Front Page Titles (by Subject) CLASS VII.: THERAPEUTICS. - The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen
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CLASS VII.: THERAPEUTICS. - 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).
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Galeni librorum septima classis curativam methodum tum diffuse tum breviter descriptam, victus rationem in morbis acutis, singulorum morborum facile paranda remedia, privatam quorundam morborum curationem, chirurgiæ constitutionem, fracturarum ac luxationum sanationem, fasciarum denique et laqueorum, et machinamentorum tractatum continet.—Venice Ed. 1609.
In the Venice edition, the following notice appears, “Hos sex libros, quos Vidius olim converterat, nunc idem etiam diligenter recognovit.” The last three are not in the Basil edition.
GALENI, DE MEDENDI METHODO, SEU DE MORB. CURANDIS, LIBRI QUATUOR-DECEM.
of the method of curing diseases.
Bas. Ed., tom. vi., p. 6.
This treatise in nearly two hundred folio pages, may be regarded as a partial consideration of Galen’s Practice of Physic, so far as medicine is concerned; for his whole writings point out how greatly he depended on diet. It would be impossible to give even a faint outline of this extensive work within the short limits to which I am restricted. A complete translation would not be useless at the present period.
The first book is a severe castigation of Thessalus (the prince of the Methodists) and of his sect; his principles he inveighs against, and overturns the foundations; pointing out the arrogance of the man, and the injury science had received through him. Some insight is afforded of the follies and vices of Rome, and ascribing the delay of his own writings to the idleness and debauchery every where surrounding him. Addressing himself to his beloved Hiero, he reminds him that he, and many friends, had exhorted him to write on the Practice of Physic; which, he adds, “I truly desire to do, both to gratify him, and to benefit posterity. Yet, I always delayed, and that on many accounts; the chief of which was, that I feared I should write in vain, since scarcely any at this period paid attention to the seeking after truth. Money, civil power, and voluptuousness, alone took the lead; and all who pursued knowledge were regarded as madmen!” He complains greatly of ignorance in respect to the science of medicine, and of several other sciences at that era; and informs us that Thessalus boasted that he would teach his pupils the profession, in six months; so that, says Galen, it is the fact, that now, cobblers, dyers, carpenters, and blacksmiths, forsaking their respective occupations, at once jump into the Practice of Physic! and the mere compounders of mixtures for painters or perfumers do the same. Hence, says Galen, I feel compelled to detail the methodus medendi, so successfully begun by the ancients, and which their successors endeavoured to perfect.
Can we not here see, as in a glass, the features of that period reflected amongst us, when bookbinders and others, forgetting the precept of “ne sutor ultra crepidam,” and recommended, moreover, by the fathers (!) of our science, quit their trades, in order to engage in the practice of physic; and by the assumption of some nostrum, under their patronage, realize fortunes, whilst the regular student, after taking his degree, starves in his professional career!
This man, Thessalus, rendered thus immortal by the castigation of Galen, who, noting his excessive vanity, and his envy of his predecessors, has likened him to Zoilus, who flagellated the statue of Homer, and to Salmoneus, who attempted to imitate the thunder of Jupiter; and also to a host of other miscreants, who feared neither men nor gods; this man, he adds, was nevertheless the leader of a sect, that upheld the doctrine of a fluxum et clausum, (a prototype of another subsequently maintained under the denomination of strictum et laxum.) Thus goes the world; old things become new, by the magic of a few unmeaning words, and by a change of nomenclature. The authors are forgotten, and arrogance joined with usurpation, or literary plagiarism of former doctrines, too often gives repute to the asserted novelties of present times!
The original modes of framing names for diseases are explained in the second book. The distinction of pain and disease, and several other particulars of interest to the medical reader. The third book is chiefly taken up with the consideration of ulcers and their treatment, both simple, and when complicated with other diseases.—The fourth continues the subject of ulcers of a malignant character, explains their nature, treatment, difference of in form, locality, &c., and this is extended into the fifth book,—all connected with many interesting practical remarks, and observations on the remedies and diet required. The sixth book notices the mode of treatment in injuries of the nerves and tendons, in those of the bones, and of wounds of the peritoneum. The seventh has reference to the stomach and its affections. The eighth embraces fevers, and has numerous dietetic remarks, which are continued in the ninth, together with remarks as to the indications of cure, and on some of the remedial measures, as venæsection, &c. Hectic fever is considered in the tenth book, together with its treatment; and putrid fevers in the eleventh. The twelfth inquires into the nature of a symptom; one or two in particular, as syncope, &c., are especially noticed. Tumours of various kinds, phlegmonous especially, are considered in the thirteenth book; the rise of inflammation, its causes, and variation, according to the parts affected; treatment of, both remedial and dietetic. Several particular cases, as phrenitis, &c., referred to, and many interesting observations are largely dispersed throughout. Complicated tumours and swellings occupy the fourteenth book. Erysipelas, œdema, scirrhus, cancer, anthrax, scrofula, and many others; together with some remarks on affections of the hair and of the eyes.
