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23 That malady which is called comitialis, or the greater, is one of the best known. The man[p. 335] suddenly falls down and foam issues out of his mouth; after an interval he returns to himself, and actually gets up by himself. This kind affects men oftener than women. And usually it persists even until the day of death without danger to life; nevertheless occasionally, whilst still recent, it is fatal to the man. And often if remedies have been ineffectual, in boys the commencement of puberty, in girls of menstruation, has removed it. Now sometimes there is a spasm of the sinews when the man falls down, sometimes there is none. Some try to rouse the patients as is done in the case of those affected by lethargy; which is quite useless, both because not even the lethargic patient is cured by this method, and because, though it may be impossible to waken him and he may thus die of starvation, the epileptic, on the other hand, returns to himself. If a man falls in a fit without the addition of spasms, certainly he should not be bled; if there are spasms, at any rate he should not be bled unless there are other indications for the bleeding. But it is necessary to move the bowels by a clyster, or by a purge of black hellebore, or by both if the strength allows of it. Next the head should be shaved and oil and vinegar poured over it, the patient should be given food on the third day, as soon as the hour has passed at which he had a fit. But neither gruels, nor other soft and easily digested food, nor meat, least of all pork, are suitable for such patients, but food materials of the middle class: for there is need to give strength and indigestion is to be avoided; in addition he should avoid sunshine, the bath, a fire, all heating agents; also cold, wine, venery, overlooking a precipice, and everything terrifying, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety, and all business. When food has been given upon the third day, it should be omitted on the fourth, and then on alternate days, observing the same hour for the meal, until fourteen days have elapsed. When the malady lasts beyond this period, it loses its acute character, and if it persists, it is now to be treated as chronic. But if the practitioner has not been in attendance from the day of the first fit, but a patient who is liable to fits has been handed over to of him, the class of diet given above should straightway be adhered to, and the day awaited upon which the patient may have a fit; than there is to be used either blood-letting, or clystering, or purgation by black hellebore, as prescribed above. Next on the following days the patient is to be supported by those foods I have mentioned, avoiding everything which I have said must be avoided. If the malady has not been brought to an end by these measures recourse should be had to white hellebore, administering it three or four times, without many days between, never, however, repeating it unless he has had a fit. Moreover, on intermediate days his strength must be supported by additions to what has been prescribed above. On awakening in the morning, his body should be lightly rubbed with old oil, including the head, but excluding the stomach; he should then walk as straight and as far as he can; after the walk he should be rubbed vigorously for a long while in a warm place, and with not less than two hundred hand-strokings, unless he is weak (II.14); next plenty of cold water should be poured over his head; he should take a little food; rest; again before night take a walk; and once more be vigorously rubbed, yet without touching either his stomach or his head;[p. 339] after this he may have dinner, and at intervals of three or four days he should eat for a day or two acrid foods. If not freed by these measures, his head should be shaved; anointed with old oil, to which vinegar and nitre have been added; have salt water poured over it; next upon an empty stomach he should take castoreum in water; no water should be used for drinking unless it has been boiled. Some have freed themselves from such a disease by drinking the hot blood from the cut throat of a gladiator: a miserable aid made tolerable by a malady still most miserable. But as to what is really the concern of the practitioner, the last resources are: to let a left blood from both legs near the ankle, to incise the back of the scalp and apply cups, to burn in two places with a cautery, at the back of the scalp and just below where the highest vertebra joins the head, in order that pernicious humour may exude through the burns. If the disease has not been brought to an end by the foregoing measures, it is probable that it will be lifelong. To mitigate it to some extent all you can do is to use exercise, plenty of rubbing, and the food which has been mentioned above, particularly avoiding what we have declared to be harmful.
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