Medicine in the Ancient World

Roman Doctor & Ancient Medicine

From medical scalpels and retractors to scissors and instruments, we have a wide selection for you!

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Ancient medicine and medical instruments

Even the Romans knew how to help themselves when they were injured: On these pages of the Roman Shop, medical instruments with retractors or probe spatulas, scalpels with different blades or ornamental tweezers are modelled on their antique counterparts. Casts of original finds, they bear a striking resemblance to Roman instruments and are fully functional.

Roman scalpels, for example, are available in a variety of sizes, with pointed and round blades, as were commonly used throughout antiquity. Their design is extremely well thought out, so that these ancient medical instruments can still be used today. The resemblance to the types of scalpels still in use today is striking, as they differ only slightly from the old Roman models used in ancient medicine.

Sophisticated technology in ancient medicine

Another unusual feature is the ability to change the blade. For this purpose, the blade holders made in specialised Roman workshops were equipped with a cylindrical recess that tapered downwards and often also with two metal springs at the end of the holder. This made it impossible for the inserted blade to fall out of the recess or to move horizontally.

No hospital for Romans

The establishment of a public hospital for medical treatment and care did not exist in ancient times. Medical care was a private matter. Those who needed a doctor went to a doctor's surgery or had a doctor brought to their home. The military was an exception. The Augustan scholar C. Iulius Hyginus tells us that every large fort had a lazaretto. The term valetudinarium comes from a completely different context: the large estates of the imperial period, the latifundia, had many slaves who worked in the fields or in the household. They cost a lot of money to buy and keep, and their owners were keen to keep them as efficient as possible. To this end, rest stations called valetudinaria were set up to care for sick or overworked slaves. The situation was similar with the military hospitals for legionaries, in whose training and maintenance the state also invested with interest.

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