In 'Roman Medicine' Audrey Cruse looks at the long and complex history of western medicine. After introducing relevant myths and legends from earliest times in Greece, she discusses ancient philosophers from the sixth-fifth centuries BC and the subsequent development of schools of medicine. Cult practices at shrines of healing in classical Greece are also discussed in this introductory section. Rome's conquest of the Greek world led to a syncretization of religion and to the development of knowledge and skills between these two worlds. Although physicians continued to be mainly Greeks, it was Roman (and Celtic) blacksmiths who developed and manufactured their surgical instruments, and Roman engineers who, albeit fortuitously, provided the people with clean water, baths and latrines and who drained Italy's disease-infested marshes. The Roman Army was provided with purpose-built hospitals, whilst contemporaneously, healing sanctuaries at both urban and rural sites continued to flourish. In 293 BC Rome was held in the grip of the plague and, according to legend, in answer to a directive from the Sibylline Books, the Roman Senate decided to send to Epidaurus for Asclepius.
The paramount god of healing in the Greek world travelled to Rome in 291 BC. This was a significant event, for it is the first example of a foreign cult being imported directly into the Roman Pantheon. The story has it that after the god's arrival in Rome the plague subsided and 'Aesculapius' became the Latinized form of the god's name. His temples and shrines continued to flourish throughout the Greek and Roman worlds until well into the Christian period. Leading academics have demonstrated that eye diseases were prevalent in the western empire and this is discussed in the book with special relevance to Roman Britain. The author also looks at the many different aspects of medicine and health in the Roman Empire, especially with regard to doctors, their drugs and their surgical equipment.show more