ancient parasites, archeoparasitology, and philosophy
Table of contents:
Concerning the terminology it applies that in the antiquity the term parasite had a completely different meaning and contents than today. In addition, the contents of this term was subjected to some social transformations - as well as we can occasionally find traces of those organisms in ancient opus, which we call parasites today.
Parasites in the antiquity: A parasitoV = parasitos was the tolerated co-eater during the guest meals in the Greek antiquity: "para" = close, "sitos" = wheat, at all grain, grain in the natural; prepared: flour, bread, from there also completely generally: food, meal. Usually it concerned an illegitimate, hence pauperised, free young man, who had to pay for his meal with exhilarations of the guests, adulations, maintenance art, bearing of humiliating, and sometimes even with sexual services. Consuetudinary two types are differentiated, the (just) reputable
(1.) entertainer, who, however, had always to accept raps and indignities of the (drunken) host men also (example: the fist-fight of the as a parasitos disguised landlord Odysseus with the "beggar" (= parasitos) Iros during his home-coming; Canto 18th of the Odyssee) and the
(2.) sycophant, the kolax, who figures a rather dubious character as role in the theater and who was disrespected as dishonourable in real life. This type has to be distinguished strictly from the parasite according to U. Enzensberger. Within the theater some courageous and fearless authors, e.g. Aristophanes, occasionally put on an equal footing the political agitators (like Kleon) with a kolax of the Demos (inhabitants of Athen), which is to name a ruler as sycophant and seducer of his landlord, the people.
However, the development of the little-respected occupation parasitoV in the antiquity, lasting for thousands of years, reflects an unparalleled devaluation of this socially forced manipulation: At the beginning stands the archaic young-stone-age social order of Greece, in which a parasitoV was an elected and chosen compagnion of the God, at the same time a civil servant of a municipality, and a respected citizen. He is the associate of the God during the meal of the Gods, the chosen one who presented the sacrificial offerings of the community (= municipal tax) to the Gods as their meal. Within the field of the private services he became the temple servant, more or less voluntarily invited to the sacrifice meal, then, the deserving honour guest feeding daily in the city hall (Prytaneion) at public expense, usually a veteran of merit or a "retiree". From the very first time the opinion originates that the parasitic is the only one of all arts, which descends from the Gods, especially from Zeus, the God of the friendship, an unrestrained egoistic glutton and heavy drunkard. The primordial ancestor of all parasites has been Tantalos, who was heavily maltreated and evicted by Zeus and who was relatively successless therefore. But, the bastard son of Zeus and ancestral hero of the Dorer, Herakles, was appointed as immortal parasite to the company at the table of the Gods. However, in the course of time the respect of the Gods vanished as well as the one of the co-eating amuser (of the Gods). From the comedy playwrighter Diodoros of Sinope (3rd century BC) comes the following depreciatory remark: "wherever he notices a covered table, he lays down himself, eats and drinks, and goes away again without contributing anything to the meal". As an ark type the parasitoV is perpetuated in the plays of classical and postclassical authors, usually in comedies (= biographies of the paupers), as intriguer and problem causer - a mask of a parasite shown on the right side. The parasiti Apollinis, the Parasites of Apoll, were a mysterious company of comic and tradic actors founded about 200 BC.
The first mentioning of the term Parasite in the current sense can be found - what an irony of fate - in the opus of Sir Thomas Browne about popular errors (hoaxes), written 1646 and called: Pseudodoxia Epidemica: or Enquiries into Very Many Received Tenets, and Commonly Presumed Truths. He mentioned mosses and Polypodiacaen Parasitical Plants, because, according to his oppinion, they are living on the stock of others. The term Parasitology as the science of parasitic life is first mentioned in the London Times in 1893.
One of the most important poets of German language, Friedrich Schiller, characterised the character of one of his contemporaries, Georg Forster, in the following Xenion: "Erst habt ihr die Großen beschmaust, nun wollt ihr sie stürzen; hat man Schmarotzer noch nie dankbar dem Wirte gesehen." An interesting approach is the one of Eisenmann (1835), who defined disease as life on living and at the expense of living.
Hassl codice tertio operis rei antiquae causa
The parasite of the Greek antiquity
A parasitoz = parasitos = parasite of the classical Greek antiquity was a tolerated, but not invited co-eater during a guest meal. Usually a parasite was an illegitimate, incapable to inherit or anyway pauperised, free, young man, who had to pay for his meal with exhilaration of the guests, adulation, maintenance art, and humiliations.
|However, during the more than two millennia lasting development of the classical antique society, even this little prestigious profession was preceded by a stupendous development, reflecting an unprecedented devaluation of this socially enforced activity. At the outset of the development there stood the archaic, neolithic social order of Greece, within which a parasitos was the selected partner of the divinity and at the same time a civil servant of a municipality and an outstanding citizen of a community. In the classical antiquity the term parasitos had a socio-political contents above all; the term incorporated itself into the ancient sacral, social, and constitutional spheres. The transformation to a medical word meaning took originally place in the course of an erroneous reception during the 17th century.|
Hassl codice tertio operis rei antiquae causa
The Malaria in the Roman Empire
The significance of the malaria for the decadence and the final fall of the Western Roman Empire is discussed controversially. It seems verisimilar that Central Europe was free of any malaria at the end of the last ice-age, and it is undisputed that the Apennine peninsula was a substantially depopulated, endemic malaria area around 600 A.D. The immigration of three of the four Plasmodium species infectious for man took place most likely at different era and with very different effects on the antique societies. A text passage in the Digesta of Justinian (D 188.8.131.52), written by the post classical jurist Ulpian (approx. 170 - 223 A.D.), illuminates selectively in region and period the malaria situation of the social underclass in and around Rome, a city with a population over a million at that time.
|The quotation indicates reduced "that an old Quartana, about which one does not have to worry any longer, is not an argument for a warranty for defects in case of slaves bought at the market".
From this annotation one can deduce that at the turn of the second to the third after-Christian century a Quartana-recrudescence represented the medical normality for humans from the social underclass in Rome and the surrounding area. Thus, while at that time Plasmodium malariae seemed to be a common part of the human parasite fauna in Latium, Malaria tropica and Malaria tertiana did not just then unfold their depopulating, economically and socially devastating effects as a few centuries later, although the existence of at least one effective vector is proven.|
The just most prominent primary description of an infection with a parasitic worm - Dracunculus medinensis - and its therapy (see right picture) can be found in the Old Testament, Numbers 21:4-9
21:4 They travelled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way;
21:5 The people spoke against God, and against Moses, Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul loathes this light bread.
21:6 Yahweh sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
21:7 The people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you; pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us. Moses prayed for the people.
21:8 Yahweh said to Moses, Make you a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard: and it shall happen, that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.
21:9 Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it on the standard: and it happened, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of brass, he lived.
Hassl libello tertio membranarum rei philosophiae causa
An introduction into bioethics and parasitology
Bioethical considerations increasingly affect the process of integrating scientific and medical findings into the moral conceivabilities of a society and, consequentially, into the stock of laws. In a natural science like parasitology a social consensus must be reached in the areas of species protection, of the red biotechnology, of human prenatal
|diagnosis, and of animal experiments. The crucial problem is the social value of an individual's dignity and the conjoined question of the admissibility of an exploitation of a creature. The responsibility of man for other organisms, in that particular case parasites and their hosts, is brought up for discussion in a bioethic debate.|