Oath of Office

A Conversation Between Richard Selzer & Peter Josyph

Josyph: “I swear by Apollo, the physician.” On whom did Apollo practice?

Selzer: Well, he was called upon to heal miraculously. Iapyx, in the Aeneid, was a doctor. He had asked to learn the healing arts from Apollo because he wanted to save his own father, who was ill and dying. Famously, Iapyx was summoned to the battlefield because Aeneas was struck by an arrow, and Iapyx, who was unable to extrude the arrow, prevented an infection by treating the wound with an herb. Iatros, the word for doctor in Greek, is still used all over the world. Diseases that are caused by doctors are called iatrogenic diseases.

Josyph: Did Apollo minister to other gods?

Selzer: No, gods don’t need doctors. Actually, Asclepius was the god of medicine.

Josyph: “I swear by Apollo, the physician, and Asclepius.” Isn’t this the god that Socrates owed a cock to? Those were his last words, “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius.”

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