[Epilepsy, eponyms and patron saints (history of Western civilization)]

S M Janković, D V Sokić, Z M Lević, V Susić, N Stojsavljević, J Drulović
Srpski Arhiv za Celokupno Lekarstvo 1996, 124 (5): 162-5
From a historic point of view, epilepsy and its eponyms were in an ontogenetic symbiosis throughout their history. Epilepsy is a disease with a history of eponyms presenting the frame of mind of both streetwise as well as skilled "authors" about its origin and nature. From ancient times the names for epilepsy, archetypal Hippocratic disease, just as rich in number as varied in their implication, reflected the local folkways of thinking. In this article we briefly presented more than 50 eponyms and patrons of epilepsy. As the source of information we used both the apocryphal, canonical and hagiographic as well as heretic literature, legends and iconography from the Middle Ages of domestic and foreign origin. Pre- and post-Hippocratic era, apart from stemming from the oldest written medical sources, point to the position that the disease had organic origin located in the brain. The period of Rome adopted the attitudes set by Galen which remained en vogue throughout the emerging Middle Ages and Renaissance. These eras generated new eponyms which reflected a downfall in the manor, stating that the disease is the consequence of supernatural forces. In the "Age of darkness" eponyms for epilepsy reflected more the relation of men to the Nature than to the disease or a sick man; this is evidenced through the generation of number of patrons for the disease. The most famous patron of patients with epilepsy was St. Valentine (after conversion from pagandom he died in Rome as a martyr, c. 270). He was allotted a patronage either due to the phonic resemblance of his name with the (past participle of the) verb "fallen"-as Martin Luther claimed, or due to a cure of epilepsy of the son of a Roman rhetor who built for him a chapel in which he continued to cure the sick. The emergence of a flamboyant personality of Paracelsus on the historic scene of the XVI century represents a less successful attempt to revoke the way of thinking set by the old Greek doctors; however, it brought about the precipitous decay of attitudes that started with Romans and inaugurated the way of thinking characteristic of Renaissance and the ages thereafter. Serbian literature of the Middle Age was strongly impacted by influences that fanned from Italy (Salerno) and south France (Montpellier), reflecting the attitudes of medical schools and universities prevailing at that time Europe. The name [symbol: see text] from Hilandar Medical Codex No 517 (XV-XVI century) is obviously taken from Byzantine medicine, which was founded on the works of Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscurides. It came down to us through the Serbian folk Byzantine codices named "latrosophia of Hilandar", preserved mostly from the author Michail Pselos (XI century). On the other hand, the name [symbol: see text] or morbus magnus, reflects its Roman origin. The name [symbol: see text] meaning fainting, loss of consciousness or syncope, stems from the same source. The name [symbol: see text] designated epileptic disease in Serbian monks, monasteries probably being the only niche where epileptics could find refuge. Children's epilepsy or convulsions are expressed as [symbol: see text] No mention is found of epileptic status except for the notion [symbol: see text] meaning "to be without consciousness for a longer period of time'; it does not, however, refer directly to epilepsy or convulsions. It is worthy noting that already in the XIV century Serbs had their medical literature translated to their own language, and were the only one of all Slavic peoples that did so. Nevertheless, both apocryphal and canonical, as well as consecrated medicine were based on magic, astrology and occultism. The magic formulas used in Middle Age Serbia for the cure of epileptics as well as sick in general, were basically irrational; still, as a trace of its descension they contained unintelligible words of the eastern origin (Greek, Persian or Jewish). (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

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