« PrécédentContinuer »
Come, and medical societies, have been named after them.
Some idea of the interest of ecclesiastics in medical affairs may be gathered from a letter of Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus, directed to the prefect of the city, when he was about to leave the place. He wrote (see Puschmann, Vol. L, p. 494): "When I took up the Bishopric of Cyrus I made every effort to bring in from all sides the arts that would be useful to the people. I succeeded in persuading skilled physicians to take up their residence here. Among these is a very pious priest, Peter, who practises medicine with great skill, and is well known for his care for the people. Now that I am about to leave the city, some of those who came at my invitation are preparing also to go. Peter seems resolved to do this. I appeal to your highness, therefore, in order to commend him to your special care. He handles patients with great skill and brings about many cures."
Distinguished Christian writers and scholars, and the Fathers of the Church in the early centuries, evidently paid much attention to medicine. Tertullian speaks of medical science as the sister of philosophy, and has many references to the medical doctrines discussed in his time. Lactantius, in his work,'' De Opificio Dei," has much to say with regard to the human body as representing the necessity for design in creation. His teleological arguments have much more force now than they would have had for people generally twenty years ago. We have come back to recognize the place of teleology. Clement of Alexandria was an early Christian temperance advocate, who argued that the use of wine was only justified when it did good as a medicine. The problems of embryology and of diseases of childhood interested him as they did many other of the early Christian writers.
The first great Christian physician whose works meant much for his own time, and whose writings have become a classic in medicine, was Aetius Amidenus, that is, Aetius of Amida, who was born in the town of that name in Mesopotamia, on the upper Tigris (now Diarbekir), and who flourished about the middle of the sixth century. His medical studies, as he has told us himself, were made at Alexandria. After having attracted attention by his medical learning and skill, he became physician to one of the emperors at Byzantium, very probably Justinian, (527-565). He seems to have been succeeded in the special post that was created for him at court by Alexander of Tralles, the second of the great Christian physicians. There is no doubt that Aetius was a Christian, for he mentions Christian mysteries, and appeals to the name of the Saviour and the martyrs. He was evidently a man of wide reading, for he quotes from practically every important medical writer before his time. Indeed, he is most valuable for the history of medicine, because he gives us some idea of the mode of treatment of various subjects by predecessors whose fame we know, but none of whose works have come to us. His official career and the patronage of the Emperor, the breadth of his scholarship, and the thoroughly practical character of his teaching, show how medical science and medical art were being developed and encouraged at this time.
Aetius' work that is preserved for us is known in medical literature as his sixteen books on medical practice. In most of the manuscript it is divided into four Tetrabibloi, or four book parts, each of which consists of four sections called Logoi in Greek, Sermones in Latin. This work embraces all the departments of medicine, and has a considerable portion devoted to surgery, but most of the important operations and the chapters on fractures and dislocations are lacking. Aetius himself announces that he had prepared a special work on surgery, but this is lost. Doubtless the important chapters that we have noted as lacking in his work would be found in this. He is much richer in pathology than most of the older writers, at least of the Christian era; for instance, Gurlt says that he treats this feature of the subject much more extensively even than Paulus iEginetus, but most of his work is devoted to therapeutics.
At times those who read these old books from certain modern standpoints are surprised to find such noteworthy differences between writers on medicine, who are separated sometimes only by a generation, and sometimes by not more than a century, in what regards the comparative amount of space given to pathology, etiology, and therapeutics. Just exactly the same differences exist in our own day, however. We all know that for those who want pathology and etiology the work of one of our great teachers is to
be consulted, while for therapeutics it is better to go to someone else. When we find such differences among the men of the olden time we are not so apt to look at them with sympathetic discrimination, as we do with regard to our contemporaries. We may even set them down to ignorance rather than specialization of interest. These differences depend on the attitude of mind of the physician, and are largely the result of his own personal equation. They do not reflect in any way either on his judgment or on the special knowledge of his time, but are the index of his special receptivity and teaching habit.
Aetius' first and second books are taken up entirely with drugs. The first book contains a list of drugs arranged according to the Greek alphabet. In the third book other remedial measures, dietetic, manipulative, and even operative, are suggested. In these are included venesection, the opening of an artery, cupping, leeches, and the like. The fourth and fifth books take up hygiene, special dietetics, and general pathology. In the sixth book what the Germans call special pathology and therapy begins with the diseases of the head. The first chapter treats of hydrocephalus. In this same book rabies is treated. What Aetius has consists mainly of quotations from previous authors, many of whom he had evidently read with great care.
Concerning those '' bitten by a rabid dog or those who fear water," Gurlt has quoted the following expression, with regard to which most people will be quite ready to agree with him when he says that it contains a great deal of truth, usually thought to be of much later origin: "When, therefore, any one has been bitten by a rabid dog the treatment of the wound must be undertaken just as soon as possible, even though the bite should be small and only superficial. One thing is certain, that none of those who are not rightly treated escape the fatal effect. The first thing to do is to make the wound larger, the mouth of it being divided and dilated by the scalpel. Then every portion of it and the surrounding tissues must be firmly pressed upon with the definite purpose of causing a large efflux of blood from the part. Then the wound should be deeply cauterized, etc."
There are special chapters devoted to eye and ear diseases, and to various affections of the face. Under this the question of tattooing and its removal comes in. It is surprising how much Aetius has with regard to such nasal affections as polyps and ulcers and bleedings from the nose. In this book, however, he treats only of their medicinal treatment. What he has to say about affections of the teeth is so interesting that it deserves a paragraph or two by itself.
He had much to say with regard to the nervous supply of the mucous membranes of the gums, tongue, and mouth, and taught that the teeth received nerves through the small hole existing at the end of every root. For children cutting teeth he advised the chewing of hard objects, and thought that the chewing of rather hard materials was good also for the teeth of adults. For fistulas leading to the roots of teeth he suggests various irritant treatments, and, if they do not succeed, recommends the removal of the teeth. He seems to have known