History : Aug-Sep 2015
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 43 CURING ANCIENT GREECE With their passion for war and learning, the Greeks took healing seriously. The works of Hippocrates stressed the role of science in an age of superstition, launching the world’s advance toward modern medicine. H omer’s epic poem The Iliad recounts the deeds of two soldiers in the army of King Agamemnon: Machaon and Podalirius. These men were lauded as heroes not only because they were courageous warriors skilled in the craft of killing, but also because they used an extraordinary surgical knowledge to save the lives of their Greek comrades fighting in the Trojan War. Machaon and Podalirius are described as“two good doctors,” m aking them the first named doctors in history. According to Homer a doctor (iatrós in Greek) was “worth more than several other men put together,” because he practiced a recognized and respected profession. He was in the social class of demioergós, a valued public servant with special skills, alongside diviners, master carpenters, and men who recited poetry. Greek literature and writing mention many doctors, good and bad, as well as scientists who specialized in medical research. However, by far the most famous Greek doctor was Hippocrates, whose teachings and writings ushered in a period of Greek medicine we can start to call scientific.