Sunday, July 1st, 2012...11:41 amChris Francese

A cure for madness (Quintus Serenus, Liber Medicinalis 1.87-99)

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Quintus Serenus 1.87-99

Grave relief of a Greco-Roman doctor.Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sk 804. Photo Johannes Laurentius.

ex vitio cerebri phrenesis furiosa movetur 87
amissasque refert frendens amentia vires,
sive calens febris iactatos exedit artus
sive meri gustus seu frigoris efficit aura. 90
convenit calidis pecudum pulmonibus apte
tempora languentis medica redimire corona.
inlotis etiam lanis suffire memento
cerritum; saepe horrendi medicantur odores.
non semper praesens dolor est sanabilis: ergo 100
cura magis prodest venturis obvia morbis
atque ideo sanos etiam curarier est par. 95
purgatur cerebrum mansa radice pyrethri,
unguitur et sucis, dederit quos parva sabucus,
expressusque hederae mandatur naribus umor
aut mixtum rutae cerebro instillatur acetum.

Quintus Serenus was the author of Liber Medicinalis, a collection of therapeutic recipes. It cannot be dated very closely, but evidently derives from somewhere in the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. For more information about books check this out. In this excerpt he discusses cures for phrenesis, a kind of mental derangement accompanied by fever. The translation here is my own (in fact I don’t think this work has ever been translated into English, but there is a French edition, which I have not seen). The discussion of the various forms of madness in Roman medical texts is derived from my book, Ancient Rome in So Many Words. My other podcast of a bit of Serenus is here. The Latin text is from PHI, which atypically does not itself list a source. Hope you enjoy!


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