The History of Ancient Medicine

Some links to useful materials
Professor N.H. Demand
e-mail: demand@indiana.edu


Notice: This material is the copyrighted property of the author and should not be reproduced without the author's permission.


This site offers materials in the history of ancient medicine, from its beginnings in Mesopotamia through the Hippocratics, with an addendum on Roman midwives.. The approach is to understand medicine within its cultural context rather than to judge it in terms of modern biomedicine - to investigate different conceptions of the illness and healing and how the various cultures constructed illnesses.
The view of the history of ancient medicine in this site involves the application of an anthropological model of a health care system (Arthur Kleinman). It concerns evidence not only about professional caregivers, but also about the concepts of illness of ordinary lay people and their everyday efforts to deal with it, including the god Asclepius and his healing temples. Some of the texts offer a view behind the traditional screen of privacy of the household to find out about the care that women gave to other women in the home and family. While attempts at retrodiagnosis will be considered, basically the site looks at the way in which culture "constructed" the experience of illness so as to create culturally specific conditions that have no biomedical counterpart (such as the Greek Disease of Maidens, or the Egyptian problem of a build-up of .ukedu, or excrement, and the consequent need for purging treatments)
This site was developed for a course dealing with Egypt, Mesopotamia, China and India and was framed in terms of Guido Majno's book, The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World, Cambridge: Harvard Press, 1975, but with other sources of information to round out the picture. For the sections on Greek and Roman medicine, it makes use of texts from the period, notably the Hippocratic writings, many of which can be found in G.E.R.Lloyd, Hippocratic Medicine

 
 PART ONE: THE ANTHROLOGICAL APPROACH

PART TWO: MEDICINE IN OTHER ANCIENT CULTURES

PART THREE: PREHIPPOCRATIC AND HIPPOCRATIC MEDICINE