Вакулик Ирина Ивановна
Национальный университет биоресурсов и природопользования Украины
кандидат филологических наук, доцент

Данная статья посвящена процессу формирования картины мира античных народов в области медицины как связующего звена комплекса наук, которые эволюционировали в научном познании; особенностям развития древнегреческого и римского искусства врачевания, а также структурно организованным принципам ведения медицины сельского хозяйства конца II в. до н.э. – V в. н.э.


Vakulyk Iryna Ivanovna
National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine
PhD, assistant professor

This article focuses on the process of world view formation of ancient nations in medical sphere as a connecting link for a range of sciences which evolved in scientific knowledge; the features of the development of ancient Greek and Roman art of healing, as well as structurally organized medical principles in agriculture at the end of 2nd century B.C. – 5th century A.C.

Keywords: ancient medical science, ars medicinae, literature on veterinary science., medical schools, pansophy, world view

Рубрика: Лингвистика

Библиографическая ссылка на статью:
Вакулик И.И. Features of ancient nations scientific world view formation in medical sphere // Гуманитарные научные исследования. 2014. № 5 [Электронный ресурс]. URL: https://human.snauka.ru/2014/05/6729 (дата обращения: 14.05.2024).

Any mentality was always and is still based on nature that determined the universality of human existence and made up a unity synthesis with the outside world. The first cosmological (and cosmogonic) understanding had appeared long before scientific thinking was formed. They were expressed in mythological descriptions of the universe. And no matter how significant the hypothetical element in cosmological schemes is, in every epoch they still give some holistic image of the world relevant to the knowledge level reached [1, p. 97- 99].

“We must reckon with the fact that ancient history as a scientific discipline is a part of a single big science – the science of classical antiquity <…> The subject of this complex science is the study of ancient culture in all of its forms, to which we relate the language and the script of ancient Greeks and Romans, their social and political history, religion, art, literature, philosophy and science, technology, the way of life” [2]. However, we are not interested in the whole range of scientific knowledge embodied in ancient epoch, but only medicine and its origins.

The given accentuation of medical practice as a science was made conventionally. We will try to trace the evolution process of medical knowledge recorded in ancient monuments, identify the development principles of the target object to state confidently: modern sciences are being replenished with new spheres, new realia are modeled, but they reflect the universal knowledge of ancient nations about the world, human and society.

There is a little number of works in ancient Greek veterinary literature. So, Simon from Athens (up 430 BC) wrote a book “Valuation of horse”, Xenophon (445-345 B.C) in his economic treatise described dog-breeding and plague, which devastated herds by its sudden appearance. In “Iliad” Homer told about people dying out in Greek troops camp in 1218 BC, caused by the diseases of dogs, horses, mules. Democrite (470-402 B.C.) an agronomist and physician by education, paid a great attention to the anatomy of animals, describing their disposition [3, p. 36-37].

The name of a legend physician – a shepherd Melapsuse (1380 BC) is known from ancient sources. He was said to treat animals and people. The words: “Even Melapsus couldn’t have done this” were said about him. Aristotle also described out the types of diseases (colica, hernia entrapments, rabies, pneumonia, podagra, dirrhea) and methods of their treatment in the book “Animal history.”

Botany, zoology, comparative anatomy began to develop in the ancient Greek period.

Historic role of ancient Greece in medicine influenced greatly modern medical terminology (surgery – literally means “act by hands,” pediatrics – children treatment, psychiatry – treatment of soul, dermatology – skin studies, ophthalmology – science about eyes, neurology, therapy, pneumonia, pleurisy, nephritis, epilepsy etc). These ancient Greek terms are still used in modern medicine.

In ancient Greece medicine existed in two areas: it was professional and temple. Professional medicine was characterized by the appearance of medical schools at hospitals, where people got education, after finishing school they vowed to serve to the society. Physicians went in for private practice or worked in hospitals. Local medical schools (medici) performed the function of health care of local population.

Asclepius (Aesculapius – in Latin) was the best known ancient physician. By retellings he lived in North Greek and was a well-known doctor. As Homer told in “Iliad”, Asclepius was adored by everybody; he came into Greek and world literature as a God of healing – the sun of Apollo “the curing.”

Aesclepius was mainly portrayed with a large stick and a snake around it – the symbol of health and medicine. In mythology of acient East countries the snake was also shown together with divinities, which were connected with health and medical practice. The snake is met in the hands of praying priestesses.

This emblem is of ancient origin and is connected with animal worship. A snake and a raven were considered to be the embodiment of wisdom from time of immemorial. Some nations had legends about people who ate snakes and mastered the deepest knowledge after that. They could treat and recognize diseases. These legends were artistically depicted in the literature of Africa, Australia, Asia, Oceania, Central and South America, South Eastern Europe and also in Latin proverb Estote prudentes, sicut serpentes (Be reasonable like snakes).

