The clavicles are the bones below the neck. They are attached to the chest and prevent the shoulders and the shoulder blades from collapsing inwards, as is the case with other animals. They do not have clavicles, and that is why humans have the broadest chest (Rufus, On the Names of the Parts of the Body 74)
People say that the navel of the earth is named after our navel, because it is the central position on the earth, just as our navel is with us. This is all wrong, for that is not the mid-point of the earth, and our navel is not our mid-point either (Varro, On the Latin Language 7.4.1). [In the temple of Apollo at Delphi, there was a round stone, the ??????? (omphalos, Latin umbilicus, “navel”), “marking the spot where the two eagles met up again, after being sent off by Zeus, one to the east, one to the west” to find out where the center of the earth was (Strabo, Geography 9.3.6).]
The testicles are not actually part of the ducts. They are merely attached to them, rather like the stones that weaving women attach to their looms (Aristotle, Generation of Animals 717a).
Hippocrates recorded that he had been misled by the sutures on a person’s skull. Such an admission with regard to matters of great importance is typical of great men (Celsus, On Medicine 8.4.3). Celsus is referring to Epidemics 5.27: A man called Autonomus died sixteen days after suffering a head injury. It was midsummer, and he had been struck by a stone on the sutures at the front and center of his skull. I did not notice that trepanation was required. I was misled because the damage caused by the missile was directly on the sutures, as later became obvious.
There are sutures in the skull, sometimes three and sometimes four. A skull with four sutures has one on each side, by the ear, and one in front and one at the back…whereas a skull with three has one on either side by the ear and one at the front…Those with the larger number of sutures have a healthier head. … Some people have more vertebrae than others. Those with more have eighteen, for a total of twenty, with one extra vertebra up by the head and another down by the seat (Hippocrates, On Places in Man 6).
Why does a hole bored in the left ear generally close over again more quickly than one in the right ear? (Because of this, women call the right ear male, and the left ear female.) Is it because things on the left are more moist and warm, and such things heal readily? This happens in green plants, and young people’s wounds close over more quickly than older people’s. This is a proof that the parts on the left are more moist and generally more female (Pseudo-Aristotle, Problems 960b).
The head is attached to the body by two processes inserted into two pockets in the topmost vertebra. These processes sometimes slip out backwards, causing the sinews below the occiput to stretch and the chin to become stuck to the chest. The sufferer cannot drink or speak, and sometimes emits semen involuntarily. Death follows very quickly. I felt I should mention this condition, not because there is any cure for it, but simply so that it may be diagnosed from these symptoms, and so that those who have lost someone in this way will not think the doctor has been at fault (Celsus, On Medicine 8.13).
Certain learned men, including Plutarch [Table Talk 698a], have noted the criticism of Plato by the famous doctor Erasistratus, for saying [Timaeus 91a] that what we drink flows down to the lungs, and when it has moistened them sufficiently, it percolates through them, since they are full of pores, down into the bladder (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 17.11). [Plutarch’s lengthy discussion does not refute Plato’s view.]
Galen is often credited with the discovery of the importance of taking a patient’s pulse. More than a century earlier, however, Celsus wrote, When the doctor first arrives, the patient’s anxiety may be affecting his pulse-rate, so an experienced practitioner will not grab the patient’s arm straightaway; rather, he’ll sit down with a cheerful expression and ask him how he is feeling, and soothe any fears he may have with pleasant conversation, and only then will he touch the patient (On Medicine 3.6.6). [Celsus was not himself a doctor, so this procedure will already have had some wider currency.]
In the case of people in the prime of life, the pulse is equal in both contraction and dilation, and it is compared to a spondee, which is the longest of the disyllabic metrical feet [long, long]. It consists of four intervals of time. Herophilus calls this the “equal” pulse. People who are past the prime of life and are already almost in old age have a pulse consisting of three intervals, with the contraction taking twice as long as the dilation (Rufus of Ephesus, Synopsis on Pulses 4).
The locals pointed out an amazing thing to me on the battlefield [the Battle of Pelusium, 525 BC]. The bones of the dead from two armies are in two distinct heaps, those of the Persians on one side, and those of the Egyptians on the other. The Persians’ skulls are so fragile that you can knock a hole in them even with a pebble, whereas the Egyptians’ skulls are so strong that you could hardly break them if you bashed them with a rock. The locals gave me a very plausible explanation for this difference. The Egyptians, from childhood on, shave their heads, and exposure to the sun makes the skull grow thick. (This is also the reason why Egyptians do not become bald; you’d see fewer bald men in Egypt than anywhere else in the world.) … The Persians, on the other hand, have weak skulls because, throughout their lives, they cover their heads with felt caps (Herodotus, Histories 3.12).
After the Battle of Plataea [in 479 BC], the local people heaped all the Persian corpses together. When the flesh was stripped from the bones, a head was found that was all one bone without any sutures; also a jaw bone with all front teeth and molars grown together; also the bones of a man seven and a half feet tall (Herodotus, Histories 9.83).
Beyond the Dog-Headed people and above the sources of the River Indus lives another tribe, dark-skinned like all Indians. They do no work, and they neither eat food nor drink water. They rear many cows, goats, and sheep, and drink their livestock’s milk, but nothing else. When children are born, their rump is not pierced, and they do not defecate. They do have buttocks, but the passageway is sealed up. That is why they do not defecate. They are, however, said to urinate, their urine being like cheese, cloudy but not very fatty (Ctesias, Indica frg. 45; Ctesias was the Greek physician to King Artaxerxes II of Persia in the late fifth and early fourth centuries BC).
When I was confined to bed with an attack of diarrhea accompanied by fever, the philosopher Calvisius Taurus and some of his pupils came from Athens to visit me. The local doctor was sitting by my bed, and he began telling Taurus what was wrong with me, and with what variations and at what intervals the fever was coming and going. He said I was getting better, and remarked to Taurus “You can appreciate this for yourself if you touch his vein”. He was speaking Greek, and said ???? [phleps], which is indisputably equivalent to vena [“vein”] in Latin. Taurus’s learned followers were appalled at this clumsy use of language, calling an artery a vein, and they made it clear, by their mutterings and the expression on their faces, that they regarded the doctor as altogether useless. But then Taurus, in his usual diplomatic way, said “We are all quite sure, my dear chap, that you are perfectly aware what “vein” and “artery” mean, and that you know that veins have no independent power of movement and are sought out only for the purpose of drawing blood, whereas the arteries, by their independent motion and pulse indicate the condition and level of fevers. But I can see that you were speaking in loose colloquial terms, not in ignorance, for I have heard other people, not just you, making the mistake of saying “vein” instead of “artery”. So then, show us that you are more skilled in healing than in talking and, with the good will of the gods, use your best efforts to set this friend of ours on his feet again, healthy and strong, as soon as possible” (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 18.10).