Medicine in Ancient Greece
From the 7th to the 6th century B.C., Greece moved from a primitive clan society to a slave society. The Greeks absorbed the cultural strengths of Egypt and Babylon, and with their own creations, they had high achievements in all aspects of culture and science. Greek medicine was the basis for the later development of medicine in Rome and all of Europe. The medical symbols used by Europeans to this day, the cane and the snake, are derived from Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. Many of the ancient Greek medical terms are still used today.
In the 5th century B.C., Empedocles proposed that all objects are made up of “four elements”: fire, air (wind), water and earth (earth), which are mixed in different quantitative proportions to become objects of various properties, similar to the Chinese Five Elements theory. For example, muscles are made of a mixture of four elements in equal parts; nerves are made of fire and earth combined with water in double letters; bones are made of a mixture of two parts of water, two parts of earth and four parts of water.
The representative figure of Greek medicine was Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 377 BC). The work bearing his name, the Hippocratic Anthology, which probably includes the contributions of many later scholars, is now the most important canon for the study of Greek medicine.
The Hippocratic school developed the theory of the four elements into the “theory of the four humoral pathologies”. They believed that the life of the organism was determined by four fluids: blood, mucus, yellow bile and black bile, and that the various combinations of the four elements were the basis of these four fluids, each of which corresponded to a certain “temperament”, and that each person’s temperament was determined by the predominant fluid in his body. For example, heat is the basis of blood, from the heart, if the blood dominates, it belongs to polycystic. If the four fluids are in balance, the body is healthy; if they are out of balance, the body is sickly.
The Hippocratic school tended to understand the physiological processes of the organism in terms of a unified whole. They said: “Disease begins in the whole body …… individual parts of the body immediately and successively cause disease in other parts, the lower back causes disease in the head, the head causes disease in the muscles and abdomen …… and these parts are interrelated of …… can spread all changes to all parts.”
The Hippocratic school also paid attention to the influence of external factors on disease and had a more definite idea of prevention. They taught young physicians that when entering a city they had not visited, they should study the climate, soil, water, and lifestyle of the inhabitants of that city, etc. As a physician, you can only do good medical work in a city if you study the living conditions in the city beforehand.
They asked doctors not to interfere with the “natural” process of pathological changes, but to work according to medical knowledge and taking nature into account.
The Hippocratic Oath, a famous one, is the oath that all Europeans took after studying medicine. After the 4th century BC, Greek medicine gradually declined and the center of medicine shifted to Hellenistic Alexandria. The physician Herophilus of Alexandria (335-280 B.C.) had noticed anatomy. In addition, pharmacology was developed in this period.
Medicine in ancient Rome
Rome was a large centralized empire, and the organization of the state was manifested first of all by the presence of a standing army. In order to maintain the combat effectiveness of the army, the Roman Empire had a military medical institution, and in order to prevent epidemics, the Roman Empire had the position of “governor of medicine” as an official of the government administration. They were also responsible for holding examinations and approving the practice of medicine with government permission.
Rome also had a high level of public health, using slave labor to build the city’s waterways (drinking water in Rome was brought in from outside the city by nine aqueducts with pipes), sewers and baths. In the famous “Law of the Twelve Bronze Tables”, burial in the city was forbidden, and drinking water sanitation was noted.
The development of medicine in the Roman era had inherited links with the medicine of the ancient Greek era. In the 2nd century B.C., the Romans occupied the southern Balkan Peninsula, the former Greek region, and many Greek doctors came to Rome, such as Galen, the most famous Roman doctor (about 129-199), who was originally from Greece and studied the works of Hippocrates.
Galen’s view was mixed with the “purposive” view, that is, he believed that everything in nature has a purpose, and that the structure of human beings is also due to the purpose of the creator. He said that the left heart wall was thicker and heavier than the right heart wall in order to control the vertical position of the heart, and that the arterial walls were dense in order to better keep the tiny gases within them from escaping. This doctrine of the destiny of God was followed as a dogma by later generations and hindered the development of science. In terms of treatment he gave importance to medication. He proved that herbs contain active ingredients that should be utilized and harmful ones that should be abandoned. He had his own special pharmacy, where he used a large number of botanicals to prepare pills, dispersants, hard ointments, infusions, decoctions, tinctures, lotions, and other preparations in various dosage forms to be stockpiled for use. To this day, pharmacy preparations are still called “galen preparations”.
