Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2600 B.C.: Egyptian Temples Expand Scope of Medicine

So the Hermetic Books were made available in the temples of the healing gods across Egypt.  These became the universities for the priesthood.  The higher priests studied the first 36 books and became  judges, mathematicians, sorcerers, astronomers, geographers, philosophers, and scribes, while those of the lower class studied the last six books and became physicians.

Perhaps it was at such schools where Egyptian priests/ physicians developed such beliefs as life "should be indefinitely prolonged, unless someone or something caused death, such as a spirit, or the soul of a dead man, which cunningly entered a dead person,"  according to Fleming Sandwich in his 1905 book. (1, page 2)(9, page 25)

Perhaps it was at these temples that a greater understanding of diseases was speculated upon, and the realization was made that many diseases were associated with dirtiness, and that some diseases were spread from person to person.  It's for this reason, perhaps, that people contaminated with certain diseases, such as the lepers, were cast from society and you were warned to stay away from them.

The priesthood, then, learned the importance of cleanliness in maintaining good health, and it's from here where circumcision became standard practice, along with regularly scheduled bathing, the wearing of clean clothing, and similar such rituals. It is also from here that diet and drugs were incorporated into the medical regime "to counteract the disorders which the strange being had produced in the body," said Fleming. (1, page 2)

Such cleanliness must have been rather successful at keeping the Egyptians healthy. William Hudson Garrison, in his 1922 history of medicine, quotes Aristotle from his Politics, as saying:
"They purge themselves every month, three days in succession, seeking to improve health by emetics and clysters; for they suppose that all diseases to which men are subject proceed from the food they use. And, indeed, in other respect, the Egyptians, next to the Libyans, are the most healthy people in the world, as they, on account of the seasons, because they are not liable to change." (5, page 51)
Likewise, Plinio Prioreschi, in his 1991 history of medicine, explains that Egyptian medicine gained a "great reputation" as noted by the following passage from Homer's Odyssey: (10, page 257)
...for there (in Egypt) the earth, the giver of grain, bears the greatest store of drugs, many that are healing when mixed, and many that are baneful; there every man is a physician, wise above human kind...
Alexander Wilder, in his 1901 history of medicine, says that "the skill and learning of physicians of Egypt made them famous in the neighboring countries." (11, page 15)

So, while the upper class of priests healed with their sorcery and magic, the lower class of priests healed with their potions.  Some were the pastaphori, who followed the military, and specialized in treating wounds with salves. Others were the physicians, who treated internal diseases with their potions. 

In one example, Wilder said:
"The Prince Bakhtan (Bashan) sent an embassy to Ramases XII for medical aid for his queen's sister." Ultimately "the pastaphori and physicians bearing a receptacle of the divinity... the mission was successful; the princess speedily recovered, and the god received the glory." (11, page 15)
Pastaphori are priest physicians whose main job was to follow the military.  They were responsible for the health and healing of soldiers, particularly regarding the healing of wounds obtained in battle.

References: See "2600 B.C.: Egyptian Medicine Becomes Specialized"

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