The Dark, Dark Side of “Greek Medicine”

Remember when I posted about how the medieval Muslim and Indian versions of ancient “Greek medicine” were still out and about, including in Afghanistan?

Here’s a story about the dark side. Just as many people in ancient Rome used opium cakes as a cure-all (panacea), so do the Afghan people today.

The classical world isn’t dead. Sometimes that’s not a good thing.

On the bright side, elements of the party fun of the Adonia (“certain vessels full of earth, in which the worshippers had raised com, herbs, and lettuce, and these vessels were called the gardens of Adonis”) and the ancient Persian New Year survive in Mideast celebrations of Easter and modern Iran’s Nowruz/Persian New Year.

(I don’t see any pictures of girls throwing away the grass while wishing for husbands, at the end of the celebrations; but I’ve got a YouTube video of grass being given as a prize to the winners of some kind of Nowruz “chicken wrestling” in Azerbaijan. Well, maybe that’s more dark side, sorry, though the chickens don’t seem torn up and it only lasts about two seconds in the video. The dunce cap I think is supposed to be a depiction of Zoroastrian priest gear.)

(You might rather look at this video, which shows the tribal Azerbaijani ladies in their traditional, largely non-face-veiled outfits. This is an example of how, in many places in the Muslim world, women only wore face veils against dust or sun, same as the men. Having a nice warm or cool hat was more important to their outfits than hiding from men. Alas, it looks like the women attached to the dignitaries/apparatchiks are wearing less fun outfits than the tribal ladies and are more Saudi-ized. Anyway, the music is even catchier in this video than in the first one, though I warn you that I like drone instruments. Here’s Tajik immigrant ladies in New York at Nowruz, same thing as the Azerbaijanis.)

3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Dark, Dark Side of “Greek Medicine”

  1. That’s most interesting, you know! And yes, one problem with putting ancient medical texts online would be that some people would follow the receipes in them!

    • Well, yeah. You’d have to annotate the heck out of stuff with lots of THIS RECIPE IS POISONOUS notes.

      However, I freely admit to continually adding anything that seems harmless and helpful to my store of “things to do when you’re hoarse” and “things to do when you’ve got a bad cold” files. I’ve got a magpie mind for that sort of thing, and odd random facts even come in handy sometimes. (Odd facts about poisonous substances are even more useful! Mystery novels are survival tools.) And sure, if you’re not too sick, probably most harmless treatments will work at least as a placebo. But I don’t really want to have to rely seriously on that sort of thing. Some people do want that.

      Also, I suspect that the heavy levels of opium use may explain why the Yunani (Ionian) doctors think alcohol is such a terrible poison. Add alcohol to somebody with already-high levels of opium, and you’re probably going to have problems.

  2. Mmm. On the other hand, you could just put a sign at the top “this website kills stupid people”, and sit back and wait. After a while, include links to news reports of people who died after trying out the medical texts. You could even have a counter, like a hit-counter — “number dead this year”. “Roger-pearse.com — increasing the average intelligence of the human race by killing off the stupid”. šŸ™‚

    It must be rough, tho, stuck out in these places, having to live in Yurts and all the rest of it, use old versions of Windows etc.

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