Roman Doctors

Many Roman doctors were freed Greek slaves who did not have high cure rates, so the social standing of doctors was low and people didn’t necessarily trust them. Some doctors charged excessive prices for worthless drugs, and others did not have a grasp of medicine and disease. There were no licensing boards or formal requirements to become a doctor.

The aristocrats had private physicians who were better trained that the doctors who served the general public.

Some Roman doctors studied medical texts by Hippocrates, a Greek who is generally regarded as the father of medicine. Hippocrates wrote The Oath—a pledge still taken today by doctors to perform to their fullest ability.

Besides Hippocrates, other doctors were also revered:

  • Galen of Pergamon was a prominent ancient Greek physician whose theories dominated Western medical science for well over a millennium. He dissected pigs, apes, and other animals. In Rome he lectured and performed public demonstrations of his anatomical knowledge. He soon gained a reputation as an experienced physician, attracting to his practice a large number of clients including Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
  • Pedanius Dioscorides was an ancient Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist. He is famous for writing a five-volume book that is a basis for all modern pharmacopeias, and is one of the most influential herbal books in history.
  • Soranus was a Greek physician and the chief representative of the school of physicians known as "Methodists."
  • Onbasius wrote an encyclopedia of medicine around 325 AD.

Tools still used today:

  • Ancient scalpels had almost the same form and function as modern scalpels. They could be used to different incisions, especially deep or long cuts.
  • Hooks, long thin metal instruments, were used as probes and to maneuver small pieces of tissue. Blunt hooks were primarily used as probes for dissection and for raising blood vessels. Sharp hooks were used to hold and lift small pieces of tissue so that they could be extracted.
  • Bone drills removed diseased bone tissue from the skull and extracted foreign objects such as a weapon from a bone.
  • Bone forceps were used to remove pieces of the skull.
  • Bone levers helped move fractured bones into position and pull out teeth.
  • Catheters helped open blocked urinary tracts in case of infections.
  • Probes or curettes were used mainly to mix, measure, and apply medicaments.

Source: Roman Doctors
© Ellie Crystal

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