Four Aspects of Roman Medicine (250-150 B.C.)
1. Sanitary Regulations
2. Religious Medicine
3. Fold and Lay Medicine
4. Greek and Scientific Medicine
• Starts in the 8th c. B.C.
• Etruscians - Greek influenced even through they were small
• In Southern Italy (Sicily), they absorbed Greek culture and eventually they came to
• They came to the sea and expanded over the Mediterranean.
• They came into conflict with a city in Northern Africa (Carthage).
• Expanded over Carthage. They also led three wars in the 3rd and 2nd c. and end-
ed in 146 with the destruction of this city.
• At the same time they expanded in the east into Greece.
• In 168, they won a battle against Macedonia (country of Alexander the Great). This
transformed the Greek kingdom into a Roman province.
• The culture is some provinces remained indigenous. The Romans came very early
into contact with the Greeks. This is not all that early in Greek history. The Ro-
mans were more practical and spent their lives in war and farming. They were at-
tracted to Greek culture pursuits. They educated Romans in Athens. There was
always some kind of ambivalent attitude to Greece. They took over a lot of litera-
ture and translated it. Technical, philosophy literatures was just translated from
the Greek at first.
• The Romans dominated the Eastern and Western part of the Mediterranean, they
transformed these into provinces.
• It was feared that Greek culture would undermine the austerity of Romans.
• Pietas - more or less a feeling of relation and obligation toward one's ancestors
and country, parents and toward the God of the country, a loyalty toward these
• Fides - Socially superior person would give a socially inferior person something
and the inferior person would vote for the superior.
• Philhellenics - people who like all things Greek. They were apart of Roman soci-
ety, the other part were the traditionalists who thought Greeks would undermined
• The Roman ambivalence to all things Greek is seen in medicine as well.
• Areas around Rome were marshy so a lot of Malaria was transmitted.
• Noticed that diseases were spread through water that was dirty so they built
drainage canals that became an underground sewage system - called Cloaca
maxima (very large drain).
• Built of stone and in Rome it is underneath the whole city and collects the water
and leads it into the river.
• The Romans built aqueducts to bring fresh water from the river because they were
also concerned about water supply. They also built bathing establishments. This
was social and hygienic. • The Romans built the first hospitals. Hospitals had an origin either on large estates
for slaves. It was important to keep the people who work for you healthy. Also in
military camps for soldiers. In the city for the general population there were not
hospitals at that time.
• Concerned in picking healthy sides for their cities, farms and estates. Layout was
supposed to protect them from winds and heat, and marshes.
• Pietas - obligation towards the Gods was an important Roman virtue. Great devo-
tion towards different kinds of Gods and put many different aspects of their lives
• Romans took over the Greek mythology and gave Greek gods Roman names.
• Minerva medica - Goddess of medicine. She could protect the health of people,
along with Apollo and Athena.
• Goddess that was called Dea Salus which means Goddess of health.
• Different life processes like birthing were put under the direction of Gods.
• Goddesses that were called head first and Goddesses that were called feet first
that were called upon during birthing.
Folk and Lay Medicine
• Practiced by the head of a household.
• Palei familia - father of the family is responsible for everyone who lives under his
roof (livestock and family). Responsible for their health.
• Remedies - herbs and plants, foods that were grown in the kitchen gardens could
be used as lay medicine. Cheap and easily provided. Everybody had access to
• Proposed this simple way of treating to the more complex Greek way of treating.
The Greeks in the Roman mind used medicine that were complex and composite
and were important for exotic countries and diseases that were potentially dan-
gerous. They were also expensive.
• Roman way of keeping healthy was through a simple lifestyle. Exercise, work.
Have to keep your body strong so that one would could be strong and healthy so
that one would not need the complex Greek medications.
Passage # 211, Page 111
• Writer from the 1st c. A.D. that talks about the Golden Past when life was simple.
• About the Golden Past - people prescribed to hard work and diligence as opposed
to indulgence and pleasure like the Greek.
• He tells us that nature provides everything that is needed to keep healthy. They are
provided everywhere and cost nothing: our daily food should be our medicine.
This is a general Roman theme.
• He speaks about medicine that costs something now. This is new.
• Important medicine that are complex, complicated and potentially dangerous.
• Everyone can have what is in a kitchen garden then nothing would be cheaper than
medicine if everyone used this.
• Through conquering we have been conquered.
• Romans have conquered the Greeks militarily and have been conquered by the
Greeks culturally. This is a theme we see with other Roman writers. Shows a ten-
sion between Greek and Roman values. • Author by the name of Seneca from the 1st c. B.C. complains that nowadays indul-
gence and loss of control over themselves have made people unhealthy and now
they need all of this expensive medications but previous lifestyles would have
made them healthy.
Passage # 215, Page 114
• Talks about Cato who lived a long time in 3rd and 2nd C. B.C.
• Also talks about the degeneration of Roman culture.
• Cato adapted Greek scientific writings to Roman needs to make the Romans inde-
pendent of Greek culture.
• He writes a letter to his son about the Greeks.
• Survey the Greek culture, take out what is useful and leave the rest.
• This is the time when Greek physicians have just come to Rome. The Greeks ac-