History of Medicine
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Greek Medicine
I swear by Apollo Physician... Greek Medicine from the Gods to Galen


Vase painting featuring the bearded centaur Chiron standing holding a tree branch in his left hand with a rabbit skin hanging from it and the baby Achilles in his right hand; Achilles and Chiron are making eye contact; large stylized flowers surround the pair.  Vase painting, 5th century B.C.E. (Louvre G3; photograph by Maria Daniels).

In Greek mythology, the centaur, Chiron, was wounded by Hercules. Though he was immortal, it is said that he invented medicine in order to heal himself. He taught Asclepius the art of healing, which became the source of all divine medical knowledge among the Greeks. Chiron was also the teacher of the hero, Achilles, who was thought to have had some special medical knowledge.


Achilles kneels and dresses the wound on the left arm of Patroclus who is seated, all within a circular frame; vase painting in black and orange, 5th century B.C.E.  (Berlin F2278, Staatliche Musee zu Berlin; photograph by Maria Daniels; Courtesy of the Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz). Many depictions of Greek medicine involve battle injuries, especially of the Heroes. In this noted vase painting, Achilles tends to the wounds of Patroclus.


"...But save me. Take me to the ship, cut this arrow out of my leg, wash the blood from it with warm water and put the right things on it - the plants they say you have learned about from Achilles who learned them from Chiron, the best of the Centaurs."

—The Iliad of Homer, Book XI

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