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The Greeks Made Some Contribut Essay, Research Paper

The Greeks made some contributions to the development of medicine but they basically still believed in the supernatural How far do you agree?

The Greeks lived between 1500BC and 500BC and had a vast empire, which stretched from the bottom of the Black Sea to the bottom of Egypt and from what we now call Greece to the borders of India and China. Generally I do not agree that basically believed in the supernatural because although many early Greeks in particular were very dependent on supernatural power, I believe that the Greeks built the foundations for many medical theories, which were to stand for thousands of years.

In 800BC Greek civilization began. Towns and cities like Athens and Sparta were developed and people began to settle down and live a much more civilized life. The Greeks became very knowledgeable as they often communicated ideas with other people from other places. Their way of life was more settled than previous civilizations and this led them to having more time to think about such things as medicine. The Greek communities were also known for their trade and because of the geographical positioning of their empire; they naturally became a trading centre, which was visited by many people from across the globe. These people often brought with them new ideas that were then developed by the Greeks and some are still used even today.

Great philosophical thinkers had much time on their hands, as, like the Egyptians, the Greeks were rich. They made their wealth from farming and trade in which the slaves did much of the work. This left the wealthy time to be educated and discuss new ideas. Soon they began to question the role of the gods. They thought that the body worked without the aid of supernatural power and that there were more rational explanations for the contraction of diseases and illnesses.

One of these great men was Hipocrates. Hippocrates was the most famous Greek doctor. He developed the theory of the four humours. He decided that the weather caused an imbalance in


the body s fluids. Generally this theory made a lot of sense and although we now know it is not correct, it is important because it was used all across the world up until the last few centuries, so many of our proven medical discoveries were made with the theory of the four humours. After 600BC most Greeks decided that there were natural explanations for most events in the body.

After Hippocrates, the role of doctors in Greek society became very important. These doctors began to search for the natural explanations everyone was looking for. They also discovered that illness could be prevented, and the importance of keeping healthy was realised. People began to wash daily, and exercise was considered vital. A long walk was taken every day, and of course the Greeks were keen athletes. They did sports such as running, discus, javelin and jumping which we still do today, and they were the founders of the Olympic Games, which were first held in 776BC. The Greeks believed that to stay free from illness, you must look after your personal hygiene and exercise your body. They cleaned their teeth with fine peppermint powder, similar to the toothpaste we use today. They also looked after their skin and realised how damaging the sun could be, as the Greek Empire was of a high climate, they rubbed oil into themselves before being exposed to the sun, particularly when exercising naked.

In 335BC Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and founded Alexandria. Geographically Alexandra was a focal point for the world, and because of its positioning on the Nile delta it received many visitors including world class scholars. Soon a school was set up and this was vital in the development of medicine as its enormous library was a place where new discoveries could be recorded. The library collected writings not only from Greek writers such as Hippocrates, but also from doctors in India, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was said that eventually there were 700,000 different items in the library. People from everywhere gathered in Alexandria to discuss their theories and ideas. It was popular amongst Greek doctors in particular because it was the only Greek state where human dissection was legal. Most Greeks thought that dissecting dead bodies was wrong but it was through dissection that the most important discoveries about the body were made. One of the first doctors to carry out dissections was Herophilus who lived around 250BC. His most important discovery was that the brain controls the body. Another great doctor working in Alexandria was Erasistratus who almost made an equally important discovery. Whilst dissecting a human heart, Erasistratus noticed it had four one-way valves. He wondered why and finally decided the heart was some kind of pump. But he wasn t well liked partly because he was one of the only Greek doctors who didn t believe in the theory of the four humours and so unfortunately his ideas were never developed. AlthougH2800 years later, he was proved to be correct and the heart was proven to pump blood around the body.

However, although these doctors made many discoveries about natural causes of illness, many did not stop believing in the supernatural on the whole and in fact in the Hippocratic oath written by Hippocrates, a doctor must swear by Apollo, Asclepios and all the Gods. And many average Greeks never stopped believing that the Gods were the causes and curers of illness. If a person was sick, they usually went to an Asclepion where Asclepios, the god of healing, cured them while they were sleeping. Many stories were recorded where the patient had awoken to find themselves surrounded in blood and were then healed, and most civilians believed the Gods to be a more reliable source of healing than the doctors. I think that most Greeks did not change their opinions on healing because, similarly to our modern day selves, they did not like the idea of change and in fact feared it. They were happy believing in the Gods and therefore found it difficult to accept that their beliefs may not have been the best way to look after them. Outside of medicine however, most Greeks believed in the supernatural and even thought thunder and lightning to be the cause of the Gods.

I think that the role of the Gods in Ancient Greece was incredibly important to the same extent as Catholicism in mediaeval Britain, and Judaism in the biblical Middle East. They were the religion and culture of the Greeks and ancient Greek life revolved around them. Therefore it must have been difficult for traditional Greeks to understand that there was one aspect of their lives which the Gods had no control over and for this reason I believe many Greeks continued to depend on the supernatural long after natural causes and cures were developed. However I also believe that the Greek philosophers and doctors played a tremendously large part in the development of medicine, particularly Hippocrates and Herophilus who made such great discoveries and developments that centuries of medical theories depended on them. I think that in general, its researchers and doctors who made important and extensive changes in the history of medicine represent Greek medicine. I also think it is fair to say that in medicine, Greek civilians were far less dependant on the supernatural than in any other aspect of their lives and therefore I can conclude that the Greeks made an incredible amount of contributions to the development of medicine and that in most cases they no longer believed in the supernatural as a cause and cure of illness.

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