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Ancient Greek Medicine

Index of Ancient Greek Medicine


Introduction to Greek Medicine

The foundation of modern medicine is to be found in the medicine of the
ancient Greeks. There were doctors who made scientific observations and
practiced medicine. Surgery was done and herbs were applied. There were
even specialists including gynecologists who specialized in childbirth and
diseases of women.

The first doctors in the modern sense appeared in Ancient Greece.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine was born on the Aegean island of
Cos. He was the son of a physician, and his early years were spent at the
local Asklepion, a famous sanctuary of healing, to which came
numerous invalids and tourists. He went to Athens in 430 BCE at the invitation
of the Athenians to help combat the plague there. Similar asklepieia
were located throughout Greece.

In the Odyssey (Book IV, line 220) is the following about drugs:
“Presently she cast a drug into the wine whereof they drank,
a drug to lull all pain and anger, and bring forgetfulness
of every sorrow. Whoso should drink a draught thereof, when
it is mingled in the bowl, on that day he would let no tear
fall down his cheeks, not though his mother and his father
died, not though men slew his brother or dear son with the
sword before his face, and his own eyes beheld it.
Medicines of such virtue and so helpful had the daughter of
Zeus, which Polydamna, the wife of Thon, had given her, a
woman of Egypt, where earth the grain-giver yields herbs in
greatest plenty, many that are healing in the cup, and many
baneful. There each man is a leech skilled beyond all human
kind; yea, for they are of the race of Paeeon.”

Also in the Odyssey (Book XIX, line 447) is the following passage about the wounding of Odysseus and what attempts were made to heal him:
“Then first of all Odysseus rushed on, holding his long spear on high in his stout hand, eager to smite him; but the boar was too quick for him and struck him [450] above the knee, charging upon him sideways, and with his tusk tore a long gash in the flesh, but did not reach the bone of the man. But Odysseus with sure aim smote him on the right shoulder, and clear through went the point of the bright spear, and the boar fell in the dust with a cry, and his life flew from him. Then the dear sons of Autolycus busied themselves with the carcase, and the wound of noble, god-like Odysseus they bound up skilfully, and checked the black blood with a charm, and straightway returned to the house of their dear father. And when Autolycus and the sons of Autolycus [460] had fully healed him, and had given him glorious gifts, they quickly sent him back with joy to his native land, to Ithaca.”

Of particular interest in this passage is the phrase “checked the black blood with a charm”. In Greek this phrase is “ἐπαοιδῃ̂ δ’ αἱ̂μα κελαινὸν ἔσχεθον”. The first word ‘ἐπαοιδῃ̂’ appears not to have an Indo-European root and may be a loan word. It seems to relate to the word ‘paean’ since this word means ‘a hymn of thanksgiving especially to Apollo’ This is related to ‘Paion’, the title of Apollo as physician to the gods. So the charm is actually a prayer to Apollo. The inversion of the ‘o’ and the ‘i’ in the words and ‘Paion’ and ‘ἐπαοιδῃ̂’ may relate to a taboo about mentioning the name of Apollo in this context.

In the Bacchae by Euripides, Teiresias states to Pentheus, Line 326,

                       Madness most fell
Is on thee, madness wrought by some dread spell,
But not by spell nor leechcraft to be cured!

The proto-Indo-Europeans divided medicine into three functions: Medicine, for instance, was divided into three types, prayers and magic (first function), surgery (second function), and herbs (third function). In this way the three functions ordered the thinking of the PIEs. What was the Proto-Indo-European ideology ?. It should be noted the magic might include sacrifice, charms, potions, spells, and the use of a wand. Potions could best be included with herbs. That leaves prayer, spells, and use of a wand in a spiritual realm. This spiritual realm is governed by two principles: Ghosti and Xartus. The ghosti principle involves a host-guest relationship between deities and man. Essentialy it means if I do what you want then you will do what I want. In this way the deities are obligated through sacrifice. This may also provide a mechanism for the other spiritual methods. But there is also the Xartus, which is the pattern of the universe. Regognizing the pattern allows you to work with it. This seems to develop into the realm of Themis in later Greek religion.

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Public Health

Plato, Laws 6.761b: “As to spring-waters, be they streams or fountains, they shall beautify and embellish them by means of plantations and buildings, [761c] and by connecting the pools by hewn tunnels they shall make them all abundant, and by using water-pipes they shall beautify at all seasons of the year any sacred glebe or grove that may be close at hand, by directing the streams right into the temples of the gods. And everywhere in such spots the young men should erect gymnasia both for themselves and for the old men—providing warm baths for the old: they should keep there a plentiful supply of dry wood, [761d] and give a kindly welcome and a helping hand to sick folk and to those whose bodies are worn with the toils of husbandry—a welcome far better than a doctor who is none too skilful.”

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Asclepius

Asclepius
Asclepius heals a patient sleeping in his temple

Asclepius was worshipped throughout Greece as the god of healing, but he
appears as a mortal in Homer’s Iliad.

Hesiod wrote:

XVI. TO ASCLEPIUS (5 lines)

(ll. 1-4) "I begin to sing of Asclepius, son of Apollo and healer
of sicknesses.  In the Dotian plain fair Coronis, daughter of
King Phlegyas, bare him, a great joy to men, a soother of cruel
pangs.

(l. 5) And so hail to you, lord: in my song I make my prayer to
thee!"

In the Iliad the Greeks from the mainland are served by two sons of
Asclepius: “Those, again, of Tricca and the stony region of Ithome, and they
that held Oechalia, the city of Oechalian Eurytus, these were
commanded by the two sons of Aesculapius, skilled in the art of
healing, Podalirius and Machaon. And with them there came thirty
ships.” (Book II, line 730)

Later Agamemnon references current practice(Book IV, line 189: And Agamemnon answered, “Would it may be so, dear Menelaus. But the leech shall search the wound and lay thereon simples that shall make thee cease from dark pains.” ; He then said to
Talthybius (line 192), “Talthybius, make haste to call hither Machaon, son of Asclepius, the peerless leech, to see warlike Menelaus, son of Atreus, whom some man well skilled in archery hath smitten with an arrow, some Trojan or Lycian, compassing glory for himself but for us sorrow”.

The treatment by Machaon is described (Book IV, line 212), “(he)straightway drew forth the arrow from the clasped belt; and as it was drawn forth the sharp barbs were broken backwards. And he loosed the flashing belt and the kilt beneath and the body girdle that the coppersmiths fashioned. But when he saw the wound where the bitter arrow had lighted, he sucked out the blood, and with sure knowledge spread thereon soothing drugs, which of old Cheiron had given to his father with kindly thought.”

