Machaon, returning from the war of Troy, was thrown by a tempest on the coast of Caria. The report being spread, that he was a physician, they brought him to King Damætus, whose daughter had fallen from the top of a house. They say, he cured her by bleed ing her in both arms f. The King, in acknowledgment, gave him that princess in marriage with the Chersonelus. As we are ignorant from whence Ætien of Byzantium had taken this history, and that he is the only one who fpeaks of it, there is great room to doubt of it; so much the more as this geographer is an evidence too modern with relation to times fo remote as those of which we speak *.
We have seen in the first part of this work, that, among the people of the east, the care of labours had been originally intrusted to the women. It had not been the same with the Greeks in the first ages. It was expressly forbidden the women to exercise any parts of medicine, without even excepting that of delivering women. This prohibition had had very bad consequences. The women could not resolve to call men in these critical moments. For want of help' many perished in their labours. The industry of a young Athenian woman who disguised herself like a man to learn physic, drew the women out of this scrape. They had remarked, that this pretended physician was the only one which the women used. This raised fufpicions. They carried her before the Areopagus to give an account of her conduct. Agnoditia (for that was the name of our young Athenian) had no trouble to draw the judges from their error. She explained the motive of her disguise. This adventure was the cause of the abrogation of the ancient law. Since that time, the women have had permission to preside at labours s.
e Le Clerc. hist. de la med. I. 1. p. 44.
* Thom. de Pinedo conjectures, that Ætien of Byzantium writ between the 490th and 500 ih year of the Christian aera. Fabricius thinks, that it might be mare ancient by too years, Bibl. Graec. I. 3. P. 46.
The princes and kings at this time did not despise the practice of physic. Almost all the famous personages of the heroic ages, were distinguished for their knowledge in that art. They reckon in this number Aristæus, Jason, Telamon, Teucer, Peleus, Achilles, Patroclus, &c. They had been instructed by the Centaur Chiron, whose skill and knowledge at that time had rendered him the oracle of Greece. They were particularly attached to the knowledge of simples. They design even now many plants by the name of some one of these heroes; a proof, that in antiquity they passed for the first who discovered the virtues of them h.
We could join to these illustrious personages Palamedes. It is not that he had applied to know the secrets of medicine. He had refused to be instructed in that science by Chiron. Palamedes was a fatalist, and consequently looked upon medicine as a knowledge odious to Jupiter and the fates. The example of Æsculapius being thunderstruck, frightened him i. But as the penetration of his mind was equal to every thing, they say, he hindered, by his advice, the plague which ravaged all the cities of the Hellefpont, and even Troy, from attacking any person in the Grecian camp, although the place where the camp was situated was very unwholesome. Palamedes, they add, had foreseen this plague, because the wolves descending fronı Mount Ida rushed upon the beasts, and even upon the men. The means which he used for hindering the army of the Greeks from being attacked with the plague, was to order them to eat little, and particularly that they should abstain from fleih. He injoined them also to use much exercise. They say, this advice had all the success poffi
& Hygin. fab. 274. p. 328. b See Le Clerc. bift. de la med. 1. 1. p. 35. i Philoftrat. heroic. C. 10. p. 708.
. ble k.
If this fact had been well proved, we might say, that, on the subject of medicine, Palamedes knew more than all the Greeks, without excepting Podalirius and Machaon. But all this fine story does not deserve the least credit. I should not have had occasion to have spoke of it, if, false as it is, it had not served to confirm what I have said precedently about the discoveries which fome Greek writers would give the honour of to their heroes. To destroy all these traditions, it suffices to open Homer, whose testimony ought to have so great a weight in every thing which concerns the heroic times. This poet says expressly, that the Greeks were a prey to the deadly arrows of Apollo. We see nothing every where, but heaps of dead upon the piles which burn without ceasing '.
I shall only speak one word of Medea. That princess passed in antiquity for a very famous magician. She would not probably have had this bad reputation but for the knowledge she had acquired in botany, and the criminal use she too often made of it. They have seen her do furprising cures. They knew also, that by her secrets the often got rid of those who had drawn upon them her enmity; they needed no more to make her to be looked upon, in these times of ignorance, as a magician of the first order.
Among all the surprising things she had done, there was none more celebrated than the making old Æfon young, the father of Jason her lover. Ovid has described this fable in a very elegant and pathetic manner m. Many mythologists have endeavoured to give a reasonable meaning
k Philostrat. heroic, c. 10. p.710.& 711. ! Iliad. 1. 1, v. 51. & seq.
m Metam. 1. 7. V.162. & seq.