This article refers to the development of ancient Western medicine mainly in ancient Greece and Rome before the sixteenth century, as well as in medieval European medicine and Arab medicine. Medicine at this stage was mainly empirical medicine, and medical experience gained through close daily observation cured many diseases that were considered terminal at that time, and made people pay more attention to themselves, which was the germination of human medicine and contributed to the awakening of “human” consciousness.
This paper introduces some key events and major discoveries in the development of ancient medicine in the above four regions, as well as the great medical practitioners who studied medicine at that time and made significant contributions to medicine and their theories or discoveries. For example, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, who said “I wish to perform my duties in this pure and holy spirit for the rest of my life”; Galen, who perfected Hippocrates’ theory of animal digestion by temperament; and Avicenna, who was revered as the “father of healers” only after the two. After these two, Avicenna, who is revered as the “father of healers”. During this period, four pandemics broke out: the Athenian plague, the Antonine plague, the Justinian plague, and the European Black Death. These four plagues led to the death of tens of thousands of people in Europe, and also made people realize the importance of medicine, knowing that the history of medical development is also the history of mankind’s struggle against disease from a certain point of view, and after these four catastrophes, Western medical technology and theory have developed greatly, and also improved the Western concept of health.
Development of ancient Greek medicine
From the 7th to the 6th century B.C., Greece moved from a primitive clan society to a slave society, and at this time Greek medicine emerged. Greek medicine was the basis for the later development of medicine in Rome and throughout Europe. As the birthplace of Western civilization, ancient Greece was not only a leader in philosophy and art, but also in medicine and physiology, which were developed at that time. In Homer’s Odyssey, there are descriptions of physicians treating warriors’ wounds in war, and in the Greek mythological system, there are descriptions of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. From various historical documents, it is clear that ancient Greece had more respect for physicians at that time.
Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine
His masterpiece “The Original Medicine” contains a variety of means of disease management such as surgery, prognosis, regimen, epidemics, respiration, head trauma, etc. It is a very comprehensive medical omnibus, which also has the use of philosophical ideas in medical research. There is also the famous Hippocratic Oath, which is one of the few chapters written on the code of medical ethics, and the requirements for the professional ethics of doctors are basically mentioned in this text.
The Great Plague of Athens
At the peak of the Greek city-states there was a large-scale civil war —- the famous Peloponnesian War. In the second year of the war, 430 B.C., the Great Plague of Athens broke out. From the relevant records, after the emergence of patients at that time, due to the high population density, the infection was very rapid. Although doctors tried their best to save the patients, but the patients did not improve, but a large number of doctors were infected, and those who took care of the patients were also infected, and once infected almost certain death, the onset of the bizarre condition, internal fever, life is worse than death. Figure 3 then shows the spread of the plague and the corpses everywhere, bringing great panic to the inhabitants of the city-state, which faced a collapse of its rule and social order, and chaos everywhere with violations of the chaotic records. This plague caused the defeat of the Peloponnesian War in Athens, and the ancient Greek civilization was severely damaged. In the end, Hercules risked his life to investigate the plague in Athens and finally found that fire was an effective way to stop the plague. The high temperature of burning fire could effectively kill the virus, and then the plague was suppressed.
Development of medicine in ancient Rome
Caesarean section in ancient Rome
In the 2nd century B.C., with the conquest of the Roman Empire, the territory expanded and soon annexed Greece, and many Greek doctors came to the city of Rome. Medicine in ancient Rome had developed greatly based on the inheritance of Greek medicine, and many difficult surgeries were available at that time, but due to the very limited medical conditions at that time and the lack of awareness of sterilization, there was a great possibility of post-operative infection, and the mortality rate of such surgeries was still high. On the other hand, the Roman public health construction was quite good, with the emergence of professional doctors, standing military doctors, and government agencies that managed doctors and promoted cleanliness among the population.
Ancient Roman medical doctor – Galen
Galen (129-199) was a leading figure in medicine in the Roman era. Galen was one of the group of physicians who came to Rome from Greece at that time. He himself knew Greek medicine very well and idolized Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, and systematically inherited Hippocrates’ doctrine and developed it. Galen was a very good anatomist and a doctor who had undergone hundreds of surgeries, and his research on human organs was relatively advanced and remarkable, such as the study of human nerves, heart and brain, which argued that people think because the brain runs and not the heart.
The Antonine plague in ancient Rome
The Justinian Plague refers to the first major outbreak of plague in the Mediterranean world from 541 to 542 AD. This plague had an extremely high mortality rate and was cyclical in nature, disappearing on its own four months after the first outbreak, but returning every few years thereafter, and with very random outbreaks, which could occur in any season, and for an indeterminate length of time. This plague kept the whole Mediterranean on its toes, taking tens of thousands of people with each outbreak and causing heavy casualties throughout the Mediterranean region.
The Black Death in Europe
From 1347 to 1353, a massive plague of plague broke out in Europe, known as the “Black Death”, which claimed one third of the total population of Europe. The plague originated in warfare, as the Mongols made their way westward, bringing germs from Central Asia to Western Europe, and then spreading them throughout Europe via Mediterranean traders. Once infected with the plague, death was not far behind. This virus would strike quickly, kill quickly, and the bodies were not disposed of and chewed by rats, who also carried the virus and eventually spread massively. Italy, which was the worst hit, lost 80% of its population. The pestilence brought great unrest and the authority of the Catholic Church was greatly shaken. People realized that God could not save people and that the earth had become hell. Without the suppression of the Church, scientific research was developed and society realized the importance of doctors.
Medieval European Beak Doctors
The Black Death led to a great panic, and the medical staff also lost a lot due to the Black Death. In order to eliminate infection, doctors designed a protective suit. When seeing a doctor, the doctor wore a black robe soaked in wax, with a silver beak mask on his face, a long beak stuffed with herbs, and a wooden stick in his hand to diagnose and treat patients without direct contact with them. However, such protection was not to much use because the source of infection was not found in time to cut off the path of infection.
Development of Arab medicine
Arab doctors treating patients
In Europe, due to Catholic persecution, it was difficult to develop medicine, and many medical doctors were treated as heretics and expelled from the realm, while in the Arab countries next door, medicine was developing rapidly. The Arabs, like the Mediterranean people, had numerous merchants, but one on land and one at sea. Arab merchants traveled around Eurasia, and in addition to trading goods, they also conducted cultural exchanges and learned the most advanced technologies of the time. In medicine, Arab medicine absorbed the essence of European medicine and Asian medicine, and had the characteristics of combining East and West.
To sum up.
Ancient Western medicine originated in ancient Greece, developed with ancient Rome, and regressed in the Middle Ages, but Arabian medicine flourished in this period. From the development of medicine in these different periods, the political environment and popular consciousness as well as the development of contemporaneous philosophy and natural science had a great influence on the development of medicine. A more relaxed political environment, an
A more relaxed political environment, an inclusive and open cultural atmosphere, and active scientific discoveries and innovations can all promote the development of medicine.
The development of Western medicine in ancient times cannot be separated from the great medical scholars who loved medicine, studied medicine and devoted themselves to medicine in all periods. From Hippocrates, to Galen, to Ibn Sina, medicine was passed down from generation to generation and developed step by step. Even though the path of development was difficult, medical researchers continued to move forward in the midst of natural and man-made disasters.
Four major plagues indirectly contributed to the development of ancient Western medicine. A plague is a catastrophe, causing a huge impact on the original social system, and a plague buried a glorious dynasty, but mankind always ushers in a new era, developing and advancing in the midst of disasters, and medicine keeps moving forward along with the advance of mankind.