Medicine through time - pre history and anicent world

med through time

HideShow resource information

pre history

People lived a nomadic way of life, dominated by the constant search for food. There was no time to settle in one place or to question why things were the way they were. Consequently, there was no real progress for centuries.

they left no wriiten records, so our knowledge of their way of life is based on cave paintings, archaeological remians andand studies made int 20th century of less economically developed societies ike that of the Aboringines, whose traditional way of life is similiar.This evidence suggests that: Prehistoric people had supernatural explanations for disease:

* They believed it was caused by gods or spirits.

* They used charms for protection against these spirits.

* They used simple tools for trephining to release evil spirits from the skull.

* Medicine men were thought to have healing powers. The may have used herbs or plants for treating injuries, and have offered simple sacrafices to please the gods.

1 of 8

Ancient Egypt (3000 BC - 600 BC)

Egypt was one of the first civilisations- places where people settled and built permanent towns and cities. This made possible by the development of farming. Now that a few people could provide food for the whole community, it was possible for others to specialise in things like medicine. As a result, some new ideas were developed.

* There was a new theory of disease based on the idea that the body had many channels- like the River Nile and the irrigation channels that came from it. Some believed that illness happened when some of these channels got blocked (just like the Nile`s irrigation channels). This led to new treatments, such as purging with laxatives, bloodletting and enforced vomiting.

Many Egyptians, especically priests, believed in high standards of cleanliness, but this was mainly for religious reasons. The rich had simple toilets,but no drainage systems.

There were some doctors, but  their treatments were based mainly on spells and magic potions.

* Mummification of bodies led to greater knowledge of the human body and its organs, but did mt increase unnderstanding of how these organs worked.

2 of 8

Ancient Egypt (3000 BC - 600 BC)

People began to write ideas about treatments and spells on papyrus documents.

* However, many old ideas continued alongside the new ideas. For example:

- Most ancient Egyptians still believed that gods, such as Sekhmet, could cause or cure disease.

- Herbs were somtimes used for treatments.Some of these were very effective.

3 of 8

Ancient Greece (600 BC - 200 BC)

the greeks, like the egyptians were civilised in the sense that they lived in towns and cities. Some important new ideas developed at this time because the greeks traded with many countries and picked up knowledge from them. Ancient greece was also quite a rich society and people at "the top" had many slaves. This meant that they had time to think about and develop new ideas. The Greeks also had enquiring minds and wanted to understand the natural world better . They developed minds and wanted to understand the natrural world better. They developed new ideas in may areas including maths and science as well as medicine.

The most important development was the 4 humours because it was the first widely accepted explaination for disease based on natural and not supernatural causes. The theory was accepted by doctors for another 1,500 years and so greatly influenced how people were treated for illness during this time. According to the theory, illness developed when there was too much or too little of one of the four humours in the body - black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood

4 of 8

Ancient Greece (600 BC - 200 BC)

Treatments were also natrual : Paitents were told to rest, take care of their diet and let nature take its course. If this did not work, a doctor might restore the balance of the humours by , for example bloodletting. The balance of the humouirs was thought to be affected by the seasons: for example, people seemed to have too much phlegm during the winter months and this was thought to cause illness.

* Hippocrates insisted on high standards of behaviour from doctors (they were expected to take the Hippocartic Oath).

* Medical books were produced so that knowledge and ideas coulsd be passed on to teach each new generation of doctors (the Hippocratic Collection)

* Doctors were taught to observe patients carefully, record their symptoms and learn to forecast how illness would develop (clinical observation

5 of 8

Ancient Greece (600 BC - 200 BC)

Hippocratic doctors also believed that care over diet and exercise would maintain good health.

* Although they were more "scientific", Greek doctors depended on arugument and discussion when forming new ideas. They did not use experiments for proof like modern scientist.

These new ideas did not mean that old ideas would dissappeared. Both continued side by side.Most acient Greeks still believed that gods and goddesses caused things to happen. Asclepios was a god of healing and many Greeks preffered to go to a temple (the Asclepion) rather than to a doctor. Here, they believed that Aslepios would vist them in the night with his daughters Panacea and Hygeia, and cure them. People who revcoved form an illnss left stone inscriptions behind thanking the god.

Greek temples were often in very healthy places; they had baths, and arenas fo exercise , and people slept in abatons (open- air buildings). Perhaps this is why many got better- or maybe it was their faith  that helped them. They were convinced that the gods would help them and this gave them strength they needed to get well. 

6 of 8

Ancient Rome (200 BC - 500 AD)

The Romans conquered Greece and took up many Greek ideas about medicine.

* They were more interested in the prevention of disease and bulit up wast public health schemes throughtout their empire. No new ideas about the cause of disease apeared, but the Romans learned from experience that disease could spread in areas where thereswamps or marches. They were careful to bulid new forts and towns away from such areas.

* Most doctors in Rome were Greek- often brought to rome as prisoners of war. They were not generally popular and many Romans preferred to depend on the hea of the household for medical treatment.

* There was one important development in the treatment of illness. Galen, a Greek doctor in Rome, developed treatments based on the use of opposites. He believed in the thoery of the 4 humours, but he developed it by treating patients with the opposite of their ailment. For example for a cold he would prescribe a hot bath and pepper. Galen helped to keep others Hippocratic ideas going in Rome, besides becoming the greatest authority on human anatomy.His work, however, was based on the dissection of animals as religious beliefs at the time made the dissection of humans impossible.

* As in ancient Greece, supernatural ideas continued alongtside natural ideas. The Romans also believed in many gods and even built temples in honour of Asclepios.

7 of 8

Conclusion of pre historic world and ancient world

Some singnificant progress in medicine was mad in the ancient world:

* A new theory of disease was developed which had natural explainations.

* Medical knowledge was recorded.

* High standards were expected of doctors.

* There was greater understanding of cleanliness and exercise as means of staying healthy.

* Treatments based on natrual substances, such as herbs, continued throught this period.

HOWEVER: people still believed gods and spirits cause and cure disease. It was impossible to make progress towards understanding the causes of disease because the technology needed to help doctors know about germs had not yet been delveloped.

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Medicine through time (OCR History A) resources »