Knowledge wasn’t differentiated in ancient times, therefore the emblem of snake concerned knowledge as a whole. This emblem is still used in many countries of the world in the signboards of pharmacies and other medical organizations, in the forms of doctors and organizations, as a book sign, though its primary meaning was lost long ago.

The snake was always connected with fertility, land, woman’s ability to bear children, the water, the rain – on one hand and home fire, the fire (especially heavenly), a man genital strength – on the other. Antique authors and archaeological data testify that in sciff – Iran tradition the goddess with snake legs and two snakes lowering from the shoulders was known.

Ancient Egypt is characterized by using the snake as a social symbol distinguishing the tsar (the symbol of pharaoh). In the countries of Indian areal a head dress in the form of twisting snake is used for the members of tsar family. In ink kingdom the snakes were depicted on the emblem of supreme ink.

There were several science schools studying medicine and veterinary in ancient Greece. Ionian, Crotonic, Cniddian, Cosian, idealistic and natural philosophic were the most significant among them.

The representatives of Ionic school (natural philosophers Thalesus, Anaximander, Anaximenes – VI cent. BC., Leucippus – V c. BC) expressed the ideology of the poor – merchants, craftsmen, who won the aristocry in 509 year. The main points of this school were the following:

substance is the first source of environment, which has existed for ages;

the particles of substance joining together form all bodies in nature without gods help;

-all is in a state of flux, nothing is constant in the world;

any thing is the unity of contrasts.

The theory of Anaximenes about the air as the basis of all alive – was the ideological base of Crotonic school. Crotonic doctor Alcmaeon, quided by Anaximenes’s views, described a pneumatic system, according to it all living organisms were filled with contrasts: wet and dry, cold and warm, bitter and sweet etc. The  breach of contrast balance causes diseases. The therapy principle – to treat by the opposite is originated from it.

Cniddian school was formed in the town Cnidoss in Vc. BC. According to the theory of this medical school contrasts existed in the form of moisture. And the organism was healthy until they coordinated.

Cossian school created on Coss island (near Asia Minor), reached the highest results in practical medicine, especially in V-IV c. B.C.). Hippocrate (460-352B.C.) was the most outstanding representative of this school. He became a priest at the age of twenty, as it was not allowed to be engaged in medicine practice without this. The historians of that period wrote, that he was the star and light of medical art [4, vol.1, p. 36-40].

Hippocrate mastered the fundamentals of medicine due to his father Heraclite at the temple of Asclepiade, where patients were treated and medical art was taught. Temples-hospitals were mainly built outside the large cities in picturesque (mountain) areas, surrounded by orchards, vineyards, near rivers or healthy springs. Most sick people moved with their property to such temples. “Treasures” passed into doctors property in case of uncurable diseases and lethal outcome and a patient gave a considerable part of property to the temple in case of recovery.

The treatment at such hospitals was based on the entire developed system of infusion: the prepation of a patient by abstinence, prayers, sacrifices, then as an obligatory element a sleep in a special room, where the priests explained the patients dreams. Special attention was paid to water-cure, massage. When there was a necessity of surgical interference doctors appeared before patients in the appearance of the god Aesclepius, who deigned to concede to patients’s request.

Hippocrates separated the medicine from divine deed, throwing off prayers, charms, amulets and other mystic ritual, which was used by medicine of asclepiads and ancient Egyptians.

The reaserchers of ancient Greek medicine belived that Hippocrate belonged to 17-th generation of physicians of asklepiade school. The main credo of his medical practice was: the necessity to bring wisdom (philosophy) in medicine and medicine in wisdom. In his practice he paid a great attention to hygiene, diet, environment. He considered each patient’s organism to be entire, a part of nature. The descendant of asllepiade school worked out the diagnostics problems and diseases symptoms. Therefore the names of those diseases, that have come to modern nomenclature are found in his works.

The principles of Hippocrate treatment system were: not to damage (non nocere); the contary was treated by contrast (contraria contraries curantur); to help the nature by treating; follow to sensibility, take care of patients.

After the death of ancient Greek physicians his memory was honoured every year. According to the legend, a bee swarm settled on one of the trees, and its miraculous honey healed many illnesses.

In Hippocrate’s works there are over 300 medicines of plant, mineral and animal origin. Most of them were known to Chinese, Hindu, Egyptians. Wormwood, mint, olives, pepper, pomegranate, turpentine are often mentioned as anthelmintic preparations.

Pythagoras from Samosa (580-497 B.C.) was the speaker of an idealist school. He was an outstanding mathematician and the first who emphasized the importance of soul. He rejected medicamentous treatment, trusted in God and considered the temple medicine to be the best one.

