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ALREADY, before Christmas, hearts are
kindling with the Christmas spirit, and the
season set apart especially by Englishmen to
deeds of hospitality, is declaring itself to most
of us with a rich lovingkindness, redundantly
kind. What more seasonable topic can there
be, therefore, just now, than hospitals, their
name and purpose being, in the truest sense,
a part of hospitality?

Better still for the Christmas application
of the word, they are essentially a part
of hospitality as it has been interpreted
by Christians. We have the word from
ancient Rome. The hospes or guest, either
of a private person, or of a temple, or of the
whole state had a sacred character; Jupiter
Hospitalis was his patron, and avenged his
wrongs. The hospitale was the name of the
guest-chamber in a Roman's house; that was
the first idea of a hospital. The stranger
introduced to his host by the recommendation
of a third person, was safe within the
gates of his protector, who was not necessarily
his entertainer; for, after one dinner with the
family, the stranger generally dined in the
hospitale, and paid for his food. Among the
early Greeks these customs of hospitality
were kept alive by the religious notion that
any unknown person might prove to be a
god come in disguise. The guest of the
Greeks, too, had Zeus for his peculiar friend.
Besides social and political uses, there
was mutual advantage to be had by Greeks
and Romans out of their own customs of
hospitality. The nursing of the sick poor,
formed no part of them with either people.

The crowd of sick people lying in the open
air round about the temple of Æsculapius at
Epidaurus, formed the first rough sketch of a
hospital for the sick in ancient times.
Antoninus Pius caused a building to be furnished
for the patients. Before that time, children
were born there, and diseased people perished
on the ground under the open skyas temple-
keepers told Pausanias with sorrow. The
buildings attached to the temple of Æsculapius
at Rome, on the island in the Tiber,
formed also a receptacle for the sick. That
the place had some resemblance to a modern
hospital is evident from the decree of the
Emperor Claudius, that slaves who had been
sent thither for healing by their masters,
should receive their freedom on recovering.
The bridges Fabricius and Cestius connected
the island of Æsculapius with the town.
There are no other traces of a public care
taken by Romans for the sick. But these
foundations differ altogether in spirit from
the hospitals for the sick which exist now by
thousands throughout Christendom. The
temple of the God of Healing was a place of
resort for persons suffering under disease,
who journeyed thither as men now journey
to Bath or Leamington; but, in a more serious
mood, for they went not only to spend money
but to pray. Buildings erected for their use
bore, therefore, quite as much analogy to a
pump-room and lodgings at a spa as to a set
of modern hospital wards. This is nearly
the case, too, with the only trace of a sick
hospital found among the ancient Jews, the
House of Mercy at Jerusalem, built beside
the healing spring of Bethesda, probably by
Herod the Great, that patients might await
in it the movement of the water. The
ancient world, in fact, was out of sympathy
with the fundamental notion of a hospital,
and would probably, if questioned on the
subject, have given the answer of Shah
Abbas of Persia; who, being asked why he
had no hospitals in his dominions, replied that
they would be a shame to him, for where the
government was good there could be no poor,
no sick.

In truer sympathy with the realities by
which they were surrounded, the Christian
apostles began the new system of hospitality
by urging constantly that contributions be
collected for poor brethren. To memorable
words of the Great Founder of our Faith, the
modern hospitals owe their beginning, and
the earliest of the bishops were most zealous
to get money for the poor, the sick, the
wayfarer, the orphan. Economy first dictated
the collection of these objects of care in large
buildings appropriated to their use; in such
association many might be served by few
attendants, and the means of help might be
enlarged when cost was saved in food and
lodging as well as in attendance. Already in
the year three hundred and twenty-five, the
Council of Nice had, among other business,
to define the qualities and duties of hospital-
master. Thirty-five years later Gregory of