Infectious and Epidemic Disease in History

Department of History
University of California, Irvine
 Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker

Week 3.  Context

Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum (ca. 11th c.)
commonly attributed to "John of Milano"
English translation (1608) by Sir John Harington (1561-1612)

Part III.  Humors

To shew you how to shun raw running Rheumes,
Exceed not much in meate, in drinke, and sleepe,
For all excess is cause of hurtfull fumes,
Eate warme, broth warme, striue in your breath to keepe,
Vse exercise that vapours ill consumes,
In Northerne winds abroad do neuer peepe.
If Fistula do rise in any part,
And so procure your danger and your smart,
Take Arsnicke, Brimstone, mixt with Lime and Sope,
And make a Tent, and then of cure there's hope.
[Brimstone -- sulfur]

If so your head to paine you oft with aking,
Faire water or small beere drinke then or neuer,
So may you scape the burning fits and shaking,
That wonted are to company the Feuer:
If with much heat your head be in ill taking,
To rub your head and Temples still perseuer,
And make a bath of Morrell (boiled warme)
And it shall keepe your head from further harme.
A Flix a dangerous euill is, and common,
In it shun cold, much drink, and strains of women.
[Flix -- flux, diarrhea, discharge]

To fast in Summer doth the body drie,
Yet doth it good, if you thereto invre it,
Against a surfet, vomiting to try,
Is remedy, but some cannot indure it:
Yet some so much themselues found help thereby,
They go to sea a purpose to procure it.
Foure seasons of the yeare there are in all,
The Summer and the Winter, Spring and Fall:
In euery one of these, the rule of reason,
Bids keepe good dyet, suiting euery season.
The Spring is moist, of temper good and warme,
Then best it is to bath, to sweat, and purge,
Then may one ope a veyne in either arme,
If boiling blood or feare of Agues vrge,
Then Venus' recreation doth no harme,
Yet may too much thereof turne to a scourge.
In Summer's heat (when choller hath dominion)
Coole meats and moyst are best in some opinion:
The Fall is like the Spring, but endeth colder,
With wines and spice the Winter may be bolder.
Now if perhaps some haue desire to know,
The number of our bones, our teeth, our veynes,
This verse ensuing plainely doth it shew,
To him that doth obserue it taketh paines:
The Teeth thrice ten, and two, twice eight a row,
Eleuenscore bones saue one in vs remaines:
For veynes that all may vaine in vs appeare,
A veyne we haue for each day in the yeare:
All these are like in number and connexion,
The difference growes in bigness and complexion.
Foure Humours raigne within our bodies wholly,
And these compared to foure Elements,
The Sanguin, Choller, Flegme and Melancholy,
The later two are heauy, dull of sence,
The tother are more Jouiall, Quicke and Jolly,
And may be likened thus (without offence)
Like ayre both warme and moyst, is Sanguin cleare,
Like fire doth Choller hot and dry appeare,
Like water, cold and moist (is Flegmatique),
The Melancholy cold, dry earth is like.
Complexions cannot vertue breed or vice,
Yet may they vnto both giue inclination,
The Sanguin gamesome is, and nothing nice,
Loues wine, and women, and all recreation.
Likes pleasant tales, and newes, plaies cards and dice,
Fit for all company, and euery fashion:
Though bold, not apt to take offence, nor irefull,
But bountifull, and kind, and looking chearefull:
Inclining to be fat, and prone to lafter,
Loues myrth, and musicke, cares not what comes after.
Sharpe Choller is an humour most pernitious,
All violent, and fierce, and full of fire,
Of quicke conceit, and therewithal ambitious,
Their thoughts to greater fortune still aspyre,
Proud, bountifull enough, yet oft malicious,
A right bold speaker, and as bold a lyer,
On little cause to anger great inclin'd,
Much eating still, yet euer looking pin'd,
In younger yeares they vse to grow apace,
In elder, hairy on their breast and face.
The Flegmatique are most of no great growth,
Inclining to be rather fat and square,
Given much vnto their ease, to rest and sloth,
Content in knowledge to take little share,
To put themselues to any paine most loth,
So dead their spirits, so dull their sences are:
Still either sitting, like to folke that dreame,
Or else still spitting, to avoid the flegme,
One quality doth yet these harmes repayre,
That for most part the Flegmatique are fayre.
The Melancholy from the rest do vary,
Both sport, and ease, and company refusing,
Exceeding studious, euer solitary,
Inclining pensiue still to be, and musing,
A secret hate to others apt to carry:
Most constant in his choice, tho long a choosing,
Extreme in loue sometime, yet seldom lustfull,
Suspitious in his nature, and mistrustfull.
A wary wit, a hand much giuen to sparing,
A heauy looke, a spirit little daring.
Now though we giue these humours seueral names,
Yet all men are of all participant,
But all haue not in quantity the same,
For some (in some) are more predominant,
The colour shewes from whence it lightly came,
Or whether they haue blood too much or want.
The watry Flegmatique are fayre and white,
The Sanguin Roses ioyn'd to Lillies bright,
The Chollericke more red:  the Melancholy,
Alluding to their name are swart and colly.
If Sanguin humour do too much abound,
These signes will be thereof appearing cheefe,
The face will swell, the cheeks grow red and round,
With staring eies, the pulse beate soft and breefe,
The veynes exceed, the belly will be bound,
The temples, and the forehead full of griefe,
Vnquiet sleeps, that so strange dreames will make
