"Education is the best provision for the journey to old age."

Old Age

Aristotle gave much attention to speculation and little to experience. He believed that life was linked to internal heat, which, when diminished, gives rise to the senescence.   For centuries his theories continued to be popular, the conception of the human body likened to a machine subject to wear.

Galen of Pergamum was a prominent Roman physician and philosopher of Greek origin, and probably the most accomplished medical researcher of the Roman period. 

Galen's works on anatomy and medicine became the mainstay of the medieval physician's university curriculum, alongside Ibn Sina's "The Canon of Medicine" which elaborated on Galen's works. Vesalius' most famous work, De Humani corporis fabric, was greatly influenced by Galenic writing and form. 

To Galen, old age,  was located, halfway between sickness and health, he also tried to reconcile the theory of humors with that of internal heat and believed the body was the container of the soul. His conclusions were accepted uncritically long not only by the Fathers of the Church, but also by the Jews and the Islamic world. Moreover Galen wrote a small work called "That the Best Physician is also a Philosopher" and he saw himself as being both, which meant grounding medical practice in theoretically sound knowledge or "philosophy".

In the Middle Ages, the Scholastics had likened the life to a flame that slowly became more and more dim, mystical image that lasted for centuries.

In the history of humanity the man lived in the vigor of youth and died at the height of their powers, did not know the humiliation of physical degradation and death from consumption.

How can we forget when at Thermopylae, Leonidas, addressing the traitor Ephialtes, who had suggested to the troops of Xerxes how to attack the Spartans, him curses: "You there, Ephialtes ... I hope you may live forever." Since the Spartans believed that the most honorable and beautiful death was one that would come from being young killed in battle, therefore at Ephialtes would he be denied this Privilege.

Subsequently Medicine, Science, Welfare, have added years to life, giving rise to the appearance of numerous new age-related diseases difficult to treat. 

The longevity of man became superior to that of all mammals, however, incontrovertible that in all species females live longer, women in the civilized world seven years longer than men.

Among the ancient peoples the medical knowledge was confused with the metaphysical and philosophical speculation.

The Father of Medicine Hippocrates was the first to compare the stages of life through the seasons, from spring to winter, and believed that the man became old at fifty-six years. (Abstract)


Presented to 22nd World Congress of Dermatology 
Prof. Camillo O. Di Cicco
Member of American Association for the History of Medicine