Greek civilisation was at its height between 600BC and 300BC.
Science, philosophy and mathematics were important to many Greeks and new theories were developed. Medicine developed too. A Greek Philosopher, called Hippocrates discovered medical observation. This helped medicine develop, because he would measure the patient's symptoms and reactions, this helped him to learn about different illnesses and what they would be like if left untreated.
There was also another philosopher called Asclepios. He believed in spiritual healing. He had a serpent, and would make the serpent lick the wounds of the afflicted. For example is there was a blind man, he would get the serpent to lick the patients eyes, and he would be believed to have been healed.The ideas of Philosophers helped develop ideas in medicine. Knowledge of the anatomy could only progress when human dissection became acceptable.
Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle argued that once the soul had left the body, it was acceptable to cut the body up and that the body was not needed after death. Dissecting was allowed in Alexandria- for a short time even dissection of the living was carried out. Criminals, who were condemned to die, were dissected and consequently the movement of blood around the veins was discovered, along with, the accurate positions of the organs in the body. This practise was soon stopped, but dissection of the dead was still carried out.The school of Alexandria also helped in the development of things.
Having a library was a luxury. It was a place where people could go and study. The Greek's yearned to learn, and because many Greek's were rich, they had servants to look after their houses, and so they did not need to be at home supervising, they went to the library. The library was a place where writers and thinkers could meet. The discovery of the role of the human brain took place there.
Many Greek Doctors realised the importance of keeping healthy. The idea of a regime for a healthy lifestyle was not a new one. The Greek's had always believed that eating and drinking well helped to keep healthy. They were always looking for ways to prevent ill health. Exercise and keeping clean had always been a big part of Greek life.
The Olympic Games started in Greece so it was very important for the Greeks to remain fit enough to take part. Athletes would normally do their chosen sport naked, and covered in special oil- they would then spend hours scraping the oil off and preparing themselves to go back to normal studies.The Greeks learnt so much about medicine and other things because they had a settled way of life, which meant that menial house tasks were done by servants- so it gave them time to think about things and would fill their heads with knowledge. They also got ideas from other places, such as friends or families may have shared knowledge. Greek doctors practised all over the Mediterranean world. They took with them ideas about the way doctors should behave, about care for the patient, and about prevention of disease.
In many places they were welcome. There are elements of Greek medicine that have had a significant impact on later cultures, both on the kinds of medicine they practiced and their ideas about how illnesses should be treated. Some of these ideas and practises were passed down, lost, and then rediscovered. One of the most significant legacies handed down by the Greeks was the idea that doctors should follow a set of rules of behaviour.
Hippocrates set out a Hippocratic Oath for doctors- which outlined the way they should behave.Perhaps the most famous Greek doctor was Hippocrates. He was born about, 460BC and the medical books associated with him were written from about 430BC onwards. They were called the Hippocratic Corpus/Collection.
Hippocrates did not want doctors to rely on a theory of the cause of disease that could be applied to every case. Instead he wanted doctors to observe each patient carefully and observe the progression of their illness. He firmly rejected magical cures and causes. He discovered and developed the idea of the four humours. He had a theory. His theory was to let illness run its natural course, but to keep a close eye on the patient and clinically observe their symptoms.
Many Greeks, however, still believed in the supernatural. They believed that god's and goddesses were in control of different things. For example, they thought that there was a god that caused thunder and lightening, or a goddess that caused death, so when bad things- or good things happened, they would turn to the god's and ask what they had done wrong. Asclepios was among many famous and well known gods. Asclepios was the Greek god of healing. The temples built for his worship were used for treating the sick.
They were called Asclepion. When a sick person arrived at an Asclepion temple, they would usually go through the following process;* Make an offering or sacrifice to the god.* Bathe in the sea to cleanse and purify them.* Sleep for at least on night in the abation, a long thin building open to air on both sides.* While sleeping in the abation the patients expected to be visited by the god. Some had dreams.
Others were probably treated by the priests. The snake was Asclepios' sacred animal. He was usually seen holding a staff with a snake wound round it in Greek cravings. The priests used snakes as part of the treatment in the abation. Ointments were often rubbed into the part of the body where symptoms occurred.
Sometimes the snakes licked the sick part as well.The patient was supposed to wake up cured the next morning. Sometimes they did. Other times they did not.The real growth of the cult of Asclepios came much later and the great temples were built in 400BC.
Two different medical traditions developed in ancient Greece. One was the supernatural tradition, associated with the cult of Asclepios. The other was a rational tradition which was associated with Hippocrates. What happened in Ancient Greece was not of a primitive supernatural system of medicine was replaced by a more advanced natural or rational medicine. Both developed and flourished at the same time.