In 395 B.C., the Roman Empire was divided. The Western Roman Empire fell to the barbarians (Germans, Franks, Visigoths, Vandals, etc.) in the 5th century and split into several barbarian kingdoms. In Europe, from the 6th to the 13th and 14th centuries AD, called the Dark Ages, there was little cultural progress; the Eastern Roman Empire, however, was preserved under the name Byzantine. Byzantine culture was the successor of Greco-Roman culture, when there were medical schools, hospitals and pharmacies. Byzantine medical doctors, mostly compilers of medical encyclopedias, collected and systematized the rich heritage of ancient medicine. Byzantium was not overthrown by Turkey until the 15th century.
Medieval Europe was in a period of economic and cultural decline, with popes and kings vying with each other for dominance, Catholicism holding almost 1/3 of all Europe, the Church becoming the largest feudal lord, and monasteries flourishing. In terms of cultural thought, the European Middle Ages were almost completely dominated by the Church. Theology permeated all branches of knowledge, and medicine was also mastered by monks, who were the only ones who knew Latin and preserved some of the ancient medical knowledge. The association of healing with “divine miracles” hindered the development of medicine.
In the 11th century, the Crusades, urban development, and commercial travel broadened the horizons of Europeans and stimulated the development of scientific knowledge, and from the 11th to the 13th century, universities were established in many European cities. The most famous of these medical schools belonged to the universities of Salerno and Padua, which were least influenced by the philosophy of the Scriptures and played a progressive role in the European Middle Ages.
In the Middle Ages, the main subject of the university was soteriological philosophy, which was basically concerned with interpreting or arguing for the truth of the Bible. At that time, the study of medicine was mainly based on the works of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna, and the progress in medicine was minimal because of the rigid memorization of dogmas from authoritative works and the neglect of practice.
In addition, the spread of epidemics was rampant in the Middle Ages, with plague, leprosy, and later syphilis being the most prevalent. Leprosy was most rampant in the 13th century, with an average of one patient for every 400 people in Europe, and the spread was stopped only after strict isolation, which also promoted the establishment of European hospitals. 1346 was the year of the plague pandemic in Europe, which prompted the quarantine of the Venetian ports, and later London and Paris also promulgated some regulations to prevent infectious diseases.
In the 7th and 8th centuries, many countries and regions (or formerly part of the Byzantine Empire), such as Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, North Africa, and the Pyrenees, were under the feudal Islamic power known as the “Arabian Caliphate. Arabia inherited the ancient Greco-Roman culture, and at the same time had frequent commercial traffic with the East, and absorbed the cultures of India and China. Thus, it served as a bridge between the cultures of the peoples of Europe and Asia. The major works on philosophy, science and medicine in Greek and Latin were translated into Arabic. Arabia had great achievements in all aspects of astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, agriculture, architecture, and medicine.
Arabic medicine refers to the traditional medicine of the region where the Arabic language was spoken. Medicine was well developed in this region from the 8th to the 12th centuries AD. Arabia was very successful in chemistry, pharmacology, and the art of preparing medicines. Chemistry at that time was known as “alchemy”. The purpose of alchemy was twofold: one was to change base metals into precious metals; the other was to make the medicine of immortality.
Although the purpose of alchemy is absurd, but numerous experiments, the establishment of some basic principles of chemistry, the discovery of many useful substances for humans and medically useful compounds, but also designed and improved a lot of experimental methods, such as distillation, sublimation, crystallization, filtration, etc.. All these greatly enriched the methods of pharmaceutical preparation and promoted the development of pharmacy business.
Avicenna (980-1037) was a great medieval physician and one of the outstanding physicians in the world medical history, and he was also a famous encyclopedia compiler and thinker. His most famous medical work is the Canon of Medicine, which was translated into Latin several times and was for a long time the compulsory guide book for the study of medicine.
In terms of treatment, Avicenna attached great importance to pharmacotherapy, which he discussed at great length in the Canon of Medicine. He not only used Greek and Indian medicines, but also included Chinese ones. He also used mud therapy, hydrotherapy, heliotherapy and air therapy. In terms of diagnosis, he paid much attention to pulse cutting, and he distinguished between 48 types of pulses. Through Arabia, Chinese medicine was also introduced to the West.