Home > Free Essays > History > Ancient History > Medicine in Ancient Rome

Medicine in Ancient Rome Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Dec 10th, 2018

Medicine in the ancient era of the Romanians came about as a result of a number of diverse aspects. There was not a lot of knowledge as there is today and not many people were able to understand the causes and cures, as well as maintenance of certain diseases. This posed serious challenges to people at the time. There were also many doubts about the ability to cure or prevent certain illnesses, since they were not well understood.

Misunderstandings among people caused a lot of worries and stress among the individuals. For example, the angle about the Romans being very afraid if the quality of treatment that was offered by the Greeks keeps coming up among many writers. Once people were able to understand that illnesses could be handled since most of them were manageable, life became a bit easier.

The Romans believed that the Greeks were more inclined to cheat them about drugs since they actually had no experience in treating people with the correct drugs. The belief was in-built such that majority of the Romans would not go anywhere near a Greek doctor. They would rather have died than sought treatment from the Greek doctors (Cruse 19).

The advancements in the world of Roman medicine and treatment were enhanced by the activities of the Roman military, which placed emphasis on treatment of their soldiers. It is a fact that the Greeks were more inclined to take care of their health interests based on a preventative aspect as opposed to the Romans who took care of their interests from the curative aspect.

It may be hard to believe at first, but the fact of the matter is that the Romans gathered their medicinal and healing skills from the Greeks whom they had taken over. Their entire prowess in the field of medicine was gathered over a long period of time that entailed gaining of valuable information in the field of medicine through various means.

The Romans were always considered more practical and the manner in which they carried out their tests on the herbs, which was what they mostly used, was quite shrewd. They were more inclined to take care of public health at first, but started taking an interest in the matters of personal health.

They had a highly developed system for ablution and the waste was taken care off in the sewers. The Roman emperors had their personal physicians who took care of them, and ensured that they were always fit to rule the land. These physicians like Galen, who was the personal physician of Marcus Aurelius, were quite familiar with the medicinal aspects of herbs and the likes.

The use of various herbs and other materials to cure diseases became quite rampant during the time. This was after the evolution of the use of herbs as poisons that were used to kill people. They were used more for curative purposes than for other purposes (Allbutt 595). Most herbs were used to make soups that were used for medicinal purposes. They were used to treat quite a number of diseases. The military personnel used plenty of herbs to treat themselves in the course of their lives.

Herbal medication has come a long way and the present day medicines have been found to have elements that have been extracted from herbs that contain healing properties. The enhancements and medical practices that have evolved over time, have proved that the age old habit of using herbs in order to get elements that can help to improve the health of ailing individuals is still effective.

Romans borrowed their curative skills from quite a number of sources. There are some medical practices that were borrowed from as far away as India. Some of these practices mainly involved surgical procedures. This was due to the fact that they had not been able to acquire these skills.

The Romans perfected the skill and it is still in use today. It involves skin grafting. This is when a piece of skin is removed from one area and then attached to another area that may be afflicted. This process is an attempt to repair damaged parts of the body that may cause discomfort to the individual involved.

Hippocrates of Thessaly was one of the greatest influences on medicine in the region. He played a major role in ensuring that people understood that diseases were not sent from demons or from the gods. The fact that people believed that they did not cause some of these afflictions themselves, was one of the biggest challenges that they faced.

The denial that diseases were found here and not sent from elsewhere in the form of curses, meant that people could not make informed decisions due to their ignorance. Many people lost their lives unnecessarily due to negligence and lack of knowledge. One more interesting individual who stood for understanding and knowledge of the facts of diseases was Cornelius Celsus. He used the work of Hippocrates to set up a platform that he could use to carry out his procedures.

In terms of the common folks, women were considered the most crucial people in the households, since the people had no hospitals that they could go to seek for medical help. The women did all the treating within the confines of their homes. They honed their skills in the use of medicine and were able to treat their families. They would use various herbs such as mustard seeds, which would solve issues that were related to stomach aches. They would also use nettle tea for treating rheumatism (Shippen 188).

Herbal knowledge in the region revolved around the army quite a bit and the soldiers gained from the effectiveness of the treatment that they were proffered. A lot of information on the herbal knowledge in Rome can be found from a couple of key sources. These are writings from Pliny the elder and Pedianius Diocorides.

Pliny acquired most of his knowledge while he was in the Roman army. He has written a book called Natural History. The book has plenty of relevant information on the properties of medicinal herbs as well as other plants. Most of the knowledge is attributed to Mithridates of Eupator. Mithridates had an encyclopedia that he had written on treatment and the use of herbs for medicinal purposes.

The book had information such as the use of Yarrow, which is an anti-inflammatory mixture concocted from herbs. Mithridates had carried o0ut plenty of information on the use of herbs to treat diseases. This information is what had been used as a basis for most of the research that is carried out with herbal medicine. The encyclopedia was looted and lost to people the likes of Pompeius. There are quite a number of herbs that were commonly used during the time.

One of the most commonly used herbs was Marigold or Anethum graveolens. This herb is mostly used for conditions such as reduction of fever. This plant was mostly grown in the southern part of Europe. Garlic or Allium Sativum, is an antibacterial, antiparasistic element that is considered as a cure for everything. Galens wrote about garlic and he extolled its advantages. There are also several other herbs that were considered as preventative medicines against the plague.

