Fifty years after the destruction of the kingdom of Priam, there was elevated at Titanus, a city of the Peleponnesus, the first temple in honor of Esculapius. Very soon the worship of this god was spread throughout Greece, whence it passed into Asia, Africa, and Italy. Among a multitude of temples which were consecrated to him, those at
During the space of about seven hundred years, which this period embraces, Medicine underwent, in Greece, a first transformation ; from having been domestic and popular, it became sacerdotal, and wrapt itself in a mysterious habit. Until that time, the world
We have heretofore said that the physicians of primitive times reasoned very little on morbid phenomena, or the effects of remedies ; that they contented themselves to observe which were the remedies that would heal certain diseases, and to employ thereafter the same means in like cases.
The priests of Esculapius formed, as we have before said, a separate caste, transmitting from one to another their medical knowledge as a family heritage. In the remotest times, no layman, according to the report of Galen, was admitted to participate in the sacred science, but at a later period, this severe secrecy was relaxed. They consented to reveal their secrets
It is an incontestible fact, that Medicine was practiced and taught in the gymnasiae of Greece, a long time before the Asclepiadae had divulged the secret of their doctrines.(See Plato - Laws : Daniel Leclerc, Hist, de la Medicine : C. Sprengel, Hist, le la Medicine : M. Houdart, Etudes Historiques et Critiques Bur la Doctrine d'Hippocrate. Paris, 1840, in 8vo) There were in these establishments three orders of physicians. A director termed the gymnasiarch, whose duties consisted in regulating the diet of the Athlete, and of the young men who frequented these schools ; a sub-director, or gymnast, who directed the pharmaceutic treatment of the sick ; lastly, subalterns, named jatraliptes, who put up prescriptions, annointed, frictioned, bled, dressed wounds and ulcers, reduced luxations, fractures, etc.
Until now, we have groped our way, having to guide us in the obscurity of remote ages only feeble lights, scattered here and there at long intervals. But now we have reached an epoch, where science is striped of its mystic vail, and reveals her secrets in open day. The priests who had so long been in possession of the doctrine of the people, yield now the grasp of the scientific scepter to the philosophers: they retained only the exclusive control of sacred rites, the monopoly oi religious ceremonies. Never was a happier revolution accomplished with less effusion of blood ; the mind rests with satisfaction on the circumstances which prepared and accompanied it.
There remains to us of the memorials of antiquity, concerning that doctrine, but a single, very incomplete, and very obscure fragment. It is a collection of sentences, which are attributed to Lysis, a Pythagorian philosopher, and the friend and preceptor of Epaminondas ; but it would be impossible for us to avail ourselves of the doctrines of this precious document, without the able commentary of M. Fabre d' Olivet. Thanks to this skillful interpreter, we are able to lift a corner of the veil that covers the famous dogmas of the philosopher of Samos.(Vers Dores de Pythagore, explained and translated into French verse, by M. d'Olivet. Paris, 1813)
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