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ME´DICUS

ME´DICUS (ἰατρός), the name given by the ancients to every professor of the healing art, whether physician or surgeon, and accordingly both divisions of the medical profession will here be included under that term. In Greece and Asia Minor physicians seem to have been held in high esteem; far more so than at Rome. This was at least to some extent due to the religious sense, ἰατρικὴ and μαντικὴ being regarded as akin (Eustath. ad II. 1.63), and to the apotheosis of Aesculapius, of whom physicians speak as ὁἡμέτερος πρόγονος (Plat. Symp. p. 186 A). When we meet such expressions as that in Athen. 15.666 b, εἰ μὴ ἰατροὶ ἦσαν ουδὲν ἂν ἧν τῶν γραμματικῶν μωρότερον, the allusion is to the pedantry of physicians after the type ridiculed by Molière, and does not show a general depreciation of their class. Aelian mentions one of the laws of Zaleucus among the Epizephyrian Locrians, by which it was ordered that if any one during his illness should drink wine contrary to the orders of his physician, even if he should recover, he should be put to death for his disobedience (Var. Hist. 2.37); and, according to Mead, there are extant several medals struck by the people of Smyrna in honour of different persons belonging to the medical profession (Dissert. de Nummis quibusdam a Smyrnaeis in Medicor. Honor. percussis, 4to. Lend. 1724). According to the Decree of the Athenians and the Life of Hippocrates by Soranus (Hippocr. Opera, vol. iii. pp. 829, 853, ed. Kühn), the same honours were conferred upon that physician as had before been given to Hercules; he was voted a golden crown, publicly initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, and maintained in the Prytaneum at the state's expense. Both these pieces, however, are more legendary than historical. (Compare Plin. Nat. 7.123.) The physician made up his medicines himself, and either sat in his ἰατρεῖον, which was both a consulting-room and a dispensary (called also ἐργαστήριον, Aeschin. in Timarch. § 124), or went a round of visits (Plat. Legg. 4.720 C. For these ἰατρεῖα cf. Poll. 10.46; Plat. Legg. i. p. 646 C). Here he had also assistants and apprentices or pupils (Plat. Legg. iv. l.c.; Aeschin. in Timarch. § 40). In the former passage the assistant doctors are slaves, on which point cf. D. L. 6.30. No doubt slaves only as a rule were attended by slave doctors, and free men by free, but it is noticeable that Plato, when he says this, qualifies by ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖστον. When Hyginus, Hyg. Fab. 274, says that there was a law at Athens against any slave practising, he must allude, if his assertion is true at all, to the state physicians.

Though hospitals are mentioned in Roman writers (Cels. de Medic. i. praef. sub fin.; Colum. de Re Rust. 11.1, 18; Sen. Epist. 27.1) after the time of Augustus [see VALETUDINARIA], they are never, with one single exception in

Aesculapius and a Sick Man. (Millin,
Gal. Myth.,
tav. 32, No. 105.)

Crates, mentioned by Greek writers before the Roman period. The function, so far as it was [p. 2.154]performed at all, was discharged by the temples of Aesculapius, and accordingly the chief places of study for medical pupils were the Ἀσκληπιεῖα, or temples of Aesculapius, where the votive tablets furnished them with a collection of cases. Hence we find in ancient works of art Aesculapius represented as visiting the sick. The Asclepiadae [MEDICINA] were very strict in examining into and overlooking the character and conduct of their pupils, and the famous Hippocratic oath (which, if not drawn up by Hippocrates himself, is certainly very ancient) requires to be inserted here as being the most curious medical monument of antiquity. “I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Hygeia (Health), and Panaceia (All-heal), and all the gods and goddesses, calling them to witness that I will fulfil, according to the best of my power and judgment, this oath and written bond:--to honour as my parents the master who has taught me this art, and to share my substance with him, and to minister to all his necessities; to consider his children as my own brothers, and to teach them this art should they desire to follow it, without remuneration or written bond; to admit to my lessons, my discourses, and all my other teaching, my own sons, and those of my tutor, and those who have been inscribed as pupils and have taken the medical oath; but no one else. I will prescribe such regimen as may be for the benefit of my patients, according to the best of my power and judgment, and preserve them from anything hurtful and mischievous. I will never, if asked, administer poison, nor be the author of such advice; neither will I give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. I will maintain the purity and integrity both of my conduct and of my art. I will not cut any one for the stone, but will leave the operation to those who cultivate it. Into whatever dwellings I may go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, abstaining from all mischief and corruption, especially from any immodest action, towards women or men, freemen or slaves. If during my attendance, or even unprofessionally in common life, I happen to see or hear of anything which should not be revealed, I will consider it a secret not to be divulged. May I, if I observe this oath, and do not break it, enjoy good success in life, and in [the practice of] my art, and be esteemed for ever; should I transgress and become a perjurer, may the reverse be my lot.”