The elements that are contained in the herb cannot actually prevent the deadly killer disease. There are some types of oils that are found in the herb that are commonly used for treating coughs that normally accompany flu and colds. Hyssop or Hyssopus officinalis was believed to have some very strong properties which could be used to cure very many different ailments apart from plague.

Celsus, who was a Greek writer from the second century, proposed the use of horehound as having medicinal qualities that would treat coughs. There was once a time when an amphora that had a Greek word for it (prasion) was picked. This was at the fortress at Carpow in Pertshire in Scotland. The implications were that the legion in the fort was making use of medicated wine, assuming that it was cough syrup (Guthrie 13).

The herb called blackberry or Rubicus fruticosus, mixed with bark from certain trees, was recommended for the treatment of diarrhea. This was especially handy in the army, where dysentery was quite prevalent. Pliny recommended the use of the herb for the treatment of bleeding gums. All that one had to do was to chew the leaves.

The healing elements that were found in the herb would stop the blood from oozing out of gums. The leaves were assumed to contain tannis. The levels of concentration of this element were assumed to be quite high. The severity of the active ingredients in the herb referred to as tannis, were said to be quite mordant that they could control bleeding gums as well as diarrhea.

Most of the soldiers afflicted in the course of war would be healed by the tannis that was found in the leaves. In the present times, departments such as the arm that controls medicine in German government, has authorized the use of these blackberry leaves for treating diarrhea. This just goes to prove that the diagnoses made long ago with regards to the leaves were quite true (Robinson 101).

One of the most widely used herbs in ancient Rome was thyme or Thymus vulgaris. The psychological belief that spending the night on the herb could cure the feeling of depression was common among the soldiers. They also had the strong belief that eating the herb was beneficial to a person’s health, since they believed that it would help in the digestive system of individuals who were suffering from the complications related to their systems. It is obvious that there would be no plausible effect from sleeping on the herb.

The treatment of depression among soldiers is always of paramount importance to any leader. This is especially among soldiers who may be deployed far away from their homes and may easily regress. They could suffer from depression after staying away from home for a number of years. This was despite the fact that the Roman army did not empathize with its soldiers who would suffer from this condition, the treatment was widely renowned.

The stinging nettle is also one of the most mentioned herbs that were used in the past to treat various ailments. There are some tales that state that the nettles were introduced to Britain when the army that belonged to Caesar was assaulting them. It may be pertinent to note that the main use of the needles was to create some warm feelings on the skin in the cold conditions that the soldiers were facing.

As much as there is no mention of the herb as a source of food in the book, Pliny does not legitimize the tales. Pliny does not mention any part of the tales that cover the use of the needles as either brought into Britain by the Romans during the invasion or their use as warmers for the skin. William Camden wrote the tales and they are apparently entirely hypothetical.

There are quite a number of the ingredients of Roman traditional medicine that are still highlighted in the guides for pharmaceutical products (Bell 936). There are quite a number that are very common such as atropine and some others for hypertension, as well as rheumatism, that were mentioned in the past scriptures of Pliny. These are the active ingredients that are used in order to get the diseases that they are ailing people treated.

It may also be pertinent to note that as much as the Romans believed that the paranormal powers that be which may include their gods, the demons as well as the prestidigitators of the era were responsible for the various ailments that they underwent, they still treated their diseases as well as afflictions using processes that are considered hands-on. The medics or rather physicians performed what is today referred to as natural remedy.

The patients, who had various afflictions at the time, were treated using all sorts of spices, therapies as well as herbs in order to make them get better. There were some of these forms of medication that were taken on a daily basis, such as garlic, which was used like a vitamin. The Roman soldiers even had a decree that stated that they ought to be offered daily rations of garlic so that they may not fall ill and go through uncalled for stress.

Works Cited

Allbutt, Thomas. Greek Medicine in Rome: The Fitzpatrick Lectures on the History of

Medicine Delivered at the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1909-1910, with Other Historical Essays, New York: B. Blom, 1970. Print.

Bell, Edward. A History of Medicine, New York: A. A. Knopf, 1941. Print.

Cruse, Audrey. Roman Medicine, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus, 2004. Print. Guthrie, Douglas. A History of Medicine. London, England: Nelson, 1958. Print.

Robinson, Victor. Syllabus of Medical History, New York: Froben Press, Inc., 1933. Print.

Shippen, Katherine. Men of Medicine, New York: Viking Press, 2008. Print.

This essay on Medicine in Ancient Rome was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2018, December 10). Medicine in Ancient Rome. https://ivypanda.com/essays/medicine-in-ancient-rome/


IvyPanda. (2018, December 10). Medicine in Ancient Rome. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/medicine-in-ancient-rome/

Work Cited

"Medicine in Ancient Rome." IvyPanda, 10 Dec. 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/medicine-in-ancient-rome/.

1. IvyPanda. "Medicine in Ancient Rome." December 10, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/medicine-in-ancient-rome/.


IvyPanda. "Medicine in Ancient Rome." December 10, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/medicine-in-ancient-rome/.


IvyPanda. 2018. "Medicine in Ancient Rome." December 10, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/medicine-in-ancient-rome/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Medicine in Ancient Rome'. 10 December.

Powered by CiteTotal, free essay citation creator
More related papers