Rabu, 18 Januari 2023

The World of Medicine in Ancient Times

Living in the past was full of dangers especially health conditions. War, disease, famine, and childbirth are just a few examples of the hardships of life in ancient times. As a result, the average life span of people at that time was lower than today. Public awareness of disease was still very low at that time. When someone is sick, they go to places that are considered sacred to perform healing ceremonies. Likewise, the healing efforts carried out by healers are also decorated with spiritual things.

Illustration of a healer treating his patient

In many cultures, gods are thought to have a role in human health. For example, the god Asklepios in Greek mythology is considered the god of health. The people built healing temples (also known as sanotariums) for the god Asklepios. Those who were sick were willing to walk for days in search of healing in the ancient sanitarium belonging to the god Asklepios. Usually these temples are located in remote areas that have beautiful nature, such as in Epidauros (Greece) and Pergamon (Turkey). Inside the temple there will be provided baths, healthy food, a place for meditation, and rooms. Sacrificial animals and offerings are placed on the altar of the gods as vows.

Meanwhile, ancient medicinal recipes use plants (herbs), certain parts of animals and water. In many cases, medicinal herbs were used in ritual ceremonies before being given to the sick. This indicates that people at that time believed in the efficacy of herbal and supernatural medicines to treat diseases.

Ancient Egypt

Imhotep (2667-2648 BC) was an Egyptian who became the first physician in Egyptian history. Surgery in Egypt started around 2750 BC. The book "The Kahun Gynecology Papyrus" (an ancient Egyptian medical book) written in 1,800 BC contains 34 cases of survival treatment diagnoses. Unfortunately the book is only in the form of fragments (incomplete). The medical institution of that time was called the “House of Life” and had been established since the First Dynasty of the Egyptian Empire.

Herodotus describes Egyptian society as healthier than its Libyan neighbor. Even though both regions have dry climates. Although the way of treatment also still uses supernatural practices, the medical world of Ancient Egypt has begun to develop the fields of anatomy, public health, and clinical diagnostics.

Illustration of Medicine in Ancient Egypt


Babylonian medical texts date back some 1000 years. The oldest Babylonian medical text is the “Dignostic Handbook” written by Esagil Kin Apli (a person who was considered a doctor at that time) from Borsippa. This book was written during the reign of the Babylonian king, Adad Apla Iddina who reigned in 1069-1046 BC. Along with the development of ancient Egyptian medicine, the Babylonians introduced the concepts of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and medical prescriptions.

In addition, the “Diagnostic Handbook” introduces therapeutic methods and etiology and the use of empiricism, logic and rationality in diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. The text contains a list of medical symptoms and detailed empirical observations written together with the logical rules used in combining the observed symptoms of the patient's body with the diagnosis and prognosis.

Ancient Babylonian Medicinal Paintings


The Atharvaveda, a sacred text of Hinduism dating from the early Iron Age, is the first Indian text concerned with medicine, such as medicine from the Ancient Near East which is based on the concepts of exorcism and magic. Atharvaveda also contains herbal recipes for various ailments. The use of herbs to treat ailments makes up most of the discussion in the Ayurveda.

In 1000 BC, after the emergence of the Vedic period, the traditional Indian system of medicine came to be known as Ayurveda, which means "complete knowledge for longevity".

The two most famous texts belong to the Charaka and Sushruta hermitages. Both appeared in 600 BC. The early foundations of Ayurveda were built on the synthesis of traditional herbal practices together with the addition of major theoretical conceptualizations, new nosologies and new therapies that appeared around 400 BC. Then medicine in India was also influenced by Buddhist teachings.

150%;">The ancient Ayurvedic scriptures mention eight branches of medicine: kāyācikitsā (disease), śalyacikitsā (surgery including anatomy), śālākyacikitsā (eye, ear, nose, and throat ailments), Uangārabh ṛ tya (pediatrics), Bhutavidya (medicine spirit) , and Agada tantra (toxicology), rasayana (science of rejuvenation), and Vajikarana (aphrodisiacs, especially for men).Apart from these studies, students of Ayurveda are expected to know the ten arts which are indispensable in the preparation and application of medicine namely distillation, skill operations, cooking, horticulture, metallurgy, confectionery, pharmaceuticals, mineral analysis and separation, compounding of metals, and preparation of alkalis.


Ancient Greece, like Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, played an important role in medical history. The most famous of all the doctors of Ancient Greece was Hippocrates. In 1200 BC, Ancient Greece thrived in all fields whether trade, agriculture, military, seafaring, etc. Their knowledge of drugs is developed according to these conditions.

Gods dominated the life of the Greek people. Natural occurrences are explained due to divine power. Although the media world of the Ancient Greeks was not wholly based on gods, they began to try to find natural explanations for why someone got sick and died.
The Greeks had studied medicine 1000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. In the 'Iliad' by Homer, wounded soldiers are treated by doctors and in a tale the Greek leader named Menelaus, is treated for an arrow wound to the arm by doctors at Machaon.

However, not all of the Ancient Greeks went to the doctor when they were sick. There are still many of them who believe in gods. The temple of the god Apollo who was considered a healer in Delphi was built in the 6th century BC. Then many ancient Greeks turned to the god Asclepios for healing assistance. A place called Asclepeia was built for those in poor health. This place is like a coolie and here people come to bathe, sleep and meditate. The poor were also allowed to beg for money in this building. Those who went to asclepios were expected to leave offerings to Asclepios. This temple system was run by priests. Patients at Asclepeias were encouraged to sleep because it was believed that during their sleep they would be visited by the god Asclepios and his two daughters, Panacea and Hygeia.
Golden Ear Dedication To God Aclepios From A Woman Named Fabia Secunda Because Her Ear Disease Has Been Cured


Gladiators were often injured, sometimes seriously injured. Doctors should treat them well and learn about the human body. Galen (200/216-129 BC), was a prominent Greek physician who began dissecting animals to continue his research. Galen believed that monkeys walking like humans, on two legs, would likely provide scientists with knowledge that could be applied to humans.
Galen, who moved from Greece to Rome in 162 BC, became an expert on human anatomy. He was a popular lecturer and became the most famous and sought after doctor. Consul Flavius ​​Boethius , one of his patients, introduced him to the imperial court and he soon became Emperor Marcus Aurelius' personal physician.

After Galen stopped dissecting animals, he dissected corpses, such as that of a hanged criminal, as well as several bodies exhumed in flood victims' graves. Even so, he made some mistakes when analyzing how the human body works.

Galen wrote several medical books, in which he presented an excellent knowledge of bone structure. He realized that the brain was telling the muscles what to do when he cut the spinal cord from a pig.
Early medical theories were sometimes very close to the theories we know today. Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC - 27 BC) believed that disease was caused by miniature creatures too small for the naked eye to see (bacteria and viruses too small to see). While others "still stared at the sky," Crinas of Massilia believed that disease was caused by the stars. Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (4M- circa 70 AD), an agricultural writer, disease comes from marsh vapors. Many of these beliefs held true until several hundred years later.
Medical Equipment Found in Jerusalem Used in 40 BC-400SM

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