What are the specific contents of Greek medicine and Roman medicine?

alopah Date:2021-09-28 14:53:13 From:localhistories
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Greek Medicine

The roots of modern medicine are in ancient Greece. On the one hand, most Greeks believed in a god of healing called Asclepius. People who were ill made sacrifices or offerings to the god. They then slept overnight in his temple. They believed that the god would visit them in their sleep (i.e. in their dreams) and when they woke up they would be healed.


At the same time, Greek doctors developed a rational theory of disease and sought cures. However one did not replace the other. The cult of Asclepius and Greek medicine existed side by side. Medical schools were formed in Greece and in Greek colonies around the Mediterranean. As early as 500 BC a man named Alcmaeon from Croton in Italy said that a body was healthy if it had the right balance of hot and cold, wet, and dry. If the balance was upset the body grew ill.


However, the most famous Greek doctor is Hippocrates (C.460-377 BC). (Although historians now believe that he was much less famous in his own time than was once thought. It is believed that many of the medical books ascribed to him were actually written by other men). Hippocrates stressed that doctors should carefully observe the patient’s symptoms and take note of them. Hippocrates also rejected all magic and he believed in herbal remedies.


A number of Greeks speculated that the human body was made up of elements. If they were properly balanced the person was healthy. However, if they became unbalanced the person fell ill. Finally, Aristotle (384-322 BC) thought the body was made up of four humors or liquids. They were phlegm, blood, yellow bile, and black bile. If a person had too much of one humor they fell ill. For instance, if a person had a fever he must have too much blood. The treatment was to cut the patient and let him bleed.


Greek Medicine


The Greeks also knew that diet and exercise and keeping clean were important for health. Later Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. In 332 BC he founded the city of Alexandria and a great medical school was established there. Doctors in Alexandria dissected human bodies and they gained a much better knowledge of anatomy. However little progress was made in understanding disease.


Roman Medicine

The Romans conquered Greece and afterward, doctors in the Roman Empire were often Greeks. Many of them were slaves. Doctors had low status in Rome. However, the state paid public doctors to treat their poor. The Romans also had hospitals called valetudinaria for their wounded soldiers.


Later in Roman times, Galen (130-200 AD) became a famous doctor. At first, he worked treating wounded gladiators. Then in 169 AD, he was made the doctor to Commodus, the Roman Emperor’s son. Galen was also a writer and he wrote many books. Galen believed in the theory of the four humors. He also believed in treating illness with opposites. So if a patient had a cold Galen gave him something hot like pepper.


Galen was also interested in anatomy. Unfortunately by his time dissecting human bodies was forbidden. So Galen had to dissect animal bodies including apes. However, animal bodies are not the same as human bodies and so some of Galen’s ideas were quite wrong. Unfortunately, Galen was a very influential writer. For centuries his writings dominated medicine.


In the first century BC, a Roman named Varro suggested that tiny animals caused disease. They were carried through the air and entered the body through the nose or the mouth. Unfortunately, with no microscopes, there was no way of testing his theory.


The Romans were also skilled engineers and they created a system of public health. The Romans noticed that people who lived near swamps often died of malaria. They did not know that mosquitoes in the swamps carried disease but they drained the swamps anyway.


The Romans also knew that dirt encourages disease and they appreciated the importance of cleanliness. They built aqueducts to bring clean water into towns. They also knew that sewage encourages disease. The Romans built public lavatories in their towns. Streams running underneath them carried away sewage.


In the late 4th century The Roman Empire split in two, east and west. Meanwhile, Christians believed they had a duty to care for the sick and they founded many hospitals in the Eastern Roman Empire in the late 4th century. One of the first was built by Basil of Caesarea (c. 330 – 379) in what is now Turkey.


Meanwhile in India surgeons were highly skilled. They were pioneers of plastic surgery. They performed an operation to reconstruct the nose (rhinoplasty). There were hospitals in India and Sri Lanka before 200 BC.

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