OCR, History, Medicine, Through, Time, Unit 1 Greek Medicine

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Greeks used religion to explain the mysteries of nature such as the god of
fire, Hephaestos causing volcanoes.
Science, Philosophy and Maths were important to the Greeks and they used
these to replace supernatural explanations with new rational ideas.
Cause and Cure of Disease
Temples to the god of healing Asclepios were built in Epidaurus,
Pergamum and Cos. Here they would pray to Asclepios and would spend a
night in the `abaton' where they were treated by priests and snakes (the
sacred animal of Asclepion). This could be seen as the first hospital where
specialist treatment could be given but also begins a line of continuity
where the ill go to religious sites to be cured (pilgrimages).
Theory of the Four Humours was developed by Aristotle. He suggested
that the body was made up of four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow and
black bile. This built on the ideas that a healthy body was one in balance.
Thus an imbalance caused disease and so to cure it a patient was bleed or
made to vomit.
Is associated with a collection of medical books, the Hippocratic Corpus,
although they were written by his followers. He is depicted in statues as an
old, wise paternal figure although we know very little about him.
Encouraged the theory of the four humours and other rational ideas which
were used for centuries after his death.
Introduced the Hippocratic Oath which forms the basis of modern day
medical ethics, in that the patient's wellbeing is paramount.
Little knowledge on anatomy because dissection wasn't allowed. No
knowledge of the nervous or circulatory system.
Knowledge of anatomy grew in Alexandria however, where dissection and
for a short time vivisection was allowed. This led to discoveries of the
movement of blood in veins as well as a more accurate ideas as to the
position of organs.
Because of poor anatomical knowledge, doctors stuck to basic operations
such as the setting of fractures and dislocated bones.

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In Alexandria, although there had been great advances in anatomy, there
were still no anaesthetic or antibiotics, so although more complicated
operations were conducted patients were more likely to die than survive.
Public Health
The Greeks believed that exercising and a good diet would lead to a
healthy life and so did keep fit and healthy.
They did not have an extensive public health system however, with no
sewers or running water.…read more


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