Herodotus Returns


Byzantine Werewolves
January 2, 2010, 3:59 am
Filed under: Byzantine | Tags: , ,

A recent article explores how Byzantine doctors treated werewolves.

In “Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453),” four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.

Oribasius, a 4th century physician to the Emperor Julian the Apostate, described lycanthropy if his work Synagogae Medicae:

On Lycanthropy. Persons affected by lycanthropy go out at night time and wander among the tombs. You can recognize them from the following signs: they are pale with dry, dull and hollow eyes, without tears, the tongue extremely dry and without saliva. They are very thirsty and their legs are covered with scars from frequent stumbling. You must know that lycanthropy is a type of melancholy that must be treated by bloodletting until fainting, and offering an appropriate diet and baths with sweet water. Purgation by the hiera of colocynth must be applied twice or three times, and then use the viper theriaca and the other healing methods for melancholy. When the disease is approaching, you must sedate the patient by the use of wet compresses and administration of opium, rubbing the ears and the nostrils, a somniferous method…

The article notes that a Byzantine emperor, Justin II (AD 565–578) may have suffered from this mental disorder. From the first years of his reign, Justin showed signs of a severe psychiatric illness, which included walking around the palace barking or mewing, and imitating dogs’ and cats’ behaviour. The emperor also threw objects out of the palace windows during his explosions of wrath and on one occasion demanded that Orthodox Patriarch wear a woman’s hat.

More on Byzantine Werewolves here.

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