Medicine in Ancient HIStory

When our literature club read books during the ancient times, I thought it would be fun to explore Ancient medicine.

Our German Shepherd, Alex, got sick last week and we had to find a veterinarian in San Antonio, our new home. The doctor examined him and checked to see if he had a kidney infection. The test was positive. She wrote a prescription for an antibiotic and told me to take it to my pharmacy. Really? Yes, in SATX, some veterinarians write prescriptions for your pets medication.

My first thought, “Generic drugs are free with our insurance.”

Second thought, “Shoot, Alex’s name isn’t on the prescription card.”

Third, “Duh, he’s your dog.”

I took the prescription to my pharmacist, half wondering if he would know what this paper was for. Turns out, it’s old hat in San Antonio for a pharmacist to fill prescriptions for animals. Later in the day I told my story to a friend and told me that at the local grocery store chain, HEB, you can get generic prescriptions for your pet for $5 each. Hum… pretty good deal.

I decided to write this post while I killed time reading posters the pharmacist had displayed showing the history of medicine. I thought that would be a fun topic to explore this week. Below you’ll find interesting tidbits about ancient medicine from Egypt, Babylon, Israel, India, China, and Greece. I’ve also included a book you can read with a project idea you can use with the children you read with. After that is a great article on ancient medicine written for the Biblical Archeological Review.

Facts About Medicine From Ancient Times

Herodotus described the Egyptians as “the healthiest of all men, next to the Libyans.” According to him, “the practice of medicine is so specialized among them that each physician is a healer of one disease and no more.”

Diagnostic Handbook written by the physician Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa during the reign of the Babylonian king, Adad-apla-iddina (1069-1046 BC).is the most extensive Babylonian medical text.

Most of our knowledge of ancient Hebrew medicine during the first thousand years comes from the first five books of the Bible.

The Atharvaveda, a sacred text of Hinduism. is the first Indian text dealing with medicine.

The initial text of Chinese medicine is the Huangdi neijing or Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, is composed of two books: the Suwen 素問, “Basic Questions,” and the Lingshu 靈樞, “Divine Pivot.”

The first known Greek medical school opened in Cnidus in 700 BC. The Greek, Galen, 130-201 BC , was one of the greatest surgeons of the ancient world and performed many audacious operations—including brain and eye surgeries— that were not tried again for almost two millennia. A good biography for your middle schooler to read about Galen is called Galen and the Gateway to Medicine. The children will learn about Greek medicine and this amazing man. You can take this opportunity to teach them the genre, biography. A fun project to accompany this book is called BOOK IN A BAG.

This article as written by Biblical Archeological Managing Web Editor Sarah Yeomans, who is also an archaeologist and historian.

Medicine in the Ancient World

Life in the ancient world was risky business. The perils of war, disease, famine and childbirth are a just a few examples of circumstances that contributed to a much lower average lifespan in the ancient world than we have in the modern era. People in antiquity were no less concerned about the prevention and cure of maladies than they are now, however, and entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world. So what exactly did ancient cultures do to combat disease and injury, and did these methods have any real basis in science as we know it today? The answers may surprise you.

Enjoy Ancient HIStory and Live Outside the Lines

What facinates you about Ancient HIStory?

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Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.

Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.

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