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GETTING SICK IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

AFRICAN HISTORIES, NEWS, WORLD HSTORY

Often when we tell what happened in the story we hardly think about diseases and it seems that all the characters were always healthy and perky, but even then the ailments prospered, as well as today in various measures and reasons.

If over time medicine has made a lot of progress we owe it to the practices started in ancient Egypt often copied in the following centuries, often forgotten … and perhaps it is better this way.

the Egyptian health system was very efficient, better than ours, distributed throughout the territory and characterized by extreme specializations. The Egyptians were considered by other peoples as a people of healthy subjects, of course it was not true, the sick hid them, but if one got sick and ended up in the jaws of the self-styled doctors either survived but did not say what they had done to him or, worse, died and whoever saw it was seen, bad that it went they became mummies that were used to study surgery and anatomy, with the suspicion that if there was need to do some experimentation, in the absence of mummies, if they created them, everyone is free to interpret this statement.

The doctors of the time were all-rounders, astronomers, magicians, even architects, sometimes priests, especially in desperate cases and also philosophers specialized in mental illnesses, after all it was thought that the disease was a curse or a perverse magical degeneration and therefore it was necessary to fight it with as many weapons.

Hospitals were called houses of life and were often adjacent to cemeteries, which is to say that in any case you are in the right place.

The treatments and drugs, of which ancient Egypt was a great producer and exporter, were written in hieroglyphics and even the drug brochures were in hieroglyphics, a bit to keep their professional secrecy but often because nobody knew what the hell they contained.

Three levels of prognosis were established for the first time, similar to modern medicine: favorable, doubtful and inauspicious; favorable because it would have passed by itself, doubtful because perhaps it would not have passed by itself and unfortunate because then you were really sick and there was no more hope … it goes without saying that the healings were the work of the pseudo-medical intervention while the rest was the fate.

We mention some of the famous doctors such as Hesyra the first dentist or Sachmet and nesmenau, Peseshet doctor woman gynecologist, the Ebers papyrus describes three types of doctors in Egyptian society:

The priests of Sejmet, mediators with the deities and connoisseurs of a wide range of drugs, also called authorized dealers, among them Sabni, who enjoyed the title of “Chief physician and scribe of the word of the god” or boss of the local cartel.
Civilian doctors, (sun-nu), able to heal with magic or with impromptu and imaginative practices that by pure chance, coincidentally, led the patient to be well or claim to be well in order to return home safe and sound .
Helpers, called uts who were not considered therapists, attended in large numbers to the medical caste, anticipating the nurses’ guild.
Also from the “Ebers Papyrus” we learn that opium was used both for pain and for the crying of children, in fact it was known that Egyptian children were always smiling.

The technique of inhalations was known which were composed of myrrh, resins, dates and other ingredients, even if sometimes the patient left the feathers for asphyxiation, while for the poisonous bites of snakes, the Egyptians had no other cure than that of rely on the goddess Isis by reciting the magical litanies. While to combat hair loss and alopecia it was recommended to use a mouse boiled in oil which was intended to make the hair stand on end!

The Egyptians surgically intervened only in small pathologies, such as boils or abscesses or directly in a radical way with amputation when it was difficult to concentrate the intervention and if one did not want to have children, well … the condoms were acacia leaves or ‘oil taken from the leaves to insert the private parts of both, uncomfortable but effective, in fact abstemia was preferred, or better to do it and have many children, in fact ancient Egypt was full of children.

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