In those days a physician was of great value as revealed by the following (Book XI,line 502): ‘Among these Hector was making great slaughter
with his spear and furious driving, and was destroying the ranks
that were opposed to him; still the Achaeans would have given no
ground, had not Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen stayed the
prowess of Machaon shepherd of his people, by wounding him in the
right shoulder with a triple-barbed arrow. The Achaeans were in
great fear that as the fight had turned against them the Trojans might
take him prisoner, and Idomeneus said to Nestor, “Nestor son of
Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, mount your chariot at once; take
Machaon with you and drive your horses to the ships as fast as you
can. A physician is worth more than several other men put
together, for he can cut out arrows and spread healing herbs.”& (Book XI)

In Book XI, line 844 Patroclus helps Eurypylus as follows: “There Patroclus made him lie at length, and with a knife cut from his thigh the sharp-piercing arrow, and from the wound washed the black blood with warm water, and upon it cast a bitter root, when he had rubbed it between his hands, a root that slayeth pain, which stayed all his pangs; and the wound waxed dry, and the blood ceased.;”

In Book XIV, line 5, more details of Machaon’s care are revealed: “Howbeit do thou now sit where thou art and quaff the flaming wine, until fair-tressed Hecamede shall heat for thee a warm bath, and wash from thee the clotted blood,…” ;

The traditional (and still current) method of extracting guinea worm by twisting the worm around a stick may have inspired the rod of Asclepius, a symbol of medicine since Ancient Greek times which portrays a snake winding around a staff.(Keith Blayney (2002). “Caduceus vs Staff of Asclepius”) The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.

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Herbal Medicine

The Greeks had an extensive knowledge of herbs and were aware of many herbal properties. But though they did perform scientific observations, they did not perform scientific experiments. They may have administered substances they thought caused abortions but they did not cause abortions. Patients may have had abortions but they were not caused by the administrations of the doctors. Hippocrates may have induced an abortion, but he does not seem to have used herbs. The first doctor to effect a cure with drugs was Paracelsus(1493-1541). And he did not use herbals, he used mercury compounds and killed a number of his patients. But he cured some too. Both wine containing alcohol and opium may have helped healing in ancient times because they relaxed the patient.

The common herbs used in Ancient Greece:

  • anise
  • black helebore
  • cassia
  • cucumber, wild, root of (squirting cucumber)
  • cumin
  • cyclamen, root of
  • frankincense
  • germander
  • honey
  • lettuce, wild
  • myrrh
  • olive oil
  • opium poppy
  • parsnip
  • seseli

Aristotle’s pupil Theophrastus wrote extensively about herbal medicine.

Homer Odyssey 18.192: “With balm she first made fair her beautiful face, with balm ambrosial, such as that wherewith Cytherea, of the fair crown, anoints herself when she goes into the lovely dance of the Graces;”. The term in Greek ‘χρίεται’ is related to the Greek word ‘χρίω’, ‘touch the surface of a body slightly’ and is derived from Indo-European, ‘ghrēi-‘, ‘to smear over’. Obviously this is related to the term ‘annoint’. It would seem that the application of ungents was medicinal yet the implication is that the ultimate connation may not have been. It seems to have become religious.

In Philoctetes of Sophocles, a herb is mentioned as being healing. Unfortunately it is only described as ‘φύλλον τί μοι πάρεστιν’, ‘leaf close at hand to me’. It is mentioned at lines 649 and 695.

A possible example of the use of herbs is at Homer, Iliad, 4.217, “But when he (Machaon, son of Asclepius, the peerless doctor ) saw the wound where the bitter arrow had lighted, he sucked out the blood, and with sure knowledge spread thereon soothing herbs, which of old Cheiron had given to his father with kindly thought”. The Greek word is “φάρμακον”, drug, but I have used herb. This is because it seems that the only drugs were herbs. There is also the suggestion that the herb was a charm and was applied as a call to a deity. Though it is not clear that the ancient Greeks knew of herbs that actually healed they did put in the same category poisons which killed.

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Doctors

Plato, Laws 4.720a: “There are men that are doctors, we say, and others that are
doctors’ assistants; but we call the latter also, to be sure, by the name of
‘doctors.’ These, whether they be free-born or slaves, acquire their art under
the direction of their masters, by observation and practice and not by the study
of nature—which is the way in which the free-born doctors have learnt the art
themselves and in which they instruct their own disciples. You are also aware
that, as the sick folk in the cities comprise both slaves and free men, [720c]
the slaves are usually doctored by slaves, who either run round the town or wait
in their surgeries; and not one of these doctors either gives or receives any
account of the several ailments of the various domestics, but prescribes for
each what he deems right from experience, just as though he had exact knowledge,
and with the assurance of an autocrat; then up he jumps and off he rushes to
another sick domestic, and thus he relieves his master in his attendance on the
sick. [720d] But the free-born doctor is mainly engaged in visiting and treating
the ailments of free men, and he does so by investigating them from the
commencement and according to the course of nature; he talks with the patient
himself and with his friends, and thus both learns himself from the sufferers
and imparts instruction to them, so far as possible; and he gives no
prescription until he has gained the patient’s consent, and only then, while
securing the patient’s continued docility by means of persuasion, [720e] does he
attempt to complete the task of restoring him to health.”

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Childbirth and Abortion in Ancient Greece

In Hymn 3 to Apollo there is the description of Leto giving birth. First there is her situation (line 92) : “But Leto was racked nine days and nine nights with pangs beyond wont. [95] And there were with her all the chiefest of the goddesses, Dione and Rhea and Ichnaea and Themis and loud-moaning Amphitrite” This seems to reflect the state of mortal mothers as well. Mostly the mother was surrounded by women family members to aid the mother.

Then the birth follows (line 115): “And as soon as Eilithyia the goddess of sore travail set foot on Delos, the pains of birth seized Leto, and she longed to bring forth; so she cast her arms about a palm tree and kneeled on the soft meadow while the earth laughed for joy beneath. Then the child leaped forth to the light, and all the goddesses raised a cry. [120] Straightway, great Phoebus, the goddesses washed you purely and cleanly with sweet water, and swathed you in a white garment of fine texture, new-woven, and fastened a golden band about you.”

The birth process in women was seen as related to the production of natural goods on which the community depended. The fertility of women was seen as related to the fertility of plants and animals and even of the soil. During pregnancy and just after birth a woman can be quite dependent on others for care. Love is believed to bind husbands and others
to that woman. So an extented family would be needed to take care of women in childbirth. In ancient Greece older women could be in charge of a family that would include that women and her sons wives. The younger women would be the ones bearing children. Among the aristocrats there might be servants of various kinds as well. Life was hand-to-mouth yet women had to deal with birth as a miracle of life that would make extra demands upon them. The benefits were enormous including all the security that the women would receive, especially in old age. The ancients saw children as an economic benefit both in the present and for the future. Children could provide help with the family business and could provide security and productivity in the future.

