The Works of Aristotle - of the Back.

of the Back.

Why have beasts backs?
According to Aristotle, for three causes; first, because the back should be the way and mien of body from which are extended and spread throughout all the sinews of the back-bone, as it appears in such as are hanged; because when they are in pieces, or without flesh, the sinews hang whole in the chine or backbone. The second, because it should be a guard and a defence for the soft parts of the body, as of the stomach, liver, lights, and such like. The third, because it should be the foundation of all the bones, because we see other bones, as the ribs, fastened to the back-bone,

Why hath man above all other creatures a broad back which he can lie upon, which no beast can do?
because a broad back doth answer a broad breast; if therefore a man should have a sharp back like unto a beast, that would be of an unseemly shape; and therefore it is requisite that he should have a broad back.

Why hath a man that lieth on his back horrible visions?
Because the passage or sign of the fantasy is open, which is in the fore part of the brain, and so the fantasy is destroyed, and then those visions followeth. Another reason is, because when a man lieth on his back, the humours are distributed and moved upward where the fantasy is, which by that means is distributed.

Why is it naught to lie on the back?
Because as the physicians say, it disposes a man to leprosy, madness, and to an incubus, where you may note that mania, or madness, is the hurt or disturbance of the forepart of the brain, which is taken away, or depravation of the imagination; but incubus (i.e., the nightmare) is a passion of the heart, wherein a man thinks himself to be strangled in his sleep, and something lies heavy on his stomach, which he would put off.

Why hath the back-bone so many joints or knots, called spondelia by the physicians?
For the moving and bending it, without which joints that could not be done; and therefore they say amiss that elephant hath no such joints, for without them they could not move.

Why do fish die after their back-bone is burst?
Because in fish the back-bone is instead of the heart. Now the heart is the first thing that lives and the last that dies, and therefore when the bone is broke fish can no longer live.

Why does a man die soon after the marrow is hurt or perished?
Because the marrow proceeds from the brain, which is a principal part of a man; as appears, first, because the marrow is white like the brain; and secondly, because it hath a thick skin or rind, which that called nucha has not, which differs from the marrow, because two coverings like the brain, called pia mater and dura mater.

Why have some men the piles?
Those men are cold and melancholy, which melancholy first passes to the spleen, its proper seat; but there cannot be retained for abundance of blood; for which reason it is conveyed to the back-bone, where there are certain veins which terminate in the back, and receive the blood. When those veins are full of the melancholy blood, then the conduits of nature are opened, and the blood issues out once a month, like women's terms. Those men who have this course of blood are kept from many infirmities, as dropsy, plague, etc.

Why are the Jews much subject to this disease?
Divines say, because they cried at the death of Christ, Let His blood fall upon us and our children: Therefore it is said in the Psalms, "Percussit tot Deus posteria doci." Another reason is, because the Jews eat much phlegmatic and cold meats, which breed melancholy blood, but it is purged with this flux: A third reason is motion causes heat, and heat digestion; but strict Jews neither move, labour, nor converse with men; besides, they are in continual fear we should revenge the death of our Saviour, which likewise breeds a coldness in them, and hinders digestion, causing melancholy blood, which is by this means purged out.

 

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