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Roman Medical Tools

While the application of medicines and cures was a guessing methodology at best, with some undoubtedly dangerous use of elements such as toxic mercury, the Romans used very sophisticated medical tools.

Thanks to surviving images and actual tools, such as those at Pompeii, we have a very strong understanding of their use in the ancient world, and the advancement of Roman medicine. Archaeological digs have produced tools dating as far back as 500 BC, just about the time Hippocrates was writing the Hippocratic Oath. Among the items we know the Romans used were:


Scalpels made of bronze, iron and steel, and a wide variety of medical scissors were used.

Intricate and varying hooks or probes, were used in moving light tissues and for making the negotiation of the inner workings of the human body more manageable.

Bone drills, resembling the modern cork screw, were used to remove diseased bone tissue from various bones, or to drill holes to allow access to blocked parts of the body.

Metal forceps were used to extract small pieces of bone or other objects that would be otherwise difficult to remove with fingers.

Catheters, or long metal tubes, very much like those in use today were used to open blocked passages such as the urinary tract. Other similar devices were used to open spaces such as the nasal cavity in order to insert various medicinal treatments.


The bone saw was used in amputation, which the Romans knew prevented gangrene.


The vaginal speculum was used in gynecology and in childbirth.


Bone levers were used to put fractures back in place, or to remove teeth.

Did you know?

A cesarean section was performed only when the mother was dead or dying, as an attempt to save the child for a state wishing to increase its population. Roman law under Caesar decreed that all women who were so fated by childbirth must be cut open; hence, cesarean.


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Roman Medical Tools - Related Topics: Roman History


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