Medicine in Rome Parvati Kodendera

Medicine in Rome was based around humors, which were believed were four forces in the body. A healthy body would have balanced humors.

The caduceus, seen here, is a symbol of Hermes, and is used today as a symbol for doctors worldwide. The above photo is of the staff of Asclepius, the doctor of medicine, who is lesser known.

The four humors were hot, cold, warm, and dry. The ideal balance had more hot and dry, while cold and wet were considered hazardous. Since men were considered superior, women were usually composed of cold and wet humors. Doctors were largely considered useless, since ones health was thought to be in direct correlation with their virtue.

Actual medicine and physicians was never very popular with many Romans, and the field was used mainly by Greeks. A good deal of Romans used folk remedies. Well known men, such as Pliny the Elder and Cato the Elder suggested that cabbage had a variety of uses in the medicine.

Romans fighting

Every roman legion had at least one doctor attached to it, called the medicus. The medicus performed more surgeries than any other type of doctor, as fighting frequently wounded the soldiers.

A medicus at work


How many humors are there?

What humors were considered to be better?

Name one of the two listed men who believed cabbage to be a near universal cure.

Where did the medicus work?

Why did the medicus perform so many surgeries?

The staff of Asclepius


There are four humours

Hot and dry humors

Cato the Elder or Pliny the Elder

A medicus would have worked on the battlefield

The medicus would have had to perform so many surgeries since the soldiers would be wounded in battle


Works Cited

Aldrete, Gregory S. “Health and Medicine in Rome: Ancient World.” Daily Life through History, ABC-CLIO, 2017, Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.


Created with images by Antranias - "relief symbol rod" • takomabibelot - "Northwestern University Caduceus (Chicago, IL)" • Abdulla Al Muhairi - "ملفوف" • Mark Morgan Trinidad B - "Rod of Asclepius"

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