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ROMAN HOSPITALS.


With reference to the important question of the foundation of hospitals, there are two opposing opinions--one, attributing their foundation almost entirely to Christianity,[35] and the other denying to Christianity any pre-eminent influence.[36] The truth lies between these two conflicting views, but nearer to the statement of Mr. Brace than of Mr. McCabe. The truths and influences of Christianity, in the mind of the latter author, are obscured by the many errors of the Church, especially in the Early and Middle Ages; and it is of the utmost importance to distinguish, where necessary, between the teaching of the Founder of Christianity as disclosed in the New Testament, and the teaching of the Church which made many very evident errors, and whose practice soon became different from that inculcated by its Founder, so that at times the Christianity of the Church was as different from Christ's teaching as the vine of Sodom from the grapes of Eshcol. The fact that Christianity emerged from this eclipse points to it as something more than a humanly devised system.

In very early times, the sick were allowed to remain at the temples for the treatment of their diseases, and medical students also attended for instruction. This system was the hospital system of later times, although the temples were not hospitals in the present sense of the word. The system in vogue in the temples of Æsculapius in Greece and Rome has already been described in this book, but the temples of Saturn served the same purpose in Egypt four thousand years before Christ. Professor Ebers of Leipzig, a high authority on the subject, says that Heliopolis undoubtedly had a clinique in connection with the temple. The Emperor Asoka founded many hospitals in Hindustan, and Buddhists and Mohammedans both possessed hospitals ("Encyclopædia Britannica").

Patients were attracted to temples, not only by receiving the services of the priest-physicians, but also in the superstitious belief that special virtue attached to the precincts of sacred buildings. Thus, in the temples of Æsculapius, sick people tried to get as near to the altar as possible. "It may fairly be surmised that the disuse of these temples in Christian times made the necessity of hospitals more apparent, and so led to their institution, in much the same way as in this country the suppression of monasteries, which had largely relieved the indigent poor, made the necessity of poor laws immediately evident."[37] During Hadrian's reign the first notice of a military hospital appears.

The iatria, or tabernæ medicæ, described by Galen and others, were not for in-patients, but of the nature of dispensaries for the reception of out-patients. Seneca refers to valetudinaria, rooms set aside for the sick in large private houses. The first hospital in Rome in Christian times was founded by Fabiola, a wealthy lady, at the end of the fourth century. Attached to it was a convalescent home in the country. Pulcheria, later, built and endowed several hospitals at Constantinople, and these subsequently increased in number. Pauline abandoned wealth and social position and went to Jerusalem, and there established a hospital and sisterhood under the direction of St. Jerome. St. Augustine founded a hospital at Hippo. McCabe states justly: "In the new religious order a philanthropic heroism was evolved that was certainly new to Europe. In the whole story of Stoicism there is no figure like that of a Catherine of Sienna sucking the sores of a leper, or a Vincent de Paul." It appears evident that Christianity was an important factor in the foundation of hospitals and charitable institutions, not directly, but from its beneficent influence on the character of individuals; and the Roman Church, in this respect, acted in conformity with the teachings of the Christian faith.

Of greater importance is the consideration of the influence of Christianity, and of the Church, on the investigation and elimination of disease. In this matter the Church deserves the severest censure. It is no exaggeration to say that she hindered the scientific progress of the world for centuries. She applied to the explanation of the causation of disease, the demon theories inherited from Egypt, Persia, and the East. The Bible itself reflects the views on demonology current at the time of the events recorded. If demons were the cause of disease, logically the treatment of diseases should have been in the hands of priests, not of physicians. The priests held that they were the proper people to interpret the will of the Almighty; diseases were direct dispensations of Providence.

