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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Roman Cures and Concoctions!

The Romans adopted the majority of their medical teachings and practices from the Greeks. In fact, the most respected and sought after doctors that practiced in the Roman Empire were Greek - for example, Hippocrates and Galen.

Even so, the Roman's distrusted Greek Doctors! Roman writer, Pliny even wrote that he'd heard that all Greek doctors swore an oath to kill all foreigners - definitely a misunderstanding of the Hippocratic oath (a pledge still taken by today's Doctors and thought to have been written by Hippocrates).

Me with my Roman Medicine Table for NSEW 2014!
Speaking of Hippocrates, although commended though the ages and given the nickname 'father of western medicine', he did have a couple of strange practices including tasting his patient's urine and earwax to diagnose their illness.

Another way to find out what was wrong with you was to visit one of the temples dedicated to the God of Healing, Asclepius. These temples became popular around the year 300 BC  and involved patients spending the night sleeping on the temple floor with snakes crawling around between them. The snakes were meant to inspire dreams in the unwell which would reveal how they could be cured.

Statue of Asclepius, exhibited in the Museum of Epidaurus Theatre.
Once the patient had been diagnosed, if they had survived the terror of the snake pit or the embarrassment of seeing the doctor drink your wee, then came the treatment.

Galen believed in the curative power of opposites. So, if you had a fever, he'd give you a cucumber and if you had a cold he'd prescribe hot pepper! I personally think I'll stick to the antibiotics!

Other cures included...
  • Drinking gladiator's blood to cure epilepsy.
  • Eating goat dung soup if you had a headache.
  • Applying boiled liver to sore eyes.
Even though it may seem like the Romans' medical practices were crazy, some of their ideas were pretty advanced!

My own efforts in making a herb parcel! Romans dropped these in their baths and cooking pots!
They had a vast knowledge of herbs and their healing properties - for example they knew that fennel aided digestion and that mint had antiseptic properties. 

They were also aware of being able to catch diseases through drinking unclean water, Vitruvius, a Roman architect, wrote: 

"We must take great care in searching for springs and, in selecting them, keeping in mind the health of the people."

So, next time you're stuck in bed with a cold, be thankful you're not a Roman!


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