December 16, 2008
Medicine in Ancient Rome
The Ancient Rome made a huge input into medicine and health. Their input was mainly concerned with public health schemes. Though the Roman ‘discoveries’ may not have been in the field of pure medicine, poor hygiene by people was a constant source of disease, so any improvement in public health was to have a major impact on society. The Romans learned a great deal from the Ancient Greeks. They first came into contact with the Greeks in about 500 BC By 146 B.C. part of Greece had become a province of the Roman Empire and by 27 B.C. The Romans were in control not only of Greece but of Greek-speaking lands around the Mediterranean. They used the ideas of the Greeks but they did not simply copy them. Greek ideas they found impractical they ignored and it seems that the Romans were more keen on things that would lead to the direct improvement of the quality of life of the people in their huge empire. In the early years of the Roman Empire there were no people in what would be a separate medical profession. It was believed that each head of the household knew enough about herbal cures and medicine to treat illnesses in his household.
As the Roman Empire expanded into Greece, many Greek doctors came to Italy and Rome. Some of these were prisoners of war and could be bought by wealthy Romans to work in a household. Many of these doctors became valuable additions to a household. It is known that a number of these men bought their freedom and set up their own practices in Rome itself. After 200 BC, more Greek doctors came to Rome but their success at the expense of Romans did generate some mistrust. Many Greek physicians had the support of the emperors and the best known doctors were highly popular with the Roman public.
The Romans were great believers in a healthy mind equalling a healthy body. There was a belief that if you kept fit, you would be more able to combat an illness. Rather than spend money on a...