In concluding this hasty and imperfect sketch, I must repeat that I think a translation of these fourteen books would prove an acceptable present to every intelligent physician; an agreeable bon-bouche to all who can divest themselves of prejudices early instilled into their minds, by self-opiniated teachers, both public and private, against the ancient writers, of whom, in fact they know little or nothing. It is time that our medical youth should be led to know and to believe, that “all the talents” are not confined to a few plausible theorists of present times; but that with common diligence, wheat in abundance may be winnowed from the chaff of ancient lore, to their own advantage; and to a conviction that the science, perhaps even the practice of medicine, was as well comprehended and pursued, with far inferior advantages, in the time of Galen as at the present period of the “march of mind.” It is devoutly to be wished that a revulsion in favour of the ancients could fully and firmly be accomplished; which would be the case, if a translation should be made of their writings, for who, now studies them in their original dress!—what if there be trash among them! is none apparent in the boasted productions of the present day? Can none, in theory or practice be pointed out, in the syllabi, and essays from our Professorial chairs?—who is it leads the student to believe that nought but trash exists within the musty folios of antiquity? who? why usually some pretender, who mystifies his hearers, and through their means the world at large, by assuming as his own, the opinions and views of others who have long preceded him; and but for which, his ignorance or idleness would have precluded his attaining. Desirous of shrouding the sources of his borrowed plumes, it is necessary to blind those who depend upon him for information, by the assertion that nothing good can “come out of Gallilee!” What! is there no pleasure even in contemplating the embodied trash of the early promulgators of science, if only to ascertain how high we have ascended beyond them in the route they had begun to trace? If the folios of old, exceed in magnitude, the octavos of our times; these last excel in number, and in rapidity of emission, that by no means compensate the contents of the larger proportion!
GALENI, DE ARTE CURATIVA, SEU RATIONE MEDENDI, LIBRI DUO.
of the method of curing diseases.
Bas. Ed., p. 366.
These books, addressed to Glaucus, may be considered as the continuation of the preceding, and might without impropriety rank as the fifteenth and sixteenth books; and from these too, may be abundantly gleaned a copious mass of information. The first book teaches us the reasons leading man to acquire information generally, and that of medicine particularly, as arising out of it. To illustrate this, the subject of fever is selected, and the causes and symptoms of the various kinds of fever are successively brought to view, viz., ephemeral, putrid, tertian, quartan, quotidian, continued, &c., affections of the head from various causes; crises, critical days, and numerous particulars connected therewith.
The second book embraces very fully the subject of inflammation, its varieties, causes, &c., and the indication of cure, by general and topical means; œdema, abscesses, ulcers of different kinds, and morbid swellings of every description, are brought into view; and much practical information is every where to be found.
In these and other writings of former ages, we must be content to take them as we marry, for better and worse.—He must be fastidious in the extreme who cannot find something good; he that anticipates no error in them is a blockhead. In reading them we must “be to their faults a little blind”—at the same time remembering the centuries that have elapsed since they were penned, compare them candidly with those of the present period, and judge thereby of their extraordinary merits. No one will regret the loss of time in their perusal, for infinitely more is squandered away in the attention paid to the voluminous and reiterated repetitions in the successive volumes that now issue from the press.a
In the writings of Galen, much practical matter will repay his perusal, even when we may be inclined to reject his doctrines; doctrines, however, in which the germs of, I believe, most of late or present notoriety may be discovered. Remember him as a writer of sixteen centuries past! The author of more numerous works than any who preceded or followed him; and admitted chiefly as his genuine productions; besides that of many that have unfortunately been lost,—and of numerous commentaries on the Hippocratic writings; to say nothing of those deemed to be spurious, or merely philosophical, without having any very close connexion with the science of medicine!—Is such a man undeserving of notice by his medical posterity? Is it possible we can be satisfied to know him by name alone? It is high time such apathy should cease for sentiments of a more generous character; and delight would result from pursuing the train of thought that has been illuminated by the midnight taper of the greatest man that our science can boast of. The prince (or tyrant if so he must be called,) of the medical profession for one thousand years, if he is not worthy of consideration, I really know not who is, now! If the giants of medicine, who, during so long a period entered the nets of his disposing, were too readily seduced to devour indiscriminately all that they contained; those of the present day are precluded from the same; for the passages have been obstructed by every possible means, that interested motives could induce.
