Ancient myth And modem medicine

Lessons from Baucis and Philemon
  • Lawrence J. Schneiderman
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Biomedicine, Ethics, and Society book series (CIBES)


Here is the story of Baucis and Philemon as recorded inBullfinch’s Mythology: 1

On a certain hill in Phrygia stands a linden tree and an oak, enclosed by a low wall. Not far from the spot is a marsh, formerly good habitable land, but now indented with pools, the resort of fen-birds and cormorants. Once on a time Jupiter, in human shape, visited this country, and with him his son Mercury (he of the caduceus), without his wings. They presented themselves, as weary travelers, at many a door, seeking rest and shelter, but found all closed, for it was late, and the inhospitable inhabitants would not rouse themselves to open for their reception. At last a humble mansion received them, a small thatched cottage, where Baucis, a pious old dame, and her husband Philemon, united when young, had grown old together. Not ashamed of their poverty, they made it endurable by moderate desires and kind dispositions. One need not look there for master or for servant; they two were the whole household, master and servant alike. When the two heavenly guests crossed the humble threshold, and bowed their heads to Philemon—perhaps an ever-deeper immersion in divisive social and economic bitterness—it could be because we failed to heed the lessons of this ancient myth.


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  1. 1.
    Bullfinch’sMythology(1939)Carlton House, New York, NY, pp. 44–46.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    D. Callahan (1987)Setting Limits.Simon and Schuster Inc., New York, NY, p. 36.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence J. Schneiderman

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