Empedocles (490-430 B.C.) identified a soul with a process of thinking, believing that a human being thought by blood not by brain. As a representative of idealist school, being a municipal doctor, he showed himself in ecology problems (he proposed to drain swampy areas). He disinfected houses as a method of struggle with diseases, which spread through the air.

Medical school of Plato (427-347B.C.) was based on the principle that a human being consisted of two elements – a soul and a body.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) – an apprentice of Plato and Democritus the teacher of Alexander of Macedon, the most prominent encyclopaedian of antiquity was the representative of Natural philosophical school. The achievements of the entire natural philosophy were generalized in his works “Physics,” “Metaphysics,” “Ethics,” “About soul” “Organon,” “The origin of animals”. The author saw and felt the correlation between nature and living organisms.

Aristotle collected a great number of zoological objects from the whole Greece due to the assistance of Alexander of Macedon, services of fishermen, hunters and shepherds. He dissected, drew an internal and external structure of researched animals. The anatomic atlas was compiled and new anatomic terms were introduced due to his researches. He created the first scientific classification of organisms, making it in the form of nature stairs: from the lowest organisms to the highest ones. The entire animal kingdom was divided into two large groups (warm – blooded and cold – blooded) according to the principle of dichotomy.

In taxonomy Aristotle distinguished a species (eidos) that is really existed organisms and a genus (genes). He described 520 species from the point of view of morphology, physiology, biology and partly embryology. Aristotle gave a complete description of symbiosis and migration of animals which he connected with the searches of the best living conditions. He thought that cats didn’t exist only for catching mice, and mice didn’t exist for being eaten.

Theophrastus Tyrtamus (377-288 B.C.), the pupil of Aristotle laid the scientific foundation of botany. He described over 500 plants (in 15 books), was engaged in helminthology. Diocles Coristsky (360-289 B.C.) studied the effect of medicinal drugs experimentally: he gave different preparations together with food to experimental animals and studied their behaviour.

Traditional notions about health and methods of treatment at household (pater familias) were the bases of Roman medicine. The works of Caton and Pliny the Senior were the source of Roman medicine.

Households didn’t keep special physicians. And though large private land estates were often situated in swamp areas, Romans belived that physical labour was the best medicine and it was easier to warn diseases than to treat them. At the same time pater familias had to know not only how to help tae damaged tree and a sick sheep, but how to help a sick worker. Fat oil, pure wool, medicinal herbs (for example rose oil with honey was prescribed by Galen in case of cold) were the predominant methods of treatment.

Under the empire agricultural medicine gradually adapted to new conditions and external influences. Physicians knowing medical hellenic theories treated the most well-to-do public. The majority of population were served by medici, who sometimes couldn’t even read or were charlatans. Wearing expensive clothes, a lot of decorations and medical instruments, so-called physicians even didn’t have any imagination about them. They organized impovised scientific readings, trying to impress the crowd. Phessal Tralsky, whom Galen together with his pupils called phessal donkeys, encouraged others to learn the art of medicine for half a year. Slaves were also allowed to study at the school of physicians. However a practicing physicians experienced in anatomy, physiology, who knew medicine and pharmacology was highly appreciated. To Galen’s mind a physicians had to be able to prepare monkeys, rabbits, pigs.

In his autobiographical work “The determination of diagnosis” C. Galen told about the experiment with the swine at the house of a well-to-do owner Phlavius Boet. The swine’s vocal chords were paralysed for a definite time. The nature of the respiration and voice origin was proved by such experiment [5, p. 271-274].

The physicians of Roman Empire united in medical boards. Their rights and duties were quaranteed by a special decree as Antonio Pius testified. Medical instruments were perfect and of diverse. Bronzed surgical instruments were mainly used (such were described by Homer), but those made of silver were not available for everybody.

Roman system of sanitary and hygiene was sufficiently developed: towns were provided with fresh water, marshy areas were drained, and bath –houses (termas) were an integral part of Roman way of life and the anthority constantly took care of them. There were 11 water –pipes, about 600 fountains in Rome before I c. A.D. Marcius water-pipe was the largest. It was buil in 144 B.C. and its length was over90 kilometres. Every day about 1 ml. m³ of water came to Rome until III B.C.

Water was needed not only for drinking and household needs, aqueducts provided private and town bath houses. Aqueducts were such an obligatory part of everyday life Romans -as gymnasiums for Greeks. Whenever Romans were, they built bath-houses everywhere. A club, a library, a stadium were situated there.Termas were the place for resting, talking and signing treaties. In all variants – from modest in a country –side to luxirious emperor in a capital – the principle of their operation was constant: they were heated by the system of central heating, warm air circulated through pipes.

