Medicine

In the Life of Ancient Egypt

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Like almost everything else in the cultural life of ancient Egypt, it began with the priests, and dripped with evidences of its magical origins.



Ancient Egypt medicine

Ancient Egypt Medicine


Among the people amulets were more popular than pills as preventive or curative of disease; disease was to them a possession by devils, and was to be treated with incantations.

A cold for instance, could be exorcised by such magic words as: Depart, cold, son of a cold, thou who breakest the bones, destroyest the skull, makest ill the seven openings of the head! ...

Go out on the floor, stink, stink, stink! a cure probably as effective as contemporary remedies for this ancient disease.

From such depths we rise in Egypt to great physicians, surgeons and specialists, who acknowledged an ethical code that passed down into the famous Hippocratic oath.

Some of them specialized in obstetrics or gynecology, some treated only gastric disorders, some were oculists so internationally famous that Cyrus sent for one of them to come to Persia.

The general Medicine practitioner was left to gather the crumbs and heal the poor; in addition to which he was expected to provide cos¬metics, hair-dyes, skin-culture, limb-beautification, and flea-exterminators.

Several papyri devoted to medicine have come down to us. The most valuable of them, named from the Edwin Smith who discovered it, is a roll fifteen feet long, dating about 1600 B.C., and going back for its sources to much earlier works; even in its extant form it is the oldest scientific document known to history.

It describes forty-eight cases in clinical surgery, from cranial fractures to injuries of the spine. Each case is treated in logical order, under the heads of provisional diagnosis, examination, semeiology, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and glosses on the terms used.

The author notes, with a clarity unrivaled till the eighteenth century of our era, that control of the lower limbs is localized in the "brain" a word which here appears for the first time in literature.

The Egyptians enjoyed a great variety of diseases, though they had to die of them without knowing their Greek names.

The mummies and character of its food by using its long bill as a rectal syringe.

Herodotus reports that the Egyptians purge themselves every month, three days successively, seeking to preserve health by emetics and enemas; for they suppose that all diseases to which men are subject proceed from the food they use.

And this first historian of civilization ranks the Egyptians as, next to the Libyans, the healthiest people in the world.


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