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Asklepios: Ancient Hero of Medical Caring

James E. Bailey, MD, MPH

Western culture's demands of integrity, sacrifice, and compassion from its physician healers have roots in the mythic traditions of ancient Greece. By understanding these traditions, modern physicians can better understand their patients' expectations and the high expectations physicians often have for themselves. The mythic figure Asklepios was the focus of Greek and Roman medical tradition from approximately 1500 BC to 500 AD. As a physicianhero, Asklepios exemplified the ideal physician and the pitfalls he or she may face. With the progressive deification of Asklepios and the spread of his worship first in Greece and then in the Roman empire, Asklepios became generally recognized as the god of healing and served as an object of supplication, particularly for the poor and disregarded. Asklepian traditions for medical service provide historical insight into the role of modern physicians and their obligations to care for the underserved. From the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. For the current author address, see end of text. Ann Intern Med. 1996;124:257-263. I swear by Apollo Physician, Asklepios, Hygiea, Panacea and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses. . . . Into whatever houses I may enter, I will come for the benefit of the sick. Hippocratic Oath, circa 400 BC

sicians and society to provide health care to the medically disadvantaged. Decisions on provision of care to the underserved are value laden and should be informed by careful examination of personal and societal values. The Asklepian myth illustrates an ancient understanding of physicians' duties for providing care to the underserved, which historians have previously underemphasized. Because Western medical ethics originate largely from ancient Greece, it is appropriate to examine these early traditions in order to better understand our own values regarding medical philanthropy.

The Homeric Asklepios

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estern society has long expected physicians to be caring and dedicated to patient welfare and has even viewed compassion as integral to physician competency. Expectation of physician caring predates Christianity. The ancient Greek origins of Western traditions for medical caring are rooted in the myths of the physician-god Asklepios. The Asklepian tradition, largely forgotten by modern physicians, provides some of Western culture's earliest guidelines for physician behavior. Prominent ancient physicians, including Galen, considered themselves followers of Asklepios (1-3), and Plato called even Hippocrates "the Asklepiad" (4). Although physician roles and status have changed substantially in the last 3000 years, the public's demand for integrity, sacrifice, and compassion from its physician healers has remained relatively constant. Understanding the ancient Greek origins of our traditions for medical caring can help us to understand the basis for our own aspirations as physicians and the expectations of our patients. Health care reform and economic pressures have revived ancient debates over the obligations of phy-

