Ancient Roman Medicine

Notes on Ancient Roman medicine

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Galen was born in 129AD in Greece. He began his medicine career at the age of sixteen he spent 12 years of his life travelling to gain more medical knowledge which included visiting the famous medical school in Alexandria. He gained most of his practical knowledge whilst working as a surgeon at a gladiators school. Gladiator schools were the perfect place for a surgeon to learn more about their profession as they had to treat young healthy men who had stab wounds, broken and other major injuries. In 162AD, he came to Rome and he became as a doctor to the Roman Emperor and teacher of other doctors.

Obersvation: Galen reinforced Hippocrates idea of oberservation and recording their results to help them teach further illnesses.

The Four Humours: Galen agreed with the ideas of the four humours but he be came up with the treatment of opposites, he used the opposite to balance the humours; for example if a person had too much phlegm then he would recommend a treatment such as a hot pepper. he also agreed with Greek ideas in telling people that were ill or weak to do more physical exercise.

Writing: Galen was most famous for the 60 books that he had written. The books combined ideas that he had learnt from his work in Alexandria and Rome but also lots of Greek ideas. (careful observation, the four humours - hippocrates ideas and his ideas of opposites', and dissection/surgery and his knowledge of anatomy. The books were used for 1500 years after he died and no-one dared question his ideas so they became the basis for medical training.

Designs: Galen showed his students how the parts of the body fitted together. This idea became useful in the middle ages as the Christian Church saw that Galen's explanations of the body backed up the idea that God created human beings.

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The Gods: Although some people used herbal remedies passed down from parents and grandparents to cure illnesses, most people asked the Gods for help. The built a temple which was dedicated to the God Asclepius (the greek god of healing) and they saw Gods as a part of their everyday liffe. When medical treatments were risky, costly, uncertain or painful people asked for help from the Gods and this would be a first resort not a last resort.

Doctors: In Roman cities, doctors were employed to give free treatment to the poor. Women played a vital role in treating illnesses but they mostly trained in treating womens illnesses. Some doctors trained by reading the Hippocrates Corpus but only the wealthiest owned copies as the books were very expensive. The most common way mediacl students trained was to watch experienced doctors, and copying their methods. At the time - medical training was not compulsory for doctors, anyone could call themself a doctor.

Treatments: Roman doctors also recommended more exercise, changes in diets and all prescribed herbal remediies to their paitents. As a result, many people did exercises with trainers at public baths or the gymnasium. Modern doctors have estimated thar around 20% of the 600 remedies created would of been effective.

Disease: The Romans did perform some aputations such as trephining. Trephining was used to relieve pain in the head  and cataracts were removed from the eyes using fine needles. There was a definite change of attidude between the Greeks and the Romans; the Greeks were curious to find out about what caused disease whilst the Romans wanted to figure out what caused disease.

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The Romans produced the best practical health schemes the world had ever seen, this helped to protect people against disease. Fresh water were supplied to major towns by aqueducts and brick condruits. The water from the aqueducts/resevoir went to the cisterns and public fountains, baths, barracks, private houses and official/public buildings and lavatories which were then emptied into sewers. The sewers were built to take away sewage from private houses and public toilets.

The public baths had helped get rid of fleas which spread disease, public toilets were also built in towns ans they could seat around twenty people at the same time in the same time. There were also other public health measures which included rules about burying the dead and preventing fires.

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