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with the care of preventing distempers as with that of curing them. What gives room to think thus, is, that it is said, that the Egyptians used to purge every month, for three days succeflively, with vomits and clysters d.

The Egyptians are said to have first made known and used the oil of sweet almondse. We may also rank in the number of medicines invented by these people, Nepenthe, to which Homer gives such high encomiums. Helen, as he says, had learned the composition from Polydamna, wife of Thonis king of Egypt. This medicine was so ada mirable that it made one forget all ills, and diffipated all weariness,

The qualities of the Nepenthe of Homer have, as appears to me, a great relation to those of opium. We know that the virtue of that medicine is not only to provoke sleep; it has that of making us gay, and of producing even a sort of drunkenness. Thus we see that the Egyptian women who used a great deal of Nepenthe, were looked upon formerly folely to possess the secret of diffipating anger and chagrins. Opium is at this time very much used in the east *; a custom which we ought to regard as a consequence of the attachment which these people have always had for original practices : therefore I am very much inclined to believe, that it is of this sort of medicine that Homer would speak under the name of Nepenthe, and that in his time the Egyptians were perhaps the only people who knew the preparation of it t.

The manner of treating distempers in Egypt did not depend upon the will and choice of the physician. All the precepts concerning medicine were contained in cer. tain sacred books. The physicians were obliged to con.

& Herod. Diod. ubi stipra.
• P. Æginet de re med. 1. 7. C. 20.

f Odyff. 1. 4. V. 220.& feq. & Diod. l. 1. p. 109.

* The Turks take about a drachm of it when they prepare to march to battle.

+ Yet it must be agreed, that the opinions of the critics are pretty much divided about what Homer would defign by the Nepenthe. We may consult on this subject the disertation of Father Petit, intitled, Homeri Nepenthes, Trajed, 1689.


. form to them exactly. It was not permitted them to

change any thing". If they could not save the diseased by following that method, they were not answerable for the event; but if they rejected it, and the sick person happened to die, they were punished with death i. This fubje&tion of the physicians of Egypt to the custom of the country is farther confirmed to us by Aristotle: he speaks of an ancient law of the Egyptians, by which it was forbid

the physicians to stir the humours, that is to say, to purge = the fick before the fourth day of the distemper, unless they

would do it at their own risk. We may judge after this exposure, if medicine could ever make any progress in Egypt, or he enriched with useful discoveries. The state of the diseased, the symptoms and the daily accidents, were not what determined the physicians to apply the principles of their art. The theory and even the practice being fix. ed, they had less need of judgment than of memory. Tlie Egyptians apparently imagined, that all bodies were conAtituted in the same manner; and, against daily experience, they presumed the distempers were not combined differently,

Some authors pretend, that, with a view to make their remedies more efficacious, the Egyptian physicians added to the study of their profession that of astrology, and of certain mysterious rites'. They say, that physic in these countries was mixed with many superstitious practices m. This opi.

. nion appears probable enough. We know that these people gave themselves a good deal up to judiciai astrology. Herodotus assures us that there had not been a nation more superstitious than the Egyptians". It thould not then be surprising, that they had believed that the influence of certain planets, and the protection of some tutelary genii contributed much to the curing of distempers. Yet we must agree, that neither in Herodotus, nor in the authors of great antiquity, do we find any thing which authorises us to believe that the Egyptians employed superstitious practices in the manner of treating the fick.

p. 789.

h Diod. l. 1. p. 74.

This was a consequence of the same spirit of attachment that the Egyptians had for every thing that was established anciently. See Plato de leg. 1. 2.

i Diod. l.d. p. 74:

k De repub. 1. 3. c. 15. p. 358. or rather, according to Victorius, p. 265. on this passage of Aristotle, to alter nothing of the lar's established which forbid them to do any thing before the tourth day had palied, this is conformable to the doctrine of Hippocrates.

1 Scholiast, in Prolom. Tetrabibl. 1. 1.

m Conringius de Hermetica medic. 1. 1. C. 12. &c.; Borrichius de ortu & progreffu chemiae, p. 59.; Le Clerc, hift. de la medic. I. 1. c. 5. p. 13. # L. 2. n. 37. 65. 82.


