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Here's a powerful quote from the article below discussing Civil War medical care.

 

Doesn't this sound like the Ancient Romans?

 

Civil War medical personnel did the best the could. They knew what they knew, and used it as best they could. Medical training was sparse and bare-boned compared to today. Knowledge of how such things as the circulatory system worked was limited, and understanding the pathophysiology of infection was truly in its infancy. The Civil War doctor knew it was not good to have latrines and living quarters close together (in the raw terms of Marines in my time with them,

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While potentially interesting this is drifting a fairly long way :offtopic: so can we all return to the original Roman theme please.

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On 9/29/2011 at 3:18 PM, Melvadius said:

While potentially interesting this is drifting a fairly long way :offtopic: so can we all return to the original Roman theme please.

 

I respectfully disagree. This thread has forced me to reassess and offer support to the concept that the medical knowledge and innovations of the Ancient Roman world were not surpassed until after the American Civil War (1861-65), more than 1500 years later.

 

There seems to have been four major advances by the time of the American Civil War that the Ancient Roman medical community did not have.

 

First, the smallpox vaccination was available by the time of the American Civil War. Smallpox was the source of great devastation in the Ancient World. It probably was the source of the Antonine plague in AD 165-180 and possibly the source of the Plague of Cyprian (also called the Aurelian Plague) in AD 250-270.

 

Second, there was the use of quinine to treat malaria. In the Civil War there were 30,000 deaths from malaria. Without the use of quinine, this number would have been much larger. Malaria had a devastating but underappreciated impact on armies in the Ancient World. It is thought, for example, it was the malarial infection of his army that forced Attila the Hun to meet Leo I and agree not to sack Rome.

 

Third, Chloroform was used as an anesthetic agent in the Civil War. This would have been very important in a time when amputation was the primary treatment for severely injured limps. The Ancient Romans probably did not achieve adequate anesthesia needed for invasive surgery despite their use of mandrake, opium, Henbane seeds (the source of scopalamine), and even cannabis.

 

Fourth, by the mid-1800s, Western medicine had recently abandoned the theory that imbalances of the four humors caused disease. It was no longer thought beneficial to bleed a patient who was gravely ill, for example. This saved people of the mid-1800s from needless and potentially harmful suffering as a result of useless medical treatments to achieve humoral balance.

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Edited by guy

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While potentially interesting this is drifting a fairly long way :offtopic: so can we all return to the original Roman theme please.

 

I respectfully disagree. This thread has forced me to reassess and offer support to the concept that the medical knowledge and innovations of the Ancient Roman world were not surpassed until after the American Civil War (1861-65), more than 1500 years later.

 

guy also known as gaius

 

Fair enough - I hadn't realised you were originally intending to develop this thread in the way it did and as you have just proved reassessment can happen at any time.

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I think it is safe to say that Ancient Roman medicine set a standard of medical care for more than a thousand years.

 

Now here I disagree. Not because I think the Romans were brilliant dioctors (which I don't - as you point out, they had limits on their skills and knowledge) but because we're thinking in terms of standards. That's a modern attribute. I do recognise that the Romans did evolve some standards such as basic measurements and plumbing (They used fittings of lead and bronze of set sizes) yet the medical profession in Roman times did not have colleges for training nor was there a hippocratic oath. Any idiot could call himself a physician and set up business. It would be my contention that the 'standard' of health care varied enormously.

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I think it is safe to say that Ancient Roman medicine set a standard of medical care for more than a thousand years.

 

Now here I disagree. <SNIP> It would be my contention that the 'standard' of health care varied enormously.

 

I think if you only consider 'standard' as the 'usual situation' then I would agree with Cladrail here.

 

However if you consider 'standards' in it's alternative interpretation of the 'ideal situation' or as the basic texts used in medicine then on the basis that medical texts from the Romano-Greek period were used in'foundation of 'good' practice I would instead tend to agree with Guy's statement.

 

Across the Islamic and then medieval world Romano-Greek texts DID form the basis of 'best' medical practices and therefore eventually the basis for later developents leading to the vast leaps in care and treatent from the 18th and 19th centuries onward. So far as the Islamic world is convcerned health care was arguably better in some periods and places and medical texts from there did filter the wider world taking the best elements of Romano-Greek and Islamic into a wider audience.

 

The fact that not everyone used 'best' practice does not negate the fact that it DID exist and was referred to even if only in limited general use and later superceded.

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This thread is fascinating enough to be a forum in its own right.

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However if you consider 'standards' in it's alternative interpretation of the 'ideal situation' or as the basic texts used in medicine then on the basis that medical texts from the Romano-Greek period were used in'foundation of 'good' practice I would instead tend to agree with Guy's statement.

 

Across the Islamic and then medieval world Romano-Greek texts DID form the basis of 'best' medical practices and therefore eventually the basis for later developents leading to the vast leaps in care and treatent from the 18th and 19th centuries onward. So far as the Islamic world is convcerned health care was arguably better in some periods and places and medical texts from there did filter the wider world taking the best elements of Romano-Greek and Islamic into a wider audience.

 

The fact that not everyone used 'best' practice does not negate the fact that it DID exist and was referred to even if only in limited general use and later superceded.

 

The islamic expertise in medicine and other areas of knowledge is widley accepted. They had even evolved a system for mental health care in the early medieval period, employing musicians to calm their patients. To what extent this was influenced by classical texts is hard to say, because such information was rare to begin with, and the idea that the classical texts formed the basis of health care in the west is wrong, since we know that tradional remedies were used into medieval times rather than those preserved in literature which were not widely available, nor officially promulgated. Only with the establishment of a medical profession were classical texts re-evaluated and made a basis for understanding, since there was little else for them to rely on before the widespread acceptance of dissection and the industry of grave-robbing it inspired.

 

In other words, medical care in earlier times is more closely based on direct study than reading of classical texts.

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Across the Islamic and then medieval world Romano-Greek texts DID form the basis of 'best' medical practices and therefore eventually the basis for later developents leading to the vast leaps in care and treatent from the 18th and 19th centuries onward. So far as the Islamic world is convcerned health care was arguably better in some periods and places and medical texts from there did filter the wider world taking the best elements of Romano-Greek and Islamic into a wider audience.

 

The fact that not everyone used 'best' practice does not negate the fact that it DID exist and was referred to even if only in limited general use and later superceded.

 

Those other Romano-Greeks--the Byzantines--continued a system of organized medical knowledge. There are several treatises by Byzantine physicians which added to previous medical knowledge, per 'cutting edge' care in say the 9th century Constantinople was probably where you'd find the highest level of care.

 

I think there are a couple of books out there that argue monasteries developed an infirmary system that improved on practices of antiquity.

 

One thing the medieval era in Europe did have going for it is that the university systems being developed also began to issue medical degrees. Crude of course, but at least there developed a system of training given to budding physicians and that system was in place to transmit knowledge when better standards of care existed.

 

I read recently that circa 1380 or so Florence had 60 university trained physicians for a population of 120,000 and after the Black Death the number was 52 per 42,000. There's a morbid joke in there somewhere.

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