Roman bath-houses were not only the place for rest, but they were a wonderful prophylaxis means, a peculiar water therapy to support life tone and health of citizens. Cold and hot sources taking in turn, staying in open air removed physical and nervous overburdening and were the base of prophylactic practice. One more ancient construction cloaca (VI-V B.C.) with the system of sewer –remained with aqueducts.

Medical theory and practice of ancient Rome gained considerable experience in various branches-anatomiy, physiology, dignostics, dietetics, prophylaxis. Asia Minor cities Athens and Alexandria were recognized as the centres of medical science. Future doctors arrived here to acquaint themselves with medicine and philosophy, since a true physician, as repeated Galen, had to know the laws of wisdom.

The conquest of the territories of Africa, Sicily, Gallia, Spain, Britain by Roman legioners promoted the development of stock-breeding and medicine, which served it.

In his poem “About the nature of things” Tit Lucrecius Carr (99-55 B.C.) laid out a philosophic view on a seed, which was a source of infectious diseases. From the work “Agriculture” (“De agri cultura liber”) of Mark Caton (234-149 B.C.) contemporaries derived a lot of valuable information about the state of agriculture (how to take care of cattle, how to feed; how to treat in case of colic, dyspepsia, helminth); how to save fertility (he knew siderial fertilizers-the effect of them was in tilling of plants specially grown for green fertilizer into soil).

Mahon, an inhabitant of Carthagen wrote twenty eight books dealt with the problems of agriculture, stock breeding, veterinary. Mark Terencius Varron (116-27 B.C.)a representative of nobility, wrote three books (Rerum rusticarum libri tres), in which the fundamentals of household and agriculture management were founded. He found out the causes of the biggest bad harvests of his time; paid attention to the problem of fruit-rotation; promoted the union of farming and stock-breeding; was ocupied with the problem of fish farming, poultry; recommended the ways of isolation of sick animals from healthy ones; described perfectly the determination of animal age by teeth.

Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 B.C.) a famous poet of ancient Rome, the author of “Eneida” was a veterinary doctor of imperial stables. In the book “Georgics” Vergilius described in poems the ways of overcoming of animal infectious diseases, mange, anthrax, rabies, cattle-plague. He prohibited to take off the skin from ill animal corpses recommending to bury them into holes.

Julius Moderatus Columella (I c. A.D.) – the supporter of slave-owning system, demanded the strengthening of slave exploitation, distribution of professions and improvement of qualification; proposed to fertilize soils, to till the soils deeply and carefully; and also put efforts for the science, as only it “illuminates the way”. He wrote twelve books, among which, the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth were dedicated to cattle, poultry, fish, bee-keeping, hunting and the enumeration of farm manager responsibilities. Columella was one of the first authors, who used the term “veterinary”. To his mind, each owner had to know this science, examine animals every day and treat sick animals.

Clavdius Galen wrote about 120 works, concerning the problems of medicine, mathematics, philosophy. His medical theory summed up the most significant achievements of antique medicine. Galen considered Plato, Hippocrate, Herophilus, Erasistratius be his teachers.

An emigrant from Asia Minor (born in 129 year in Pergami in the family of architect Nikon), he spend the largest part of his life in the capital of empire. He was respected by emperor Mark Aurelius. He studied in Smirna, Corynph, Athens, Alexandria, where he improved his knowledge in anatomy. Galen took the position of a doctor of gladiator’s school at the age of 28.

He started his medical career after he had cured the host of the house from malaria. Capital doctors weren’t able to do that. Later Galen was introduced to all famous and educated Romans, who gladly appealed to him for help.

More than once a Roman doctor gave lectures in medical theory and philosophy in Concordi temple and dissected animals to prove his statements. Such demonstrations interested the public, but this sharpened the relations with capital doctors. Maybe this was caused by the fact, that Galen was a private doctor of Mark Aurelius and his son, the future emperor Commodus.

Veges (450-510 A.D.) wrote four books under the title “Mulemedicine” (“Artis veterinariae sive digestorum mulomedicinae libri”) found in Hungary in 1528. The teaching of Hippocrate and Galen was the basis of his work. Therefore the author opposed witchcraft and divinities, believing that everything attributed to gods was the result of ignorance. Veges perfectly described rabies, made the classification of horse diseases, described the diseases of urine organs and eyes [6, vol.1].

Antiquity formed a holistic image of the world that was relevant to the scientific knowledge system level ars medicinae reached at that time; laid the foundations of practical research on treatment and health issues of people and animals. So, we may discuss about the extrapolation of mystical and magical forms of treatment on modern means and methods of scientific knowledge in medicine.

Thus representatives of different medical schools of ancient Greece and physicians of ancient Rome founded the grounds of the development of future medicine and veterinary, which are still used as a source of various researches.

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