Ancient Greek midwifery:

In heroic times there was the nurse(τροφός). This word may come from Indo-European ‘tr-eu-d-‘, ‘to thrust, push, press, squash’ and ‘bhoso-s’ , ‘bare, naked’. This concept seems to have begun as a wet nurse but later developed into someone who educated the children as well. Odysseus seems to have had a wet nurse as he says: “Thou didst thyself nurse me at this thy breast” (Homer, Odyssey book XIX line 483).

During the classical period there were doctors. If the experience of Agnodice is any indication the women were attended by male doctors at birth, if at all. Men tried to keep Agnodice from becoming a doctor, but the women protested. Women became doctors until the 12th century. Midwifes probably became popular when woman were no longer able to become doctors. The Ludovici throne shows women attendants on Aphrodite at her birth. It is possible that the scarcity of pictures is a result of purges by our victorian ancestors.

The fact that women were confined to the domestic sphere in ancient Greece
suggests that any birthing was taken care of by the lady of the house and
her servants. Women did use an obstetric chair for the process. Two women
would hold the mother in the chair while a third kneeled in front to receive
the baby. In Roman times doctors shied away from childbirth because of the
morality involved.

Artemis was the goddess of childbirth. But as far as I know all she did was
to sometimes kill the mothers. If she was nice it was painless. Eilithyia was the goddess related to the birth itself. Aristotle mentions that “Dittany is a plant especially useful for labor in women. People say that it makes labor easy or stops pain altogether.”

There were other skills a nurse needed as related by Hymn 2 to Demeter, line 226, “Gladly will I take the boy to my breast, as you bid me, and will nurse him. Never, I ween, through any heedlessness of his nurse shall witchcraft hurt him nor yet the Undercutter:1 for I know a charm far stronger than the Woodcutter, and I know an excellent safeguard against woeful witchcraft.”

Plato states that midwives had some control over the birthing process: Plato Theaetus 149c: “And furthermore, the midwives, by means of drugs [149d] and
incantations, are able to arouse the pangs of labor and, if they wish, to make
them milder, and to cause those to bear who have difficulty in bearing; and they
cause miscarriages if they think them desirable.”

Hardships in childbearing:

Many more babies were born deformed, but these were exposed and
left to die. Many more babies were born dead and many more mothers died
in childbirth than do today. They sometimes had doctors to help them but
medicine was more primitive. Abortions were performed, if at all, by the
mother herself and the results were often fatal. Drugs to ease the pain were not as common as the are today. Diet was not as good as today particularly during famine times. Even today in the developing world mothers face the same challenges as were faced by the mothers of ancient Greece.

Babies were born at home with the mother attended by the mistress of the house and several of her servants. Wealthier women had the services of a male gynecologist. They used a special birthing chair. Usually the wife and her maids attended to births. Women did become gynecologists but most were men.

As to the risk of childbirth Medea says “I would rather stand three times with a shield in battle than give birth once.” (Euripides, Medea, line 251)

Childbirth took place at home. Unlike today the mother was placed in a birthing chair and if she was poor she assumed a crouching position. The ladies of the house attended to the mother. A midwife may have been present or even a male gynecologist. Often the lady of the house supervised and was assisted by her servants. One person held the pregnant lady in the
birthing chair while the other caught the baby. Childbirth was considered a religious pollution and there were religious sanctuaries where no person that had been involed with childbirth were allowed.

The birth was attended by all the women of the household. The
newborn baby was inspected by the father and if found defective was exposed
to the elements to let it die. If it was satisfactory and kept then on the
fifth or seventh day after birth there was a purification ceremony. In Sparta the elders of the community also inspected the baby.

The ancient Greeks tolerated abortions but they were not at all
common. During their time it was much safer to carry a baby to full term
than have an abortion. Perhaps only one in ten mothers survived an abortion.
The ancient Greeks tolerated infanticide. If the newborn baby was malformed
then it would be exposed to the elements to die. If the baby was unwanted
it could be sold into slavery. There were safer options in those days than
abortion. Since abortions are riskier to the mother than a live birth, they
took the safer approach. During the Roman period the demand for babies dropped and some of the women opted for self-induced abortions which they performed on themselves with a knife. A desperate woman would plunge a dagger into her vagina, killing the baby. This would usually
result in the death of the mother as well as the baby. This is a very un-safe practice and many of these women died. It was much safer for the mother to carry the baby to full-term.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, described
how a dancer came to him with a need for an abortion. Hippocrates
caused her to make certain violent jumping dance movements and
her baby aborted. He then went on to make important observations
about the aborted fetus.

During the Roman period the demand for babies dropped and some of the women opted for self-induced abortions which they performed on themselves with a knife. A desperate woman
would plunge a dagger into her vagina, killing the baby. This is a very un-safe practice that usually result in the death of the mother as well as the baby. It was much safer
for the mother to carry the baby to full-term and then expose it or sell it than to try to abort it before birth.

In the early days of pregnancy a baby can be aborted by scraping the
fetus off the wall of the uterus. Later, the body develops mechanisms
to enhance the flow of blood between the mother and the baby. These
mechanisms increase the chance of hemorrage and infection and make the
process much more dangerous for the mother. Though the umbilical cord can
simply be cut, there is a good chance the mother will bleed to death or
die of infection. There is also the possibility that the dead baby will not
be expelled causing the entire uterus to become infected. In primitive societies the safest practice was to let the baby be born and deal with the consequences later. In ancient Sparta the disposition of the baby was made by the elders of the community who would chose to keep the baby or expose it.

In ancient Greece a parent who abandoned a new-born baby to die was not punished in
any way. If a person found such a baby they could take it as their own.

Births out of Wedlock

The ancient Greeks seem to have had a more generous view of births out of wedlock as recorded in this passage: “And of the next company warlike Eudorus was captain, the son of a girl unwed, and him did Polymele, fair in the dance, daughter of Phylas, bear. Of her the strong Argeiphontes became enamoured, when his eyes had sight of her amid the singing maidens, in the dancing-floor of Artemis, huntress of the golden arrows and the echoing chase. Forthwith then he went up into her upper chamber, and lay with her secretly, even Hermes the helper, and she gave him a goodly son, Eudorus, pre-eminent in speed of foot and as a warrior. But when at length Eileithyia, goddess of child-birth, had brought him to the light, and he saw the rays of the sun, then her did the stalwart and mighty Echecles, son of Actor, lead to his home, when he had given countless gifts of wooing, and Eudorus did old Phylas nurse and cherish tenderly, loving him dearly, as he had been his own son.” (Homer, Iliad book XVI, line 179)

This attitude may have been related to the belief that the dieties had sex with maidens and that their offspring would be exceptional. Many of the ancicient Greek heroes an heroines were believed to be the result of such unions.

