Roman Medical Practices


In last week’s blog, we saw that the Greeks approached the practice of medicine scientifically. The Romans, however, banned dissection and other experimental approaches and based their practices instead on age-old superstitions. For example, they adopted the Etruscan belief in hepatoscopy, which involved augurs reading divine signals from the liver of a sacrificed sheep or poultry in order to decide on a course of treatment.

In The Deadliest Thief, when Miriam is pregnant, her husband suggests a charm to protect her from Abyzou, the infertile demon responsible for miscarriages and infant mortality. Given Miriam’s study of Greek practices, however, she demurred. In fact, if labor was problematic, the Romans further recommended that four people surround the woman and shake her violently ten times to speed the birth.

And we see, in The Deadliest Lie, when Miriam goes to Aspasia’s apothecary, the importance the Romans placed on healers looking vital:


Aspasia emerged from behind the wicker screen at the back of her shop in a minute or two. Aside from having donned a pale blue silk belt and leather sandals tied with ribbons to match, she’d tucked in the unruly strands that had escaped from the yellowish-white braid that straggled down her back and painted her lips with an oil of red ochre.


But the best Roman advice was to avoid doctors altogether. Do not, however, avoid the books in the Miriam bat Isaac series! They are the best advice I can give you for escaping the stresses of contemporary life. Just click here.

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