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History

Roman doctors

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Doctors in Rome were often Greeks, brought to Rome as slaves. This meant their status was low for a long time, although their skills were valued by many people.

Overview

Illustration of Pliny

Pliny was a writer and naturalist of ancient Rome

After the conquest of Greece in 47BC, most doctors in Rome were Greeks, brought to Rome as slaves. Yet, whilst they flocked to see these doctors, the Romans were also suspicious of them.

Pliny, the ancient Roman writer and naturalist, represented them as vain self-publicists, who tried out their too-clever theories at the cost of their patients' lives.

The most famous Roman doctor was Galen, who came from Pergamum and had been trained at Alexandria. Galen learned his trade at a school of gladiators.

The Romans neglected to develop further the Greeks' ideas about the nature of disease, and in some ways medicine regressed under their rule. However, Roman doctors did develop ideas of bad air and tiny creatures as causes of disease, and these ideas were to have a great impact on the history of medicine.

The Romans also developed hospitals, and employed trained military nurses called medici. They were skilled surgeons, and they built on the Greeks' knowledge of anatomy and physiology (though not without errors).

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