The Divine Disease
The Divine Disease: A Short Story
OCT 4, 2020
Southern shore of Chittofax, circ. 375 BCE
Lancelet gently runs the comb through his hair, trying to give it an alabaster appearance. “Why do you do this every day?” Aleida asks while approaching Lancelet’s room. “What else could be the kosmon adapanotatos?” replies Lancet while having a glance at his comb and gently putting it away. “It did cost us an invasion; Thermopylae if I may remind you (Herodotus, 208-209)” Aleida responds in a sarcastic tone. She added “your job is to heal people, should you waste your precious time behind something so insignificant every single day?”. “Balance is the key (Hippocrates, Sacred Disease, 251)” Lancelet replies. “Anyway, I have to see a patient who claims to have a disease of sacred origin” Lancelet adds and leaves for the town hall.
Lancelet likes to observe and enjoy his surroundings while walking. In fact, he thinks walking is the best medicine humans could use for their physical wellbeing as described by his mentor who recently passed away. He likes to check his brooch every once in a while; a souvenir gifted by his mentor from kos via a hemerodromoi. Lancelet never had a chance to meet Hippocrates in-person, but he deeply admired his legacy. He loves helping people having issues with their health and wellbeing; well that is what he does for a living.
Lancelet reaches the town hall. He looks around for the patient. This is not something regular for him. Even though most of the work of a physician are standardized due to the excellent work done by his mentor of kos, this town still faces the same issues of superstitions and religious blindness. People with diseases that are a little unconventional to the physicians are considered as something given by god himself (Hippocrates, Sacred Disease, 237-238). However, Lancelet is not someone to buy that story. Chittofax has progressed a lot in philosophy and politics but medicine is an area that needs improvement. Lancelet thinks he can work on this area of improvement, and this patient is just perfect for the start, but where exactly is he?
Guinemar; a farmer producing olives for a living. He was supposed to meet Lancelet regarding his sacred disease a while ago. He has heard a lot about Lancelet, how he is different from other available physicians who are technically witch doctors, faith healers, quacks and charlatans (Hippocrates, Sacred Disease, 237). Guinemar has been fearing a lot of things lately. He gets confused from time to time as he loses his consciousness or awareness, and thinks he knows the future. These symptoms are definitely not normal for him as he has not seen anyone around with similar condition. He consulted many physicians and they all denied his treatment quoting what he has as a sacred disease that cannot be cured and could only be cured at god’s will. Although most of them were ignorant Guinemar found hope at Lancelet’s way, but today he is late.
Guinemar arrives at the town hall, on foot. Dirty and exhausted due to the long walk from home, Guinemar starts looking for Lancelet around the hall but could not find him anywhere. He is also hungry from the long walk from home, so he decided to go to the market for some bread before resuming his search for Lancelet.
Chittofax food market, afternoon.
The hustle and bustle of an open fruit market. Dozens of vendors selling fresh olives, grapes, figs, and what not. Guinemar checks his drachman pouch and looks around for some fresh figs. He approaches a vendor and … “What happened to this andras!” screams the vendor. Pedestrians gather around the stall to check out the incident. “Is he okay?” one pedestrian asks. “I do not know! He was just walking around and collapsed all of a sudden” the vendor responds in agony; he clearly has never experienced this before. The vendor notices him bleeding from his forehead; probably because of the odd landing. He tries to cover the scar with a piece of cloth. “Is he still breathing?” a pedestrian asks. “I am not a physician” says the vendor and adds “anyone, is anyone in there who could offer some help here?”. A person approaches them, and says “let me check, I am a physician”. Lancelet sits down and checks Guinemar, if he is still breathing. He flips him over for a clear look. “That is the patient who was supposed to visit you today” says Celeas; Lancelet’s assistant. Lancelet notices the bleeding from Guinemar’s forehead and asks Celeas to pull out his jar of wine. Lancelet pours some wine on a piece of cloth and gently starts cleaning Guinemar’s scar. Guinemar recovers from the seizure and gets uncomfortable. “What are you doing?” Guinemar asks. “You just collapsed on the ground, is this something you face every day?” Lancelet responds. Confused Guinemar asks Lancelet his name and gets the obvious response. “It seems like your humors are at an imbalance, nothing excessive is good for the human body (Hippocrates, Sacred Disease, 238)” Lancelet adds with his response. Lancelet is well aware of people considering Guinemar’s collapse as a punishment from god but he clarifies Guinemar that it is not something sacred, and he should not be afraid. Guinemar explains his symptoms to Lancelet. Before responding Lancelet gives some fresh figs and water to Guinemar. “You should eat when it is necessary, walk as much as you need, and always stay clean” says Lancelet. He adds “What you have is nothing sacred but an ignored illness. I do not know of a cure for your illness entirely but balancing your humors and staying clean can help you reduce the effects, eat when you are to eat but do not eat too much, walk but as much as your body can take”. Guinemar finds hope and strength from Lancelet words; no giatros has ever been so nice to him. Guinemar openly appreciates Lancelet’s help. Lancelet returns home sips his wine, and logs the the event with accurate details.
Herodotus. Loeb Classical Library edition. Vol. III. 1922.
Hippocrates. Sacred Disease, in G.E.R. Llyod. London: Penguin, 1983.