GCSE Ancient Medicine

GCSE History Ancient Medicine - Found these from when I was doing GCSE. I loved History :)

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  • Created on: 13-02-10 17:17


Very fit and muscular people yet most people died before 40.

Very healthy teeth but they were ground down by stone particles from food.

Most women died from childbirth, women died younger than men.

Many people suffered from bad joints - carrying or pulling heavy loads caused this.

People died from disease, infections, warfare, bleeding, food shortages, poor diet and famine.

Supernatural explanation for illnesses.

Women had a vital role in health care.

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Prehistoric 2

We learn from Aborigines that Prehistoric people...

Believed in evil spirits, witchcraft, superstition and Gods caused illnesses. Supernatural treatments included trephining, prays, charms and sacrifice.

Natural causes included insect bites, environmental, lifestyle and diet. Natural treatments included the use of clay for setting bones, herbal remedies, massages and medicine men and women.

Ethnographic evidence from Aborigines...

-They were nomadic and lived in temporary shelters.

-No written language or evidence.

-Great storytellers and artists.

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Settled civilization and therefore important progression there was all written evidence.

Anatomy is the understanding of the structure of the body.

Egyptians believed in life after death which helped knowledge of the human body and about anatomy through religious practice of mummification.

Surgical tools were advanced so minor surgery procedures could be undertook.

Egyptians were not allowed to dissect over and above the removal of the soft organs and this provided a lack of experimental dissection for religious reasons and limited what they learned about anatomy, this hindered the development of medicine.

Believed that natural remedies worked best; honey, frankincense and other herbal remedies.

Changes: Doctors looked for logical causes of disease, knowledge of some parts of the body, metal instruments and recording of instruments.

Continuities: Herbs, Gods (Sekhmet) and spirits.


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Egyptians 2

Factors which influenced medicine...

Wealthy - When river Nile flooded the soil became fertile which produced good harvest. Powerful rulers, international trade, large cities, writing and advanced civilisation.

Specialist Doctors - Rich employed doctors, Pharoah has his own physician.

Metal Workers - Skilled craftsmen made medical instruments for doctors.

Trade - Widespread trade links and this helped with the knowledge of herbal medicine from other countries.

Writing - Developed Papyrus, treatments and remedies could be passed on.

Religion - Believed in life after death so bodies were embalmed and some organs were preserved this increased their knowledge of anatomy.

River Nile and Farming - Irrigation of the channels inspired doctors to think of the body like the river Nile and if the stream was blocked it was like a blockage in the channels of the body therefore caused the person to become ill.

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Greek Gods

Greeks worshiped the God of healing, Asclepius. People believed that if they were to sleep in an Asclepion temple, at night they would be cured by the God and his two daughters.


Hippocrates were the philosophers and they moved from supernatural theories to new rational theories.

Hippocrates believed in the theory of the four humours. This idea grew from the theory of the four elements and the four seasons. They believed that it was essential for the four liquids of the body to be in balance in order to be healthy – phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile.

They developed the idea that all illnesses should be observed and recorded. The Hippocratic Collection contains detailed advice on treatment for patients.

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Greece 2

Greek doctors used the following to prevent and treat illness:

Observation: diagnosis, history and symptoms.

Treatments: vomiting, purging, bleeding and visiting the Asclepion temple.

Advice: how to treat illnesses; diet and exercise.

Surgery: sharp instruments were used for amputation, setting broken bones, draining of the lugs. Most operations were not invasive.


In Greece you could not dissect dead bodies and this hindered the development of medicine. However in Alexandria, the center of all medical knowledge because of it’s university and library, you could dissect bodies. Medical students would travel there to learn about medicine.

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They had high standards and wanted a better life for their patients hence why the Hippocratic oath is still taken today.

Hippocratic collection of books contains symptoms and treatments.

Hippocrates showed importance of observing and recording.

Developed the idea of the four humours and looked for natural reasoning of disease rather than supernatural.

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Rome vs. Greece

Had larger cities that were cramped – health problems.

Had a centralized strong government - wealthy

Preferred practical theories.

Had a huge army thus the reason they had good medical car

Connections between Roman and Greek medicine.

First doctors in Rome were Greek doctors captured as prisoners of war.

Greek doctors flocked to Rome because they could make a good living.

Romans took over Alexandria - center of medical learning.

Main medical books in Rome were written by Hippocrates and his followers who were all Greek.

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Rome 2

Were medical ideas the same?

In time of plague, Romans turned to outsider – Asclepuis. Gods were a first resort to help against illness. In many cities, doctors gave free treatment to the poor. Women had a vital role.

Some trained by reading the Hippocratic collection. Some became apprentices.

They used bleeding. Invasive operations were rare. They did amputation and used trephining.

Why was the Roman public health so good?

Like Greeks, learned from observation.

Used empirical method of solving problems.

Undertook huge engineering projects eg; draining swamps.

Romans had a strong centralized government organization backed up by a extensive civil service and were thus able to develop their excellent public health system.

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Rome 3

The Romans built Aqueducts

Fresh water was directed from the springs to the aqueducts where it was taken to a reservoir, From their the water was supplied by lead piping to baths, barracks, private houses, public buildings, latrines, cisterns and public fountains. The water then went to sewers which emptied into the river.

Public toilets were sewage was flushed away.

Public baths where you could exercise, swim and chat with friends.

Built brick and stone channels for water to run through.

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Rome 4

Why did the Romans do this?

Building an Empire involved war. The Romans needed fit soldiers so they developed a good public health system. Roman soldiers also provided the need for progress in battlefield surgery.

The glory of Rome.

Pax Romana

Providing all countries within the Empire with the same standards, it was hoped that peace would be achieved and maintained.

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Rome 5

Why were the Romans able to do this?


Introduced a system of taxing their people so there was money to pay for the imporvments of the public health.


Had a centralized government where all decisions were made.


Many skilled engineers – knowledge and capabilities to be able to build the nescessary sewage and water systems required.

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Rome 6 (Galen)

Galen’s ideas and methods

He went to Alexandria, he was a surgeon at a Gladiator school.

Developed the theory of opposites to treat unbalanced humours.

He believed that the body was well designed as a whole and this later fitted in with the Christian belief.

Dissection and surgery; he dissected human bodies in Alexandria but in Rome he had to do with animals so some of his work was wrong. He proved that the brain controlled speech and that arteries and veins carried blood.

Religious attitudes hindered Galen. Galen could only base his work on anatomy on the wounds of gladiators and the dissection of animals. He therefore made mistakes which were not rectified until Vesaulius.

He observed his patients carefully but also tried to treat them at the same time.

*When the Roman Empire collapsed, all anatomical knowledge was lost.

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