Although Mycenaean inscriptions dated as early as 1500 BC suggest the worship of Asklepios (5), Homer first related the myth of Asklepios (circa 900 BC). Homer does not consider Asklepios a god. As Roman commentator Theodoretus (circa 393 to 457 AD) points out (6), Homer only refers to Asklepios as "the blameless physician" (7). Only Asklepios's sons, Machaon and Podalirius, appear in the Iliad or Odyssey, in which they are presented as craftsmen skilled in the art of healing like their father. They serve as physicians with the Argive soldiers arrayed against the Trojans. Although Machaon and Podalirius are depicted as heroes, they are unlike all other heroes of the Homeric epic in that they are not recognized for their prowess in war or leadership capability but for their skill as physicians (8, 9). The wise leader Nestor recommends that great measures be taken to save Machaon when he is endangered in battle, saying "a leech [a physician] is of the worth of many other men" (10). All other Greek heroes of this period were chieftains and aristocrats; why did Homer elevate Asklepios and his sons to the status of heroes? In Homeric times, physicians were of inferior standing and were considered craftsmen, not noblemen. In the Odyssey (11), physicians are placed in a class with other itinerant laborers, and, in the Homeric epic, Asklepios is not even recognized as the son of the god Apollo. The Edelsteins (12) point out that Asklepios is never depicted as a traditional Greek hero. Throughout Greek literature he performs no heroic feats other than healing. Unlike traditional
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22). . son of Minos. by whom he was brought up and taught the arts of healing and hunting. is inte• Number 2 • Annals of Internal Medicine • Volume 124 . The Edelsteins (12) introduce the concept that perhaps Asklepios. . in their eyes could only be merit and distinction" (20). Zeus then killed Asklepios because he restored the dead to life. Hymenaeus . Whenever Asklepios is mentioned. the Greek demigod Zeus eternally punished for bringing fire to mankind. a son of Coronis. smote him with a thunderbolt. 18): Asclepius was . . Asklepios's mother. As the Edelsteins (19) point out. as he had been before. . I found some who are reported to have been raised by him: Capaneus and Lycurgus . fearing that men might acquire the healing art from him and so come to the rescue of each other. Asklepios has to work for a living. The broad strokes of the myth are clear." Ovid (25) suggests that Asklepios's error was to act "against the will of Dis. and Hippolytus (26). . for he received from Athena the blood that flowed from the veins of the Gorgon. This makes Asklepios a very unusual type of hero. a soother of cruel pangs" (13) or as a "gentle craftsman" brought to "heal mortal men of painful maladies" (14). helper. but they are corroborated by the tale recorded by the mythographer Apollodorus around 50 AD (16). The Hesiodic Myth The oldest written version of the myth of Asklepios was told by Hesiod (15) in approximately 700 BC. . But Zeus. Asklepios is killed for extending his compassion to the condemned and raising from the dead the most infamous of men." That the gods permitted Asklepios to raise the dead is suggested in the Hesiodic-Apollodorian myth by Athena's act of giving him the Gorgon's blood. . not the aristocrats. Zeus resents Asklepios in the same way in which he resents Prometheus. daughter of Phlegyas in Thessaly. . he snatched the babe from the pyre and brought it to Chiron. from power to give life a second time thou shalt be stayed by thy grandsire's lightning. . making them the equals of gods and ultimately threatening the gods' power. . and Glaucus. out of the womb of his dying mother. Asklepios's fault was not raising the dead in general but restoring the lives of those Zeus had condemned (21. . and by that means he raised the dead. . written between 43 BC and 18 AD. is killed by her lover Apollo because of Apollo's jealousy. As Jonsen (23) points out in his essay "Asklepios as Intensivist. Asklepios is destroyed precisely because of his benevolence to mankind. Even a cursory reading of the Greek tragedies shows that those cursed by the gods were outcast by society. The actions of Asklepios and Prometheus helped mortals and elevated the human race. and while he used the blood that flowed from her left side for the bane of mankind. the physician followers of Asklepios. he used the blood that flowed from her right side for salvation. but Coronis he killed. This suggests that the obligation of the physician to assist the suffering. to thee shall it be counted right to restore the spirits of the departed. . . Asklepios shares an aspect of his father's godlike character. An essential part of the Hesiodic myth that other interpreters have overlooked is that the persons for whom Asklepios knowingly risked death were condemned criminals such as Capaneus. makes this explicit: " . Only fragments remain." Asklepios was killed because he "was extending his competence into a forbidden field—life-saving service to one whose life was forfeit to the gods. Lycurgus. Apollo cursed the raven that brought the tidings and made him black instead of white. Tyndareus . Like them. even risking death to alleviate the suffering of others. found nowhere else in Greek mythology. more properly called Apollonian delivery. What made the Asklepios of Hesiod heroic and gave his physician followers honor was that Asklepios stood up for mankind. his Promethean endeavor was in line with their own ideals. "his boldness. As she was burning. as were Achilles and Hercules. as an archetypal physician for the Greeks. Asklepios is then born by cesarean section. he not only prevented some from dying. his suffering. . To the Asklepiads. thereby symbolizing by his very life the ability of the physician to bring life out of death. Coronis. But having dared this once in scorn of the gods. regardless of the sufferer's station and the personal risk the physician might incur. the Centaur. Apollodorus's myth is thought to most accurately reflect the story of Asklepios's birth and death in ancient Greek times (17. and carried the art to a great pitch. . Ovid's version of the myth (24). Hippolytus . And having become a surgeon. Asklepios re258 15 January 1996 fines the art of medicine to the degree that he can raise the dead. . In the earliest literature. to succor anyone suffering. but even raised up the dead. chose Ischys and married him. regardless of the consequences. in accordance with her father's judgement. Asklepios is described primarily as a healer. Apollo is the god of healing as well as the sender of plagues. The ancient Greeks considered Asklepios as the foremost physician because he alone dared to care for the outcast. the means by which Asklepios restores the dead to life. and hero of the common people." directly at odds with the purposes of the gods. However.Greek heroes who gain their livelihood through conquest. was first a representative and hero of the common people. . And they say that Apollo loved her and at once consorted with her. No one dared assist these outcasts for fear of incurring the wrath of the gods. but that she. Asklepios was the son of a god. his honorific is as "a great joy to men.

