Democedes


Democedes

Democedes of Croton, described in The Histories of Herodotus as "the most skillful physician of his time".

Contents

Democedes's Background

Democedes was a Greek physician and a part of the court of Darius I. He was born in Croton, in southern Italy. His father was Calliphon, a priest as part of Asclepius. His first position as physician seems to be in civil service of Athens and Aegina. Later he entered service under Polycrates. In 522 B.C., Polycrates, his entourage, and Democedes were all captured as Lydians by Oroites and sent to Susa.

Democedes's Travels

Herodotus describes the journeys of Democedes with much detail.

Services rendered to Darius and Atossa

Darius once sprained his ankle while he was hunting, and his Egyptian doctors could not help his ankle. This may seem a very small injury today, but medicine around those times was very primitive. However, Democedes was able to heal his ankle, and he was thereafter given great esteem. The court regarded his actions highly enough that he was able to eat in the presence of the king. He was the first of many Greek physicians to be within the Persian court. He lived in what the Persians regarded as luxury. Nevertheless, he always wanted to go back to his homeland, Greece. Later on, Darius's wife, Atossa, had a breast ulcer. When Democedes cured her ulcer, as a reward, he was set free and allowed to visit Greece.

Democedes's Escape

He went to Greece as passenger on one ship of a reconnaissance mission for a later military campaign. Three Phoenician ships were sent with fifteen Persian nobles. Through the latter half of the mission, the fleet stopped in Tarentum, where Democedes made his escape with help from the Tarentian king. After his escape he went back to Croton. He was guarded from the Persians, and later married a daughter of Milon.

Sources

  • The Histories of Herodotus



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