Medical Science Narratives from The Ancient Susa

Considering that the purpose of this article is to deal with the mutual scientific-cultural services of the ancient East and the ancient Maghreb, especially Iran and Greece before the advent of Islam, so it seems superfluous to address the wide range of issues and cases in this regard. However, several examples of such cases can be found and the details of each case are discussed separately and in detail based on Susa experience.

The City of Susa in southwestern Iran, which was the capital and base of Elamite civilization and art for centuries, retained its ancient greatness after the destruction of the Elamite Empire. This historic city dates back to five thousand years BC. The city was located on four hills and its total area was four square kilometers. 

In the fourth millennium BC, i.e. three thousand years BC, the greatest human discovery, the invention of calligraphy, took place in the city of Susa (Iranian civilization by several orientalists, 1337, translated by Isa Behnam) . It is also worth mentioning that the city of Susa was the center of science and knowledge and had libraries and scientific and research centers in ancient history. Scientists from all over the world, like philosophers, physicians, astronomers, and other thinkers, took refuge in Susa whenever they were angered by the governments of their homeland. 

The Greeks in some dimensions and aspects and scientific aspects have not yet reached the base of Oriental civilizations, including Mesopotamia. They could not write rhyming poems until the ninth and even eighth centuries BC due to some shortcomings and weaknesses in the Greek language. Since the rhyme (Metrik) makes it easier to memorize the hymns, through the Greek trade and travels to the shores of the Mediterranean from the Phoenician and Sumerian civilizations, the phonograph (Phonographie) is probably in the same The period from the eighth century BC onwards was taken to Greece, and Greece was able to make a great change in the composition of poetry, and the poets of that land in the seventh and sixth centuries BC wrote rhyming poems.

    Homer, the famous Greek poet of the ninth century BC, was not yet in a position to compose rhyming poems. An immortal collection called IIIyade + Odisse, which tells part of the story of the Trojan War (Trojanischer Krieg), represents the problem of poetic weights. 

Historically, the Sumerians were the first to use phonetics and phonographs in human history to facilitate languages, including composing poems, to the world. The desire of the Greeks to establish close relations with the Eastern tribes has a very ancient history, and these cultural, scientific and artistic exchanges have all been realized in the shadow of trade, immigration, war and other historical factors.

    According to the documents left by Greek scientists and experts, Achaemenid Iran was a land of culture and the cradle of science and art and was considered a center for the exchange of scientific information in the Middle East. We know that at a time when the dynasty was at the height of its power and greatness and the territory of the Iranians ruled from the Danube in Europe and Abyssinia in Africa, the Greeks of Asia Minor, the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the West Indians and the inhabitants of the Indus (Indus) and Punjab (Panschab) were all considered citizens of Iran. According to the Greeks, the Iranians, with whatever science they became acquainted with and whatever knowledge they acquired, tried to preserve and spread it, as well as to transfer it to other lands.

 The Iranian court was also at the forefront of enthusiasts and supporters of knowledge and scientists. During the Achaemenid and Sassanid eras, a large number of scholars were invited to the court of Iran and some of them were even kept in the court of Iran against their will. 

The Greek historian Herodotus states in his Historiae: “Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty, had a problem with his eyes. He asked the Egyptian pharaoh Amasis to send a skilled ophthalmologist to his court. In the time of Egypt, Pharaoh wanted to send a skilled ophthalmologist to his court. In response to Cyrus’ request, Pharaoh sent a skilled ophthalmologist to the Persian court.” According to Herodotus, the same ophthalmologist, who was also called Amazis, later incited Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus, to invade Egypt because he had chosen him from among the Egyptian physicians and removed him from his family and sent him to Iran. He was sent, he was displeased and had a strong hatred for Pharaoh. 

