previous next


Let us here briefly advert to what may be said on the opposite side; namely, that a change of diet has occurred in these cases, without any change in their body, either as to strength, so as to require an increase of food, or as to weakness, so as to require a diminution. But the strength of the patient is to be taken into consideration, and the manner of the disease, and of the constitution of the man, and the habitual regimen of the patient, not only as regards food but also drink. Yet one must much less resort to augmentation, since it is often beneficial to have recourse to abstraction, when the patient can bear it, until the disease having reached its acme and has become concocted. But in what cases this must be done will be afterwards described. One might write many other things akin to those which have been [p. 71] now said, but there is a better proof, for it is not akin to the matter on which my discourse has principally turned, but the subject-matter itself is a most seasonable proof. For some at the commencement of acute diseases have taken food on the same day, some on the next day; some have swallowed whatever has come in their way, and some have taken cyceon.1 Now all these things are worse than if one had observed a different regimen; and yet these mistakes, committed at that time, do much less injury than if one were to abstain entirely from food for the first two or three days, and on the fourth or fifth day were to take such food; and it would be still worse, if one were to observe total abstinence for all these days, and on the following days were to take such a diet, before the disease is concocted;2 for in this way death would be the consequence to most people, unless the disease were of a very mild nature. But the mistakes committed at first were not so irremediable as these, but could be much more easily repaired. This, therefore, I think a strong proof that such or such a draught need not be prescribed on the first days to those who will use the same draughts afterwards. At the bottom, therefore, they do not know, neither those using unstrained ptisans, that they are hurt by them, when they begin to swallow them, if they abstain entirely from food for two, three, or more days; nor do those using the juice know that they are injured in swallowing them, when they do not commence with the draught seasonably. But this they guard against, and know that it does much mischief, if, before the disease be concocted, the patient swallow unstrained ptisan, when accustomed to use strained. All these things are strong proofs that physicians do not conduct the regimen of patients properly, but that in those diseases in[p. 72] which total abstinence from food should not be enforced on patients that will be put on the use of ptisans, they do enforce total abstinence; that in those cases in which there should be no change made from total abstinence to ptisans, they do make the change; and that, for the most part, they change from abstinence to ptisans, exactly at the time when it is often beneficial to proceed from ptisans almost to total abstinence, if the disease happen to be in the state of exacerbation. And sometimes crude matters are attracted from the head, and bilious from the region near the chest, and the patients are attacked with insomnolency, so that the disease is not concocted; they become sorrowful, peevish, and delirious; there are flashes of light in their eyes, and noises in their ears; their extremities are cold, their urine unconcocted; the sputa thin, saltish, tinged with an intense color and smell; sweats about the neck, and anxiety; respiration, interrupted in the expulsion of the air, frequent and very large; expression of the eyelids dreadful; dangerous deliquia; tossing of the bed-clothes from the breast; the hands trembling, and sometimes the lower lip agitated. These symptoms, appearing at the commencement, are indicative of strong delirium, and patients so affected generally die, or if they escape, it is with a deposit, hemorrhage from the nose, or the expectoration of thick matter, and not otherwise. Neither do I perceive that physicians are skilled in such things as these; how they ought to know such diseases as are connected with debility, and which are further weakened by abstinence from food, and those aggravated by some other irritation; those by pain, and from the acute nature of the disease, and what affections and various forms thereof our constitution and habit engender, although the knowledge or ignorance of such things brings safety or death to the patient. For it is a great mischief if to a patient debilitated by pain, and the acute nature of the disease, one administer drink, or more ptisan, or food, supposing that the debility proceeds from inanition. It is also disgraceful not to recognize a patient whose debility is connected with inanition, and to pinch him in his diet; this mistake, indeed, is attended with some danger, but much less than the other, and yet it is likely to expose one to much greater derision, for if another physician, or a private[p. 73] person, coming in and knowing what has happened, should give to eat or drink those things which the other had forbidden, the benefit thus done to the patient would be manifest. Such mistakes of practitioners are particularly ridiculed by mankind, for the physician or nonprofessional man thus coming in, seems as it were to resuscitate the dead. On this subject I will describe elsewhere the symptoms by which each of them may be recognized.

1 The cyceonwas a mixture of various articles of food, but generally contained cheese, honey, and wine. See Athenaeus (Deipnos, ii.). It is described by Homer as the potion which Circe administered to the followers of Ulysses. (Odyss. x., 235). There is freqent mention of it in the Hippocratic treatises, as at De Diaeta, ii.; de Muliebribus, ii.; and in the works of the other medical authors.

2 The meaning here is somewhat obscure, but appears to be this: that if a patient fast for the first two or three days, and take food of a heavy nature on the fourth or fifth, he will be much injured, but that the mistake will be still more fatal if the fast be continued for the first four or five days, and if he then indulge freely in food at the end of these.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (A. Littre)
hide References (8 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: