Saturday, November 29, 2014

2500-539 B.C.: Chaldeans create system of medicine

Originating with the Chaldeans was the Zend Avista, or the Living Word.  This was a compilation of all the Chaldean knowledge accumulated around 2500 B.C. by Zarathustria (Zerdutscht Zoroaster), who was a "priestly lawgiver who lived around 2500 B.C.  

As the most educated Chaldean, he was probably a member of the priesthood. His writings were lost to time, although they were ultimately rewritten into a book consisting of: (Baas, page 25)
  • Yanza -- A liturgy
  • Vispered -- Prayers (this would include the medical portions)
  • Jesch -- History of Chaldeans
  • Bundehesch -- Cosmology
Priests were educated at the world's first universities, some of which were created amid the Sumerians, and included locations in Urikh (Erech), Akkad, Nipur, Kutha, Larsa, and Borsippa.  The various branches of learning were not separated as they are today, so if you attended one of these universities you were pretty much educated in all wisdom, which included literature, writing, mythology, religion, medicine, science, mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, weights and measures, magic lore, divination, and astrology. (wiley, page 20)(Garrison, page 54)

Although, the priesthood was ultimately broken down by the Jews/ Hebrews as follows: (Garrison, page 58)
  • Priest: Used words to create heal and prevent sickness and injuries. Hebrew priest were the "hygiene police" There is no mention of Biblical priests acting as physicians. (Garrison, page 57)
  • Prophets: Had the ability to heal using knowledge they obtained at the universities.  Both Elijah and Elisha had the ability to cure and raise people from the dead. There are various references to them "making medicine" in the bible. 
  • Physicians:  Used various herbal remedies and surgeries to heal
  • Pharmacists: Created various herbal remedies and poisons to be used in healing
So most of the medicine was contained in the vispered, and it was all theurgic in character, meaning that it was based on mythology and divination.  These priestly magicians were the most excellent physicians, and they cured by their words, and thus they were: (Baas, page 26)
  • Word doctors: They healed with their charms, incantations, and prayers. 
  • Herb doctors: They healed with their potions
  • Knife doctors: They performed surgery, which mainly consisted of blistering, bleeding, or operating on eyes, castration, etc. It rarely consisted of internal surgery.
According to Wiley, they were familiar with the following: (Wiley, page 20)
  • Astrology:  Mainly consisted of using astronomy, the alignment of stars, planets, comets, etc. to determine the words of the gods to predict the future. (Wiley, page 20)
  • Divination: Mainly consisted of determining the words of the gods by reading the alignment of internal organs, mainly the liver (called hepatoscopy). Garrison notes that the liver was important because it was the source of blood and the seat of the soul.  He says, "to inspect the liver was to see into the soul of the sacrificed animal, and the mind of the gods." (Garrison, page 55) This also involved palmistry (reading palms) and astrology (reading stars, planets, comets, etc.)
  • Herbs: They had poisonous and healing properties, and worked by powers invested in them by gods. Herbal recipes were used as medicine, both internal and external (Wiley, page 20)
  • Words: Included magical incantations, conjurations, spells and charms that were disgusting to evil spirits and demons, and remedied and cured ailments 
  • Amulets: Their magical powers were able to suck out demons and spirits to cure ailments
  • Talisman: Warded off evil demons and spirits
  • Pharmacy: Medicine kept in vases and jars (Wiley, page 20)(Recipe page 21)
Garrison said priests or physicians would use one or more of the above in the following fashion: (Garrison, page 54-57 )
  • Aetiology: Blaming demons (similar to modern physicians blaming germs)
  • Diagnosis:  Based on inspection of patient
  • Prognosis: Based on the following: 
    • Divination or augury from liver of sacrificed animals:
      • Abnormally large organ: token of future power and success
      • Abnormality on right side of organ: token of future power or success
      • Abnormally small organ: token of weakness or failure
      • Abnormality on left side: token of weakness or failure
    • Divination of astrological signs
    • Birth omens, which determined whether person was going to be a super power or a failure.  These were based on augury of liver of sacrificed animals, astrology and palmistry.  They also studied fetal abnormalities.
    • Disease omens:  Inspection of the body, abnormalities, studying liver of sacrificed animals, astrology, and palmistry. 
    • Palmistry:  foretelling future through study of palms
  • Therapy:  The goal of various remedies was to "disgust demons inside the body." (Garrison, page 56)
    • Exorcisms by special ritual.  May be performed by the sick at home or at one of the smaller temples, or by the priests at your home, or as part of the regular rituals held at the larger temples. 
    • Herbal remedies 
    • Words: incantations, charms, spells, prayers, or conjurations
  • Prophylaxis:  Prevention
    • Incantation
    • Talisman
    • Charms (may place seal of gods on both sides of door of invalid) (Garrison, page 56)
    • Good behavior
    • Good hygiene (this was later perfected by Egyptians and Hebrews, although there is evidence of Babylonian drains, indicating they made the link between feces and disease) The Babylonians did wash their hands before meals, however, mainly because they ate with their fingers. They usually only washed the rest of their bodies only once a week. It was a sin to urinate in canals. (Sigerist, page 402)
In this way, it was the Chaldeans who created the first system of medicine. After the fall of Sumeria in 2000 B.C., their medical wisdom would be assimilated into Babylonian culture. 

References:  See post "2000 B.C.:  Assyrian physicians will treat your dyspnea"

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