J. F. Royle, An essay on the antiquity of Hindoo medicine. London 1837. Wallach and Heusinger, Das Altertum der indischen Medizin. Kassel 1839. p. 45.
Allan Webb, The historical relations of ancient Hindoo with Greek medicine. Calcutta 1850. p. 45.
Zeitschrift der Deutsch. Morgenland. Gesellsch. 30 (1876), 617 and 31 (1877), 647.
3) Susruta's Ayur-vedas. Editio Hessler. Erlangae 1844. p. 111 and 130.
4) Gebri De alchemia libri tres. Argentorati arte et impensa Io. Grie-ningeri anno 1529.
Chr. G. Schmieder, Geschichte der Alchemie. Halle 1832. p. 34.
Syria, Ethiopia and other countries, as well as their industry and art undoubtedly developed slowly before it reached that height which we now admire. Thus, they were acquainted with the preparation of the metals, with furnaces and distilling apparatus, with the distillation of wine, and of the oleoresin of cedar;1) with the preparation of soda, alum, vinegar,2) soap, leather; also with the preparation and use of colors and the manufacture of glass. The Egyptians used cedar (turpentine) oil3) and colophonium,4) and probably knew how to isolate plant aromas as distilled oils.
The height which Egyptian civilization reached is revealed better by their architectural monuments, mummies found in the pyramids, and by the products of artistic workmanship, than by the few written documents that have come down to us. Likewise in the building of ships and in their commerce with neighboring countries the Egyptians accomplished much.
Like their writings, many of their arts and crafts were lost at least in part to the civilized nations succeeding them and had to be rediscovered. In judging the relationship between their scientific knowledge and their accomplishments in the arts and crafts, it should be remembered that the manufacture of metals, of glass, and even dyeing were based on a rather crude empiricism and seem to have been almost wholly independent of the theoretical consideration of the age. Thus, with but little scientific knowledge of permanent value, these most ancient peoples, the Hindoos, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Phoenicians, like the Chinese, who stand at the dawn of civilization, have in the course of centuries of development accomplished much in a practical way. They, and among them the Egyptians more particularly, served as the teachers of the classical nations of Greece and Rome.
1) Aetii medici graeci Ex veteribus medicinae tetrabiblos. Editio Aldina. Veneti 1547. fol. 10.
2) Numbers, 6:3.
3) Herodoti Historiae II. 85.
Pedanii Dioscoridis Anazarbei De materia medica libri quinque. Editio Kuhn-Sprengel. Lipsiae 1829. Lib. 1, cap. 34, 39, 80, 95, 97.
Plinii Secundi Naturalis historiae libri 37. Liber 15, cap. 6 and 7, and liber 16, cap. 22.
Scribonii Largi Compositiones medicamentorum. Editio Schneider. p. 323.
Theophrasti Eresii Opera, quae supersunt omnia. Historia plantarum. Editio Wimmer. Parisii 1866. Liber 9, cap. 3.
4) Pedanii Dioscoridis Anazarbei De materia medica libri quinque. Editio Kuhn-Sprengel. Lipsiae 1829. Vol. 1, p. 660 and vol. 2, p. 639.
The scientific knowledge as well as the industrial and artistic accomplishments of the Hebrews and the Greeks, and indirectly also of the Romans, had their root in Egyptian civilization. However, the Greeks, like the Hebrews, tended toward the ideal rather than the practical in their conception of Nature. They did not experiment and were not bent on applying their scientific knowledge. The Greek philosophers and writers collected and systematized the information that had come down to them and thus aided in preserving it, without, however, putting it to practical use or adding anything new to it.
The Greeks, however, were well informed as to the Egyptian arts; they understood the preparation and working of the metals, the manufacture of glass, and other industrial arts. Their commerce, however, was mostly barter in natural products. The oriental spices were highly prized by them for incenses, cosmetic and sanitary purposes. Whether the primitive method of distillation practiced by the Egyptians and Persians was known to the Greeks does not appear from their literature. It is not improbable, however, for medicine and the use of cosmetics were hardly less thought of by the Greeks than by the Egyptians. Owing to the luxury of the later Greeks, perfumes and spices were extensively used. The much praised oriental perfumes, especially sandal wood gvla Ivdr/.u) were considered a necessity at all festivities. Hence the Greeks procured the aro-matics known to them as articles of barter. In later periods, however, the procuring of these products like the sea traffic generally was left to other peoples.
At the time when Greek culture spread westward and became the basis of Roman civilization, Greek views concerning nature and Greek knowledge of it were likewise transmitted. In their numerous conquests, the Romans increased their knowledge of oriental natural products. These were brought by the old caravan routes and then by sea to Rome. Among them were the finest spices for the kitchen, perfumes and ointments for the toilet, balsams and incenses. Whether only aromatized fats, or distilled oils as well, were used cannot be ascertained definitely from Roman literature. That the Romans themselves were adept in the preparation of toilet articles seems highly probable. That the natural sciences, including the science of drugs, were well cultivated is shown by the writings of Dioscorides,1) Pliny2) and Galen3).
1) Pedanius Dioscorides was the first important writer on the history of drugs during the Christian era. Born in Anazarbus, in the southeastern part of Asia minor, during the first century, he traveled in the capacity of a physician with the Roman armies through several countries. The Materia Medica, written by him in the second half of the first century, was the most thorough work of its kind during antiquity, and was regarded as authority far into the middle ages. Thus it was used for purpose of comment as late as the time of Luther, as is evidenced by the lectures of Melanchthon at the University of Wittenberg and by the writings of Valerius Cordus in the middle of the sixteenth century.