Erasistratus of Ceos


Erasistratus discovers Antiochus has a disease of a broken heart

By: Mikaela Lada and Joseph Slagle
physician, anatomist
Erasistratus was born in Iulis at the island of Ceos in 304 BC. Erasistratus was born into a family of Doctors. His father and brother were doctors, while his mother grew up around medicine. He was influenced by Herophilus, Chrysippus, and Aristotle. Erasistratus Conducted many dissections at the Museum in Alexandria. He Is also believed to have conducted some of the first vivisections on condemned criminals with Herophilus.
Erasistratus was medically trained in Athens as a pupil of Metrodorus, the third husband of Aristotle’s daughter, Pythias; then around 280 B.C. he was educated in the  peripatetic Philosophy of Aristotle while in Athens. Later, he enrolled in the university of Cos, which was apart of the medical school of Praxagoras. He then moved to Alexandria where he practiced and taught medicine under the influence of Chrysippus the Younger, who was the the palace doctor of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Finally, Erasistratus continued the work of Herophilus, who is considered to be the first anatomist. He Came up with many theories to describe different bodily functions. He had ways of explaining how the body worked for abdominal pathology, the circulatory system, the nervous system, metabolic processes, and also on why fevers resulted.
Main Contributions.
He is best-known for his anatomical and physiological research and discoveries. He is also known as the Father of Physiology. Erasistratus’ description of the vascular system and his views on the significance and structure of the heart represent a great advance over his predecessors. He was the first to determine that the heart was central to the venal and arterial body systems. However, he was not exactly correct in how he thought that they functioned. Erasistratus believed that the heart pumped blood through the veins to all parts of the body to convey nourishment. He also believed that the liver transformed nourishment from food and made it into blood. He thought that arteries were used to deliver ‘vital spirits’ in the air, conveyed through the nerves and then delivered to the rest of the body. Finally, he is quoted to believe that both air and blood nourishment are delivered through such fine networks that they were invisible to the naked eye. He is also one of the first physicians to reject therapeutic uses for bloodletting.
Claim to Fame.
While Erasistratus lived at the court of Seleucus I Nicator he earned quite the reputation for discovering the disease of Antiochus I Soter, who was the eldest son. Seleucus who had married in old age had married Stratonice. Antiochus later fell in-love with his mother-in-law, but hid his love away leaving silence to his emotions. This silence left Antiochus in a state of illness. The physicians over seeing him were unable to uncover the disease or what caused the illness. Among the physicians Erasistratus was in a state of loss as well. But, not finding anything wrong with the boy’s body Erasistratus began to suspect it was Antiochus’s mind or heart that was diseased and that perhaps he was in love. The observation that Erasistratus made was confirmed when he found that Antiochus’s body temperature rose, he turned red, and his pulse accelerated when his mother-in-law, Stratonice, approached him. Upon noticing these symptoms only when Stratonice came near him he informed Seleucus that the disease was incurable because he was in love. After the information was passed on Seleucus, Erasistratus began to persuade the king that he should give up his wife for his son. The king began to say that he will give up his own wife. King Seleucus not only gave Antiochus his wife but he also gave his son several provinces of the Empire.
Later Life.
In his old age Erasistratus gave up medical practice and entered the Museum at Alexandria, where the facilities afforded by the Ptolemies allowed him to devote himself entirely to his research. According to later legends it is said the Erasistratus developed an incurable ulcer on his foot causing him to commit suicide by drinking hemlock.