Solon, those injured on the battle-field were attended and nursed at the expense of the community. Of the great Cæsar it is well known that he had a regular medical service in his armies.
There is a word in the ancient Greek which has given rise to the belief that Hellas may have had hospitals. But, as no facts and reports sustain that supposition, it is probable that ἰατρειον meant a medical office, a policlinic, perhaps, but not a hospital. Real hospitals were not built by either Greek, Roman, or Hebrew. The commonwealth of the latter was hierarchic and intolerant. The stranger—though he who was permitted to live in Judea was to be treated like a member of the community—was to be exterminated, and must not be spared. Thus, while there are no proofs of the existence of hospitals for the friend, a painstaking care in favor of the stranger was out of the question.
Antiquity, however, is not without its humane culture. The reconciling feature in that immense picture of indifference and thoughtlessness is found in Buddhism. We have the reliable report of a genuine hospital founded by a king in Ceylon, in the fifth century b. c. One of his successors in the second century b. c. is credited with eighteen hospitals under regular medical superintendence. In the East Indies hospitals are mentioned in the third century. Nor have other civilizations been slow in outgrowing the humane exertions of Hellas, Rome, and Palestine, for Prescott tells us that there were hospitals in Mexico before the Christian Spaniards introduced the blessings of torture, inquisition, and extermination. And when finally the Christians, in the second century after Christ, bethought themselves of the poor and sick and established hospitals, the largest and most effective ones were founded in Asia Minor and Persia, where Buddhism had prepared both means and public opinion Buddhism, under whose beneficent rules aiding the poor and nursing the sick were two of the religious duties of kings and princes. Nor has Christianity the claim of having the first large hospitals. The Arabs had many good and large hospitals about 1200. Cordova, in Spain, sustained fifty within its own walls.
The first information in regard to Christian hospitals dates back to the second century; other reports go back as far as the fourth, and a few others to the sixth century. In most cases the establishments were not exactly hospitals, but stopping-places and dormitories for pilgrims on their way to Rome. To what extent such institutions were necessities is best proved by the order of the so-called “Bridge-makers” (Hospitaliers Pontifes), whose original vocation it was to protect pilgrims from the robberies and rapacity of the ferry-men on the large rivers. They existed a long time, became rich and degenerated, and were finally dissolved in 1672 by Louis XIV.
The hierarchic character of the institutions calculated to benefit the poor remained intact until the period of the Crusade wars. At