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Pictures of Greek Medicine

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Resources for Greek Medicine

  1. Asclepion, a World Wide Web page devoted to the study of ancient medicine
  2. Carrick, Paul, “Medical Ethics in the Ancient World” (Clinical Medical
    Ethics (Washington, D.C.).), Georgetown University Press, May 2001, ISBN:
    0878408487.
  3. Tick, Edward, “Practice of Dream Healing : Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries
    into Modern Medicine”, Quest Books (IL), August 2001, ISBN: 0835607992,
    Self-Help/Dreams.
  4. Ancient Greek & Roman Medicine and Medical Thought
  5. Bibliographical Resources
  6. Ancient Greek Medicine

  7. Catiline’s Hard Sciences Page

  8. HISTORY OF MEDICINE
  9. Ancient Gynecology
  10. Medicine in Ancient Greece
  11. Helen King ,Hippocrates’ Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece, Paperback: 344 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.69 x 9.24 x 6.10 Publisher: Routledge; (November 1998) ISBN: 0415138957
  12. ANCIENT MEDICINE: MYTH AND PRACTICE: HIPPOCRATES

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Questions and Answers

Question: what medicines were used?

Answer: Herbs mainly.

Question: Who were the main Gods and what sort of superstitions did the
Greeks have with regards to medicine?

Answer: Apollo and Artemis were the main deities associated with disease.
Asclepius was the god of medicine. The Greeks thought that disease was a
matter of the whim of the gods. But much science of medicine was done in
ancient Greece and the Greeks were the least superstitious of any of the
ancient cultures.

Question: how much part did religion play in ancient greek medical practices

Answer: It played a large part. But the Greeks were the first to introduce
scientific thinking into medicine.

Question: What tools did they use?

Answer: Their experience was the main tool, with their hands being next.
Mostly they used herbs whose effects they understood. Knives, needles and
clamps could be used, but only by the more experienced.

Question: How is ancient greek medicine related to ancient egyptian medicine?

Answer: Ancient Greeks made many trips to Egypt and learned much.

Question: when did Galen write the book on hygiene?

Answer: Galen wrote during the Roman period.

Question: Why were greeks against cutting up dead bodies

Answer: Social Taboos prevented dissection. In the Odyssey Book XI Elpenor
Instructs Odysseus in Hades: “Leave me not unwept and unburied as thou goest
hence, nor turn thy back on me, lest haply I bring on thee the anger of the
gods.”

Question: what kind of herbal medicine did the ancient greeks use?

Answer: The only medicines that the Greeks used were herbal, but there were
hundreds of them. For examples see above.

Question: what kind of evidence did the ancient greeks have about medicine and supernatural medicine

Answer: The Ancient Greeks were the first to make scientific observations
about medicine. But many did believe in the divine influence on health.

Question: What medicines did Greek doctors invent that are similar to
medicines we use today?

Answer: Greek doctors did not invent any medicines. But they did help to
develop the scientific method which researchers use today to invent new
medicines. They also had access to powerful herbs like opium.

Question: How the medicine was different from today

Answer: Medicine was quite primative. The ancient Greeks were herbalists
who used many herbs to treat bodily problems. They understood about potions
but they lacked an understanding of the causal effects of potions. They did
not understand about germs and disease and they did not know the value of
keeping wounds clean. They did know that the application of cetain herbs to
wounds would clot the blood and promote healing. They did perform surgery to
remove foreign obstacles from the body, but they could not cure a single
disease with medicine.

Question: who started medicine?

Answer: Hippocrates is given the credit but this is because Asclepius was
deified.

Question: who was hippocrates?

Answer: He was founder of the Hippocratic school of medicine who lived from
460 – 380 BCE. He is referred to as Hippocrates of Cos.

Question: where can i find a scholarly article about an aspect of ancient
greek medicine?

Answer: There are resources listed above.

Question: Where can i find what the Greeks did for teeth?

Answer: Ancient Greeks had less trouble with their teeth because their
diet included little sugar and a lot of coarse whole-grained foods. They
did use sticks to clean their teeth. Most dentistry involved pulling teeth
that were infected.

Question: What are some medical procedures used to heal a sickly person?

Answer: Today we realize that there is a strong causal ralation between
an applied cure and a sickness known to be treated by the cure. We also
realize the complexity of sicknesses and the interrelations of cures. We
are grateful to the ancient Greeks for helping us to understand the scientific
principles that help us to establish these facts.

Question: How did the greeks keep clean?

Answer: They washed their clothes and their bodies with fresh water. But
they had no soap. They annointed their bodies and clothes with oil probably
to help with this process, but more likely just to smell clean.

Question: Where did they go to the bathroom?

Answer: Mostly they used chamber pots. In their bathrooms clean water
had to be hauled in and wastes and dirty water were hauled out. Wastes were
eventually dumped in the agricultural fields as fertilizer and compost.

Question: geek health and medicine

Answer: Ancient Greek health was probably the best in the world at the time
but this says very little. Greek medicine was the most advanced too but all
they could do was a little surgery.

Question: Where can I find pictures of surgery tools?

Answer: Click Here

Question: Where can I find the letter that Aesculapius wrote to his son
regarding his desire to study medicine?

Answer: The following article about Asclepius should suggest to you that
the existence of such a letter is unlikely: Click here. No writings
from Asclepius are in existence.

Question: How did the ancient Greeks treat diseases?

Answer: They did not understand what they were so they could not treat them.
The conditions that we would recognize as disease they thought were conditions
sent by the deities, especially Artemis and Apollo. They consulted seers
to determine what might be done to propitiate the gods.

Question: What do the Greeks make medicine out of?

Answer: The ancient Greeks practiced herbal medicine. Most of their
remedies involved plants. A few other substances such as menstrual blood
were also used.

Question: How is Honey used in Medicine

Answer: honey can be used several ways. It can be applied to the skin
or eaten. In either case it can be a binder for other substances. If it
is eaten its sweetness may mask the flavor of some bad-tasting medicine.

Question: what types of pratices were peformed

Answer: Medical practice was limited to surgery and herbal medicine.
Some cleaning was also done.

Question: when did the medical establishment of ancient greek
come into being?

Answer: I tend to begin medical practice with Asclepius rather than
Hippocrates as a result of comments about Asclepius in the Iliad. Asclepius
lived in the generation before the Trojan war.

Question: use of opium

Answer: Opium was one of the herbal medicines used by the ancient Greeks.
Homer seems to describe its use.

Question: what kind of medical tools did the ancient greeks use?

Answer: They used simple surgery tool s=uch as knives, saws and tweezers.
They also used simple tools for preparing herbal medicined such as a balance
scale, a mortar and pestle, and small jars.

Question: Is being a hippocrate connected to the man hippocrate? And what is the connection?

Answer: Hippocrates was the founder of an order. The members of the order
used the name Hippocrates, particularly when authoring writings.

Question: what kind of surgury did the greeks do?

Answer: Mostly they removed weapons from bodies and fixed broken bones.
They probably also incised boils and may have cut holes in the skull to
relieve pressure from an infection. They also removed infected teeth.

