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21 Now the foregoing is indeed an acute disease. But a chronic malady may develop in those patients who suffer from a collection of water under the skin, unless this is dispersed within the first days. The Greeks call this hydrops. And of this there are three species: sometimes the belly being very tense, there is within a frequent noise from the movement of wind; sometimes the body is rendered uneven by swellings rising up here and there all over; sometimes the water is drawn all together within, and is moved with the movement of the body, so that its movement can be observed. The Greeks call the first tympanites, the second leukophlegmasia or hyposarka, the third ascites. The characteristic common to all three species is an excessive abundance of humour, owing to which in these patients ulcerations even do not readily heal. This is a malady which often begins of itself, often it supervenes upon a disease of long standing, upon quartan fever especially (III.15, 16). It is relieved more easily in slaves than in freemen, for since it demands hunger, thirst, and a thousand other troublesome treatments and prolonged endurance, it is easier to help those who are easily constrained than those who have an unserviceable freedom. But even those who are in subjection, if they cannot exercise complete self-control, are not brought back to health. Hence a not undistinguished physician, a pupil of Chrysippus, at the court of King Antigonus, held that a certain friend of the king, noted for intemperance, could not be cured, although but moderately affected by that[p. 315] malady; and when another physician, Philip of Epirus, promised that he would cure him, the pupil of Chrysippus replied that Philip was regarding the disease, he the patient's spirit. Nor was he mistaken. For although the patient was watched with the greatest diligence, not only by his physician but by the king as well, by devouring his poultices and by drinking his own urine, he hurried himself headlong to his end. At the beginning, however, cure is not difficult, if there is imposed upon the body thirst, rest, and abstinence; but if the malady has become of long standing, it is not dispersed except with great trouble. They say, however, that Metrodorus, a pupil of Epicurus, when afflicted with this disease, and unable to bear with equanimity necessary thirst, after abstaining for a long while, was accustomed to drink and then to vomit. Now if what has been drunk is then returned, distress is much reduced; but if retained in the stomach, it increases the disorder; and so it must not be tried in every case. But if there is also fever, this is first of all to be overcome by the methods which have been prescribed concerning possible relief in such cases (III.4‑17). If the patient has become free from fever, then at length we must go on to those measures by which the disorder itself is usually treated. And here, whatever the species, so long as the disease has not taken too firm a hold, the same remedies are required. The patient should walk much, run a little, and his upper parts in particular are to be rubbed while he holds his breath. Sweating is also to be procured, not only by exercise, but also by heated sand, or in the Laconicum, or with a clibanus and such-like; especially serviceable are the natural and dry sweating places,[p. 317] such as we have in the myrtle groves above Baiae. The bath and moisture of every kind is wrong. Pills composed of wormwood two parts, myrrh one part, are given on an empty stomach. Food should be of the middle class indeed, but, of the harder kind; no more of drink is to be given than to sustain life, and the best is that which stimulates urine. But that, however, is better brought about by diet than by medicament. If, nevertheless, the matter is urgent, one of those drugs which are efficacious is to be made into a decoction, and that given as a draught. Now this faculty seems to belong to iris root, spikenard, saffron, cinnamon, cassia, myrrh, balsam, galbanum, ladanum, oenanthe, opopanax, cardamomum, ebony, cypress seeds, the Taminian berry which the Greeks call staphis agria, southernwood, rose leaves, sweet flag root, bitter almonds, goat's marjoram, styrax, costmary, seeds of rush, square and round (the Greeks call the former cyperon, the latter schoinon): whenever I use these terms I refer, not to native plants, but to such as are imported among spices. The mildest of these, however, are to be tried first, such as rose leaves or spikenard. A dry wine is beneficial, but it must be very thin. It is good besides to measure every day with string the circumference of the abdomen, and to put a mark where it surrounds the belly, then the day following to see whether the body is fuller or thinner, for the thinning shows a yielding to the treatment. Nor is it unserviceable to take the measure of his drink, and of his urine; for if more humour is evacuated than taken in, then at least there is hope of recovery. Asclepiades has put it on record that for a patient who had lapsed from a quartan into dropsy, he employed for two days abstinence and[p. 319] rubbing, on the third day, the patient having all become freed from both the fever and the water, he gave food and wine.