In the Venice edition, at the end of this book, we are told, that here ought to be placed that book which appears in the fifth class, under the title of “Quos, et Quando, et Quibus Medicamentis purgare conveniat.”
GALENI, IN LIBRUM HIPPOC. DE VICTUS RATIONE IN MORB. ACUTIS, COMM. QUATUOR.
of the rationale of food in acute diseases.—four commentaries.
Bas. Ed., p. 585.
To epitomize these commentaries is scarcely possible. Galen has divided the four books of Hippocrates on the subject stated, each into short sections or paragraphs, as texts, on which to build his remarks.
The first consists of forty-seven paragraphs; the argument of the book, in the Venice eighth edition is as follows, and sufficiently exhibits its contents.
Pertractat de iis, quæ veteribus medicis in acutorum morborum victu controversa erant; ac in primo quidem libro agit de Ptisana.”
The second consists of fifty-five paragraphs, thus indicated:
“Exemplo doloris lateris agit de vi ac usu fomentorum, deinde de repentina tum in victu, tum in reliquis rebus mutatione; fusé latéque pertractat.”
The third embracing sixty-two paragraphs, is thus headed:
“Exponit vini, mulsæ, oxymelitis, aquæ, et balneorum facultatem.”
The fourth contains one hundred and twenty-three paragraphs; headed as follows:
“Liber á quopiam ex Hippocratis discipulis, multis diversisque theorematis, inordinatéque dispositis, conflatus, quorum plurima ad acutos morbos videntur pertinere.”
The reader is referred to the subject by Hippocrates, in the preceding part of this volume.
Following the preceding, in the Venice eighth edition we have a short book, itself imperfect in the beginning, entitled,—
GALENI, DE DIÆTA HIPPOCRATIS IN MORBIS ACUTIS.
on the hippocratic diet in acute diseases.
From a note given, it appears doubtful whether this work on which Galen discourses, is the production of Hippocrates; but the remark is made, that whoever was the author, he was well acquainted with the doctrine of Hippocrates. Much other matter is contained in it than what appertains solely to diet, yet all connected with medicine, and deserving at least of a cursory perusal, but scarcely admitting of an abstract.
GALENI, DE REMEDIIS PARATU FACILIBUS LIBELLUS.
of remedies of easy preparation.
Bas. Ed., p. 419.
This is a kind of domestic dispensatory or pharmacopœia, affording receipts for the preparation of different remedies for an extensive set of diseases; having a preface explanatory of the treatise, as being written for the use of country people, travellers, and persons living at a distance from medical assistance. It consists of one hundred and thirty-one short divisions or chapters,—in some of which, the precepts of other physicians are given. Many of the prescriptions might subserve the interests of Charlatanism, by introducing some novelties to their notice. Much of it is praiseworthy, and fully equal to Buchan and his commentators on domestic medicine; superior indeed, in one particular, that of brevity!
We may connect with the above, the two succeeding books, for they are of precisely the same character, and seem as if they were the contents of Galen’s common place-book of recipes, &c., derived from all quarters; they altogether form a curious, and not uninteresting part of the works of Galen, or of that age.
LIBER DE MEDICINIS FACILE PARABILIBUS, GALENO ASCRIPTUS, LIB. SECUNDUS.
of medicines of easy preparation.
Bas. Ed., p. 447.
This is addressed or inscribed “ad Solonem, medicorum prinpem,”—and contains nearly one hundred and fifty recipes for sundry complaints and other intentions; some are connected with cosmetics, others for aphrodisiacal uses, &c, “Ad conceptum usum.” “Ut mulier marem generet,” &c., &c. Some promoting, others to prevent abortion, &c. “Aliquando dormitat bonus (Galenus) Homerus.”
