Greek Medicine

Greek Medicine

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Greeks (1000 400bc)
At first Greek medicine was very similar to that of the Egyptians - a combination
of common sense and natural remedies, and supernatural beliefs. They prayed to
Asclepius to heal them, and went to Asclepion temples to be treated. However,
later philosophers like Plato began to explain the world in physical terms, saying
that it was made up of four elements (earth, air, fire and water) and that there
were natural explanations for events, rather than being controlled by gods. In
medicine Hippocrates used the same ideas, saying that the body was made up of
four humours, and that there were physical explanations for diseases.
Although the theory of Four Humours was wrong, it was a revolutionary
breakthrough in medical understanding - for the first time people were looking for
the things that caused disease, rather than accepting it as the work of the gods.
Hippocrates stressed a scientific approach to medicine, observing and recording
the course of disease, and the principle of clinical observation is used to this day.
The Greeks also believed in the importance of exercise in keeping healthy.
Anatomy Knowledge of how the body worked still limited. Physical
Physiology explanations accepted - knew what some of the organs did,
but not how they did it.
Cause Supernatural beliefs - diseases caused by gods.
Natural beliefs - theory of the four humours - if they
were out of balance then you got ill. Hippocrates
stressed `sickness is not sent by the gods or taken
away by them. It has a physical basis. If we can find
the cause we can cure the disease.'
Both beliefs existed at same time - since four humours was
wrong treatments based on it no more successful than
supernatural ideas.
Cure Supernatural - pray to Asclepius, visit Asclepion
temple - might have worked due to healthy
atmosphere, diet and exercise (the first health

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Greeks (1000 400bc)
Natural - theory of the four humours - give patient
the opposite of the humour causing the disease, or
bleed or purge to remove excess humour.
Unfortunately the humours (phlegm, bile etc.) were
the symptoms not the causes of disease so treatment
not always successful. However, scientific
investigation and clinical observation did lead to
better treatments.
Doctors Greeks had professional doctors, not just priest-physicians.
They were carefully trained in Hippocrates' methods of
observation, and followed an advanced code of medical
ethics.…read more


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