Thrita and Avicenna: the Origin of Medicine in Central Asia
(Positive and Negative Aspects of the Zoroastrian Tradition)

Arthur A. Ambartsumian (Saint-Petersburg, Russia)

Abstract (in English)

The origin of medicine in Central Asia is directly connected with the medicine of Ancient Ariana. So called Mazdayasnian or Zoroastrian medicine has become its later development. Main traces of the Ancient Arianian medicine can be found in the great range of the Avestan (Yasht 3, Videvdat, Husparam, Nikadum, Chithradat) and Pahlavi Zoroastrian writings (Bundahishn, Vizidagiha i Zadspram, Shkand-gumanig-vizar, Drakht i asurig ud buz, and so on). Of course, it exerted vast influence upon the formation and growth of the Central Asian medicine in the Islamic period.

Thereupon we try to make parallel between the two great physicians of Central Asia - between Avicenna (Ibn Sina), who is the symbol and luminary of the Islamic era, and Thrita, who according to the Zoroastrian tradition was the first physician of the Ancient Ariana and has invented first antidotes and remedies. He also has introduced the main methods of medical treatment, including the use of surgical knife and performing operations. Historical and mythological role of Thrita is widely observed in the paper, as well as the origin of diseases, as it is presented in the Avestan and Pahlavi literature. Every disease or malady is originated against Ahura-Mazda by his evil adersary Angra-Mainyu in form of poisonous essence from the name of which has derived the medical formula first invented by Thrita (vishchithra, i.d. vish - poison, chithra - seed; origin) that was the earliest mentioned isotherapic remedy. Diseases have spread with the counter-work of the evil forces - reptiles and vermins.

The status and social position of a physician in the ancient younger Avestan society is also outlined: the relations between physician and patient, the amount of treatment fee. The physician who treats by word and suggestion is considered as the best one. These were the positive aspects of the Zoroastrian tradition. One of the negative aspects was selectivity in treatment. Any non-Zoroastrian, chronic invalid, or any person having inherited disease and being in hopeless case usually was turned down from cure and was condemned to death. The Zoroastrian tradition recommended to perform trial surgical operations on non-Zoroastrians. With the expansion of Christianity and Islam into Central Asia the treatment of human being noticeably changed. Compassion, pity, forgiveness, philanthropy and humaneness have spread due to the Christian and Islamic ideology. From this point of view the Islamic tradition played a positive part in the history of Central Asia. This case had an effect on the formation of the main principles of the Islamic medicine, whose outstanding exponent was Avicenna.

Written for "The 2-nd International Ibn Sino (Avicenna) Readings", Bukhara, September 13-15, 2001.