Ancient Greek Medicine

Ancient Greek medicine is widely considered the foundation of the medical knowledge used in today’s modern societies. The first culture known to have applied scientific thinking to the art of healing, ancient Greece produced doctors whose methods were comparable to those of modern physicians. As classical Greek physicians parted with mystical ideas in favor of logic and reasoning, these ideas spread throughout the ancient world, gradually taking root in countries as far east as India and eventually blossoming in nations to the west. The influence of early Greek physicians is still seen in the medical profession today. Perhaps the most easily recognizable hallmark of this influence is the Hippocratic Oath, taken by each physician before embarking upon a medical career.

Hippocrates is perhaps the best-known figure in ancient Greek medicine, widely credited as the father of modern medicine and the author of the Hippocratic Oath. The theories and practices taught by Hippocrates and his followers were largely responsible for the change from spiritually based medicine to a system based on logic and observation. Central to these theories was the belief in keeping the body in balance with nutrition and beneficial herbs and drugs. Doctors trained in the methods of Hippocrates used scientific observation to evaluate their patients, applied herbs, performed surgery and even specialized in such fields as gynecology.

As Hippocratic medicine became the accepted practice in the Mediterranean, the theories and methods of ancient Greek medicine began to gain ground against religious and mystical medical treatments in other parts of the world. Through their interaction with Greek culture, the Romans gradually adopted many of the ideas of ancient Greek medicine. Eventually, as the Romans conquered Greece, Hippocratic medicine became accepted throughout the Roman Empire and supported officially by the Roman Catholic Church. This official backing helped to establish the theories of ancient Greek medicine as the basis of further medical advancements throughout the world.

The theories and principles of ancient Greek medicine have endured through the ages, influencing the most modern methods of disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Many of the research techniques used to produce the incredible advancements that happen every day in modern medicine have their roots in the scientific methods first introduced by early Greek medical pioneers.

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