There was a hospital at Salerno that was some what famous as early as the first quarter of the ninth century. This was placed under the control of the Benedictines; and other infirmaries and charitable institutions, similarly under the care of religious orders, sprang up in Salerno to accommodate the patients that came. The practical character of the teaching at Salerno, as preserved for us in the writings of the school, would seem to argue that probably those who came to study medicine here were brought directly in contact with the patients, though we have no definite evidence of that fact.
The most interesting feature of the medical school at Salerno is undoubtedly the development of legal standards of medical education in connection with the school. Before the middle of the twelfth century Roger, King of the Two Sicilies, issued a decree according to which preliminary studies at the University were required as a preparation for the medical school, and four years of medical studies were made the minimum requirement for the degree of doctor in medicine, which was, however, as we have said, not a licence to practise, but only a certificate authorizing teaching. There seemed to have been, even thus early, some further state regulations with regard to practice. About the middle of the next century, however, there came, through a law of the Emperor Frederick II., a still further evolution of legal standards for medical education and medical practice in the Two Sicilies. This law required that the student of medicine should have spent some years, probably the equivalent of our undergraduate training, in the university before studying medicine, and that he should then devote four years to medicine, after which, on proper examination, he might be given the degree of doctor—that is, teacher of medicine; but he must spend a further year of practice with a physician before he would be allowed to practise for himself.
This is such a high standard that, only that we have the actual wording of the law, it would seem almost impossible that it could have been evolved at this period in medical history. It actually represents the standard that we have climbed back to generally only during the past generation or two, and in the interval there have been many rather serious derogations from it. This law of the Emperor Frederick is, moreover, a pure drug law, regulating the sale of drugs and their purity, and inflicting condign punishment for substitution; in this regard also anticipating our most recent well-considered legislation. The penalty by which the druggist was fined all his movable goods for substitution, while the government inspector who permitted such substitution was put to death, would seem to us in the modern time to make the punishment eminently fit the crime. Almost needless to say, then, the law (see Appendix for full text) represents one of the most important documents in the history of medicine, particularly of medical education. The fee regulation included in it shows that medicine was looked upon as a profession, and was paid accordingly.
From Salerno come many of the traditions of the conferring of degrees which are still used in a large number of modern medical schools. Before receiving his degree, the candidate had to take an oath, of which the following were the principal tenets : " Not to contradict the teaching of his college, not to teach what was false or lying, and not to receive fees from the poor even though they were offered; to commend the sacrament of penance to his patients, to make no dishonest agreement with the druggists, to administer no abortifacient drug to the pregnant, and to prescribe no medicament that was poisonous to human bodies".
It has sometimes been said that youths of tender age were admitted to the study of medicine at Salerno, and that many of them were given their degrees at the age of twenty-one. De Renzi's discussion would seem to show that the usual age of receiving the degree was twenty-five to twenty-seven. As medical students had to have three years of preparatory studies in literature and philosophy, it would seem that they must have been rather mature on their admission to the medical schools.
De Renzi tells us that the medical school of Salerno was of great importance not only for medical education, but it acquired sufficient means to extend its benefits over the entire city. Gifts were made of statues to the churches, and especially to the shrine of St. Matthew the Apostle, situated here; monuments were set up, inscriptions placed and ample donations made to the various institutions of the city. The formal name of the medical school was Almum et Hippocraticum Medicorum Collegium. This is the first use that I know of the word almum in connection with a college, and may very well be the distant source of our term alma mater. The medical school was situated in the midst of an elevated valley which opened up on the mountain that dominates Salerno, and while enjoying very pure air must have been scarcely disturbed at all by the winds which can be blustery enough from the gulf. De Renzi says that in his time some of the remains could still be seen, though visitors to Salerno now come away very much disappointed because nothing of interest is left.
The most famous of the teachers at Salerno was Constantine Africanus, so called because he was born near Carthage. His life runs from the early part of the eleventh century to near its close, and he lived probably well beyond eighty years of age. Having studied medicine in his native town, he wandered through the East, became familiar with a number of Oriental languages, and studied the Arabian literature of science, and above all of medicine, very diligently. The Arabs, owing to their intimate contact with the Greeks in Asia Minor, had the Greek authors constantly before them, and Hippocrates and Galen have always roused men to do good work in medicine. Const antine seems not to have learned Greek, finding enough to satisfy him in the Arabic commentaries on the Greek authors, and probably confident, as all young men have ever been, that what his own time was doing must represent an advance over the Greek. He brought back with him Arabian books and a thorough knowledge of Arabian medicine. When he settled down in Carthage he was accused of magical practices, his medical colleagues being apparently jealous of his success—at least, there is a tradition to that effect to account for his removal to Salerno, though the immediate reason seems to have been that his reputation attracted the attention of Duke Robert of Salerno, who invited him to become his physician.