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History

Roman public health

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Answer preparation

Think about your answer to the question below as you look over the facts and ideas in the Roman section.

Question

Why did the Romans want to develop public health?

As you read, note down when you can confirm one of the following possible answers:

  1. They needed to keep the army healthy: "I will give you some ideas about how the army can be kept healthy, by the siting of camps, purity of water, temperature and exercise".
  2. They were suspicious of the Greek doctors they had brought to Rome as slaves.
  3. They believed in prevention rather than cure.
  4. They objected to paying the doctors (Pliny could not see why they should "pay fees to profiteers in order to save their lives").
  5. They had ideas about disease which encouraged public health measures. (Varro advised Romans not to build near swamps or drains because "tiny creatures float through the air and enter the body and cause disease". Columella blamed disease on poisonous vapours from the swamps. The Water Commissioner Frontinus said that the aqueducts made the city cleaner and removed the causes of the unhealthy air.)
  6. They had the necessary wealth and power. They were wealthy enough to build the infrastructure and powerful enough to requisition/pay for the necessary materials and labour. They had excellent engineering skills - as seen in the Pont du Gard aqueduct in France.

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