"It is demons," says Origen, "which produce famine, unfruitfulness, corruptions of the air, and pestilence. They hover concealed in clouds, in the lower atmosphere, and are attracted by the blood and incense which the heathen offer to them as gods."[38] "All diseases of Christians," wrote Augustine, "are to be ascribed to these demons: chiefly do they torment fresh-baptized Christians, yea! even the guiltless new-born infants." Hippocrates, long before the Christian era, wrote with great wisdom in reference to the so-called sacred diseases: "To me it appears that such affections are just as much divine as all others are, and that no one disease is either more divine or more human than another; but all are alike divine, for each has its own nature, and no one arises without a natural cause."[39]

The devil might be driven out in disgust, it was thought, by the use of disgusting materials--ordure, the grease made from executed criminals, the livers of toads, the blood of rats, and so on. The same belief in demoniacal possession led to the most inhuman treatment of lunatics, and the Church in this respect is put to shame when we compare its action with the wiser and more humane practice of the Moors. This belief helped to strangle medical progress for centuries, and is directly attributable to the Church. As late as 1583, the Jesuit fathers at Vienna boasted that they had cast out 12,642 devils. That God dispenses both health and disease is a very different belief from that involved in "demoniacal possession." Travellers in remote parts of the East at the present day tell of alleged cases of demoniacal possession, but investigation does not reveal any difference between these cases and epilepsy or acute mania.

In the first centuries of the Christian era men demanded overt signs of the favour of God, and the objects of veneration kept in the churches and monasteries were held to be capable of curing disease. The Latin Church had either a saint or a relic of a saint to cure nearly every ill that flesh is heir to. St. Apollonia was invoked against toothache; St. Avertin against lunacy; St. Benedict against stone; St. Clara against sore eyes; St. Herbert in hydrophobia; St. John in epilepsy; St. Maur in gout; St. Pernel in ague; St. Genevieve in fever; St. Sebastian in plague; St. Ottila for diseases of the head; St. Blazius for the neck; St. Laurence and St. Erasmus for the body; St. Rochus and St. John for diseases of the legs and feet. St. Margaret was invoked for diseases of children and the dangers of childbirth.

What the influence of Christ's life on earth on the medical art of His time was is a difficult question. It must be remembered that He came to save the souls and not the bodies of men, not to rapidly alter social conditions nor to teach science. The eternal life of man was the subject of transcendent importance, and it is no doubt true that many of the early Christians neglected their bodies for the cure of their souls. As against this, the gospel of love taught that all men are brothers, both bond and free, and this led to mutual help in physical suffering, and to the foundation of charitable institutions. In the times of persecution of the Christians many of them welcomed suffering and death as the portal to eternal bliss.

It has been asserted that the miraculous cures wrought by Christ for His own purposes were an intimation to His followers to neglect the ordinary means of natural cure, and that this placed a Christian doctor in the position of having to abandon his calling. This is not so. To St. Luke--a Christian physician and the writer of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles--the performance by Christ of miracles of healing presented no difficulties, for he was the travelling medical adviser of St. Paul, and accompanied him on three journeys, from Troas to Philippi, from Philippi to Jerusalem, and from Cæsarea to Rome (A.D. 62). St. Paul wrote: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life, but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us." St. Paul exercised faith, but also used the means of cure prescribed by "the beloved physician." In a very scholarly book published by the Dublin University Press in 1882, the Rev. W. K. Hobart, LL.D., shows that St. Luke was acquainted with the technical medical terms of the Greek medical writers. St. Luke was an Asiatic Greek. Dr. Hobart writes: "Finally, it should not be left out of account that, in any illness from which he might be suffering, there was no one to whom St. Paul would be likely to apply with such confidence as to St. Luke, for it is probable that, in the whole extent of the Roman Empire, the only Christian physician at this time was St. Luke." In later years the pretence of performing miracles to cure diseases had a great effect in advancing superstition and retarding scientific investigation.

Tacitus and Suetonius record miracles alleged to have been performed by Vespasian. He is said to have anointed the eyes of a blind man at Alexandria with the royal spittle, and to have restored his sight. Another case was that of a man who had lost the use of his hands, and Vespasian touched them with his foot and thus restored their function. It is interesting to follow the career of Proclus, the last rector of the Neoplatonic School, "whose life," says Gibbon, "with that of his scholar Isidore, composed by two of their most learned disciples, exhibits a most deplorable picture of the second childhood of human reason." By long fasting and prayer Proclus pretended to possess the supernatural power of expelling all diseases.