Some idea of the income of a physician in those times may be formed from the fact mentioned by Herodotus (3.131) that the Aeginetans (about the year B.C. 532) paid Democedes from the public treasury one talent per annum for his services, i. e. (if we reckon the Aeginetan drachma to be worth 1s.) not quite 304l.; he afterwards received from the Athenians one hundred minae, i. e. (reckoning the Attic drachma to be worth 9 3/4 d.) rather more than 406l., and he was finally attracted to Samos by being offered by Polycrates a salary of two talents, i. e. (if the Attic standard be meant) about 422l. Valckenaer doubts the accuracy of this statement of Herodotus with respect to the Aeginetans and Athenians, but we have no right to reject it, and it is accepted as true by Boeckh (Staatshaush. i.3 153). A physician, called by Pliny both Erasistratus (H. N. 29.5) and Cleombrotus (H. N. 7.123), is said by him to have received one hundred talents, i. e. considerably over 20,000l., for curing king Antiochus.

State physicians were employed in Greece (from Democedes downwards). They were selected on the ground of knowledge evidenced in their private practice (Xen. Mem. 4.2, 5; Plat. Gorg. 455 B, 514 D). In Plat. Polit. p. 259 A we see them distinguished from those who practised privately: their practice and official status are described by the word δημοσιεύειν specially applied to them, and in their public capacity they received salary but took no fees (Aristoph. Birds 587; Acharn. 994); their expenses, however, were paid besides their salary, and they received public honours for distinguished service (C. I. A. 2.256, p. 424). It appears from Diod. 12.13 that they attended gratis any one who applied to them, and it is at least probable that they were bound to give their services on military expeditions. From Aristoph. Pl. 407 it appears that in that period of depression at Athens the office was discontinued from motives of economy. [W.A.G]

As regards the rise and progress of the medical profession at Rome, we must distinguish between the slaves skilled in medicine, who were kept in the larger households, and the physician in general practice. The former, no doubt, came earlier in date, and those who could afford skilled slaves for medical treatment already employed them, when for the masses there was no practising physician: but in the yet earlier times for all alike, and for the general public to a comparatively late period, the treatment of sickness was by traditional family recipes, partly founded on experience, partly on superstition, the Romans being for the most part, as late as the 600th year of the city (according to Pliny, Plin. Nat. 19.11), “sine medicis nec tamen sine medicina.” A little earlier however than this (B.C. 219), says Pliny on the authority of Cassius Hemina, the first professed physician, the Greek Archagathus, came to Rome. He was made a citizen and started in a shop at the public expense (Plin. Nat. 29.12): but his treatment was unpopular from its heroic method, “a saevitia secandi urendique.” There was much opposition, for the Romans regarded with suspicion the skill of the foreigners, and shunned the calling themselves as a degradation. Cato, who still held to the old custom, and used a family manual of medicine (commentarium), “quo mederetur filio, servis et familiaribus,” strongly opposed the whole class of medici, against whom he warns his son, as banded together to kill Roman citizens. In Plautus (Menaechm. 5.1) we have perhaps evidence of the same mistrust and contempt; but it is never possible to assume that the customs and sentiments described in Plautus are Roman rather than Greek.

Gradually however, after the time of Archagathus, the number of foreign physicians in Rome increased, alike those in private houses, who were either slaves (cf. Suet. Nero 2) or freedmen, and those who had general practice. As a household physician of this kind we may instance Strato from the Cluentius of Cicero (63, 176). We have the price of a slave physician fixed at 60 solidi (Just. Cod. 7.7, 1, 5). The [p. 2.155]practising physicians at Rome were nearly all of the freedman class (see the inscriptions cited by Marquardt, Privatleben, p. 772). They had booths (tabernae), where they practised with slaves or freedmen as their assistants and pupils, whom they took about with them in their visits (Mart. 5.9). Few Romans took up the profession (though we hear of Vettius Valens, a man of equestrian rank in the reign of Claudius); and Julius Caesar, avowedly to encourage their residence, gave the citizenship to foreign physicians (Suet. Jul. 42), with the result which he desired.

