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History of Medicine: Medicine of the Mythopoeic People Essay (Critical Writing)

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Table of Contents
Introduction
Medical Benefits of Non-Civilized Life
Medical Drawbacks of Non-Civilized Life
Medical Benefits of Civilized Life
Medical Drawbacks of Civilized Life
Conclusions
Works Cited

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Introduction

Modern medicine has not always existed in the state that we are all used to it. People have not always had the opportunity to complain about something that bothers them to a doctor and obtain the respective treatment of the illness. The numerous epochs observed in the history of mankind have their ideas about medicine and display various levels of medicine development. The medicine of the mythopoeic people or the medical services observed in ancient Egypt, the ancient Greek, and Roman medical traditions, the changes brought by Christianity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, etc. all have their positive and negative sides, all display both advantages and drawbacks for the society as the whole and the health of specific people in particular. Comparison of the medicine of the mythopoeic people with the medical services obtained by the civilized people of Egypt, Greece, etc. is exactly the topic of this paper.

Medical Benefits of Non-Civilized Life

Nowadays, people are concerned about their health and about the levels of the medical service they receive rather considerably. This happens even though modern medicine is proven to provide people with better health care than ever and prolong people’s lives substantially: “In myriad ways, medicine continues to advance, new treatments appear, surgery works marvels, and (partly as a result) people live longer” (Porter, 1999, p. 3). Nevertheless, people are not satisfied with the accessible health care and medicine levels, and to some extent, they have the right to be dissatisfied. The medicine that was observed during the mythopoeic period of human history provided human beings with several advantages that are not known to modern people.

First of all, the basis of the mythopoeic view of the world was the myth, i. e. the belief that all the natural and human-related phenomena are ruled by some supreme divine powers that have supernatural force. Drawing from this, the medical treatment given to people was based on this belief as well. If a person had a fever, the doctor was sure that he or she had insulted gods or their ancestors, or that the black magic was used against the person. Although not always effective, such strong beliefs could cure the illness by the very strength of human thought and confidence in one’s recovery.

Another advantage of mythopoeic medicine was its healthiness as such. Being mostly hunters and gatherers, the mythopoeic people consumed healthy food containing vitamins and necessary minerals, which allowed them to live to the rather old age and perform physical tasks equally or even exceeding the tasks that modern humans provided with the updated health care can perform. By chewing birch tar, mythopoeic people managed to preserve their teeth in good conditions. Being exposed to no environmental issues that negatively affect the health of the human being, the mythopoeic people seldom needed medical services in dealing with the overall state of health.

Medical Drawbacks of Non-Civilized Life

However, negative consequences of such a reliance on the forces of nature were also observed. First of all, the blind belief in the power of gods and shamans resulted in the deaths of numbers of people who did not have medicine and wasted time for various magic procedures while the disease progressed. Moreover, any more or less serious injury or disease was sure to end up fatally for the mythopoeic human being. This was true also for the infections for which there were no cures and treatment methods, for traumas, etc.

For example, one of the most widespread diseases of the mythopoeic period was trichinosis, i. e. the infection caused by eating either wrongly cooked food or products, especially meat, that were not cooked at all. The parasites developing in the raw meat get into the human body and slowly spread over the organs to kill the person as a result. Without the modern medical opportunities for timely diagnosis and treatment, the mythopoeic people were sure to die from these viruses. The same was the fate of people suffering from anaerobic infections that result from cuts or wounds that people did not disinfect or protect. Only the modern medical services, the basics of which are known to the majority of people, can eliminate the virus from the wound before it gets into the blood of the person, and the mythopoeic people did not have such knowledge; neither had they the tools and medicine to use it.

Further on, the traumatic wounds and issues connected with the recovery from traumas like bone breaking or ailment were rather problematic in the mythopoeic period. Having only the primitive techniques of bone-alignment, the mythopoeic people had no guarantee for the correct healing of the breaking. The crooked arms and legs in their turn resulted in the person’s inability to hunt or gather products and led to his or her death of hunger. Thus, it is obvious that the mythopoeic people had much more threats to their lives than the modern people who still complain about the quality of health care they obtain.