. These major departures from the earliest texts are attributed to Pindar's association with the cult of the Delphic Apollo (28). In the country of the Epidaurians she bore a son and exposed him on the mountain. Contrast the stories of Hesiod and Apollodorus with the more modern version related by the poet Pindar (circa 520 to 442 BC) (27): Cheiron . . . Yet. or Asklepeions. which were written at the end of the fifth century BC to promote the cults of Delphi. and swiftly reft the breath from out their breasts. swathing their limbs with simples. . But alas! even the lore of leechcraft is enthralled by the love of gain. Therefore the son of Cronus with his hands hurled his shaft through both of them. . . Within this world view it would be inconsistent for Asklepios to restore to life those condemned by the gods. . In Plato's Republic (30). refuse to believe both statements . finding the child. and that for this cause he was struck by the lightning. to bring back from death one who was already its lawful prey. haply. . bare the babe away. The first complete rendering of the divine myth does not appear until 140 AD. tending some of them with kindly incantations. for they were stricken with sudden doom by the gleaming thunderbolt. who relates the tale he heard on his visit to Epidauros. Pindar reinterprets the myth in light of a new understanding of the Olympian gods. or. giving to others a soothing potion. Furthermore. where the most famous of the temples to Asklepios had arisen: [Phlegyas] was accompanied by his daughter. that gentle craftsman who drove pain from the limbs that he healed—that hero who gave aid in all manner of maladies. The herdsman . This myth comes by way of Pausanias (33). who all along had kept hidden from her father that she was with child by Apollo. as in fact it was. he turned away. he loosed and delivered divers of them from divers pains. a Roman. ever-present in the Asklepian temples. a tyrant of Epidau259 15 January 1996 • Annals of Internal Medicine • Volume 124 • Number 2 . and was guarded by the watch-dog of the herd. just as it would be inconsistent for Apollo to kill Coronis in a jealous lover's rage. not because of jealousy but because she consents to marry the mortal Ischys without her father's permission. he saw lightning that flashed from the child. and. and all traces of violence and jealousy are eradicated. Asklepios as a Physician-God Pindar's myth is best known and most frequently cited as a warning to physicians to avoid putting fee collection above the duty to serve a patient's best interests. Apollo. . As he drew near. . Asklepios transgresses divine decree not for compassion but for greed. This emerging world view could not attribute petty jealousies to the gods nor suggest that a faultless Asklepios was killed because the gods wished to protect their power. in which Apollo is given a central position in the hierarchy of the gods as a consistent harbinger of justice. In the beginning of the passage (which is not shown). The quandary related by Socrates developed as a result of a changing understanding of the gods in post-Homeric Greece. . or restoring others by the knife. Roman commentator Tertullianus (29) criticizes Pindar's depiction of Asklepios for this reason. was bribed by gold to heal a man already at the point of death. or with bodies wasting away with summer's heat or winter's cold. and gave it to the Magnesian Centaur to teach it how to heal mortal men of painful maladies.. thinking that it was something divine. . and that he was raising dead men to life.gral to the ancient Greek understanding of physician duty. by a splendid fee of gold displayed upon the palm. . . though he was the son of Apollo. he loses his rash and jealous Homeric character.. attest to the worship of Asklepios (32). As the child lay exposed he was given milk by one of the goats that pastured about the mountain. reared Asclepius. . . Apollo has his lover Coronis killed. The earliest clear referral to Asklepios as a god in Hellenistic Greece comes from an Athenian inscription of 420 BC (31). Pindar's version alters essential elements of the myth. or with their limbs wounded either by gray bronze or by far-hurled stone. . . . The myth that emerges from the Delphic cult is purified. desired to take him up. Many commentators find Pindar's interpretation of the Asklepios myth troubling because of its treatment of his death. even he was seduced. But we . The Pindarian Myth And yet in disregard of our principles the tragedians and Pindar affirm that Asclepius. The Hymns attributed to Hesiod. if he was the son of a god he was not avaricious . The sanctified gods could not bear the same relation to a divine Asklepios as had previously been recorded. And those whosoever came suffering from the sores of nature. and if he was greedy of gain he was not the son of a god. Socrates questions Pindar's version of the myth for its degradation of Asklepios in the same way in which Pindar sought to avoid degrading Apollo: Resolution of the conflicts between the old myths surrounding Asklepios and the emerging understanding of the sanctified gods came through the progressive deification of Asklepios from approximately 500 BC to 100 AD. Presently it was reported over every land and sea that Asclepius was discovering everything he wished to heal the sick. As the divine guardian of law and order. Most Roman sources agree with the outlines of the story above and report that Asklepios was resurrected after his death on earth to live on as an immortal. The only healing Roman sources consistently attribute to the god Asklepios during his life on earth was that of Askles.

51). . as a god who once walked the earth. This association placed the physician followers of Asklepios under strong obligation to serve all those suffering. 40). His wife and children are made to personify abstract medical concepts: His wife. was crucified and died. Testimonials to the many cures are inscribed in the walls of the temples. Asklepios's name attests to his characteristic kindness to all those suffering. Christian apologists. kindness. Jesus Christ . between paganism and Christianity" (45). He was typically referred to as a "daimon" (Greek for spirit) who would come to supplicants in their dreams rather than a "theos" (Greek for god). personifies "epios".ros. . who saw in Asklepios a god particularly interested in their welfare. As he is described during this period. healer. from which he could still visit mankind in response to their prayers. partly through Alexander the Great's staunch devotion to Asklepios. Individual Greeks and Romans often believed in the god Asklepios because of the powerful cures demonstrated at his temples. His worship subsequently spread throughout Greece. Although writers dispute the etymology of the name Asklepios. The general acceptance of Asklepios as a god in the Greek world is signified by his coming from the central sanctuary at Epidauros to Athens in 420 BC and the consecration of his temples there (31). and rose again. and he forgave any offense because of his devotion to mankind (50). who had suffered the same fate (46). his primary interest was to help individuals. Priests there would turn away those deemed incurable but would invite in all others to undergo "incubations. He died the death of a mortal before ascending to the heavens. Epione. suggested that their belief that Jesus died the death of a mortal was no stranger than Roman beliefs about the god Asklepios. and so ascended to heaven. Alone among Greco-Roman gods. As a physiciangod. . He was clearly understood as a man-god. The Rise of the Asklepeions and the worship practices there are well detailed (42-44). that is. . Writers agree that mildness and kindness were Asklepios's essential attributes and those of the ideal physician (35. Church fathers found little to criticize in the life of Asklepios on earth. The Edelsteins (37) attribute the rapid ascendancy of Asklepios to his popularity among the poor and lower classes. where a temple was founded around 291 BC (39. we propound nothing new and different from what you believe regarding . Asklepios was among the first foreign gods accepted in Rome. . was struck by a thunderbolt. It is of particular interest that in Greek and Roman mythology. . In the later Greek and early Roman literature." in which they would sleep in the temple and the god would visit and heal them in their dreams. Supplicants with illnesses unresponsive to traditional therapies would make pilgrimages to Asklepeions to entreat the assistance of the god." As the Edelsteins (48) point out. Asklepios as a Man-God Scholars agree that the worship of Asklepios began in the rural provinces of Greece among the common people. who though he was a great physician. . justifying their religion. Asklepios increasingly appears to represent an abstract personification of the ideal physician. Furthermore. Asklepios is likened to the god of the New Testament (49). with a particular interest in the poor and destitute. much of Asia Minor. Machaon is the representative of surgery and Podalirius. . it is little wonder that Asklepios presented formidable competition to the emerging worship of Jesus Christ in the Roman Empire. a leading Christian apologist of the second century. Thus. a physician plays this role. as no previous god had been. and even Carthage and Egypt. the Romans consulted oracles of Apollo and were told to bring the god Asklepios from Epidauros to Rome. In Roman times Asklepios became the "most powerful antagonist in the spiritual struggle . Descriptions of the remains of the Asklepeions 260 Asklepios remained very different from all the other Olympian gods. regardless of station (38). and savior. Asklepios is described as "looking after man" and as a lover of all people. several suggest that the god's name is derived from his "epios" (Greek for gentleness. the worship of Asklepios spread with the expansion of the Roman empire throughout the Western world (41). he was viewed as provident. Justin (47). Asclepius. Jesus is emphasized in the early gospels as a physician. and Panacea represented the "soothing simples" or remedies by which the god Asklepios brought the suffering comfort. Asklepios and Christ are similarly described as blameless. Hygiea gave Asklepios dual roles as the giver and preserver of health. 15 January 1996 • Annals of Internal Medicine • Volume 124 • Number 2 . within and outside of his temples. Even Galen (circa 129 to 210 AD) became a devoted follower of Asklepios because he was healed at the god's temple and was assisted in cures through Asklepios's appearance in his dreams (3. calmness) with the tyrant Askles (34). From Rome. and ascended into heaven. 36). the representative of internal medicine. In response to an epidemic in Rome. Asklepios was personally accessible to supplicants through divine revelation and healing. wrote "and when we say also that .

At the beginning the doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease because of their ignorance of the right methods. Elateia. viewed people as equals and that Asklepios and his followers had a special interest in seeing that all people were treated equally. by the fifth century BC. Slavery was prevalent in ancient Greece and Rome. he implies an expectation that physicians would not avoid such exposure because avoidance would be inconsistent with the practice of their art. the title Asklepiad is most commonly used generically to refer to all physicians (55. implying that Asklepios. and that if they recovered. An inscription at the Athenian temple to Asklepios on the Acropolis reads "These are the duties of a physician . The risk for death faced by the mythical Asklepios was a real risk confronted by physicians in their daily practice. . Most modern commentators agree that " . In fact mortality among the doctors was the highest of all. depicted 261 15 January 1996 • Annals of Internal Medicine • Volume 124 • Number 2 . physicians who considered them- Although the stories about Asklepios have largely been forgotten. physicians (Greek. There was no record of the disease being so virulent anywhere else or causing so many deaths as it did in Athens. " (52). Writing at the end of the first century AD. they gained prestige through their association with Asklepios. Suetonius (65) reports: When certain men were exposing their sick and worn out slaves on the Island of Aesculapius [the Tiber Island in Rome] because of the trouble of treating them. Thespiai. .Physician Followers of Asklepios Although ancient Greek physicians held low status in society as itinerant craftsmen. was the patron saint of the medical men . or financial gain. Asclepius. Authors suggest that this title originally referred to one family of physicians whose descendants were called Asklepiads and into which outsiders were later admitted by adoption (53. alone among the gods. The practice of medicine was understood to entail responsibility to care for the sick. "iatros") were increasingly referred to as Asklepiads (Greek followers or sons of Asklepios). . as Greek historical accounts confirm. and to all a brother. as is witnessed by Plato's referral to Hippocrates as "the Asklepiad" (57) and Aristotle's referral to him as "the leader of the Asklepiads" (58). The Hippocratic Precepts explicitly encouraged similar cost shifting (64). Claudius decreed that all such slaves were free. The donations of the rich were used to subsidize care for the poor in the Asklepeions. The passage does not ascribe to the physician altruistic motives for providing care to Athens' plague-ridden people but simply portrays an expectation that physicians practice their art. The Duties of the Asklepian Physician Similar manumissions of slaves were associated with temples of Asklepios in the Roman Empire in Orchomenos. . and as such it presents a different and more suitable ethic for modern medical practice. and Naupaktos (66). . of princes. The title of Asklepiad is particularly given to physicians of note. they had far more influence on ancient Greek and Roman societies' expectations of physicians than did the Hippocratic corpus. 62). Conclusion Once Asklepios was generally recognized as the god of medicine. The most famous portrayal is Thucydides' account of the plague of Athens around 430 BC (60): They had not been many days in Attica before the plague first broke out among the Athenians. as Asklepios rose in stature. The god Asklepios was noted for his devotion to healing the poor (61. On the other hand. By the latter half of the 6th century BC. such help he would give" (67). There can be little doubt that slaves did not have equal access to medical care in these societies. However. of paupers. Furthermore. . regardless of the size of their offering (59). even if this work placed the physician in danger. However. . they should not return to the control of their master. since they came in contact more frequently with the sick. personal risk. . selves followers of Asklepios had a clear obligation to treat the rich and the poor alike. Amphissa. Stiris. priests in the temples of Asklepios were almost always referred to as priests or sacristans (59). Asklepian myth shows us that Greeks and Romans expected physicians to practice their craft without primary regard for the social status of their patients. Thucydides suggests that the physicians' craft was not highly esteemed because of its frequent ineffectiveness and was undesirable because it exposed the physician to dangerous communicable diseases. Asklepian myth insists much more than does the Hippocratic literature on care for the poor and disregarded. 56). Asklepios. The Asklepian tradition in the age of the divine Asklepios is clear in its commitment to equal service to all people. but if anyone preferred to kill such a slave rather than to expose him he should be liable to the charge of murder. even slaves had recourse to his temples and could expect a measure of assistance. of rich men. and it demands this commitment of its physician followers. . he would be like God savior equally of slaves. 54). before becoming a healing god. Cost shifting is evidenced by the many temple inscriptions recording cures of those able to afford traveling from out of town (63).