So far the prescription can be common to all the species; if the disease is more severe, the method of treatment must be different. For instance, if there is flatulence and owing to that pain is frequent, a vomit is beneficial, either daily or on alternate days, after food; hot and dry foments are to be applied. If the pain is not ended by these, dry cuppings are needed, but if the torment is not relieved even by these, skin incisions are made and then the cups applied. If cupping does no good, the last resource is to infuse hot water copiously into the rectum and draw it out again. Nay even vigorous rubbing with oil and any one of the heating agents should be carried out three or four times a day, but in this rubbing the abdomen is to be left out; but to this mustard should be applied repeatedly until the skin is excoriated; and ulcerations are to be set up in many places upon the abdominal wall by means of the red hot cautery, and the ulcers to be kept open for some time. It is useful also to suck a boiled squill bulb; but for a long while after such attacks of flatulence the patient should abstain from everything that causes it.

But if the affection is that named leukophlegmasia, the swollen parts should be exposed to the sun, but not too much lest feverishness ensue. If the sun is over-strong, the head is to be covered, and rubbing is to be used with hands just moistened with water to which salt and soda and a little oil is added, taking care that the hands of children or of women are employed, for theirs is a softer touch; and this ought to be done, should the patient's strength[p. 321] allow of it, for a whole hour before noon, or for half an hour after noon. Repressing poultices are of benefit, especially for the more delicate. Also an incision should be made our fingers' breadth above the ankle on the inner side through which humour may discharge freely for some days, and the actual swellings ought to be incised by deep cuts; the body also is to be shaken up by much rocking (II.15); then after the incisions have formed a scab, both exercises and food must be increased, until the patient is restored to his former state of health. The food should be nutritious and glutinous, mostly meat. The wine, when the stomach permits of it, should be rather sweet, but should be drunk alternately with water every two or three days. The seeds of the wolf's-milk plant, which grows to a large size on the seacoast, may be advantageously administered in a draught with water. If the patient is strong enough, he should suck a boiled squill bulb as noted above. There are many authorities who would have the swelling beaten with inflated ox-bladders.

But if the form of the affection is that in which much water is drawn into the belly, the patient should take walks, but with much more moderation, and have applied a dispersive poultice, covered with three folds of linen, bandaged on not too tightly; a practice begun by Tharrias, which I see many have followed. If the liver or spleen is plainly affected, a fatty fig bruised with honey should be put on over it: if the belly is not dried up by such remedies, and in spite of them the humour is in large amount, aid must be given in a quicker way, by giving issue to it through the belly itself (VII.15). I am quite aware[p. 323] that such a way of treatment was disapproved of by Erasistratus, for he deemed the disease to be one of the liver, that therefore it was the liver which had to be rendered sound, and that it was of no use to let out water which, if that organ is diseased, will continually be reproduced. But firstly, the disease is not primarily one of that organ alone; for it occurs when the spleen is affected, and there is a general diseased condition of the body; further, granted that it begins from the liver, the water unnaturally collected there, unless evacuated, injures both the liver and all the rest of the internal organs. And it is agreed, nevertheless, that the body generally has to be treated; for the mere evacuation of the humour does not restore health, but it affords an opportunity for medicaments which the accumulation within impedes. And indeed it is not in dispute that not everybody with this affection can be so treated, but only the young and robust, in whom fever is wholly absent, or who have sufficiently long intermissions. For those are unfitted for this treatment whose stomach is corrupted, or who have lapsed into the malady owing to black bile, or who have a diseased condition of body. But food on the day the humour is first let out is not needed unless strength fails. On the days following, both food and wine, undiluted indeed, but not overmuch in quantity, should be given; little by little the patient should be submitted to exercise, rubbing, sun-heat, sweating, a sea voyage, along with a suitable diet, until he has completely recovered. Such a case requires a bath seldom, more often an emetic on an empty stomach; in summer a swim in the sea is beneficial. For a long while after his recovery, however, the practice of venery is unsuitable.

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