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Medical Benefits of Civilized Life

Without a doubt, the further development of the human society from the mythopoeic period to the times of ancient Egypt and Greece was also characterized by the set of positive and negative medical influences that the living in those societies presupposed.

Thus, Egyptian society is reported to be the first one to display the signs of rational medicine. The Egyptian people not only started paying attention to the physical state of the person but also formulated their knowledge into the first known written sources that include the so-called Georg Ebers Papyrus, dating back to 1600 BC, and Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, approximately dated 1700 BC. These papyruses contain the descriptions of illnesses and the assumed cures for the latter. Moreover, they include practical guidelines for how to carry out treatment procedures and especially the process of surgery.

The Mesopotamian civilization also provided benefits to its representatives. Although rather primitive in the initial years of its development, Mesopotamian medicine managed to find connections between illnesses and natural herbs or other substances with the properties to heal the illnesses. Greek medicine is similar to the Mesopotamian by its initial primitivism and mythological basis that demanded an appeal to gods for cure but not looking for the natural cure on earth.

However, the advances of Greek medicine are connected with the name of Hippocrates of Cos who was the first to formulate the principles of medical studies, expressed ideas about the causes of illnesses, and tried to check his hypotheses empirically. Moreover, Hippocrates, Galen, and other Greek scholars formulated their findings in written sources that allowed the people of ancient Greece to hope for the professional, at least for the period given, treatment of their illnesses. The Roman society relied mostly upon healthy lifestyles and daily exercise as the basis of health and the way to avoid addressing practitioners at all. Even in case of an illness, a Roman would rather resort to certain natural, mostly herbal, mixtures than the help of a doctor.

The early Christian medicine was also based on natural healing techniques which allowed people to treat their illnesses with natural means as the illnesses as such were considered natural. Thus, we can observe the greater focus put on the rational element in medicine and the first attempts to formulate the write down the medical knowledge of the people. These points are the major medical benefits that living in the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and early Christian civilizations presented.

Medical Drawbacks of Civilized Life

The medical drawbacks of living in the civilizations considered can also be observed. For example, the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations can be criticized for the great importance that was still attributed to the mythological beliefs, reliance on divine powers, and fear of magical interference. Therefore, being confused by all these phenomena ancient Egyptians or the inhabitants of Mesopotamia wasted lots of time that could be spent on their treatment and ended up fatally ill or even dead from illnesses and infections that can be easily treated in the modern world.

The major medical drawback of the ancient Greek civilization was the fact that the Greek scholars were the first to empirically test their rational hypotheses about the causes of illnesses and the ways to treat the latter. Thus, people living in ancient Greece were experimented on rather than treated professionally, at least at the initial stages of medicine development. The Roman civilization had its major medical drawback in the focus on the manly strength and inappropriateness of addressing practitioners with every single complaint. It was held in Rome that a person can treat his or her illness with natural means because any illness is also natural. The help of a practitioner was considered to be excessive and even scornful for a man.

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The prejudice of another kind constituted the medical drawbacks of the early medieval societies. Based on either Christian or Islamic beliefs, these societies tried to solve health issues through divine help, which resulted in numbers of people not receiving the necessary and timely help.

Conclusions

Summing this paper up, it is evident that the development of medicine has always been connected with the overall development of human society. Different historical epochs presented different standards of medical services for people and caused different consequences. In this paper we have compared the medical advantages and drawbacks of the uncivilized, mythopoeic, living with the positive and negative development of medicine had on people’s lives in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, as well as in the medieval Christian and Islamic societies. This comparison allows stating that the main medical advantages of living in any epoch consist in the rational approach to healthcare and its overall accessibility. The medical drawbacks of every epoch are connected with the religious or mythological prejudice or the excessive reliance of people on divine powers instead of dealing with the illness directly.

Works Cited

Porter, Roy. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. W.W. Norton & Co.; 1 edition, 1999.

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