Musical therapy has been shown to be effective at reducing pain. That might not be surprising, but it's nice that people are researching ways of dealing with pain that are not just pharmacological. What's curious to me about the passages and the debate below isn't so much that they talk about music (particularly flute music) as a way of curing the pain, or that others would deny it. I'm curious (a) why Theophrastus would have talked about musical therapy in a text on enthusiasm (a kind of frenzy of divine possession normally associated with ritual cults); and (b) whether it suggests there was a discussion going on among people like Theophrastus and Democritus (or a pseudo-Democritus - here is a great article by Matteo Martelli) about whether music causes enthusiasm, how enthusiasm is related to pain, and what it suggests about the affinity of mind and body. It'd also be nice to know why you have to play the flute right over the part of the body that's in pain.
"It is worth mentioning the treatment <which> Theophrastus talks about in his book On Enthusiasm. He says that music cures many of the illnesses that occur in the soul and the body, like swooning, fear and long-term mental derangement. He says flute playing in particular cures sciatica and epilepsy, just like it did for the person who went to see Aristoxenus the musician..."
Ἄξια δ' ἐστὶν ἐπιστάσεως [τὰ εἰρημένα.] <ἃ> Θεόφραστος ἐν τῷ περὶ ἐνθουσιασμοῦ ἐξεῖπεν. φησὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος τὴν μουσικὴν πολλὰ τῶν ἐπὶ ψυχὴν καὶ τὸ σῶμα γιγνομένων παθῶν ἰατρεύειν, καθάπερ λιποθυμίαν, φόβους καὶ τὰς ἐπὶ μακρὸν γιγνομένας τῆς διανοίας ἐκστάσεις. ἰᾶται γάρ, φησίν, ἡ καταύλησις καὶ ἰσχιάδα καὶ ἐπιληψίαν· καθάπερ πρὸς Ἀριστόξενον τὸν μουσικὸν ἐλθόντα [text is corrupt after this point]...
Apollonius Paradoxographus, Historiae Mirabiles c. 49.
"That music cures diseases, Theophrastus discusses in his book On Enthusiasm, where he says that those suffering from sciatica become free of the disease when someone plays a Phrygian arrangement on the flute over the affected place."
ὅτι δὲ καὶ νόσους ἰᾶται μουσικὴ Θεόφραστος ἱστόρησεν ἐν τῷ περὶ Ἐνθουσιασμοῦ ἰσχιακοὺς φάσκων ἀνόσους διατελεῖν, εἰ καταυλήσοι τις τοῦ τόπου τῇ Φρυγιστὶ ἁρμονίᾳ.
Athenaeus of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae 14.18
"I recently found a passage in a book of Theophrastus, which says that many people believe and have written down that when sciatica is especially painful, their pains are diminished if a flute-player plays a gentle melody. That flute playing, when done with skill and measure, also cures snake bites is mentioned in a book by Democritus, which is called [there's a lacuna], in which he shows that music from flutes is a cure for many human diseases. There is so great an affinity between people's bodies and minds, and for this reason as well between the illnesses and also remedies of the soul and the body."
Creditum hoc a plerisque esse et memoriae mandatum, ischia cum maxime doleant, tum, si modulis lenibus tibicen incinat, minui dolores, ego nuperrime in libro Theophrasti scriptum inveni. Viperarum morsibus tibicinium scite modulateque adhibitum mederi refert etiam Democriti liber, qui inscribitur . . ., in quo docet plurimis hominum morbidis medicinae fuisse incentiones tibiarum. Tanta prosus adfinitas est corporibus hominum mentibusque et propterea vitiis quoque aut medellis animorum et corporum.
Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 4.13
"Some doctors prescribe the use of music [for sciatica], as the brother of Philistion also mentions in Book 22 of On Remedies. He writes that there was a piper who would play songs over the part that was in pain, which would begin to pulse and palpitate, relieving and freeing him from the pain. Some say Pythagoras discovered this kind of remedy. But in Soranus' opinion, whoever believes that a powerful disease is removed by music and song suffers from a vain delusion."
"item alii cantelenas adhibendas probaverunt, ut etiam Philistionis frater idem memorat libro XXII De adiutoriis, scribens quendam fistulatorem loca dolentia decantasse, quae cum saltum sumerent palpitando discusso dolore mitescerent. alii denique hoc adiutorii genus Pithagoram memorant invenisse. sed Sorani iudicio videntur hi mentis vanitate iactari qui modulis et cantilena passionis robur excludi crediderunt."
Caelius Aurelianus, On Chronic Diseases, 5.23 (pp.918-20 Drabkin)