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Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. ed. Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. Murry AT. trans. MA: Harvard University Pr. Cornell Studies in Classical Philology. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. Edelstein L. in a strict caste society. De Libris Propriis. Plato. Pindar. Edelstein L Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. In: Edelstein EJ. In: Edelstein EJ. Volume 2. Volume 1. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. Volume 2. Hesiod. In: Edelstein EJ. trans. Aristides. Edmonds JM. Volume 2. The writings of Justin Martyr and Athenagoras. Fowler HN. Baltimore: Penguin Books.in myth first as a physician-hero and then as a physician-god. Pratten BP. Edelstein L. Department of Medicine. Pantheon Books. 32. Book 26. 1930:96. The Republic. 61. Edelstein L Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. trans. Edelstein EJ. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. represents the ideal physician to whom people in ancient Greece and Rome turned for healing and relief of suffering. In: Edelstein EJ. In: Wheeler Bl. and Joel D. Laws. 1918:390-5. trans. Doctors: The Biography of Medicine. 22. trans. Justin. Pindar. Phaedrus. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. Warner R. Galen. 1977:140-1. our patients are searching for the caring attributes of Asklepios in their providers. Reith G. The New Medicine and the Old Ethics. 60. In: Double Face of Janus and Other Essays in the History of Medicine. 29. Edelstein L. PhD. trans. Edelstein L. 54. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. Book 3. Philodemus. Edelstein EJ. Bennett CE. References 1. Temkin O. 1-7. V. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica. 1923:258-61. Scheer E. 1920:440-1. Cambridge. 1-58. eds. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. The writings of Tatian and Theophilus. Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians. The Iliad. 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In: Edelstein EJ. Oxford: Clarendon Pr. 383-4. Murray AT. New York: Putnam. 262 15 January 1996 • Annals of Internal Medicine • Volume 124 • Number 2 . Edelstein EJ. LXV 3. V. MD. The Iliad. 42. trans. Perhaps by better understanding Asklepios we can help to restore the spirit of Asklepios to the practice of medicine and thus satisfy both our patients and our deepest expectations for ourselves. 1925:179. Book 4. Edelstein EJ. Kerenyi C. Edelstein EJ. 52.

Rolfe JC. 64." There are no circumstances contradicting the practice of Thomas Fuller's good physician: "when he can keep life no longer in. 1939:315-23. Oxford: Clarendon Pr. Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality. Book 5. when the voice of Fate calls. fewer still in the mind. The truth is. speaking of doctors. Fragmenta. Cambridge. Edelstein L." Nowadays. Volume 1. Precepts. full of hope as he. 63. as done for any reference. MD Gettysburg. Viswanathan. 204-5. 1923:319. An ancient poem on the duties of a physician. 65. Please include a complete citation. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. A few. very few. Harvey Cushing. 1945:164. MD The Life of William Osier Submitted by: B. Suetonius. Jones WH. 1979:50-1. V. the majority of men may repeat the last words of Socrates: "I owe a cock to Asclepius"—a debt of thankfulness. an immense majority of all die as they are born—oblivious. 2. almost without a fear. Resigned in peace to the necessity. from The Lives of the Caesars. trans. Maeterlinck has been most unfortunate to be able to say. Part I and II. for a fair and easy passage. And full of wonder.—The Editors 15 January 1996 • Annals of Internal Medicine • Volume 124 • Number 2 263 . Farnell LR. V. Baltimore: John Hopkins Pr. The Deified Claudius.62. If the quotation is published. he makes a fair and easy passage for it to go out. Oliver JH f Maas PL. Aelianus. 66. trans. 1945:117. MA: Harvard University Pr. 67. No death need be physically painful. as was his. 1-15. In: Edelstein EJ. suffer severely in the body. New York: Putnam. Bull History Med. Hippocrates. Edelstein EJf Edelstein L Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. The tranquil spirit fails beneath its grasp Without a groan. Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. PA 17325 Submissions from readers are welcomed. but this is the same type of hysterical statement as "all doctors consider it their first duty to protract as long as possible even the most excruciating convulsions of the most hopeless agony. Calm as a voyager to some distant land. Almost all of Shelley's description fits: Mild is the slow necessity of death. Book 6. Volume 2. 1921:248. "who has not at a bedside twenty times wished and not once dared to throw himself at their feet and implore mercy". M. the sender's name will be acknowledged.