added considerably to the difficulties of the historian
in his attempts so to reconstruct the past as to make
it intelligible to modern readers.
Primitive man regards everything he cannot
explain as the work of a god. To him the abnormal,
the unusual, is divine. The uncharted region of
mysterious phenomena is the peculiar realm of
supernatural forces. "It is the work of heaven"
is a sufficient answer when the human intelligence
can give no satisfactory explanation.
The fifth century B.C. witnessed the supreme effort
of the Greeks to cast aside this incubus in all spheres
of thought. They came to realize that to attribute
an event to the action of a god leaves us just where
we were, and that to call normal phenomena natural
and abnormal divine is to introduce an unscientific
dualism, in that what is divine (because mysterious)
in one generation may be natural (because understood)
in the next, while, on the other hand, however
fully we may understand a phenomenon, there
must always be a mysterious and unexplained element
in it. All phenomena are equally divine and equally
But this realization did not come all at once,
and in the science of medicine it was peculiarly
slow. There is something arresting in the spread of
an epidemic and in the onset of epilepsy or of a
pernicious fever. It is hard for most minds, even
scientific minds, not to see the working of a god in
them. On the other hand, the efficacy of human
means to relieve pain is so obvious that even in
Homer, our first literary authority for Greek
medicine, rational treatment is fully recognized.
As the divine origin of disease was gradually