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Does the following text mean that Plato found some remedies caused several disorders in his days while those remedies had no side-effect at the Siege of Troy?

Such at least was the opinion of Plato, who concluded from certain remedies made use of or approved by Podalyrus and Macaon at the Siege of Troy, that several disorders, which these remedies were found to bring on in his days, were not known among men at that remote period.

-- from Rousseau's “Discourse on Inequality”

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Your interpretation of the sentence isn't correct.

The short answer is that Plato concluded that because some treatments were used at the Siege of Troy, disorders these treatments caused must not have been known of.

So - it is not saying the remedies had no side-effect. It instead says that the side effects (the disorders) were not known. The side effects still happened!


That is not an easy sentence to understand - even as a native speaker I had to read it through carefully to be sure I understood it.

I try to explain how I tackled this sentence here - I hope some of it is useful.

The main thing I did was to look at each part of the sentence one by one, to determine whether we have a main clause or a subordinate clause. I also removed parts of clauses that had no significant effect on the meaning.

Once I had done that I was able to reduce the whole sentence down to:

Plato concluded that several disorders were not known [by] men ... at that [time].

How did I get there?


The first part is:

Such at least was the opinion of Plato

Here 'such' is a synonym for 'this' and indicates that the whole sentence that follows is in reference to something earlier.

'at least' limits what is being spoken about - it is not being stated as proven fact but (in this case) is only the opinion of Plato.

I simplified this introduction to the following:

Plato's opinion was

The next clause is:

who concluded from certain remedies made use of or approved by Podalyrus and Macaon at the Siege of Troy

This is a relative clause, here saying how Plato made his conclusion - he observed that certain remedies were used at the Siege of Troy.

We can leave this out in terms of understanding what Plato concluded. In fact I ended up combining the 'opinion' and the 'conclusion'

that several disorders, which these remedies were found to bring on in his days

Another relative clause here (you can spot if from 'which') - that gives us additional information about the disorders - the disorders were found to be caused by the remedies.

Often relative clauses like this can be completely removed without changing the core meaning.

I did that here - removing the relative sentence entirely, leaving just 'that several disorders'.

were not known among men at that remote period of time.

Here we have the end of the main clause, but also another relative clause - it says what Plato concluded.

So we end up with the main clause that I gave before:

Plato concluded that several disorders were not known [by] men ... at that [time].


Once the sentence is reduced down to the core information, you can add back in the details.

  1. What did Plato conclude?

    That several disorders were not known by men

  2. From what did Plato conclude this?

    From certain remedies made use of or approved by Podalyrus and Macaon at the Siege of Troy

  3. What did the use of these remedies show?

    That several disorders, which these remedies were found to bring on, were not known among men.

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    This went from a nice quick answer to something that is probably quite confusing :( I'm not an English teacher so was trying to replicate lessons I've received when learing German. I invite other users to edit this to improve it (or to steal wholesale to make a newer better answer on how to break down such a sentence) – David Hall Dec 12 '13 at 13:54

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