Who made the more important contribution to the development of medicine, the Greeks or the Romans?
Both the Greeks and the Romans made contributions to the development of medicine. An example of this is that the Greeks (Hippocrates) came up with the theory of the four humours whereas the Romans (Galen) developed further. Both Greeks and Romans were hygienic, the Greeks had Asclepius (temple) and the Romans had public baths, sewers etc.
Firstly the most significant medical development that the Greeks contributed to was the logical theory known as the four humours and the importance of exercise. The Greeks believed that everything in the world came from four elements – Earth, Wind, Fire and water. These linked to the four seasons – summer, autumn, winter and spring. Elements and the seasons were related because for example summer was hot and dry as was fire. Greek doctors with cautious observation looked at the humours of the body. Phlegm, Blood, Black Bile and Yellow Bile related to the elements and seasons by seeing when they thought the humours were unbalanced, it was generally because either extreme or reduced levels. This influenced treatment because it was a natural explanation for illness rather than the idea of the Gods causing illness. The Greeks also believed that if they became ill, they would go to the Asclepius temple, they believed that Asclepius and his daughters would cure you when you were asleep.
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Hippocrates had different types and very clever ideas on observation, rest, exercise and praying. He said that if doctors were more likely to choose the right cure if they took care to find the cause of the problem. Hippocrates encouraged people to look for natural treatment rather that going to the Gods for help. He came up with the Hippocratic Oath and the aim of it was to give confidence in doctors. Abatons were built which were places where patients slept at night and were visited by Asclepius and his daughters. This shows that Hippocrates had a good idea about resting because there were abatons where patients stayed at night showing good rest because resting was important for good for health. Rich Greeks followed a ‘programme for health’, which included keeping themselves at level temperature, eating correctly, washing, brushing teeth, going for walks and finally keeping fit. Good exercise was because there were stadiums where people went to run and there were gymnasiums which both showed good health and fitness. Praying was also a major part of Greeks daily lives. The Greeks had lots of temples e.g. temple of Artemis showing that the Greeks were religious and believed in God. All of Hippocrates ideas influenced the health of the Greeks because all these were needed for a Greek person to be fit and healthy and to prevent them from illnesses and diseases. This meant that the Greeks made an important contribution to the development of medicine because if it wasn’t for Hippocrates to come up with the theory and to write it, Galen would not been of been able to extend it further.
Secondly the most significant medical development that the Romans contributed to was that they developed the Greeks ideas of the four humours further. The importance of soldier and the army for the Romans was vast. The Roman army had hundreds and thousands of soldiers, permanently stationed all over the empire, who were repeatedly at war. The government provided the army with the best medical care and hospitals as because they depended on the army to control the empire. This shows how important the army was for the Romans and how much they respected them by providing them with best medical care. The reason why the government provided the army with best medical care and hospitals was because the government wanted the soldiers to recover quickly so they can go back to the army, protecting the country.
Romans believed in personal health and hygiene. Historians know this because of the writing they left. The roman writer Celsus advised exercise before a meal, and bathing weak parts of the body (same as Hippocrates, ‘Programme for Health’). Gym exercises and deep breathing as a way of health was prescribed Galen. In Rome there were aqueducts that brought 222 million gallons of water daily into the city. Special commissioners monitored cleanliness and fair supply. Most of the private houses had cisterns and pipes. Baths in Rome were very high-class, they were covered with mirrors buried in glass lined with marble and silver. Many baths had gymnasia and massage rooms attached. Aediles (government official’s monitored cleanliness and behaviour). Clean water had a huge impact on the Romans. Polluted water caused diseases, and for good health the Romans believed it was important to have pure water. In Rome there were seven sewers. A force of 300 slaves cleaned the streets and latrines at night while people were asleep. I think that the Romans ideas on baths, aqueducts, water and sewers was very successful because they had good cleanliness to try to prevent illnesses from spreading from person to person. On the other hand there was Hippocrates ideas and exercise and rest which was good but not good enough as Galen using opposites to balance out the four humours. He told doctors to use past experiences to decide how to treat an illness.
Overall in conclusion having looked at the Greeks and Romans contributions to the development of medicine I think that the Greeks made the most important contribution because if it wasn’t for the Greeks to come up with the medical development theory of the four humours and the ‘Programme for Health’ then the Romans wouldn’t have been able to improve and develop their theory further.