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VALETUDINA´RIUM (νοσοκομεῖον), an infirmary. A detached building or room was commonly found in large houses for the reception of sick slaves, who, we are told, should at once be removed there for better treatment, and, no doubt, for the prevention of infection (Col. 11.1, 18; 12.3, 7;--Senec. de Ira, 1.16; Nat. Qu. 1). We have no satisfactory evidence of anything that can be regarded as a public infirmary or hospital in Italy until the end of the 4th century A.D. Though the passages of Seneca cited above might bear this interpretation, there [p. 2.918]is no reason to consider the valetudinaria which he mentions as anything but infirmaries for slaves in private houses. Attendants for such valetudinaria are mentioned in C. I. L. 6.4475, 9084, 9085. [As regards military valetudinaria in camps for sick or wounded soldiers, see EXERCITUS Vol. I. p. 802 b.] The earliest mention of an infirmary or hospital for the poor in Italy seems to be that found in Jerome (Ep. 3.10, de mort. Fab.), where we are told that Fabiola, A.D. 380, took care of the sick brought from the streets into a building of this kind: “Primo omnium nosocomium, id est languentium villam, instituit, in quo aegrotantes colligeret de plateis et consumpta languoribus atque inedia membra foveret.” Shortly before this (A.D. 372) we hear (Sozom. Hist. Eccles. 6.34) of a hospital at Caesarea established by Basil (primarily, however, for the reception of poor travellers or pilgrims). Vercoutre maintains, probably with reason, that all idea of such an institution was derived by the Romans from the Greeks, whose lead they followed in everything connected with medicine [see MEDICINA, MEDICUS]. We doubt, however, whether this writer is justified in making as much as he does of the Greek ἰατρεῖα, or in regarding them as in any sense hospitals. The state physicians, who treated the pool gratuitously in return for their state salary, had in many Greek cities not only their medicines and surgical appliances provided for them by the state, but also a room, or suite of rooms, called ἰατρεῖον, which otherwise means merely the consulting-room and dispensary of any physician [MCEDICUS]. The description in Galen is οἶκοι μέγαλοι θύρας μεγάλας φωτὸς πλήρεις ἔχουσιν, οἷοι καὶ νῦν κατὰ πολλὰς τῶν πολέων δίδονται τοῖς ἰατροῖς, οὓς παρωνύμως αὐτῶν ἰατρεῖα προσαγορεύουσι (Gal. in Hippocr. de Med. Officin. 1.8). In such rooms it is probable that patients might remain for a time; if, for instance, they were unable to move after an operation: but we lack information which would warrant our crediting Greece with hospitals properly so called earlier than the 4th century. It is possible that the παιώνιον at Piraeus, mentioned by Crates, the comedian of the 5th century B.C. (Fr. 15, Meineke), may have been something of the kind, but this is doubtful; at any rate, it is not alluded to anywhere else, and can hardly have been an institution lasting or imitated in many other places. The function of hospitals for the poor was, to some extent, performed by the temples of Aesculapius [MEDICUS p. 154], where the priests no doubt combined a certain amount of medical knowledge (cf. Liv. 45.28) with a great deal of quackery and superstitious observance (cf. Aristoph. Pl. 665 ff.), and it may, we think, 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. (On this subject, see Daremberg, Hist. de la Médecine, ch. i.; Westminster Review, vol. Iii.; and especially three articles by Vercoutre in Revue Archéol. 1880, pp. 90, 231, 309 ff.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Aristophanes, Plutus, 665
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 28
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