Question: what were the most common diseases then

Answer: This is not easy to determine because the necessary symptoms were
not identified. But plague, leprosy, and gangrene are mentioned.

Question: What were some of the procedures that the Ancient Greeks used?

Answer:

  • Cutting out arrows
  • Spreading salves
  • Sucking out of blood
  • Binding of wounds
  • Application of opium to wounds
  • Application of healful potions
  • Surgery
  • Stitching of wounds
  • appication of plasters
  • diet
  • exercise
  • baths
  • purges
  • warm compresses
  • blood letting
  • catherization

Question: What tools did the Ancient Greeks use for surgery?

Answer: Knives, saws, awls, drills, clamps, pliers.

Question: When was the forceps intriduced in antiquity?

Answer: As tooth extraction devices The ancient Greeks used double-level
forceps 300 B.C. while the Romans used forceps of various designs, including
a thin-root forceps, and pliers to remove small pieces.

Question: I need some pictures of the tools ancient greek doctors use.

Answer: Achilles tends to Patroclus

Question: how many children were rich women expected to have in Ancient
Athens?

Answer: 5 on average.

Question: Were the Greeks the first to use medicine?

Answer: No. The Egyptians had used medicine for thousands of years before
the Greeks. In fact many medicines came to Greece from Egypt.

Question: What were the diffrent tools (Knives saws ect.) used for?

Answer: Surgery. Saws cut bone and knives cut skin.

Question: Can you tell me who said “It is more important to know what kind of person has a disease, rather than know what kind of disease that person has.”

Answer: Check out the following: Click here

Question: tell me the names of 5 Greek ancient doctors.

Answer: Here is a list of 5 Ancient Greek women doctors. There are
also many men doctors:

  • 3 rd. cent. BCE/Amyte/Poet and healer
  • fl. 850 BCE/Manto/Prophet and priestess
  • fl. 506 BCE/Agnodice/Gynocologist
  • 4th cent. BCE/Aspasia of Athens/Surgeon
  • 1st cent. BCE/Salpe/Physician and poet

Question: Were crushed mice/rabbit skulls used in Greek medicine?

Answer: Greek medicine tended to be herbal so there is some doubt here,
but no certainty. Crushed mice/rabbit skulls would be good fertilizer and
so may have been used for other purposes. I do not think either mice or
rabbits were domesticated so this would have been a fairly rare comodity.

Question: What attitude did the ancients Greeks have, what beliefs if any, did they have on chronic pain (intractable pain, physical somatic pain, , e.g. from a musculo-skeletal wound, such as the wound of Philocetes, or the wound of Chiron – as opposed to psychogenic pain originating ‘in the mind’ )?

Answer: Hera drove Herakles so mad that he killed his wife. His pain
was an example of psychogenic pain. Orestes was tormented by the Furies after
he killed his mother. This probably was also psychogenic pain. Studying these
individual incidents in mythogy might prove very interesting. In general
both situations were covered by the whims of the devine, although the Greeks
left room for individual response to one’s own decisions.

Question: What type or training did the doctors have?

Answer: They went to special schools and they apprenticed to an experienced doctor. They were better trained than other doctors until our own time.

Question: Who treated the people when they were sick or injured?

Answer: There were medical doctors who most often treated the sick or
injured. There were special doctors such as surgeons and gynecologists.

Question: what were their personal hygiene habits?

Answer: They had no soap so washing was not that effective, but they did
wash and take baths. They also washed their clothes, though not that
frequently. Their coarse diet helped with their teeth but I do not read
about tooth brushing. The practice of exercising in the nude probably helped
with bathing and certainly reduced lice and other parasites. Their practice
with excretory materials was to put them in chamber pots which were dumped on
the fields as fertilizer. Though men had just one wife they shared hetaera
which encouraged veneral disease. They had pets but no cats so rats and mice
were a problem as was plague. They liked a protected water supply, such as a
spring. When they were cut, they knew how to wash and bandage the wound and
to apply healing herbs.

Question: What was the life expectancy for Ancient Greeks?

Answer: about 35 years of age, but most of the lowered life expectancy
was accounted for by higher infant mortality.

Question: Where did people go when they had injures?

Answer: First they tried a doctor, then they went to a temple, usually of
Asclepius, an Asclepion. These were like spas often with a mineral spring.
Short term hospitality was provided. A priest would provide a prescription
for treatment. Other temples that included healing involved Apollo and Artemis.

Question: What were the treatments, whether they be natural, supernaturaL OR SUPERSTICIOUS FOR THEIR ILLNESSES?

Answer: The Ancient Greeks looked for causes and attempted to deal with
whatever cause they found. If the felt the cause was supernatural they
would use religious pactice but if they felt the cause was natural then they
would attempt to use medical practice. They were good observers of results
and used whatever worked.

Question: who is the father herbal medicine?

Answer: The source of herbal medicine is lost to unwritten history. Some
of the herbals, such as opium, have a remarkable effect and may have
influenced the search for other herbals. The stories about Medea and Circe
suggest that women may have been more important than men in the study of
herbal medicine.

Question: Were herbal potions sold in the marketplace? Where can I learn more about this?

Answer: Probably. In addition to the martket there were probably street vendors.

Question: What did women do about their periods?

Answer: Unlike other cultures, nothing was done except the women kept
themselves clean.

Question: What Greek Medicines that were used back in the ages do we still use to this day?

Answer: Opium and alcohol are the main ones. Oyster shells and olive oil
can still be used in a medicinal way, and of course plain water for washing
is still helpful. Honey can also still be used.

Question: what types of things did they use for the injures from wars?

Answer: Pliers and forceps were used to remove imbedded weapons. Saws were
used to amputate limbs. Water was used to wash wounds. Herbs were used to
stop bleeding.

Question: How did the Greeks influence us in medicine?

Answer: The Greeks provided us with the moral basis for medicine as found in
the Hippocratic oath. They also provided us with the intellectual tools for
a science of medicine.

Question: Did women have babies in hospitalsin Greece

Answer: No. There were no hospitals in ancient Greece. Women had babies
at home attended by the women of the house. There were gynecologists that
did attend some of the women. Some of the temples provided facilities for
ill patients, especially those dedicated to Asclepius.

Question: How does Greek medicine relate to today’s naturopathic medicine?

Answer: Greek medicine was entirely herbal while naturopathic medicine is
often herbal so there seems a similarity. But much more is known now about the
effects of chemicals in herbs, while many of the ancient Greek herbs had no
real effect. There were non-scientific reasons for administering the herbs.
The herbs that had a dramatic effect, such as opium, have already been
incorporated into standard medical practice, and are not used for
naturopathic medicine.

Question: What is anise used for?

Answer: Anise is Carminative, Sedative, Antidepressant, Antispasmodic, Antifungal, Diuretic, Pectoral, Tonic, Galactogogue, but in Greek times it was only
used as a spice. Anise

Question: What were the specific uses of the different herbs listed above?

