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July 1961

A Case from Sophocles

Arch Dermatol. 1961;84(1):136. doi:10.1001/archderm.1961.01580130142024

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In Sophocles' Philoctetes, we are told that during the Trojan War the hero of the play had entered the shrine of Chrysè unbidden, kicked its guardian snake, and had in return been bitten in the foot by the serpent. Instead of healing, the wound began to fester and to become highly noisome. Ulysses took Philoctetes by ship, and while he was asleep, abandoned him on the desert isle of Lemnos in the North Aegean Sea, about forty miles from the nearest promontory of the Greek mainland. Here the poor man languished in suffering solitude, dragging himself about to forage for food with the famous bow and arrows he had acquired from Achilles. It was predicted by a soothsayer that Troy would never fall without the use of these weapons. And so, after ten years, Ulysses sailed back to Lemnos, taking with him Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, in order to gull

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