Ancient Greek Medicine

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The Ancient Greek Civilization

Greek culture spread across sourthern Europe.

  • 700BC- 300BC- medicine- influenced by the Egyptians
  • World- controlled by many Gods- wrote down myths
  • Loved to debate- views expressed

Asclepios was the Greek God of healing.

  • Spiritual/ supernatural approach to medicine- followed by the cult of Asclepios
  • Temples called Asclepions- people stayed in them when they were ill
  • Vistors- ceremonial washing in the sea, make sacrifice to the God & sleep in a building called an abaton (narrow with roof but no solid walls- open to the air)
  • While sleeping- God would come in dream & cure them
  • Preists did 'ward rounds'- administering ointments & performing rituals- some involved placing snakes on patient (snake is sacred animal of Aslepios)
  • Success stories- recorded in inscriptions on walls of the Aslepions
  • A's daughter- Hygeia & Panacea- involved in healing 
  • Women were allowed to be doctors
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Practical Medicine in Ancient Greece

Philosophers tried to explain things rationally.

  • Followers- 'Brotherhood of Pythagoras'-devotees & argued with other philosophers
  • Religion was interwoven in their logic
  • Thales of Miletus- founder of Greek philosophy- thought water was the basis of life (580BC)
  • Anaximander (560BC)- everything made up of four elements- earth, water air & fire
  • Phythagoras (580- 500BC)- life was about balance of opposites

Hippocrates- the founding father of Western medicine.

  • Hippocrates (460- 377BC)- born on island of Kos
  • Hippocratic Oath- promise by doctors to obey rules of behaviour in their professional lives
  • Hippocratic Corpus- collection of medical books- written by Hippocrates or his followers
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Practical Medicine in Ancient Greece

The ideas of the Hippocratic Corpus.

  • Healthy body- in balance- illness was an inbalance of elements
  • 'Airs, waters & places'- book from Hippocratic Corpus- environment instead of gods & spirits caused disease
  • 'Prognostic', 'Coan Prognostic' & 'Aphorisms' improve Egyptian ideas- diagnosis
  • Suggested- studying cases- doctors could learn to predict course of an illness
  • Encouraged the 4 step method- 'clinical method of observation'
  • 1) Diagnosis- study the symptoms
  • 2) Prognosis- consider & predict
  • 3) Observation- observe, note, compare
  • 4) Treatment- treat with confidence
  • Suggests- no action before reliable diagnosis is made
  • Ilness- where possible- left to run their course- 'Minimum intervention'
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Practical Medicine in Ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks had lifestyle regimens.

  • 'A regimen for Health' & 'Regimen in Acute disease' from HC- recommeneded lifestyles for healthy living or recovery from illness
  • Be healthy- exercise- Men- gymnasiums
  • Hygiene was important- emphasis on washing
  • Ancient Athens- system brought clean water through clay pipes
  • Diet was also important. 'Aregimen for Health' suggested- eating lots & drunking little in winter and vice versa in summer
  • Text- prescribes amount of sleep & exercise required- depending on digestive problems


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Practical Medicine in Ancient Greece

Aristotle linked disease to the Four Humours.

  • Aristotle (384BC- 322BC)- linked Hippocratic balance of elements to body fluids- blood, phlegm, yellow bile & black bile
  • Four seasons linked to four elements- balance for good health
  • Winter- get colds & produce more phlegm- rains more (linked water, winter & phlegm)
  • Failed to see symptoms were effects of disease rather than causes
  • Treatments- get four back in balance
  • Some- getting rid of an excess of one or another of the humours
  • Others counter balanced- foods, herbs, drinks & spices were considered to have humours- consume to correct imbalance
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Medicine in Alexandria

Alexandria became a centre of medical advance.

  • Founded- Alexander the Great
  • Library of A tried to amass all the knowledge of the world- made copies for other libraries- lucky due to fires
  • Human dissection was allowed- short time allowed vivsection of condemmed criminals
  • Famous for training medics & surgeons- accurate observation was key to advancement
  • Herophiluas (250BC) compared human & animal anatomy & worked on nervous system- correctly indentifed connection to brain but thought nerves were vessels carrying life force
  • Frasistratus (250BC)- identified differences between arteries, veins & nerves & saw nerves were not hollow
  • Doctors from A- practised from all over the world- but divided into competing intellectual camps - led to doctors only considering teachings of their own group
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Medicine in Alexandria

Surgery was a last resort for the Ancient Greeks.

  • Mechanics of surgery advanced but effective anaesthetics, antiseptics understanding germs & infections were far in future
  • Surgery- risky- patient often died from trauma or infection
  • Last resort- most treatments- outside the body- exception was draining lungs infected with pneumonia
  • Surgeons- good technique for settling broken bones- extreme- amputate
  • Surgical instruments- scalpels, forceps, shears, probes & hooks (iron, steel & brass)
  • Eye opperations occured
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