LIBER DE MEDICINIS FACILE PARAB. GALENO ASCRIPTUS. LIB. TERTIUS.
Bas. Ed., p. 483.
This third book is called also by the title of “De medicamentis quæ ad manum sunt” (off-hand remedies), and consists of nearly three hundred prescriptions! in omnes ferè morbos, et quibusdem alios!
In these three books may be discovered the originals of many of the panaceas, and receipts of the present age, for Hydrophobia, and the “thousand ills that flesh is heir to.” They constitute a kind of romance in the domains of prescription!
GALENI DOCUMENTUM DE PUERO EPILEPTICO.
advice for an epileptic boy.
Bas. Ed., p. 518.
This is a letter of advice from Galen to Cæcilianus, who had consulted him respecting his son; in which he enters pretty extensively into the treatment, both remedial and dietetic, which he deemed proper to be pursued, and gives his reasons for the same;—although not capable of being epitomised, it will by its perusal afford information.
GALENO ASCRIPTUS LIBER DE INCANTATIONE, ADJURATIONE, ET SUSPENSIONE.
on incantation, adjuration, and charms.
Bas. Ed., p. 526.
This book on charms, amulets and the like, is ascribed to Constantinus Africanus, in whose writings it appears; why it should have been attributed to Galen, does not appear. It commences by an address to Constantine’s child (fili charissime), who seems to have inquired as to the utility of the objects in view; and whether any thing had been written on the subject by the Greeks or Indians? To this inquiry, the treatise is a reply; and Galen is referred to in more than one part. Much curious matter is spread over it,—and the influence of the mind or imagination on many occasions is pointed out, and its utility in practice is sustained. The folly of some of the notions then entertained, and which have come down nearly to our times, is pointed out, and the statements of some of the physicians of anterior period, as to charms, &c., are enumerated; and although he seems to doubt them, further than as operating on the imagination; yet he acknowledges the difficulty of coming to certain conclusions, where not personally present; adding, that as we would doubt the attraction of iron by the magnet, if we had not seen it, so many things may be true, which we cannot comprehend.
GALENI IN LIB. DE NATURA HUMANA, COMMENTARIUS SECUNDUS.
a second commentary on the book de natura humana.
Venice Ed., p. 180.
This book “de Natura Humana,” is not acknowledged by Galen as one of Hippocrates. (class 1, no. 3.) This second commentary is on that part of the treatise regarded by Galen as spurious, and which he attributes to Polybius. He divides it under twenty-two paragraphs, as texts for his comments. The operation of some common cause in producing an epidemic is affirmed. The origin of four pair of vessels from the head is properly criticised, and some useful remarks are spread throughout the whole.
GALENI, DE OCULIS THERAPEUTICON.—SPURIUS.
of the treatment of ophthalmic affections.
Bas. Ed., p. 530.
This treatise, stated to be spurious, gives an account of the eyes, their construction, their tunics, humours, muscles, nerves, &c., the mode in which vision is accomplished, and other particulars relating thereto. Then, after some observations on the primary intentions of medicine in general, in relation to diseases, their causes and symptoms; the affections of the eyes, and of their respective parts, are considered, and the remedial measures to be adopted for their removal. An immense assortment of collyria is presented, headed “de collyriis multis ad oculorum ægritudines,” and the patient must be hard to please who cannot find one for his purpose.
GALENO ASCRIPTUS LIBER DE RENUM AFFECTUUM DIGNOTIONE ET MEDICATIONE.
of diseases of the kidneys, and their treatment.
Bas. Ed., p. 566.
The kidneys are here described, as to substance, situation, parts, and uses. Nephritis, calculus, and other renal and vesical affections, are duly treated of. The causes of calculus, symptoms, &c., and of those impacted in the urethra. Difference of calculi in size, situation, figure and colour. Cure of, and relief, by various means, of a general character; followed by those adapted to particular cases. The latter part of the treatise is especially intended for, and is addressed to an individual labouring under calculus. Another tract upon the subject is partly promised.
GALENI, IN HIPPOCRATEM DE OFFICINA MEDICI.—COM. TRES.
three commentaries on the hippoc. treatise of the office of the physician.
Bas. Ed., p. 746.