The priests of the Church denounced the practice of Anatomy, and so changed the progress made by the Alexandrian School, and by men like Galen, into the ignorance of a thousand years. The body was the temple of the Holy Ghost, and should not therefore be desecrated by dissection. "Strangers' rests" and hospitals were connected with the monasteries, and were exceedingly useful, notably in the time of the Crusades, but these Church institutions were in a very insanitary condition, for the maxim that cleanliness is next to godliness had little application among the religious orders of the Middle Ages. Dr. Walsh attempts to show that the Reformers blackened the fair fame of the Church they had left, and states that it is to "this unfortunate state of affairs, and not real opposition on the part of the Popes to science," that we owe the belief in "the supposed opposition between the Church and Science."[40] That the Popes did something to foster medical science in a spasmodic kind of way, that papal physicians were appointed and that the Church exercised control over some seats of learning may be freely admitted. That the monasteries preserved some of the Latin classics that they were not all corrupt, and that all monks were not ignorant and idle, are facts beyond dispute. No doubt, too, the enemies of Christianity have overstated their case, but when all is said, the fact remains that the Church enjoyed great opportunities for promoting knowledge and investigating disease, and failed to avail itself of them to such an extent that for ages no real progress was made. This is certainly not an extreme opinion. It would be nearer the truth to say that not only was no progress made, but that the advances made by Hippocrates, by the school of Alexandria, by Celsus, and by Galen, were lost.

In conclusion, in spite of the dreadful blunders and perversions of the Church in the Early and Middle Ages, and the partial eclipse which Christianity suffered, the teaching of its Founder slowly but surely ended the harsh and cruel ways of the pagans, and was the prime factor in promoting the altruism of later times, of which medical knowledge and medical service form a very important part.


Footnotes:

[33] "Gesta Christi; or a History of Human Progress under Christianity," by C. Loring Brace, fourth edition, pp. 33, 34.

[34] "De Ira," i, 15.

[35] Vide "Gesta Christi," Brace.

[36] Vide "The Bible in Europe," Joseph McCabe.

[37] "Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquity."

[38] Origen, "Contra Celsum," lib. vii.

[39] Adams's translation "Hippoc.," vol. i, p. 216.

[40] "The Popes and Science: The History of the Papal Relations to Science during the Middle Ages, and down to our own Time," J. J. Walsh



Table of Contents


  OUTLINES OF
  GREEK AND ROMAN
  PREFACE.
  EARLY ROMAN MEDICINE.
  EARLY GREEK MEDICINE.
  MACHAON (SON OF ASKLEPIOS),
  HIPPOCRATES.
  "THE LAW.
  "THE OATH.
  PLATO, ARISTOTLE, THE SCHOOL OF ALEXANDRIA AND EMPIRICISM.
  THE ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL.
  ROMAN MEDICINE AT THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE BEGINNING OF THE
  IN THE REIGN OF THE
  PHYSICIANS FROM THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS TO THE DEATH OF NERO.
  THE FIRST AND SECOND CENTURIES OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA.
  GALEN.
  I.--WORKS ON ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY.
  II.--WORKS ON DIETETICS AND HYGIENE.
  III.--ON PATHOLOGY.
  IV.--ON DIAGNOSIS.
  V.--ON PHARMACY, MATERIA MEDICA, AND THERAPEUTICS.
  VI.--SURGERY.
  THE LATER ROMAN AND BYZANTINE PERIOD.
  INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ON ALTRUISM AND THE HEALING ART.
  ROMAN HOSPITALS.
  GYMNASIA AND BATHS.
  GYMNASTICS.
  GREEK AND BATHS
  SANITATION.
  THE WATER-SUPPLY.
  DRAINAGE.
  DISPOSAL OF THE DEAD.
  APPENDIX.
  FEES IN ANCIENT TIMES.
  INDEX.


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