Answer: St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum L., has, from the time of the
ancient Greeks down through the Middle Ages, been considered to be imbued with
magical powers and was used to ward off evil and protect against disease. As a
practical folk-remedy, it has been used widely to heal wounds, remedy kidney
troubles, and alleviate nervous disorders, even insanity.

Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis), while the plant is poisonous, the expressed thick, viscid oil is used as a powerful laxative and purgative.

Fennel Plant (Foeniculum vulgare), a member of the umbelliferae family, the stalks are eaten like celery while the seeds are used as a stomachic, carminative for the relief of intestinal colic and gas. It is also very beneficial for the liver, aiding regeneration of liver cells and therefore making it a pleasant flavoring addition to formulas with the many bitter herbs customarily used as cholagogues for the liver.

Linseed or flax seed (linum usitatissimum) is used as a soothing demulcent, emollient, laxative, antitussive and pectoral. It is applied externally as a poultice for burns, scalds, boils etc. and also made into a soothing cough medicine.

Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida), which is the gum resin of the roots, has antispasmodic, expectorant and carminative properties, making it a good substitute for garlic and very useful to prevent and eliminative colic and gas and aiding digestion and assimilation. It is also used as an antispasmodic nervine to calm hysteria and nervousness and emotional symptoms associated with PMS, food allergies and candidiasis.

Saffron (Crocus sativus) this consists of the three filiform, deep orange-red stigmas attached to the upper part of the style. They give the appearance of loose threads. The flavor is aromatic and pleasantly bitter. It is used as a carminative, diaphoretic, and emmenagogue or blood moving herb.

Question: What was the life expectancy for rulers, compared to the life expectancy for the common man?

Answer: Rulers got better water, food, shelter, and care, but they were
often victims of revolt. Wealthy citizens probably fared the best. Slaves
were worse off because they often were worked to death. But it was infants
that suffered the most. If they were deformed the were allowed to die. Many
babies were deformed because of unclean conditions which lead to disease.
If the mother was not well provided for then she had a hard time keeping her
children clean and many children died before they became an adult. Women
and children in Sparta fared the best. Athens did fairly well because its
economy was so affluent.

Question: Who discovered that arteries contain blood, not air?

Answer: The ancient Greeks did not understand that blood circulated in
the body and did not distinguish between veins and arteries. But they were
familiar with the fact that when a blood vessel was cut, blood came out.
Air was a little hard to understand since it is not visible. Air was associated
with life and spirit though, but it was confused with the glowing methane gas
often found in cemeteries.

Question: Did Greeks use drugs for entertainment purposes

Answer: Yes they did. Alcohol is a drug and wine contains alcohol. Wine
was an important component of their entertainment. Opium was also available.

Question: Who practised ancient greek medicine

Answer: The ancient Greeks had a system of schools to train medical
practitioners. These practitioners could not leave the school unless they
were qualified to teach in the school and actually taught there. That is why
the practitioners were called doctors.

Question: did the greeks burn marijuana

Answer: Hemp was known to the ancient Greeks. The intoxicating resin
was probably used for medicinal purposes, but I cannot find that it was
smoked.

Question: mental helth and medicine?

Answer: The ancient Greeks did recognize mental illness but they thought
it was a condition brought on by divine intervention. They did attempt
advise on how to lead a mentally healthy life.

Question: How did this way of healing and medicine advance through time?

Answer: Early on the Greeks were greatly influenced by the Egyptians from
whom they learned about herbal medicines. But the Greeks were very interested
in the causes of things and they considered the causes of illness. As a
result the Greeks made a number of discoveries that the Egyptians ignored.
As they were made the discoveries were applied.

Question: Did the women participate in the Olympics nude?

Answer: The woman participants in the Olympics were only horse trainers and
could not ride their own horses or even watch the race. Since they were not
at the race they did not have to be naked. Women who race in the Heraea wore
tunics. But when young women raced at Sparta they were expected to be naked
nd the young men were expected to watch them.

Question: can you tell me the specific uses of all of the different herbs listed at the top of the page?

Answer: No, I cannot. Each of these herbs can be researched and it can be
determined how they have been used.

Question: what types of illnesses did they have in this time and and what did they use fon a cure and how would it relate to the modern medicine of today

Answer: Many of the diseases of today were also present then:
dysentery, smallpox, typhus, bubonic plague, or possibly, Ebola
virus, mumps, influenza, whooping cough and diphtheria. The only cure they
had was rest and nursing care. They did have some strong medicines such as
opium but it is not clear that they cured anything with them. They began the
process of scientific observation which eventually resulted in the medicine of
today. The first doctor to actually cure someone was Paracelcus. (1493 – 1541).

Question: did they know about genetics?

Answer: Only in a very primitive sense. The science of Genetics was
founded by Gregor Mendel (1822-1884).

Question: What were the recipes used to induce an abortion or cause an abortion?

Answer: The Roman Soranus describes several methods for abortion in his Gynaecology. To cause an abortion, he prescribes violent exercise such as walking about and leaping energetically and “being shaken by means of draught animals and carrying things that are heavy beyond her strength.” The woman should also use diuretics that cause menstruation and empty the abdomen. Abortions usually took place before the middle of the second trimester, after which dangerous surgical procedures may be required. Before the abortion, Soranus prescribes “protracted baths, little food and softening vaginal suppositories.” Soranus follows Hippocrates by advising bleeding as a method of abortion. In the case of healthy women, “a pregnant woman, who is bled, miscarries.” (Gynaecology 64-5)

Question: how can i get a picture of the greek medicine

Answer: Click here

Question: pictures of medical instruments

Answer: Click here

Question: who is the most famous female doctor in greece

Answer: In ancient Greece the most famous female doctors were:
Amyte, Agnodice, Aspasia of Athens, Salpe.

Question: diseases Greeks couldn’t cure

Answer: They really could not cure any diseases. The only effective
treatment they had was nursing, and bathing. They had some surgery which
corrected conditions but not diseases. They did not understand diseases and
their causes.

Question: Where can I find pictures of herbs used in ancient greek herbal medicines?

Answer: Each herb can be looked up separately.

Question: what was the best life saving medicine in greece?

Answer: TLC (tender love and care).

Question: Eye diseases were a real problem since most could not be treated.
Keeping things out of the eye and using pure water as eye drops was about
all they could do. Fortunately there was no TV nor books and so fewer
people needed eyeglasses. Lenses were available but they were ground of rock
crystal and very expensive. Usually they were used for lighting fires. Some
conditions can be improved by inserting a small wire in a tear duct and this
they could do.

Question: How did the Greeks cure hemlock poisioning?

Answer: Avoiding the plant is a good start.  Hemlock's antidote is hot wine
before venon goes to heart .  A mustard-wine elixir, the mustard antidote. 
Components: 3 parts cluster of mustard flowers, 2 parts jar of purple wine. 
Skill used: Healing 
Description: A cure for hemlock poisoning, this antidote helps to flush out the venom using the curative powers of mustard flowers.