There seems some doubt with Galen, whether this treatise is not the production of Thessalus, one of the sons of Hippocrates, and intended by him simply as hints for remembrance. The commentaries on each paragraph are pretty extensive, and many of much interest. Indeed the treatise is itself far too brief to be properly comprehended now, without the aid of Galen. The second of Galen’s commentaries commences with that part of Hippocrates’ treatise that treats on bandages, and the right indication for their employment. In the Venice eighth edition we are presented with a series of engravings of the various bandages affixed to different parts of the head, body and extremities, with copious remarks. The subject is continued in the third commentary, and not a little is said on fractures and luxations, which is, however, more fully pursued in the succeeding book.
GALENI IN LIB. HIPPOCRATIS DE FRACTURIS, COMMENT. TRES.
three commentaries on the book of fractures by hippocrates.
Bas. Ed., p. 840.
In these three commentaries the subject of fractures is largely discussed. After some preliminary observations as to the general nature of fractures, and the indications of treatment, they are individually considered, and some rude plates are given as explanatory of some parts, in the Venice edition. Luxations of sundry joints are treated of, as those of the femur, knee, ankle and others; and figures of some of the machines for extension in reducing them, are also afforded; some of which, probably, might be occasionally useful where at present pullies are employed, but which are not always to be had in the country at a moment’s warning. Compound fractures, &c., constitute the subject of the last or third commentary, with some accessory observations on bandages, luxations, &c. Some of the cuts given, look considerably like splints, &c., that have given celebrity to later writers!
GALENI, IN LIB. HIPPOC. DE ARTICULIS, COMMENT. QUATUOR.
four commentaries on the book of hip. on luxations.
Bas. Ed., p. 944.
As the preceding book, though nominally appropriated to fractures, contains much on the subject of luxations, so this, which is connected chiefly with luxations, has much respecting fractures. In the Venice edition we have a considerable number of cuts, explanatory of the processes pursued in the reduction of different luxations, especially of the humerus; the symptoms of each are pointed out, and the rationale of the process pursued. As in the former, so in this, it would be impossible to give an epitome of the contents. The subjects are copiously handled, and especially some of the most important; thus, on the luxation of the femur, we have it treated of, under the following heads.
There is a good deal of very singular and heels-over-head business in these books; for, under some circumstances, the reduction is made by hanging the patient by the legs, head-downwards, as described, and exemplified by engravings, and probably, in practice, not unavailing. Should curiosity lead any one to peruse these commentaries, some pearls may be found amongst a good deal of rubbish.
GALENUS DE FASCIIS.
Ven. Ed., p. 293.
The Latin translator (Vidus Vidius,) of this, which does not appear in the Basil edition, in an address to the reader, informs him that this is one of the three treatises on bandages, by Galen, Soranus, and Heliodorus; of which he gives only this, of Galen, since whoever knows it, will be masters of the other two. Satisfied that this is Galen’s, he remarks that it is the very book he promised, in the second commentary: “De Officina Medici.” As some few things are wanting that are found in Soranus and Heliodorus, he has here inserted them. Some further information of not much importance, is added, and the treatise itself immediately succeeds.
Various bandages (and many plates) for the head are described from different authorities, seventy in number;—followed by others for the luxation of the extremities; fracture of the clavicle; suspensory and other bandages, all derived apparently from other writers; and some not undeserving of present notice. Some indeed are in use amongst us.
ORIBASIUS, DE LAQUEIS, EX HERACLE.
of a noose or ligature.
Ven. Ed., p. 306.
This treatise introduced into the Venice edition, is only noticed here from that circumstance. It is, says the Translator Vidius, praised by Galen in his book on bandages (de Fasciis), and is elsewhere noticed by him, yet in the Greek copy, he adds, it is referred to Oribasius. However this be, he further remarks, there are many things in it necessary to the elucidation of medicine. The subject matter is that of ligatures, of various kinds, for tying up bandages or dressings, extension in the reducing of fractures, &c. Cuts are given of these, nearly twenty in number.
ORIBASIUS, DE MACHINAMENTIS, EX HELIODORO.
on surgical machinery, or apparatus.
Ven. Ed., p. 309.
What is said above, will apply to this treatise on the machinery employed. It appears to be a collection made by Oribasius, from Hippocrates, Galen, and other authors—giving the description and use of such machinery, with the rationale of its employment. It is accompanied by figures.
This concludes the seventh class.
[a ]Our medical works (with few exceptions) of the present period, are dull repetitions of some earlier author; enriched with a few scattered notes, “to make up a show.”—a “repetatur haustus” of professional dexterity.