History of Global Disease Lec 4
Background: Transformation of the Roman World
Prof says Consider – note how people are seeing the boundaries between the natural and supernatural.
Second note the way medical thinkers and practitioners are using new approaches, adapting, rejecting
new and old approaches. Time of Change.
Key to this transformation of the roman world is the role of christianity. - Christianity started as sect of
judaism and eventually proclaims its own religion 3 cent ad. It begins to grow steadily (is a minority
still though). Why is it going to be a problem for medicine? - Christians would not worship the roman
gods like asclepius. They would not incubate over night in the temple. Theses christians and jews have
their own ways to deal with medicine.
Late 4 cent Roman Empire declares Christianity as their official religion. People who are in power
that are christian or jewish will take down these asclepian temples. They see these temples as a rival.
(Idol?) There is vandalism to these temples by some christian groups.
There is a mixture of different approaches to disease. There is a co-existence between christianity and
Galen and folkloric medicine.
Late 4 , 5 6 century – Fusion of culture and ideas. Some argue this is the beginning of the middle
ages. (because of this fusion) Some say this is when the roman empire falls.
Prof says it is a transformation of the roman empire not a fall.
Medievial west – celtic, barbarian
Byzantine Empire – Balkins, middle east,Asian empire
South, Civilization of Islam – Greatest out of the three emerging empires. (map)
These kingdoms are neighbours they need to get along. - Tremendous change will happen with their
relationship – economic, military.
All three of these empires are expanding!!
– Trade expands
– Population expands (people are living longer they are having more babies)
– Government expands (set up gov systems to deal with emerging population)
– Great military expansion (period of the Crusades)
4 big diseases of the middle ages
Arab-Islamic Medical Tradition
– Emerges 7 century arabia
– Islamic armies will clash. They will go into areas that the romans could not take over or places
they had never been. – Arabs at the time were Bedouin (?), nomadic
– Before Islam you had tribal gods. You had a Sheik.
– Mecca – trade center. 571 ad the Prophet Mohammed was Born
– Travels with a caravan while young. Meets christians and jews. He seemed to be a personable
guy. Marries the wealthy widow who owned the Caravan he worked for.
– Goes on a religious retreat in his 30s or 40s.Angel Gabriel tells him the word of the one god
– Islam arabic word meaning surrender. Followers become muslims or “those who surrender”
– Mohammed's word is written into a book called the Koran.
– Message – Single all powerful god, those who surrender to him and carry out his words will
have a great afterlife.
– Islam does not see itself as a superseding faith. Jews and christians were viewed as people of
the book to be respected. They were not to be converted. Islam is tolerant of other religions.
However these religions will bump shoulders. (Crusades)
– Arabic language brings this empire together. It is a common language. Prof says this is what
brings them together not religion.
Traditional and Popular Medicine in the Middle East
– Practice medicine like the greeks, use herbs (ex truffle juice on eye problems) there was
bloodletting. There is an interest in what the body is reacting to. There understanding of the
internal working of the body is minimal. Very basic surgery. (not as advanced as egyptians or
– Strong belief in spirits. Ill health could be attributed to spirits. To restore wellbeing you needed
to appeal to the spirits. You had out whit them. Jinn – the evil spirit, or evil eye. You could
interact with the Jinn. Sometimes the Jinn could also protect you.
– How do you avoid being sick? - magical precautions, incantations, charms. (anyone could heal,
no practical training.)
– Allah could restore health as well (he could also make you sick) – There is nothing that says
Islam conflicted with these medical practices of the lay. There really is nothing in the Koran
about medicine. The Koran even accepts the Jinn. Islam allowed people to practice folkloric
practices until 8 century,
– In 8 century becomes orthodoxy of the land. Would set boundaries on what is acceptable. Will
call into question these medical practices. The problem comes with the plague (this refers to an
epidemic/ pestilence) (Historians look at these outbreaks to see how people respond. People
almost always go back to what they know which is these folkloric traditions)
– Therefore Islam has to become more direct in its take on medicine. You see more emphaisis on
the healing ofAllah
– There is an emergence of Islamic medical texts – they will reference Galen. They will read the
greco-roman works. They will incorporate these ideas.
Arabic Writers on Medicine
– They are almost accepting of humoral theory and the theories of Galen. You will see in their
writing reference to humors.Arabic medicine will further this rationalization and clinical cases
approach to medicine introduced by Galen. They will expand the western medical knowledge.
Add their own cases.
– Abu Bakr al- Razi or Razes (on Latin) – he translates from latin to arabic. He also synthesizes
Indian, arabic and persian writings along side greco-roman thought. Provides a critical review of this with his own clinical studies. He sees the emergence of measles and small pox.
He had to distinguish between these two diseases. Had to make his writing very clear.Also
wrote about his treatment. What does he do when he sees a case that contrasts the