Plutarch (Plutarchos), the great writer and historian and the author of the “Life of Famous Men” has also confirmed this report (Khodadadian, Ardeshir: 1378, Achaemenids). Since the time of Darius I, scientists, artists, including Greek physicians, and physicians from other lands have served the Persian courtiers and lived in the great Achaemenid capital Susa, citing the many documents now in the hands of historians and scholars. It is worth mentioning that some of them were among the prisoners of war whose skills and expertise were used in their specialized fields. One of them was Skylax de Caryande, one of the most prominent geographers of the sixth century BC. He was commissioned by Darius the Great to map the seas, rivers, and oceans that belong to the Achaemenid Empire.

 Darius communicated this order to Cyclax in 519 BC, three years after he came to power. These geographers were commissioned to sail the lower part of the Indus by ship with a few of his companions in order to prepare the plan desired by the king of Iran. Later, in line with the policy of Darius’s expansions, the upper part of the river was also included in the territory of the Iranians.

 The presence of non-Iranian physicians, including Greeks, in the court of Darius I had been mentioned many times in history. The first physician to serve the king was Democedes of Crotone. Democodes had previously practiced medicine in the service of Polycrate, king of Samos. Polycrates went there in 522 BC at the invitation of one of the Persian satraps who served in Lady Land, and was assassinated at the behest of his host, and his personal physician, Democdeus, who was with him, was taken prisoner by the Iranians. Of course, this satrap was suspected by Darius and killed him on charges of committing this indecent murder, and brought this captive doctor to his court, Susa. Until then, all the physicians of the court of Susa were Egyptians, and because they could not cure the dislocation of Darius’s leg bone, they brought Democdeus out of prison by order of the king, and he cured the dislocation of the king’s leg bone. 

From then on, Darius did not separate this doctor for a moment, and because, according to a tradition, this doctor was not interested in returning to Greece, he remained in the captivity of the Iranians (Iranian Civilization, 1337). In another example of this physician’s services, it is narrated that she was Atossa, the wife of Darius, who had a gland on his arm (she was the daughter of Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid dynasty) and suffered greatly from it and became ill, with a skill that she did surgery, removed it, and thus treated him and saved him from this painful pain. As a reward, the doctor asked Darius to allow her to go to Greece to pave the way for Darius to conquer Greece. 

Darius allowed Democodes and some of his companions, who were also prisoners of the Persians, to leave Iran. On the way, Democodes deceived his companions and fled and returned to his hometown of Croton, where he spread medical knowledge. Of course, there were cases in history where Greek doctors did not provide their medical services to foreigners, ie non-Greeks. Hippocrates, who in his oath advised doctors to serve any disease, did not adhere to it.

 According to historical sources, Hippocrates, a famous Greek physician, was asked to treat Iranian patients. This scene was painted by the French painter Girodet based on historical reports in the form of a beautiful painting, which shows that Hippocrates, at the request of the king of Persia, Artaxerxes I or Artaxerxes Long (manus) from 465 to 424 BC. He was the leader, he opposed the treatment of Iranian patients. The story goes that due to a terrible disease that was common in Iran, countless Iranians were killed, Ardashir I did not accept the offer of a large sum of money to Hippocrates to prevent further losses and violated the provisions of his oath put. The Greeks report that the envoys of Ardashir I tossed gold coins in front of Hippocrates, but he pushed them aside with his hand. This case has been recorded in history so that those who refer to the history of the past know the extent of the enmity between the Iranians and the Greeks. Appollonides is another learned, eminent Greek physician who practiced medicine at the court of Ardashir I.

Greek historians report that one of Apollo’s court patients was Amytis, sister of Ardashir I and daughter of Xerxes. According to this account, Apollon deceived the patient, and when his secret was revealed that his action was contrary to “Hippocrates’ oath”, he was buried alive. It is said that Ktesias, a physician at the court of Dareios II and Artaxerxes II, narrated this event and, as a result, wrote a book on the situation in Iran called Persica. 

Each city is worthy of its educators, scientists and doctors. Each era of civilizational oecumene through the course of time showed this truth in its own way. But the attitude towards people of education and science should help every modern cities and states in their unique ways of development and progress through global and regional humanity challenges. Susa undoubtedly became the demonstrative prototype of this relation throughout the Middle East.

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