The Roman Empire, one of the most important empires that history has ever seen, has revealed many concepts and institutions that can be encountered even in modern life. Ancient Roman people had a much more modern approach than their predecessors in many areas. For example, Ancient Rome was much more advanced than the civilizations before and after it in terms of cleanliness and hygiene. Of course, there were also very interesting examples of medical practices in Ancient Rome. In addition, using amulets to protect against diseases and making sacrifices to gods believed to have healing powers were also common elements of medicine in Ancient Rome. But of course, they also used more modern methods when fighting diseases! Here are 7 things you need to know about Ancient Roman medicine…
1. The blood and liver of killed gladiators were used to cure diseases
Doctors in ancient Rome were unaware of the diseases or neurological disorders caused by microscopic creatures! For example, they knew almost nothing about epilepsy. For this reason, they developed an extremely interesting method for the treatment of this mysterious disease. Doctors in ancient Rome advised epilepsy patients to “drink the hot blood flowing from the throat of a dying gladiator”! In addition, the liver of a deceased gladiator was among the most common prescriptions written by Ancient Roman doctors! There was a rather peculiar reason for these unusual treatment methods. In ancient Rome, gladiators were seen as representations of the healthy male. Therefore, drinking their blood or eating their liver was a common treatment.
2. One of the most important doctors of Ancient Rome, “Galen of Pergamum” influenced modern medicine hundreds of years after his death.
Born and raised in Greece, Galen took pretty good anatomy and physiology classes in Alexandria. He improved his medical skills by treating injured gladiators before settling in Rome in 162 AD. He was one of the first doctors to emphasize the importance of exercise, balanced diet and hygiene. He put forward theories explaining that the brain, not the heart, controls the body. He was the first doctor to define the difference between an artery and a vein! Galen, who was also the private doctor of some emperors, also signed extremely valuable anatomy studies. Hundreds of studies of Galen of Pergamon in the field of medicine were accepted as the standard in Western medicine until the 1500s.
3. Anatomy studies in ancient Rome were also a folk pastime!
In fact, the anatomy knowledge of the Ancient Roman people was quite poor. Because religious beliefs and ethical concerns did not allow Ancient Roman doctors to do detailed studies, especially on human anatomy. For this reason, the doctors of Ancient Rome, especially Galen, were working on the anatomy of pigs or primates. Doctors performed these anatomy studies publicly to attract new patients. Thus, anatomy studies became a show and entertainment for the public over time.
4. Dreams were very important in diagnosing diseases
Doctors in ancient Rome used dreams without diagnosing many diseases. Because to them, dreams are signals from the spirit and contain much more information about illness than meets the eye! For this reason, the dreams of patients largely determined the treatment methods and processes of doctors.
5. The average life expectancy of a Roman soldier was 5 years longer than a Roman citizen
Because Emperor Augustus had persuaded successful doctors to work for the army. Army doctors were given fairly good conditions, including full Roman citizenship, tax exemption, and many benefits such as retirement. They also had a well-equipped hospital that Roman doctors could use on the battlefield. However, doctors working in the military had more knowledge in the field of anatomy and had the opportunity to constantly improve themselves. As a result of all these developments, Roman soldiers could easily reach the highest medical standards in Rome. Thus, the average life expectancy of a Roman soldier became 5 years longer than a Roman citizen.
6. The healthcare industry in ancient Rome was open to women
Today, scientists think that women also took part in the medical sector in Ancient Rome, based on their studies. So there were female doctors in Ancient Rome. However, they were not very common. Ancient Roman women often served as medical personnel assisting male doctors. In particular, they were working at the time of birth or during the administration of necessary treatments for pregnancy.
7. Cabbage was the miracle medicine of Ancient Rome
Many Ancient Roman doctors knew that a balanced diet was closely related to health. But cabbage had a different significance for the Romans. Cabbage was touted as a “superfood” in ancient Rome. To the Romans, there was nothing that cabbage didn’t do well! For example, crushed cabbage could painlessly treat wounds, bruises, fractures and dislocations. Also, cabbage was good for all internal organs! Inhaling the smoke of boiled cabbage increased fertility. In fact, taking a bath with the urine of someone who consumed a lot of cabbage was good for many diseases!