Quite contrary to the usual impression, rather extensive and well-managed institutions for the care of the insane came into existence during the Middle Ages, and continued to fulfil a very necessary social and medical duty. For the unspeakable neglect of the insane which is a disgrace to civilization, we must look to the centuries much nearer our own than those of the Middle Ages. Above all, the Middle Ages did not segregate the insane entirely from other ailing patients until their affections had become so chronic as to be certainly incurable, and they took the insane into ordinary hospitals to care for them at the beginning of their affection. This mode of procedure has many advantages, mainly in getting the patients out of unfavourable environments and putting them under skilled care early in their affections, so that a definite effort is being made to restore what is called the psychopathic ward in the general hospitals in our time. Only a careful study of the details of actual historical references to the medieval care of the insane will serve to contradict unfortunate traditions which have gathered around the subject entirely without justification in real history.
The traditions of medical knowledge with regard to the insane inherited by the early Middle Ages from the ancients were of the best, and the books written at this time have some interesting material on the subject. Paulus Aegineta (Aeginetus), who wrote in the seventh century—and it must not be forgotten that already at this time some 200 years of the Middle Ages have passed—has some excellent directions with regard to the care and treatment of patients suffering from melancholia and mania. He says, in his paragraph on the cure of melancholy : " Those who are subject to melancholy from a primary affection of the brain are to be treated with frequent baths and a wholesome and humid diet, together with suitable exhilaration of mind, and without any other remedy unless, when from its long continuance, the offending humour is difficult to evacuate, in which case we must have recourse to more powerful and complicated plans of treatment." He then gives a series of directions, some of them quite absurd to us, apparently in order to satisfy those who feel that they must keep on doing something for these cases, though evidently his own opinion is expressed in the first portion of the paragraph, and in the simple laxative treatment that he outlines. " These cases are to be purged first with dodder of thyme (epithymus) or aloes; for if a small quantity of these be taken every day it will be of the greatest service, and open the bowels gently".
His directions as to diet for those suffering from melancholia are all in the line of limiting the consumption of materials that might possibly cause digestive disturbance, for evidently his experience had taught him that the depression was deeper whenever indigestion occurs. He says : " The diet for melancholies shall be wholesome and moderately moistening; abstaining from beef, roe's flesh, dried lentils, cabbages, snails, thick and dark coloured wines, and in a word from whatever things engender black bile." Mania was to be treated very nearly like melancholia, with special warnings as to the necessity for particular care of these patients. " But above all things they must be secured in bed, so that they may not be able to injure themselves or those who approach them; or swung within a wicker basket in a small couch suspended from on high." This last suggestion would seem to be eminently practical, especially for young people who are not too heavy, and enforces the idea that the physicians of this time were thinking seriously of their problems of care for the insane and exercising their ingenuity in inventions for their benefit.
Paul of ^Egina seems, then, to have thought that mania and melancholia were definitely related to each other, and to have held a similar opinion in this regard to Aretaeus, who declared that melancholia was an incipient mania. Both had evidently noted that in most cases there were melancholic and maniacal stages in the same patient. These early medieval students of mental disease, then, anticipated to a rather startling extent our most recent conclusions with regard to the essential insanities. They would have been much readier to agree with Kraepelin's term, manic-depressive insanity, than with the teaching of the hundred years before our time, which so absolutely separated these two conditions.
All this represents an organized knowledge of insanity that could not be acquired by chance, nor by a few intermittent observations on a small number of patients, but must have been due to actual, careful, continued observation of many of them over a long period. Here is the presumptive evidence for the existence of special institutions for their care at this period in the Middle Ages. This presumption is confirmed by Ducange in his '* Commentary on Byzantine History," in which he tells of the existence of a morotrophium, or house for lunatics, at Byzantium in the fourth century, and one is known to have existed at Jerusalem late in the fifth century. Further confirmation of the existence of special arrangements and institutions for the care of the insane even thus early in the Middle Ages is obtained from the régula monachorum of St. Jerome, which enjoins upon the monks the duty of making careful provision for the isolation and proper treatment of the sick both in mind and body, whilst they were enjoined to leave nothing undone to secure appropriate care and speedy recovery of such patients.*
Among the first Christian institutions for the care of the ailing founded by private benevolence, a refuge for the insane was undoubtedly built in England before the seventh century. Burdett says that : " How far the two institutions established in England prior to a.d. 700 were entitled to be considered asylums, we have discovered insufficient evidence to enable us to decide." He evidently inclines to the opinion, however, that provision was made in them for the care of those ailing in mind as well as in body.