BLTC Press Titles


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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Medical rubbing

by Walter Johnson

Excerpt:

A few years later, we find Aristotle recommending as a remedy against weariness, rubbing with oil and water. (Prob. v. 6.) He also calls friction and warmth occasioned by gymnastic exercises, the "most liberal of the pleasures of touch." And we are told by Plutarch that Aristotle's pupil, Alexander, kept about his person one Athenophanes, whose business it was to rub the great conqueror, and to prepare his bath. Alexander's friends were not behind their master, for "they used fragrant ointment when they went to their inunction and bath," and they carried about with them rubbers, (triptai), and chamberlains.

Another incident in the life of Alexander is related by Plutarch, from which it appears that the Greek soothsayers gave to oil the same epithet as Plato, viz., "assuager of pain." The passage runs thus:—"For the chief of the bed-keepers, a Macedonian named Proxenos, while digging a place for the king's tent by the river Oxus, opened a well of oily and fatty fluid. But when the first portion had been drawn off, there immediately gushed forth pure and transparent oil, which seemed to differ from oil neither in smell nor taste, but was exactly like it in brilliancy and oiliness, and that, although the place bore no olive trees. Now the water of the Oxus itself is said to be extremely soft, so as to make the skin of those that bathe in it glisten. However, it was evident that Alexander was wonderfully cheered, from what he writes to Antipater, accounting this manifestation among the greatest that had been given him by the gods,—while the diviners held it to be a sign of a glorious but painful and difficult campaign; because oil was given by God to men to assuage their pains—ponon arogen."

A. Cornelius Celsus, a very learned author, who wrote in the reign of Augustus or Tiberius, devotes a chapter of his work on Medicine to the consideration of the effects and uses of friction. He recommends it in a very great variety of cases, as I shall show by appropriate citations by-and-by.

Claudius Galenus, of Pergamus, practised medicine in Rome in the time of the Emperors Hadrianus and Marcus Antoninus. One of his voluminous writings is called, "On the Preservation of Health." And in this treatise he has discussed at great length the hygienic properties of rubbing, as will appear in an after part of this work. Like Celsus, Galen recommends friction in an immense number of diseases—generally as auxiliary to other means.

But the Greeks and Romans were not the only members of the Aryan family who practised rubbing in the early ages. Strabo makes known to us the fact that the Indians, contemporary with Alexander, esteemed friction highly. "In the way of exercise," he says, "they think most highly of rubbing; and they polish their bodies smooth by ebony staves, and in other ways."—Strabo, xv., 709, cas.

Again, speaking of the manner in which their king received foreign ambassadors, he states:—" This is the rubbing with staves; for he listens and is rubbed at one and the same time. And there are four rubbers standing by."

How strange to find the same custom of rubbing still prevailing in India, that land of immutable tradition. In the "Private Life of an Eastern King," we read p. 188, "Let us take a glance at the Padshah Begum and her retinue, as she repairs to the holy Durgah to pray there. host of

covered carriages of all kinds follow the eunuch, containing the ladies of the Padshah Begum's Court, * * * * the whole number of ladies so borne not being less than from a hundred and fifty to two hundred. You ask, What do they all do? The answer is: They do all sorts of things. Some of them are professed story-tellers. * * * Others shampoo well, and are so employed for hours every day. Others," &c. &c. But it needs not the testimony of this writer to tell us, for all the world knows, that shampooing is an universal habit in India, and is almost as necessary to the native, rich or poor, as food.


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