Chapter

The Beginning of Medicine in Greece

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257658.003.0023
The Beginning of Medicine in Greece

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The origin of medicine is apparent from other ancient texts such as from a document with the ambitious title “The Nature of Man”. One of the texts was dedicated to “falling sickness,” or epilepsy under the title “The Sacred Disease,” including the hitherto valid idea that, judging by the sometimes exceedingly strange course of this illness, it must be something divine, coming from the gods. Falling sickness is an illness whose causes, like those of all other illnesses, lie somewhere in nature. The renunciation of the idea that illness is caused by the numinous powers and of the need to treat illness with magic and invocation makes sense. The author of “The Divine Illness” thought no more or less rationally than those who saw falling sickness as something divine. The observation of the sick individual had not produced any evidence for the new view at any rate. For him, only the belief was lost that the gods, whose existence was responsible for the development of falling sickness. He lost this belief not because he had observed an epileptic, or several epileptics, or even a very large number of them. Something else must have caused the change in his view.

Keywords: new medicine; health; sickness; numinous powers; The Divine Illness; Chinese history of medicine; Greek history of medicine

Chapter.  810 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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