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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

It was to experimental methods


[Sidenote:

Progress in medicine.]

Finally, the science of medicine, which had already entered upon an experimental stage in the reign of the Catholic Kings, advanced to a point which enabled it to compare, not unfavorably, with the achievements in other branches of precise knowledge. Medicine, too, had the Americas to thank for much of its progress, owing to discoveries of botanical and mineralogical specimens of a medicinal character. The universities of Salamanca, Valencia, and Barcelona took the lead in medical studies, and furnished most of the great names of the era. In the seventeenth century medical science experienced a marked decline, due among other things to a return to an imitation of classical methods. Hippocrates and other Greek writers were regarded as incapable of mistake, wherefore investigation and experiment ceased to hold the place they had won in the sixteenth century. Some men endeavored to continue the experimental tradition, but, as indeed elsewhere in Europe, they were despised by the classical element, who arrogated to themselves the honor of possessing the only real medical knowledge, charging their opponents, usually with truth, with employing experimentation because they were unable to read the accounts of classical remedies set forth in Greek and Latin. Nevertheless, it was to experimental methods, principally in the sixteenth century, that the discovery of many hitherto unknown cures was due.

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER XXX

THE GOLDEN AGE: LITERATURE AND ART, 1516-1700

[Sidenote: Victory of Castilian over foreign tongues in polite literature and remarkable outburst of productivity.]

The general conditions affecting literature and art in the _siglo de oro_ have already been alluded to in the preceding chapter. The influence of Humanism and the impulse of the Renaissance were more directly felt in polite literature than in didactic and scientific works. Furthermore, this type of literature was more easily understood by people at large than the more special studies, and it is not surprising that Spain's intellectual greatness should have been appreciated by the majority of the educated classes in terms of poetry, the novel, and the drama, together with the manifestations of the age in the fine arts. The very men who contributed works of a scientific character could not resist the appeal of _belles lettres_, and wrote books which not infrequently demonstrated their double right to homage. Knowledge of Latin, Greek, and various modern languages, especially Italian and French, was more or less general among the educated classes, giving an opportunity for the satisfaction of one's wishes to delve into a varied literature, and opening the way to foreign influences upon Castilian work. The day of French influence seemed for a time to have passed, however (although it returned with the decline in the later


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