Asclepiades of Bithynia
Asclepiades (c. 124 or 129 – 40 BC) was a Greek physician born at Prusa in Bithynia in Asia Minor and flourished at Rome, where he established Greek medicine near the end of the 2nd century BCE. He attempted to build a new theory of disease, based on the flow of atoms through pores in the body. His treatments sought to restore harmony through the use of diet, exercise, and bathing.
Asclepiades was born in Prusias in Bithynia. He travelled much when young, and seems at first to have settled at Rome as a rhetorician. In that profession he did not succeed, but he acquired great reputation as a physician. His pupils were very numerous, and his most distinguished pupil, Themison of Laodicea, founded the Methodic school. It is not known when he died, except that it was at an advanced age. It was said that he laid a wager with Fortune, that he would forfeit his character as a physician if he should ever suffer from any disease himself. Pliny, who tells the anecdote, adds that he won his wager, for he reached a great age and died at last from an accident. Nothing remains of his writings but a few fragments.
Asclepiades began by vilifying the principles and practices of his predecessors, and by asserting that he had discovered a more effective method of treating diseases than had been before known to the world. He decried the efforts of those who sought to investigate the structure of the body, or to watch the phenomena of disease, and he is said to have directed his attacks particularly against the writings of Hippocrates.
Discarding the humoral doctrine of Hippocrates, he attempted to build a new theory of disease, and founded his medical practice on a modification of the atomic or corpuscular theory, according to which disease results from an irregular or inharmonious motion of the corpuscles of the body. His ideas were likely partly derived from the atomic theories of Democritus and Epicurus. All morbid action was reduced to the obstruction of pores and irregular distribution of atoms. Asclepiades arranged diseases into two great classes of Acute and Chronic. Acute diseases were caused essentially by a constriction of the pores, or an obstruction of them by an excess of atoms; the Chronic were caused by a relaxation of the pores or a deficiency of atoms.
His remedies were, therefore, directed to the restoration of harmony. He trusted much to changes of diet, massages, bathing and exercise, though he also employed emetics and bleeding. A part of the great popularity which he enjoyed depended upon his prescribing the liberal use of wine to his patients, and upon his attending to their every need, and indulging their inclinations.
Asclepiades advocated humane treatment of mental disorders, and had insane persons freed from confinement and treated them with natural therapy, such as diet and massages. His teachings are surprisingly modern, therefore Asclepiades is considered to be a pioneer physician in psychotherapy, physical therapy and molecular medicine.
- Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxvi. 7
- Pliny, Hist. Nat. vii. 37
- Caelius Aurelianus, De Morb. Chron. iii. 8. p. 469
- Pliny, Hist. Nat. vii. 37, xxiii. 22
- Gumpert CG (1794). "Cap. VIII: de morborum cognitione et curatione secundum Asclepiadis doctrinam". In Christianus Gottlieb Gumpert. Asclepiadis Bithyniae Fragmenta (in Latin). Vinariae: Sumptibus novi bibliopolii vulgo Industrie-Comptoir dicti. pp. 133–184. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
- Christos Yapijakis (1 July 2009). "Hippocrates of Kos, the Father of Clinical Medicine, and Asclepiades of Bithynia, the Father of Molecular Medicine". In Vivo 23 (4): 507–514. PMID 19567383. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
Further reading 
- Cumston, Charles Greene (1926). An Introduction to the History of Medicine From the Time of the Pharaohs to the End of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
- Green, Robert M., ed. (1955). Asclepiades, His Life and Writings: A Translation of Cocchi's Life of Asclepiades Gumpert's Fragments of Asclepiades. New Haven, CT: Elizabeth Licht.
- Rawson, Elizabeth (1982). "The Life and Death of Asclepiades of Bithynia". Classical Quarterly 32 (2): 358–370. doi:10.1017/S0009838800026549. PMID 11619646.
- Vallance, J.T. (1990). The Lost Theory of Asclepiades of Bithynia. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1867). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.