We shall finish what concerns physic in Egypt, by remarking the attention the government paid to every thing that could concern the preservation of the citizens. It cost the Egyptians nothing to be attended when they were at war, or when they travelled in the kingdom. They had physicians paid with the public money, to take care of those who fell fick on these occasions. This fact farther proves to us, that physic was not practised for nothing. It was the same with the Hebrews. Moses ordered, that if two men happened to fight, and one of them was wounded, the aggressor should render to him whom he had struck, what it should cost him for being cured p. This precept was founded, without doubt, on the practice already established, of paying the physicians for the care they took of the fick.


Of Astronomy.

I Could only give very vague and very succinct notions of

the state of astronomy among the Egyptians in the first ages. We have there seen, that, before Moses, these people had a solar year composed of 360 days. It was very probably from the observation of the difference, and the inequality of the meridian fhadows, that the Egyptians came to perceive that the revolution of the fun in the course of a year, greatly surpassed the duration of twelve lunations.

o Diod. 1. 1. p. 74.

P Exod. c. 21. v. 19. Mercedem medici Solvet, says the Chaldaic paraphrase on this verse. 9 See part 1, book 3. chap. 2. art, 2.


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There is great room to think, that to measure the different heights of these meridian lhadows they had used originally the gnomons which nature had fhewn to them, such as trees, mountains, edifices, &c.

But natural gnomons could not furnish the means of exactly measuring the duration of a folar year; the Egyptians soon perceived their imperfe&tion and insufficiency, nevertheless, without knowing thé utility these forts of instruments might be of. This double consideration led them to invent artificial gnomons. We cannot contest with these people the merit of having brought them first into use. It is impossible not to recognise in the obelisks, gnomonis constructed, with so much care, expense, and ftudy. For to imagine that the Egyptian monarchs, in causing these enormous maffes to be cut, proposed no other end, but a foolish oftentation of their riches and their power; this is what I cannot persuade myself of. The choice of this sort of monuinent does not appear to me to have been made by chance. The form of the obelisks : was not solely owing to caprice and fancy. The sovereigns who had caused them to be made, tried most certainly to immortalize themselyes by these grand enterprises; but it was the motive of public utility, and the glory of contributing to the advancement of the sciences, which must have directed the form and choice of these sorts of monu. ments.

It is not, even here, a simple conjecture on our part. We have a glimpse, in a passage of Arpion reported by Jo. sephus', that at all times the obelisks had been destined by the Egyptians for astronomic uses. This grammarian gives a description of a sort of gnomon, singular enough, which he attributes to the invention of Mofes. The legislator of the Jews had invented it, says he, to answer the same purposes as the obelisks. Nothing truly can be more ill founded or more absurd, than all that Appion has related

Advers. App. 1. 2. p. 469. edit, of Havercamp.

I i


on the account of Mofes ; but this paffage at least proves, that, in antiquity, they were persuaded that the obelisks had been originally raised to serve for gnomons; and this is all that I pretend to establish.

To the testimony of Appion let us join the authority of Pliny. According to that author, the Egyptians had cut their obelisks in imitation of the rays of the sun. He adds, that this was the name by which they designed these grand spires s. This denomination, without doubt, was relative as much to the form of these monuments as to the use for which they employed them *.

Even though we had not precise testimonies about the use for which the Egyptians had destined their obelisks, what a nation has done which was never distinguished by its astronomic knowledge, will suffice to instru& us of it. Augustus, after having fubdued Egypt, caused to be transported to Rome two grand obelisks : he set up one in the Circus, and the other in the Campus Martius. He took all the necessary precautions, that it might serve for a gnomon Augustus, in making this obelisk serve for astronomic observations, probably only imitated the practice of the Egyptians. These people had not invented these sort of monuments only to procure more fure and exact instruments athan natural gnomons, to determine the duration of the folar year by the measure of the meridian fhadows. I do not think I need repeat what I have said eliewhere of the antiquity of obelisks. I have thewn that we must fix the epoch to the reign of Sefoftris, that is to say, about 1640 years before Chrift,

i Plin. 1. 36. fect. 14. p. 735. * The Egyptians had apparently given the name of the rays of the sun to obelisks, because they could conceive the sphere of that star, as being divided into an infinity of pyramids which had their summit at the surface of his disk, and their base at the circumference of that sphere. Daviler, in his dictionary of architecture, on the word obelisk, advances, that the Egyptian priests calied these oblisks the fingers of the Sun, because these grand Spires served for a style to mark on the earth the different heights of that far. I am ignorant from what author of antiquity Daviler has drawn this fact. * Plin. 1. 36. fest. 15. p. 736. a Sufra, bock 2, chap. 3. p. 131.


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