Roman Medical Techniques

Roman Medical Techniques

Surgical Tools

Dr. Ralph Jackson is one of the world's leading authorities on Roman medicine. He is a curator at the British Museum which houses some of the best preserved Roman medical tools in the world. The  Roman Medicine Roadshow has visited a number of schools, and we compiled a list of key questions asked by pupils. Here's Dr. Jackson answering those questions.

Herbal Medicine

There are three main sources for Roman herbal knowledge -

Pedanius Dioscorides 40-90AD - physician, pharmacologist and botanist, who authored of ‘De Materia Medica’— a encyclopaedia about herbal medicine and related medicinal substances.

Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder) 23-79AD - a naval and army commander, author, naturalist, and natural philosopher.

Galen 129 AD– c. 200/ c. 216 AD – physician, surgeon and philosopher.

From the collected works of these key figures we know numerous herbs were used to treat disease and illness by Roman medical practitioners.
Many herbal remedies have been proved my modern medicine as effective treatments for example

  • St Johns Wort for blood disorders
  • Fenugreek for poultices as an anti-inflammatory
  • Figs for treating wounds
  • Plantain for dysentery

Galen believed that garlic was a panacea and the herb is known for its antibacterial, antiviral, antiparisitic and antifungal properties.

Another highly valued herb was fennel, warriors consumed the herb to maintain good health and Roman women to help prevent obesity.

"So Gladiators fierce and rude; mingled it with their daily food. And he who battled and subdued; a wreath of fennel wore"