Medicine in the Middle Ages

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The academic study of medicine in the medieval world was based largely on the works of the ancient Greeks, including Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen. A Byzantine physician was Alexander of Tralles, whose medical books were used throughout Europe in the following centuries. Institutional medicine was unknown in Europe during the early Middle Ages. Within the Byzantine state, however, hospitals-where the sick and injured could receive care-were established as parts of monastic communities.

The study of medical books originating in the Byzantine world had a strong influence on the practice of medicine in the rest of Europe. At the same time , medical study in western Europe was largely confined to monks and the Christian clergy. Medical education was offered at cathedral schools and , by the thirteenth century, at universities.

In the following decades medicine, surgery, and healing gradually became more of secular fields of knowledge, founded on philosophical principles divorced from religious dogma. Physicians were licensed by guilds after serving their apprenticeships, and cities formed health boards responsible for overseeing public health and specifically for healing the plagues. The practical application of medical theory and knowledge remained limited, however, as medieval surgeons and physicians had little in the way of useful tools. Common treatments for disease included bloodletting as well as the application of herbal medicines and drugs distilled from plants.

In the countryside and among ordinary people, the academic study and licensed practice of medicine took place in an alien world. Everyday medicine in the most social strata was often practiced by unlicensed and untrained female providers such as faith healers and midwives, and by those known to offer advice in the way of home remedies, prayers, and spells. For Basic surgery, such as tooth pulling, bloodletting, hernia and cataract operations, setting broken bones and amputating...
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