the time Hippocrates came on the scene (486-377 B.C.), European
herbal tradition had absorbed ideas from Egypt, India, and China.
Hippocrates categorized food and herbs as hot, cold, dry, and
damp. To maintain good health, one needed to keep these in balance,
and get some exercise and fresh air.
another Greek, wrote his De Materia Medica about 60 A.D.,
and it remained a standard text for 1,500 years. It is not known
for sure whether he was physician to Antony and Cleopatra or
surgeon during the reign of Nero, but many of the actions he
describes such as parsley as a diuretic, fennel to promote the
flow of mother's milk, and white horehound with honey as an
expectorant, are familiar today.
Romans and the Four Humors
Greek medicinal practices reached Rome in about 100 B.C. As
time went by, the body was looked upon as a machine to repair,
rather than following Hippocrates dictum of allowing it to cure
itself. Medicine became a lucrative business. Galen (131-199
A.D.) opposed these practices and reworked Hippocrates' ideas,
formulating the theory of humors. This theory stated that the
body was made up of four "humors"-blood, phlegm, black bile,
and yellow bile, and these influenced a person's temperament.
The person with more blood was said to be sanguine. The person
with more phlegm was phlegmatic. If black bile predominated,
one was melancholic. If yellow bile predominated, one was choleric,
bilious. This idea of humors is found throughout Shakespeare's
plays. Galen's books soon became standard medical texts, not
only for the Romans, but also later for the Arabic world and
for medieval physicians. His theories still survive in Unani
medicine, practiced in the Muslim world and India today.
Design in the Ancient World
Until the secret of the wind system over the Indian Ocean was
unlocked in 40 A.D. by Hippalus, a Greek merchant, western spice-consuming
countries were forced to cross Arab lands to reach the eastern,
spice-producing countries. It may have been at that time that
Westerners became acquainted with Persian gardens like those
of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were laid out symmetrically.
Records show that the Babylonians had thyme, coriander, saffron,
poppy, mandrake, rosemary, and hemp as well as ornamentals.
The Greek historian, Xenophon, described the paradise gardens
of Darius the Great (d. 486 B.C.) and Cyrus (d. 401 B.C.) of
straight rows and angles with geometric water courses and pools.
When Alexander the Great conquered Persia, the well-ordered
pleasure garden design spread to all the Greek world. From the
Greeks it made its way to the Romans, and from there, it found
its way to the medieval castle and cloister. This garden design
is still seen throughout Europe today.
on the symmetry and water features of the Persian garden, the
Romans expressed their genius for garden design in the villa.
The villa was geometrically precise with colonnades, statuary,
topiary, and fountains. There were raised beds in which they
grew flowers and herbs. As the empire expanded, it carried the
idea of the villa across Europe. Archaeologists have uncovered
"classic" Roman villas in Herculaneum, Pompeii, England, and
Portugal. And where they brought their villas, they brought
their herbs, flowers, vegetables, trees, and their knowledge
of herbal medicine.