The Physicians of Athens
There exist in Athens and in other Greek cities real sanataria; these are temples devoted to the healing gods (usually Asclepius, but sometimes Apollo, Aphrodite, and Hera). Here the patient is expected to sleep over night in the temple, and the god visits him in a dream, and reveals a course of treatment which will lead to recovery. Probably there is a good deal of sham and imposture about the process. The canny priests know more than they care to tell about how the patient is worked into an excitable, imaginative state; and of the very human means employed to produce a satisfactory and informing dream. Nevertheless it is a great deal to convince the patient that he is sure of recovery, and that nobody less than a god has dictated the remedies. The value of mental therapeutics is keenly appreciated. Attached to the temple are skilled physicians to "interpret" the dream, and opportunities for prolonged residence with treatment by baths, purgation, dieting, mineral waters, sea baths, all kinds of mild gymnastics, etc. Entering upon one of these temple treatments is, in short anything but surrendering oneself to unmitigated quackery. Probably a large proportion of the former patients have recovered; and they have testified their gratitude by hanging around the shrine little votive tablets, usually pictures of the diseased parts now happily healed, or, for internal maladies, a written statement of the nature of the disease. This is naturally very encouraging to later patients: they gain confidence knowing that many cases similar to their own have been thus cured.
These visits to the healing temples are, however, expensive: not everybody has entire faith in them; for many lesser ills also they are wholly unnecessary. Let us look, then, at the regular physicians.
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