Thursday, October 13, 2016

Democedes of Cnidus: physician and adventurer

The peninsula of Cnidus was the seat of the most ancient medical school. Democedes was born in Croton, southern Italy in 560 or 555 BC. After travelling widely in Greek lands, Democedes became the medical attendant of the Persian monarch. Later he was employed as a spy to explore the coasts of Greece.

He escape from this service, however and settled in the Greek colony of Corto0n, in the instep of Italy. Here he devoted himself to writing a treatise in medicine. Croton became an important scientific center. The man who first made it famous in the world was Democedes.

Democedes left Croton and went to Aegina unequipped, without the tools of his craft, but his skill was such that within a year he surpassed the most famous physicians.

In the second year the Aeginetans appointed his state physician and paid him an annual salary of one talent, about $1200. In the third year the Athenians hired him for a hundred minae, and Polycrates in the next for two talent.

Herodotus records that Democedes was the physician of Polycrates of Samos, who perished in 522 BC and then of Darius, the King of Persia, from whom he was able to escape and return to his birthplace, Croton in 518 BC which toward the end of his life he had to leave again because of political difficulties.
Democedes of Cnidus: physician and adventurer
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