Among physicians who seem to have risen to greater repute we have Asclepiades of Prusa (Cic. de Or. 1.1. 4, 62; cf. Plin. Nat. 7.124); Asclapo of Patrae, whom Cicero treated as a friend (Cic. Fam. 13.2. 0); Alexio, for whom he seems to have had even greater regard (ad Att. 15.1); Antonius Musa, the freedman and trusted physician of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 59; cf. Hor. Ep. 1.15, 3); M. Artorius (Vell. 2.70, 1; Plut. Brut. 41); A. Cornelius Celsus, who wrote a medical treatise under Tiberius; Eudemus (Tac. Ann. 4.3), &c.

The professional gains of physicians under the Empire seem often to have been large: we are told of Stertinius by private practice making more than 5,000l. a year, and the surgeon Alcon amassing a fortune of nearly 100,000l. by a few years' practice in Gaul (Plin. Nat. 29. § § 7, 22; cf. Mart. 11.84). Regular medical posts were instituted with large appointments: as court physicians with salaries varying from 250,000 to 500,000 H.S. (Plin. l.c.); as doctors for the army, for gladiatorial schools (C. I. L. 6.10171), and for the poorer public [ARCHIATER]. Apart from these state appointments the practice was entirely free from control or training: as a rule probably the training was gained by the sort of apprenticeship to some medicus described above, but anyone was at liberty to practise, and, in the words of Pliny, “experimenta per mortes facere” ; ignorance was not, as in our country, penal, and hence “medico hominem occidisse summa impunitas” (Plin. Nat. 29.18).

Besides the archiatri at Rome itself (one for each region), there were by order of Antoninus Pius in each city of Asia Minor state physicians (paid by the state, with immunity from taxes), in numbers varying from five to ten according to the size of the town (Dig. 27, 1, 6.2; 59, 9, 1; see Friedländer, iii. ch. 4). We can trace specialist physicians also, such as the oculist (ocularius or ab oculis), the aurist (aurarius). (Orelli, 4228, 2983; C. I. L. 6.6192; 8908.) The profession of dentist is implied at a very early date by the remarkable extract from the XII. Tables in Cic. de Leg. 2.2. 4, 60, relating to teeth stopped with gold. (See further Mart. 10.56.) We may also notice that female doctors (medicae) for attendance on women, apparently distinct from midwives (obstetrices), are found in many inscriptions (see Marquardt, op. cit. 779).

As regards army doctors among the Greeks, we find them in the heroic age when the ἰητρὸς ἀνὴρ is πολλῶν ἀντάξιος ἄλλων. It would appear from Homer, Hom. Il. 16.28, that there were several; perhaps, as some suggest, each contingent had an ἰητρός. In historical times we may learn something of their presence from Xenophon, Xen. Anab. 3.4, 30; Cyrop. 1.6, 16, 3.2, 12, 5.4, 17. Perhaps, as Dr. Hager suggests (Journ. of Philology, vol. viii. No. 15), the δημόσιοι ἰατροὶ had to accompany the army, as was the case in Egyptian armies (Diod. 1.82). [For Roman army doctors, see EXERCITUS Vol. I. p. 802 b; for quack doctors, PHARMACOPOLA; for hospitals, VALETUDINARIA; for surgeons, CHIRURGIA; and see also the articles ARCHIATER, IATROSOPHISTA.]

(For this article and the preceding, reference may be made, besides the ancient authorities, to Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.48 ff.; Gallus, 2.139 ff.; Marquardt, Privatleben, 772 ff.; Mahaffy, Social Life in Greece, 290; Daremberg, Hist. de la Médecine, ch. i.; Vercoutre, La Médecine dans l'antiq., Revue Archéol., 1880; Friedländer, Sittengeschichte, i.5 298 ff.)

[G.E.M]

hide References (25 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (25):
    • Aristophanes, Birds, 587
    • Aristophanes, Plutus, 407
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.13
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.131
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 3.4
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 4.2
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 4.5
    • Homer, Iliad, 16.28
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 42
    • Suetonius, Nero, 2
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.3
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 1.1
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 59
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 29
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 29.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 29.18
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.2
    • Plutarch, Brutus, 41
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 10.56
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 11.84
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.9
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.15
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.82
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