‘Arthritis’ in Byzantium (AD 324-1453): unknown information from non-medical literary sources
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (1995); 54:951-957
Objective – To compile and analyse information contained in non-medical texts of the Byzantine historians and chroniclers concerning arthritis, and to clarify the first use of Colchicum autumnal in the treatment of gout by fifth century physician, Jacob Psychristus.
Conclusions – This material gives an indication of the problem of arthritis and, in particular, a disease resembling gout that tyrannised a great number of the population in the Byzantine Empire (AD 324-1453). Contemporary historians and chroniclers maintain the the main causes of gout (‘podagra’) were over-consumption of alcoholic drinks and food. Most relevant texts include anxiety and heredity among the aetiological factors of the disease. The incidence of this group of diseases among the Byzantine Emperors (it is certain that 14 of a total of 86 had a form of arthritis) and other officials of the State indicates that these diseases were a possible factor in certain political and military difficulties of the Empire.