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Imere grece dies inde ymera criseos idest dies creticus.


Imere ACD | Imera B efjp
{inde} ymera ACD | imera B efp | yme j
creticus | c'ticus p


Imere is Greek for Latin dies {"day(s)"}, and from this comes Greek ymera criseos, in Latin dies creticus {"critical day"}.


The form imere in ACD may well reflect the plural ἡμέραι /hēmérai/ meaning "days", i.e. "critical days"; observe that the translation of Imere into Latin is dies, which is ambiguous since dies can be nom. sg. as well as nom. pl.

ymera criseos:
is Greek ἡμέρα κρίσεως /hēméra kríseōs/ "the day of the crisis".

for criticus can simply be a Vulgar Latin pronunciation since in the Western Romania Latin short /I/ {i.e. /ĭ/} changed to /e/ {i.e. /ẹ/}. The spelling "e" for "I" became common from the third century A.D. onwards, e.g. minus spelt menos. Another possibility is that criticus was simply misunderstood to be Creticus "Cretan" or at least contaminated by it.

The notion of crisis, Greek /krísis/ κρίσις < κρίνω /krínō/ "to separate; distinguish; show judgment" is originally a legal term "coming to a decision; judgment". In the medical thinking of the time the word came to mean the particular point in time in the course of a disease when a decisive change for better or worse would occur, often meaning whether the patient would die or survive.

The notion occurs already in the Hippocratic Corpus, e.g. Aphorismi 7, 85, where in the Ravennatic Latin translation, p. 124, it says: Sudores periculosi, qui {v.l. qui non} in creticis diebus fiunt, validi - "Sweats are dangerous, that occur {v.l. do not occur} during critical days, {these sweats} are strong …". The conflicting statements whether the sweats are dangerous "on the critical days" or "not on the critical days" can already be found in the Greek original, depending on the mss. cf. Ἱδρῶτες ἐπικίνδυνοι οἱ ἐν τῇσι κρισίμοισιν ἡμέρῃσι μὴ (μὴ omit some mss.) γινόμενοι, σφοδροί /Hidrôtes epikíndynoi hoi en têsi krisímoisin hēmérēsi mḕ {mḕ omitted by some mss.} ginómenoi, sphodroí/, Hippocrates, 85, ed. Jones (1923-95: IV.216) ΑΦΟΡΙΣΜΟΙ. Observe also the foreshadowing of the change from criticus to creticus in the Ravennatic translation. However, the conflict is cleared up in Hippocrates, 6, ed. Jones (1923-95: II.14), where it clearly says: Οἱ δὲ ἱδρῶτες ἄριστοι … ἐν ἡμέρῃσι κρισίμῃσιν /Hoi dè hidrôtes áristoi … en hēmérēsi krisímēsin/ "Sweats on critical days … are best".

Critical days:
Closely related to the notion of crisis is the doctrine of the critical days according to which certain days after the onset of the disease, e.g. third, fifth, seventh, etc., were decisive for the future course of the illness.

Different authors had different ideas, which days were "critical", and the notion was sometimes further refined as e.g. in Galen. W.G. Spencer in Celsus, ed. Spencer (1935-8: I.236-8, 240) mentions how this idea might have arisen: "We now explain that the origin of the doctrine was related to the cycles in the life-history of the malarial parasites. Benign tertian fever is set up by Plasmodium vivax, which has a cycle of 48 hours and which occasions a recurrence of the fever every third day; quartan fever is due to the Plasmodium malariae, with a cycle of 72 hours, the fever recurring every fourth day; …."

Not every ancient author approved of the doctrine; e.g. Celsus, 4, 11, ed. Spencer (1935-8: III.236), where he speaks of the food regimen appropriate for febrile patients, was unconvinced by the doctrine and saw it as a convenient excuse for money-grabbing physicians to avoid too many visits. His statement Spencer (1935-8: III.234) shows him, contrary to his reputation as a mere compiler, to be a judicious writer:
Refert enim qualis morbus sit, quale corpus, quale caelum, quae aetas, quod tempus anni; minimeque in rebus inter se multum differentibus perpetuum esse praeceptum temporis potest - "It depends on what disease it is, what kind of {patient's} body; what climate; what age (s)he is; what season it is; in matters, which are so variable between them it is impossible to have a universally applicable time schedule."

WilfGunther 01/12/13

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