Why You Should Thank Levantine Greeks For Vaccines

Levantine Emmanouel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos, engraving from the front cover of their book “Some account of what is said for inoculating or transplanting the smallpox” With some remarks thereon του Cotton Mather. Boston, 1721 [1]

The issue of vaccines and all the conspiracy theories surrounding it has spread all over the internet, from developed to developing countries, including Levantine countries, arguing how to fight the government for mandating vaccines.

Some claim it is a power grab by the governments, some publish biased data saying vaccines are ineffective, some say they will have very bad long term effects and some claim they are planting chips in our bodies so governments can monitor us all the time.

Emmanouel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos, engraving from the front cover of their book “Some account of what is said for inoculating or transplanting the smallpox” With some remarks thereon του Cotton Mather. Boston, 1721 [1]
Emmanouel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos, engraving from the front cover of their book “Some account of what is said for inoculating or transplanting the smallpox” With some remarks thereon του Cotton Mather. Boston, 1721 [1]

Like any normal person with no medical background and no trust in online media, I started doing my own research from historical (lindy) references.

And by mere chance, I found out that my people (the Rûm/Levantine Greeks of the Ottoman Empire) were the first to develop vaccines, present them scientifically (1714) and spread them throughout the Ottoman Empire, which gained a lot of traction in the 18th and 19th century, and was later adopted (thanks to the wife of the English ambassador to Constantinople) by the West.

“In general, we could say that the Greeks, being Easterners, appeared more amenable to practical medicine than the Westerners” [1].

Emmanuel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos (two Rûm doctors from the Ottoman Empire and who most likely met in Smyrna) are the precursors of Edward Jenner and were the first doctors to start fighting smallpox in the Ottoman Empire using vaccines and preventing future spread thanks to the quick adaptation by the Ottomans, who, also, during the 19th and 20th centuries, applied vaccination programs for other diseases, such as rabies (1882), plague, cholera (1883), dysentery, diphtheria (1900), and typhoid fever (1915).

The Ottomans didn’t stop there, they also issued vaccine certificates and required anyone applying to the Imperial School of Medicine (Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Adliye-i Şahane) to be vaccinated.

The Ottomans even created the first bacteriological centre in the Eurasian region.

(I’m wondering if some groups back then thought that it was also a power grab by the Ottomans to plant magic hummus in peoples’ arms that can help track and suppress revolutionaries.)

Proofs of family vaccination, Soufli, 1903 [1]
Proofs of family vaccination, Soufli, 1903 [1]

Now, let’s move to practicality.

As someone living in the Levant and who was raised by hardcore Levantine-Greek parents, I had a good background on dealing with such situations of uncertainty through Levantine Wisdom.

Here are the three Levantine aphorisms that helped me make up my mind on vaccines and helped me eventually take the decision to get vaccinated (and by the way, I just got the booster shot a few weeks ago):

  1. “حط راسك بين هالروس وقول يا قطّاع الروس” which translates to “put your head between all the heads and say ‘lets go, beheader!’”: when all governments announced that they will be mandating vaccines, it was clear that there is no more reason to fight them, as it will clearly be wasted efforts.
  2. “مو جابرك عالمُر الا الامَر منه” which translates to “nothing lets you accept something bitter but what is even more bitter”: this virus is dangerous, it killed millions around the world and is not stopping to do so anytime soon, and even those who recovered, haven’t fully recovered from it. So, even if the vaccine ends up having side effects, it is still better than being infected by the virus.
  3. “البزيد عن حده بنقص” which translates to “which exceeds a limit, ends up being less (worse)”: anti-vaxxers took an extreme position, all of their stands rely on biased data and unreliable sources, their decision is now emotional, they will not admit they were wrong, even though they were proven wrong, and empirically so, by

Be like the Rûm/Levantines, ask your doctor, and if he/she advices you to take the vaccine, then take it.

No, things won’t go back to to the way they were before, it’s a new era now, adapt.

Peace/Eirini/Salam

Edmond Shami is the founder of Grecosyrian.

References:

[1] Vaccination of the Ethnic Greeks (Rums) Against Smallpox in the Ottoman Empire: Emmanuel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos as Precursors of Edward Jenner: https://jag.journalagent.com/erciyesmedj/pdfs/EMJ_43_1_100_106.pdf

[2] Lindy effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_effect

READ MORE: Greek language education, humanitarian aid to be provided to Levant’s Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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