Physician and philosopher Galen.Physician and philosopher Galen.
Time c. 46 BCE
Title Roman medical era emerges
Event Roman medicine relies heavily upon the Greeks’ discoveries and practices. In fact, many of Rome's best-known physicians are actually Greek. Romans, however, reintroduce a religious view back into health. Roman physicians are typically self-taught craftsman. There are no formal training requirements, and cure rates are low. Thus, many doctors attract more suspicion and scorn than respect.

The Roman view of the mind is based largely on the work of Galen, who is considered the first experimental physiologist. He believes the brain is the most important organ and that the frontal lobes are “the seat of the soul.” Erasistratus, an anatomist and physician from Alexandria, is also prominent in the study of the mind/brain. Romans adopt his theory that the brain controls sensory input and motor nerve pathways.

Along with the Greeks, Romans make strides in understanding body function and anatomy. Physician Galen (131-201 CE) studies and dissects Barbary Apes, which are anatomically similar to humans. These dissections lead to a system of clinical observation and diagnosis that becomes standard European practice throughout the next thousand years.

Early Romans think diseases are usually brought on by the disfavor of the gods. Healing results when human actions please these spiritual entities. Religious cures are rare, but magical treatment is common. The Romans also use complex concoctions of herbs and animal organ extracts that include snake venoms and opium. One popular concoction, "Galen’s theriac," is used well into the 19th and early 20th centuries to treat both physical and mental ailments including liver and kidney troubles, headache, pain, anxiety, worry and insomnia.

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