Hallmarks in the History of Epilepsy: From Antiquity Till the Twentieth Century
The history of epilepsy is intervened with the history of humanity. One of the first descriptions of epileptic seizures can be traced back to 2,000 B.C. in ancient Akkadian texts, a language widely used in the region of Mesopotamia. The author described a patient with symptoms resembling epilepsy:
his neck turns left, his hands and feet are tense and his eyes wide open, and from his mouth froth is flowing without having any conciousness.
The exorciser diagnosed the condition as ‘antasubbû’ (the hand of Sin) brought about by the god of the moon.
Later reports on epilepsy can also be found in Ancient Egyptian medical texts. The Edwin Smith surgical papyrus (1700 B.C.) refers to epileptic convulsions in at least five cases (cases 4, 7, 29, 40, 42). Descriptions of epilepsy can also be found in ancient babylonian texts; epileptics are thought to be afflicted by evil spirits. The Sakikku, one of the oldest Babylonian medical texts (1067-1046 B.C.), refers to epilepsy with the terms ‘antasubba’ and ‘miqtu’ . The translated babylonian text describes unilateral and bilateral epileptic fits, the epileptic cry, the incontinence of feces, the description of simple and complex epileptic seizures, the epileptic aura and narcolepsy. The Hamurabbi code (1790 B.C.) also refers to epilepsy. The code states that a slave could be returned and the money refunded, if bennu, another word for epilepsy, appeared within the month after the purchase. In Indian medicine, Atreya attributed epilepsy to a brain dysfunction and not to divine intervention. In the Caraka Saṃhitā Sutra (6th century B.C.), he defines epilepsy as:
paroxysmal loss of consciousness due to disturbance of memory and [of] understanding of mind attented with convulsive seizures
Novel Aspects on Epilepsy, edited by Humberto Foyaca-Sibat (InTech, 2011)