Medicine in ancient Mesopotamia - part 2.

J Martins E Silva

Abstract


The second part embraces exclusively the main characteristics of the medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia, in its main facets: concept of disease, healers and practice. The disease was considered a divine punishment or resultant from a malign influence. Insofar, the medicine began by being preventive, by the use of appropriate amulets or by offerings or sacrifices intending to pacify those malign forces. The treatment of the generality of the diseases privileged the expulsion of those spirits and malign influences from the patient body, purifying it, which was done by the specific intervention of a approximately shipu (clergymanexorcist); not having results, the treatment was continued by the asû (practical healer) that appealed to a group of physical manipulations, limited surgical acts and the administration or application of prescriptions, resultants of the mixture of organic and inorganic substances. In case of failing, the patients (as well as common healthy individuals or rule leaders) could fall back upon a priest diviner (bârû) that, by examination of the organs of an animal especially sacrificed for, would give a final decision about the disease or the future. Besides this more occult facet, nourished in religious faiths and in the magic, the medicine of Ancient Mesopotamia included rational knowledge, certainly as the result of systematic patients observation and semiotic interpretation. From those observations and knowledge referred to the Sumerian period, carefully logged, refined and transmitted to the following generations, it was built a valuable group of texts with the description of symptoms, signs, diagnosis and prognostic of the most common diseases, still identifiable in the present.

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