Note: neither of these antidotes can be trusted with such a toxic plant.

Question: in what ways does greek medicine still compare to modern medicine?

Answer: The aim, as expressed by the hippocratic oath, is exactly the
same. The Greeks laid the foundation for observational science upon which
modern medicine is based.

Question: Did Greeks invent medicine?

Answer: The ancient Greeks were very interested in theoretical ideas
and they did lay a theoretical foundation for medicine which has been very
important. Hippocrates is called the father of Modern medicine. The Greeks
were the first to be concerned with scientific inference. It was not until
Francis Bacon in the seventeenth century that medicine advanced passed the
state where the Greeks left it. And it was not until Pasteur in the nineteenth
century that the fruits of that inference brought medicine that was superior
to that of the ancient Greeks.

Question: What did the listed herbs ‘cure’?

Answer: In reality they cured nothing. But some did help. Especially
powerful were the pain killers opium and alcohol.

Question: I am looking for information on the use of menstrual blood in
agricultural practices of Greece.

Answer: This is very likely but, unfortunately, I have no references.
First is the practice of pouring of libations. Though water and olive oil
were used for librations, blood was called for in extreme cases. Menstuating
women were a convenient source of blood for libations. Animal sacrifice
would be used if an animal was needed for a feast.

Second is the fact that blood is an excellent fertilizer, rich in nitrogen.
One would think that would be quickly observed as a result of the practice of
libations; but, again I have no references.

Question: cuts

Answer: A cut was much more dangerous in Ancient Greece than it is now.
Cuts were liable to cause an infection. Cuts to the extremeties were less
life threatening simply because if an infection arose the extremity could be
amputated. A cut to the abdomen that got infected would result in death often
enough. Even a small cut to the eye was likey to cause loss of vision. There
were few medicines that would help with infection. A staph infection was the
least dangerous because they could be lanced. Strep infections are more
systemic and more difficult. Tetanus was often fatal. Sometimes a cut was
cauterized. This means it was burnt with a very hot iron. Cauterization
was useful because it reduced the chance of infection. If an infection results
it is usually a staph infection.

Question: what was greek surgery like?

Answer: Most surgery involved removal of arrows and other weapons. But
there were a number of other surgeries that would have been beneficial:
tooth extraction, lancing of boils, opening of passages, and when all else
failed amputation. Cauterization and burning of warts would have been
effective.

Question: who were doctors in ancient greece

Answer: During the heroic period before the Trojan War doctors were probably
apprenticed to other doctors. But later and during the classical period
doctors were graduates of a medical school of advanced learning.

Question: Who is Hygeia

Answer: Hygeia was one of the five daughters of Asclepius, a hero and a
god of healing. She is the goddess of health and probably the most important
of the daughters.

The head of Hygeia is at:
Click
here

Question: Based upon the Greek women in the Bible Mark chapter 8 what would
have been her other course of action to heal her daughter? How were diseased
people treated in hellenistic grrekdom?

Answer: I do not find your reference but I can comment. The ancients did
not understand the nature of disease. They thought that disease resulted from
divine disfavor. They thought a person who could heal had a direct relation
to the divine. Jesus healed to prove his divinity. But other healers were
available who claimed similar powers. Greek doctors could do little. They
did understand the value of tender loving care and provided special facilities
for this. Some of these facilities had mineral baths which could be helpful.
The Greek doctors could treat staph infections but the herbs they used on
others were ineffective. But you should not underestimate the value of the
Greek doctors. Though they could do little to cure they were not likely to
harm. The quacks and false healers have always preyed on the gullibility
of the sick to their detriment.

Question: What kind of personal hygiene was practices?

Answer: Their habit of Atheletics in the nude was beneficial. They were
also fortunate in their diet. They bathed and washed but sometimes
lacked a good source of water. They did not handle their sewage and waste
very well and their close housing contributed to rats and other vermin.

Question: code of practice for doctors

Answer: Hippocratic oath

Question: Where can I find an ancient patient case study?

Answer: Hippocrates wrote several of these.

Question: what is the history on how they gave surgery

Answer: The Hippocratic Collection contains about everything we know
on this: Click here

Question: If a Greek doctor came to a conclusion that a child was dying
how did he get there?

Answer: Experience would be a deciding factor. A doctor would have
experienced death and would know of signs which were unmistakable. But such
a sign would be also an indication that there was nothing he could do
except make the patient comfortable. In general such signs are well outside
of an area where an ancient doctor could work. For example: gangrene
is easy to recognize. If gangrene was restricted to an extremity a doctor
could amputate and save the life of the indvidual. But if the gangrene
had entered the body then the individual would die and any action of the
doctor would be futile.

Question: How did the ancient greeks know that the liver could regenerate as
illustrated by the myth of Prometheus?

Answer: It is not clear that the ancient Greeks knew that the liver would
regenerate. Most of the observations that the Greeks made were related to
accidental wounds. It certainly is possible that a Greek doctor would
have treated an abdominal wound involving the liver inflicted by a spear
or sword. The treatment wold have involved sewing up the wound. The
doctor could have followed progress of the liver by palpitating the
organ. The probability of such a patient surviving is low, but every
once in a while one would. And it is certainly the case that the doctor’s
efforts would be helpful in this case.

But the myth of Prometheus may not include this knowledge. After all
Prometheus was a god and gods have much better powers of regeneration than
mortals. It may be that the liver in this case is more associated with
augury than medical knowledge, though there may be a connection.
Vitruvius seemed to think that the state of the liver of an animal was an
indicator of the animals health. He related that soldiers would examine
the liver of animals at a site to see if that site would be a safe
encampment.

Question: How is Greek Medicine used today? Either here in our culture or over in the Greek Culture?

Answer: The Hippocratic oath is still good. The other part of Greek medicine that is important is their relation to Greek science. The Greeks were the first to consider the causes of things and how these might be established. Aristotle’s process of seeking evidence and finding consistency and inconsistency among the evidence presented is quite important today. Important also is the citing of references. The ethics of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are all relevant to the ethics of medicine today.

Question:What type of current and traditional methods are in the healthcare setting for the Greek?

Answer:I know nothing of the current situation. The ancient Greek situation was unusual because there were doctors in ancient Greece and not medicine men as in most countries. But the doctors had limited ability. None of the medicines that they had at their disposal really cured any disease but they did have ways of making things better. There were temples of Asclapius where a person could go to see a doctor and get some rest. Often a cure would be prescribed based on a dream a person had while they were there. Some of the temples even had mineral baths which were very effective with some conditions. The only drugs that were really effectivie were opium and wine and all these could do was relax the body and ease the pain. But that was very helpful sometimes. Surgery was sometimes effective especially when an accidental injury occurred. Staph infections and deformities could be cured with surgery. They did have some sense for providing clean water and sometimes sewage was treated well but this was not the rule.

Question: What type of surgery is used to repair damaged joints with out cutting?

Answer:Surgery always involves cutting. Using splints may help a joint to heal without surgery. Sometimes bones can be pushed into place manually without surgery. Even broken bones can be repaired this way. If there is an open wound the healing can be affected by an infection. Sometimes just putting bones back in place, sewing up the wound, and allowing the joint to rest will allow such an injury to heal. The fact is nothing else would work better at that time.

The important fact about ancient Greece is that there were places (temples to Asclepius) where a person could go to get attention for their injury. There were specialists there who had experience with the people who came. By their observations they would know what worked and what did not. This put the ancient Greeks way ahead of other ancient peoples with health care. The general method of treatment was odd to us though. The people would sleep in the temple and allow their dreams to tell them what was to be done. There are written testimonies, in stone, to testify that this method actually worked. There is no doubt that there were doctors, too, as the writings of Hippocrates testify. There is also no doubt that the ancient Greeks believed that their doctors could cure them of disease. But there is much doubt about the effectiveness of their drugs. No drugs actually cured disease in our sense until Paracelsus in the 16th century. They thought a cure resulted from drugs because people survived and some drugs had a remarkable effect. Opium is a notable example. In spite of its addictive affects it has allowed patients to relax and cure themselves. If properly used it can be exteremely beneficial. Wine can have a similar effect. Most of the rest of the drugs were applied and the patient recovered on their own or died. But the psychological effects of the environment of Greek medicine cannot be under rated. The fact that the Greeks believed in the method, and the method was supportive, meant that many patients recovered that might not have otherwise.

Question: How did medicine advance during Ancient Greece?

Answer: Today we owe a great debt of gratitude to the ancient Greeks. They laid the foundation for modern science and medicine. What they did was to emphasize observation and logical conclusions from those observations. From their predecessors, the Indo-Europeans they gained the concept of a physical universe that was ruled by law; even the gods obeyed laws. From this they concluded that man could work with nature if the laws were understood. Philosophers began to speculate on what these laws were. They went so far with this that Aristotle was able to say that the only use for the divinities was as a prime mover. Though their idea of a drug was mostly magical yet this idea led to drugs that had real physical effects. With the development of the Hippocratic oath the ancient Greek had confidence that an ancient doctor could help them in many cases, and in the others nothing could be done. The modern concept of the hospital came from the temples of Asclepius where sick people came to rest and be healed. If the temple included a mineral bath then they might be cured as this was the most effective treatment in ancient times. Surgery could also be effective. Another factor that may have been important was specialization where a doctor could give better treatment because he focused on particular ailments.

Unfortunately the developments in ancient Greece were frozen by cultural changes. The people of the Roman Empire did see benefit, but with the break up of the Roman Empire the progress in medicine actually reversed. Further developments awaited the Renaissance. The discovery of atoms and microbes, and the development of statical inference, when added to the developments of ancient Greece, brought medicine to the present state.

This is a fairly quick summary of what is actually quite a complex topic.

Question: What was the leading theory of the cause of disease or illness?

Answer: Homer, in the “Iliad”, 1.9 “The son of Leto and Zeus; for he in anger against the king roused throughout the host an evil pestilence, and the people began to perish.” Disease is often explained as an anger of the gods. So the cure for the disease is sometimes a religious act, in this case the return of a daughter to her priest father.

Here is a different cure: “For Apis, seer and healer, the son of Apollo, came from Naupactus on the farther shore and purified this land of monsters deadly to man, which Earth, [265] defiled by the pollution of bloody deeds of old, caused to spring up—plagues charged with wrath, an ominous colony of swarming serpents. Of these plagues Apis worked the cure by sorcery and spells to the content of the Argive land, [270] and for reward thereafter earned for himself remembrance in prayers.” Aeschylus, Suppliant Women line 268

The Greeks thought drugs could cure disease but they did not know why?: “All those means towards the end which arise at the instigation of something else, as, e.g. fat-reducing, purging, drugs and instruments are causes of health;” Aristotle, Metaphysics 1013a] [1] (b)

The following seems to consider drugs gifts from the gods: “As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but the gods can do whatever they like.” Homer, The Odyssey 10.5.

Question: What medical interventions were available during the period?

Answer: There were a number of possible interventions. The most significant of these happened at the temples of Aesculapius. A satire of this occurs Aristophanes “Plutus” and begins on line 654. These temples provided a sanctuary where the patient could rest, and have access to a priest familiar with disease and cures. In some cases religious rituals were the only intervention the patient received. But some of the temples had attached mineral baths which were often the most effective cure in ancient times. The “Hippocratic Oath” associated with these temples required the priests to do no harm and this was a tremendous advantage over other healers. Other interventions included herbal drugs and surgery. The most powerful drugs, wine and opium, were not curative but they were palliative and eased pain. This allowed better surgery and and it allowed the patient to relax and recover.

Question: I am hoping that you can assist me in determining what properties the ancients ascribed to an organ like the liver. I am curious to know why the eagle was sent to punish Prometheus by daily eating out his liver. Was it considered responsible for vanity, forexample?

Answer: Consider the following quote:

Euripides, Electra, 827, “Aegisthus took the entrails in his hands and inspected them. Now the liver had no lobe, while the portal vein and near-by gall-bladder revealed threatening approaches to the one who was observing it.”

The liver was important for prophesy. The shape of the liver and the color of the bile produced by the attached gall bladder were both important. Both were possible portents of death. In the case of Prometheus the roles are reversed. Instead of Prometheus reading the entrails of the bird the bird is eating his liver. The Eagle was a very desirable sacrifice victim because birds were close to divine nature. Prometheus (forethought) is all about prophesy.

The function of the liver seems to be more related to the production of bile as related by the Humour Theory current in ancient Greece. The following quote suggests bile is related to emotions:

Hippocrates, De morbo sacro, p366, “but those (who are mad) from bile are vociferous, malignant, and will not be quiet, but are always doing something improper.”

Question: Would you know what book tells us about the wounds and how they were treated in ancient Greece as well as how did the study of medicine begin? i believe my professor told me that when men would go into war doctors would follow them to learn more about the wounds, something like that.

Answer: The scientific study of medicine began with the ancient Greeks, especially Hippocrates. The Greeks were interested in the causes of things. I have a page on ancient Greek medicine and quotes from the Iliad about treatment are included there in the section on Asclepius at Click here. The practice you describe of doctors following soldiers was a common practice during the Christian era when dissection was prohibited by law. During the Ancient Greek period many opportunities for doctors were provided by human sacrifice. Also the ancient Greek practice of aruspicina (study of entrails) of birds and other animals helped with the knowledge of medicine.
The works of Hippocrates contain many references to wounds.