To cause one blush to tell when he doth wake:
Besides the moysture of the mouth and spittle,
Will taste too sweet, and seeme the throat to tickle.
If Choller do exceed, as may sometime,
Your eares will ring, and make you to be wakefull,
Your tongue will seeme all rough, and oftentimes
Cause vomits, vnaccustomed and hatefull,
Great thirst, your excrements are full of slime,
The stomacke squeamish, sustenance vngratefull,
Your appetite will seeme in nought delighting,
Your heart still greeued with continuall byting,
The pulse beate hard and swift, all hot, extreame,
Your spittle soure, of fire-worke oft you dreame.
If Flegme abundance haue due limits past,
These signes are here set downe will plainly shew,
The mouth will seeme to you quite out of taste,
And apt with moisture still to overflow,
Your sides will seeme all sore downe to the waist,
Your meat wax loathsome, your digestion slow,
Your head and stomacke both in so ill taking,
One seeming euer griping tother aking:
With empty veynes, the pulse beat slow and soft,
In sleepe, of seas and ryuers dreaming oft.
But if that dangerous humour ouer-raigne,
Of Melancholy, sometime making mad,
These tokens then will be appearing plaine,
The pulse beat hard, the colour darke and bad:
The water thin, a weake fantasticke braine,
False-grounded ioy, or else perpetuall sad,
Affrighted oftentimes with dreames like visions,
Presenting to the thought ill apparitions,
Of bitter belches from the stomacke comming,
His eare (the left especiall) euer humming.
Against these seuerall humours ouerflowing,
As seuerall kinds of physicke may be good,
As diet-drink, hot-baths, whence sweat is growing,
With purging, vomiting, and letting blood:
Which taken in due time, not ouerflowing,
Each maladies infection is withstood.
The last of these is best, if skill and reason,
Respect age, strength, quantity, and season;
Of seuenty from seuenteene, if blood abound,
The opening of a veyne is healthfull found.
Of Bleeding many profits grow and great,
The spirits and sences are renewed thereby,
Though these mend slowly by the strength of meat,
But these with wine restor'd are by and by:
By bleeding, to the marrow commeth heat,
It maketh cleane your braine, releeues your eie,
It mends your appetite, restoreth sleepe,
Correcting humours that do waking keepe:
All inward parts and sences also clearing,
It mends the voyce, touch, smell, taste, and hearing.
Three speciall months, September, April, May,
There are, in which tis good to ope a veyne,
In these three months the moon bears greatest sway,
Then old or young, that store of blood containe,
May bleed now, though some elder wizards say,
Some daies are ill in these, I hold it vaine:
September, April, May, haue daies a peece,
That bleeding do forbid and eating Geese,
And those are they forsooth of May the first,
Of tother two the last of each are worst.
But yet those daies I graunt, and all the rest,
Haue in some cases iust impediment,
As first, if nature be with cold opprest,
Or if the Region, Ile, or Continent,
Do scorch or freeze, if stomacke meat detest;
If Baths, or Venus, late you did frequent,
Nor old, nor young, nor drinkers great, are fit,
Nor in long sickeness, nor in raging fit,
Or in this case if you will venture bleeding,
The quantity must then be most exceeding.
When you to bleed intend, you must prepare
Some needfull things both after and before,
Warme water and sweet oyle, both needfull are,
And wine the fainting spirits to restore,
Fine binding cloths of linen, and beware,
That all that morning you do sleepe no more.
Some gentle motion helpeth after bleeding,
And on light meats a spare and temperate feeding.
To bleed, doth cheare the pensiue, and remoue
The raging furies bred by burning loue.
Make your incision large, and not too deepe,
That blood haue speedy yssue with the fume,
So that from sinnewes you all hurt do keepe,
Nor may you (as I toucht before presume)
In six ensuing hours at all to sleepe,
Lest some slight bruise in sleepe cause an apostume.
Eate not of milke, nor ought of milke compounded,
Nor let your braine with much drinke be confounded,
Eate no cold meats, for such the strength impayre,
And shun all misty and unwholesome ayre.
Besides the former rules for such as pleases,
Of letting blood to take more obseruation,
Know in beginning of all sharpe diseases,
Tis counted best to make euacuation:
Too old, too young, both letting blood displeases,
By yeares and sickness make your computation,
First in the Spring for quantity you shall,
Of blood take twice as much as in the Fall:
In Spring and Summer, let the right arm blood,
The Fall and Winter for the left are good.
The Heart and Lyuer, Spring and Summer's bleeding,
The Fall and Winter hand and Foot doth mend,
One veyne cut in the hand doth helpe exceeding,
Vnto the Spleen, voice, breast, and intrayles lend;
And swages griefes that in the heart are breeding:

But here the Salerne Schoole doth make an end:
And heere I cease to write, but will not cease
To wish you live in health, and die in peace:
And ye our Physicke rules that friendly read,
God graunt that Physicke you may neuer neede.


Go to:
  • excerpts from Al'-Arjuzat fi' t-tibb (Poem on Medicine) by 'Abu 'Ali al-Husain ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Sina, called Avicenna (980-1037)
  • Regimen Sanitatis Salerni (The School of Salernum) (1608), English translation by Sir John Harington (1561-1612), with excerpts from The English physitian... (1652), by Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1655):
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