Passing from the Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans, we proceed to pursue, in regard to these, the same line of enquiry as that which we have already attempted in regard to other nations. Were their habits, their social life, the character of their civilization, such as to lead us to expect that there must have existed among them, in any well marked degree, the clearly recognised causes of insanity ? In this investigation we must carefully distinguish between their early and heroic age and the period of their highest culture and refinement, otherwise we shall fall into the error of comprising under the same term widely different conditions of society, and in the endeavour to compare them with our own—that is to say, modern civilized life—shall draw a totally false inference. The seeds of insanity may have been widely sown among the people of one age, and but sparsely among those of another. We have abundant evidence in the immortal verse of Homer of the general character of the civilization of the Greeks at the period to which he refers—the legendary and heroic age of Greece; not as a state of barbarism, assuredly, but one which we feel differs widely from our own. They were far removed, doubtless, from the savage condition of certain early Greeks, described by Thucydides, marked, as he represents it to have been, by piracy—men falling upon towns which were unfortified and like straggling villages, and rifling them without disgrace, but rather with glory. He adds that in many other respects it might be shown that the Greeks, at the period of which he is speaking, lived in a manner similar to “the barbarians of the present age,” implying by this that their food consisted of milk and what the chase afforded, uncooked, and that they were clothed in undressed hides. To the people who were in this rude condition the remarks we have already made on barbarous tribes would apply; and we can have no doubt that the causes of insanity were then prevalent in only a limited degree.
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