Roman Medicine and Medical Knowledge


The Roman Empire > Roman Medical Knowledge and Practices >





Prev | Next | Contents


VI.--SURGERY.


Galen conformed to the custom of the physicians in Rome, and did not practise surgery to any extent, although he used the lancet in phlebotomy, and defended this practice against the followers of Erasistratus in Rome. He is said to have resected a portion of the sternum for caries, and also to have ligatured the temporal artery.[26]


VII.--GYNÆCOLOGY.

Galen had little more than a superficial knowledge of this subject, and was quite ignorant of the surgery of diseases of women. He was not so well informed as Soranus was as to the anatomy of the uterus and its appendages, but deserves credit for having been better acquainted with the anatomy of the Fallopian tubes than his predecessors. He had erroneous views on the causation of displacements of the uterus. Several of the books inaccurately attributed to the authorship of Galen deal with the medical treatment of various minor ailments of women.

Galen was a man of wide culture, and one of his essays is written for the purpose of urging physicians to become acquainted with other branches of knowledge besides medicine. As a philosopher he has been quoted in company with Plato and Aristotle, and his philosophical writings were greatly used by Arabic authors. In philosophy, as in medicine, he had studied the teachings of the various schools of thought, and did not bind himself to any sect in particular. He disagreed with the Sceptics in their belief that no such thing as certainty was attainable, and it was his custom in cases of extreme difficulty to suspend his judgment; for instance, in reference to the nature of the soul, he wrote that he had not been able to come to a definite opinion.

Galen mentions the discreditable conduct of physicians at consultations. Sometimes several doctors would hold a consultation, and, apparently forgetting the patient for the time, would hold violent disputations. Their main object was to display their dialectical skill, and their arguments sometimes led to blows. These discreditable exhibitions were rather frequent in Rome in his time.

With Galen, as with Hippocrates, it is sometimes impossible to tell what works are genuine, and what are spurious. He seemed to think that he was the successor of Hippocrates, and wrote: "No one before me has given the true method of treating disease: Hippocrates, I confess, has heretofore shown the path, but as he was the first to enter it, he was not able to go as far as he wished.... He has not made all the necessary distinctions, and is often obscure, as is usually the case with ancients when they attempt to be concise. He says very little of complicated diseases; in a word, he has only sketched what another was to complete; he has opened the path, but has left it for a successor to enlarge and make it plain." Galen strictly followed Hippocrates in the latter's humoral theory of pathology, and also in therapeutics to a great extent.

It is a speculation of much interest how it was that Galen's views on Medicine received universal acceptance, and made him the dictator in this realm of knowledge for ages after his death. He was not precisely a genius, though a very remarkable man, and he established no sect of his own. The reason of his power lay in the fact that his writings supplied an encyclopædic knowledge of the medical art down to his own time, with commentaries and additions of his own, written with great assurance and conveying an impression of finality, for he asserted that he had finished what Hippocrates had begun. The world was tired of political and philosophical strife, and waiting for authority. The wars of Rome had resulted in placing political power in the hands of one man, the Emperor; the disputations and bickerings of philosophers and physicians produced a similar result, and Galen, in the medical world was invested with the purple.

The effect, therefore, of Galen's writings was, at first, to add to and consolidate medical knowledge, but his influence soon became an obstacle to progress. Even in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Galenism held almost undisputed sway.

The house of Galen stood opposite the Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum. This temple, in A.D. 530, was consecrated by Pope Felix IV to the honour of the saints, Cosma and Damiano, two Arabian anargyri (unpaid physicians) who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian.

The date of Galen's death is not exactly known, but was probably A.D. 200.


Footnotes:

[23] Dr. Bostock's "History of Medicine."

[24] "Paulus Ægineta," vol. iii, p. 74.

[25] Ibid., p. 242.

[26] "Encyl. Brit.," Surgery.




Table of Contents


  OUTLINES OF
  GREEK AND ROMAN
  PREFACE.
  EARLY ROMAN MEDICINE.
  EARLY GREEK MEDICINE.
  MACHAON (SON OF ASKLEPIOS),
  HIPPOCRATES.
  "THE LAW.
  "THE OATH.
  PLATO, ARISTOTLE, THE SCHOOL OF ALEXANDRIA AND EMPIRICISM.
  THE ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL.
  ROMAN MEDICINE AT THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE BEGINNING OF THE
  IN THE REIGN OF THE
  PHYSICIANS FROM THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS TO THE DEATH OF NERO.
  THE FIRST AND SECOND CENTURIES OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA.
  GALEN.
  I.--WORKS ON ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY.
  II.--WORKS ON DIETETICS AND HYGIENE.
  III.--ON PATHOLOGY.
  IV.--ON DIAGNOSIS.
  V.--ON PHARMACY, MATERIA MEDICA, AND THERAPEUTICS.
  VI.--SURGERY.
  THE LATER ROMAN AND BYZANTINE PERIOD.
  INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ON ALTRUISM AND THE HEALING ART.
  ROMAN HOSPITALS.
  GYMNASIA AND BATHS.
  GYMNASTICS.
  GREEK AND BATHS
  SANITATION.
  THE WATER-SUPPLY.
  DRAINAGE.
  DISPOSAL OF THE DEAD.
  APPENDIX.
  FEES IN ANCIENT TIMES.
  INDEX.


Prev | Next | Contents








Roman Medicine
Advertisements: