The Ancient Library

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On this page: Physicians (continued)


through erasistratus and hersphilus, the two men who knew most about human anatomy. A pupil of the latter, ph!linus of Cos (about 250), in opposition to the Dog­matic school set up by the sons of Hip­pocrates and dominated by philosophic theories, founded an Empirical school, which relied solely on tradition and on individual experience.

In 219 b.c., when a member of that school, the Peloponnesian archagathus, set up a surgery in a booth (tdberna) assigned him by the Senate, and was admitted to the citizenship, the Greek art of healing gained a footing among the romans. Yet the physician practising for pay did not enjoy the same consideration as in Greece; Roman citizens fought shy of a profession which, respectable as it might be, was left almost entirely in the hands of foreigners, freed-men, and slaves. Romans of rank usually kept a freedman or slave as family doctor, llbertus (or servus) mldlrus. A consider­able part was played at Rome by Cicero's friend AsCLEPlAuES of Prusa, whose S3'stem, mainly directed to practical skill, received its theoretic justification from the school of Methodlci founded by them!son of Laodicea (about 63 B.C.). When Caesar had granted the citizenship to foreign physicians as well as teachers, not only did the former flock in large numbers to Rome from Greece, Egypt, and the East, but many natives adopted the medical profession, as cei.sus in the reign of Tiberius, whose treatise, De Medlclna, must be regarded as the chief contribution made to the science by the Romans. To the physicians at Rome, of whose receipts a notion may be formed from the statement that a certain Stertimus had an income of £6,500 from his town practice, Augustus granted immunity from all public duties, a privilege afterwards extended to the provinces.

As soon as the Empire was fully estab­lished, physicians with a fixed salary began to be appointed at the court, in the army, for the gladiators, and in the service of various communities. Antoninus Pius, in the 2nd century A.D., arranged, for the province of Asia in the first instance, that physicians should be appointed by the town authorities, five in small towns, seven in those of moderate size, and ten in capitals; they were to be remunerated by the town, exempt from all burdens, and free to carry on a private practice besides. There was no real supervision of physicians on the part of the State, and the various schools

and nationalities were at perfect liberty to practise.

Under the Empire the art began to divide into separate branches, and in large towns, especially Rome, the several specialties had their representatives. Thus, in addition to doctors for internal cures, the medici pro­per, there were surgeons (chlrurgi or vul-nerarn), oculists, dentists, aurists; phy­sicians male or female, for diseases of women; also for ruptures, fistula, etc. ~r further MtrQllptce, probably at first mere assistants who rubbed in the embrocations, etc., afterwards a species of doctors. The physicians at Rome, as in Greece, supplied their own medicines, and turned them to profit by crying up the dearest drugs, of which they kept the secret, as the best. The medicines were provided with a label setting forth the name of the remedy and that of its inventor, the complaints it was good for and directions for use. We get a fair notion of these labels from the dies used by Roman oculists to mark the names of their eye-salve on the boxes in which they were sold; a good many of these have been preserved. [C. I. Grotefend, Die Stampe der rom. Augenarzte ; there are several in the British Museum, together with two very small inscribed vases such as were used to contain the eye-salves.] The chief authority for the materia mcdica of those times is the work of DIoscORlDES of the 1st century a.d. About the same time the school of Methodici, whose principal representative was soranus (about 110), was confronted by a Neiv Dogmatic school, otherwise called the Pneumatic school, founded by the Cilician athen^eus. To the Eclectic school, founded towards the end of the 1st century by agathinus of Sparta, belongs more especially the Cappadocian writer aret^eus. The most renowned of the later physicians is galen (Ualenos) in the 2nd century, who in his numerous writings embraced the whole range of the-medical knowledge of antiquity. Medicine made no further progress in ancient times. Of the encyclopedic works of oreibasius and AETlus (at the end of the 4th century and beginning of the 6th), the value lies in their extracts from older writings. Among the Romans SoRlBONius largus Cin the middle of the 1st century) and serenus sammonicds (at the beginning of the 3rd) wrote on Remedies, the latter in verse. We have, lastly, to mention C^ELlus aure-LlANUS, the translator of works by Soranus (in the 5th century), and vegettus, the

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