Roman Medicine

Roman Medicine

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Romans (400bc 500ad)
The Romans established the greatest empire of the Ancient world, and were
intensely practical men of action. They respected the Greeks for their culture and
learning, but distrusted their doctors, and preferred more concrete methods of
health care, such as public health systems, rather than the theories of doctors.
Romans were great borrowers of ideas, rather than originators, and their ideas of
cause were concerned mainly with the gods. However, practical experience
taught them the benefits of cleanliness, and their public health system of
fountains, baths and sewers was the most advanced until the 19th century.
The Romans believed they had a duty to bring the benefits of their civilisation to
the world, and the army was vital for extending and protecting the empire. So
they were very good at practical methods to keep the army healthy. The ideas of
their greatest doctor, Galen, survived the fall of the Empire, and were supported
by the Church in the Middle Ages. Thus, although he made some advances at the
time, in the long run Galen held back the advancement of knowledge, since many
of his ideas were wrong, and they were not challenged until the 16th century.
Anatomy Galen was able to dissect human bodies at Alexandria, but
most of his work was done on animals in Rome. He provided
more detailed descriptions than the past although his
assumption that humans and animals were the same caused
some mistakes.
Physiology Galen showed that the body was controlled by nerves
coming from the brain, and that the bladder produced urine,
but his ideas about the hole in the septum of the heart were
Cause Supernatural ideas - many Romans believed diseases
were caused by the gods.

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Romans (400bc 500ad)
`Germs' - primitive idea about germs (`tiny creatures') in
swamps causing disease. But they failed to investigate this
idea, or apply it to other areas of medicine. Physical ideas -
Galen accepted and developed the idea of the four
Cure Supernatural - praying to gods, visiting Asclepion
Herbal remedies - some worked, some didn't.
Quack' - remedies from local market. Treatment of
opposites based on theory of four humours.
Doctors Galen most famous and successfully treated Emperor's son.…read more


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