III[3arg] By what means Erasistratus, the physician, said that one could do for a time without eating, if food chanced to be lacking, and endure hunger; and his own words on that subject.
I OFTEN spent whole days in Rome with Favorinus. His delightful conversation held my mind enthralled, and I attended him wherever he went, as if actually taken prisoner by his eloquence; to such a degree did he constantly delight me with his most agreeable discourse. Once when he had gone to visit a sick man, and I had entered with him, having conversed for some time in Greek about the man's illness with the physicians who chanced to be there at the time, he said: “This ought not to seem surprising either, that although previously he was always [p. 137] eager for food, now after an enforced fast of three days all his former appetite is lost. For what Erasistratus has written is pretty nearly true,” said he, “that the empty and open fibres of the intestines, the hollowness of the belly within and the empty and yawning cavity of the stomach, cause hunger; but when these are either filled with food or are contracted and brought together by continued fasting, then, since the place into which the food is received is either filled or made smaller, the impulse to take food, or to crave it, is destroyed.” He declared that Erasistratus also said that the Scythians too, when it was necessary for them to endure protracted hunger, bound a very tight bandage around their bellies. That by such compression of the belly it was believed that hunger could be prevented. These things and many others of the kind Favorinus said most entertainingly on that occasion; but later, when I chanced to be reading the first book of Erasistratus' Distinctions, I found in that book the very passage which 1 had heard Favorinus quote. 1 The words of Erasistratus on the subject are as follows: “I reasoned therefore that the ability to fast for a long time is caused by strong compression of the belly; for with those who voluntarily fast for a long time, at first hunger ensues, but later it passes away.” Then a little later: “And the Scythians also are accustomed, when on any occasion it is necessary to fast, to bind up the belly with broad belts, in the belief that the hunger thus troubles them less; and one may almost say too that when the stomach is full, men feel no hunger for the reason that there is no vacuity in it, and likewise when it is greatly compressed there is no vacuity.” [p. 139] In the same book Erasistratus declares that a kind of irresistibly violent hunger, which the Greeks call βούλιμος, or “ox-hunger,” is much more apt to be felt on very cold days than when tile weather is calm and pleasant, and that the reasons why this disorder prevails especially at such times have not yet become clear to him. The words which he uses are these: “It is unknown and requires investigation, both in reference to the case in question and in that of others who suffer from 'ox-hunger,' why this symptom appears rather on cold days than in warm weather.”