Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF FLATUS. - The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
OF FLATUS. - Hippocrates, The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen 
The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen. Epitomised from the Original Latin translations, by John Redman Coxe (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1846).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Haller considers this treatise to be spurious, and as vastly below the standard of Hippocratic genius. He admits it, nevertheless, to be admirably written and well arranged, (“bonique ordinis liber.”)—From one single principle, viz., flatus, the author with much skill has deduced doctrines of great consistency, and explains the origin of all diseases, from an error loci of this flatus. Some of the opinions of Hippocrates are advocated, but others are opposed, especially as to catarrh, as laid down in the book, “De locis.” The origin of the Pneumatic Sect is considered as here being first embodied.
The argument of the book is, that air penetrates and permeates all bodies, and that through its agency the causes of most disorders is explicable. Various modes of the generation of diseases are herein pointed out.
Whatever may have been the opinion of Haller as to the merits of this treatise, it has, however, been attributed to Hippocrates by Erotian, Galen, and other writers; some of whom have esteemed it as one of the most interesting in the history of medical systems, and one that will be read with much pleasure. If permitted to express an opinion respecting it, I would say, that, by whomsoever written, it is one of the most ingenious and well-arranged of all the treatises that have reached us, under the name of Hippocrates. It cannot be his, I think, since it ascribes to a single principle, air, (flatus, wind,) almost every disease; whilst pituita, bile, &c., constitute a more complex set of causes in the real Hippocratic writings. Many remarks in this treatise, in connexion with those to be elsewhere found, concur in satisfying me, that, if the circulation of the blood was not, at that distant period, understood, precisely as it is now sustained and taught, yet, that such a function was nevertheless admitted as a well-known and general proposition in medicine; as an anatomical and physiological fact, which was fully appreciated, both pathologically and therapeutically, by the medical men of those days; and that the pulse was sedulously attended to, and perhaps more correctly than at later periods. Gardeil terminates his translation of the treatise with a remark, that “after reading it, a person might be led to think he had been perusing some new thesis, composed and maintained by some systematic physician of the present day.” This remark seems to me to be perfectly correct; for it is obvious that if terms have any meaning, we here find, in a few words, the doctrine of the unity of disease, as more fully laid down and elaborated by the late Professor Rush, and even conveying, in the concise manner employed, the whole force of Dr. Rush’s more profound illustration of a doctrine he regarded as altogether his own, and as such, taught it in the University of Pennsylvania.
As in the preceding treatise, I propose to give merely an outline of the contents that may be looked for at large in the treatise itself.—Ed.
Preliminary remarks relating to the difficulties and disagreements in medicine. The art of medicine is one of the most laborious to the practitioner, although beneficial to the community. The influence of opinion on it. Attempt to reduce it to one general principle. Whatever is injurious is disease, and is to be removed or cured by contraries. Wherein medicine consists, and what constitutes the best physician. The essence of all diseases is one and the same.a Diseases differ merely in location, which alone causes the diversity of forms they assume.—Of the triple nutriment of animal life, viz., food, drink, and air. Distinctive appellation of this last, according to its relative situation, viz., spirit, air, flatus, wind; and of its absolute necessity, both as the cause of life and of disease. It is one of the principal agents of the animal economy, and of nature at large. It is essential to combustion, and to animal life, even to that of fish; in short, there is nothing that does not feel its influence. It is equally the cause of disease, as of life; food and drink may be deficient for days without injury, but death is the almost immediate result of the absence of air. It is the vehicle of miasmata; and here the author applies his principle thus laid down, to the production of fever, which is an accompaniment of most diseases, especially of such as are conjoined with inflammation. Fever, it is remarked, is twofold, common and particular. The first is general, attacking all indiscriminately, and is therefore denominated epidemic; the latter attacks such as are inattentive to their diet and mode of life. Remarks on each of these succeed, and an inquiry entered into, why all animals are not equally attacked. Particular fevers, originating from faults in diet, are then attended to; and we are informed that from air, or flatus, originate eructations, chilliness, and rigors; and an explanation of many symptoms is given, conformably to this doctrine of pneumatism, such as of the uneasiness and pains, chilliness, headache, and throbbing of the temples, &c., that precede or accompany fever. The same principles are applied to other diseases, as volvulus, colic, tormina,—all which arise from flatus; as well as catarrh in all its various forms of fluxion, viz., ophthalmia, cough, hoarseness, hemorrhage from the breast, dropsies, ruptures, apoplexy, epilepsy, and many more. The symptoms, causes, and cessation of epilepsy; and much stress is laid on the attention necessary in blood-letting; of its injurious influence when the blood is unduly perturbed, as seen in drunkenness, insomnia, &c.; its influence in the operations of reason is pointed out, and its state of purity or otherwise is noticed; whilst the inequality of its circulation is at times productive of every irregularity. All this is attributed to flatus, and is duly explained and illustrated. Ultimately it is added, that flatus appears, under numerous aspects or modes, to be the cause of diseases; other causes also may co-operate, or may act an intermediate part.
If I should extend these remarks to every case of disease mentioned, it would greatly enlarge, but would not more fully demonstrate the truths advanced.—Ed.
[a ]That is, all disease is a unit. “Morborum autem omnium cum idem modus sit, locus tamen diversus est. Morbi igitur ob locorum varietatem et dissimilitudinem, nihil inter se habere simile videntur.”—Fœsius, p. 296; Haller, iii. p. 435. The unity of disease is here unquestionably sustained, or I am altogether mistaken as to the tenor of the entire passage, which is correctly rendered from the Greek text.—Ed.