The Trojan war, celebrated in the Songs of Homer, appears in Greek antiquity as a luminous point in the midst of
profound darkness. Before this memorable expedition, and for a long time afterward, the history of Medicine rests on uncertain traditions, often mingled with fables. The hellenic nation, which was one day to become the instructress of the human race, had not yet shaken off the rust of barbarism. Egypt, Phenicia, and Chaldea, marched at the head of civilized nations.
But after the Grecian chiefs had overturned the throne of Priam, and destroyed his capital, the freedom of the seas was attained. Their vessels could cruise, unmolested, from Palus-Moeotidus to the Straits of Gibraltar. After that event, the Hellenists covered, with their colonies, the coasts of Asia-Minor, the isles of the Archipelago, and the south of Italy. They sent emigrants as far as Gallia, Spain, and the shores of Africa. Their navigators dared even to pass the pillars of Hercules, and adventure upon the ocean.
It was not solely the desire of riches and power, that caused them to undertake long peregrinations ; a more noble sentiment, the love of wisdom, or of science, animated some of these travelers. They are seen renouncing their families and friends for a great number of years, and returning afterward to share freely with their fellow-citizens the treasures of light they had amassed in foreign lands. Thus, a Lycurgus and a Solon were worthy to give laws to their country, and place in the constitutions, which are still admired, the foundation of the grandeur of Sparta and Athens. So a Thales, a Pythagoras, and a Democritus, became the chiefs of schools, or of sects, which shed upon their names so much glory.
Nevertheless, science and letters had advanced but very slowly, in Greece, during the space of seven hundred years, which separates the Trojan war from the dispersion of the Pythagoreans. A very small number of men devoted themselves to the study of the liberal arts, and. with the exception of the poems of Hesiod and Homer, there remains to us no literary monument of that long period. Medicine shared the fate of the other sciences ; buried in the depths of the temples of Esculapius, it made an unseen progress, which it is impossible for the historian to trace.
From History of Medicine by P.V. Renouard M.D.