Memoirs of Usama

Author: Usamah  | Date: 1895

Show Summary
H. Derenbourg Paris 1895 Dr. Sidney Glazer Library of Congress

Butchery on the Operating Table

[c.1100]

I was asked to look at two patients. One was a knight with an abscessed leg; the other a woman running a temperature. To the former I applied a poultice. His abscess opened and was on the mend. I then placed the woman on a strict diet, forbidding her to eat certain foods. As a result her fever abated.

While I was treating these patients a Frankish doctor was brought in. He brusquely declared:

"This man can’t cure them!"

He then turned to the knight and asked:

"You have your choice—to live with a single leg or to die with both of your legs. Which do you prefer?"

"I prefer to live with a single leg," the knight replied.

"Then bring a strong knight with a sharp axe," the doctor ordered.

I was preset at the operation. The doctor stretched the patient’s leg on a block of wood, and then charged the attending knight:

"Amputate his leg with the axe. Detach it with a single blow."

Before my eyes the knight struck a violent blow, but it failed to cut off the leg entirely. He then wielded the axe a second time upon the leg of the unfortunate man. This blow caused the marrow to flow from the bone. The patient died immediately.

The doctor then proceeded to examine the woman.

"She is a woman with a devil in her head, by which she is possessed. Shave her hair."

His orders were obeyed. She then resumed her old diet of garlic and mustard, typical of her compatriots. Her temperature rose sharply.

"The devil has gone into her head," the doctor diagnosed.

He seized a razor and made an incision in her head in the form of a cross, excoriating the skin in the center of her scalp so deeply that her bones were uncovered. He then rubbed salt into the wound. The woman, in her turn, expired immediately.

As I learned that my services were no longer needed, I left, having acquired information on medical practices of which I had previously been completely ignorant.

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Chicago: Usamah, Memoirs of Usama, ed. H. Derenbourg and trans. Dr. Sidney Glazer in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed July 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SCK29YJ6FGGSB44.

MLA: Usamah. Memoirs of Usama, edited by H. Derenbourg, and translated by Dr. Sidney Glazer, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 6 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SCK29YJ6FGGSB44.

Harvard: Usamah, Memoirs of Usama, ed. and trans. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 6 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SCK29YJ6FGGSB44.