The bare necessities? a comparative study of the material evidence for Roman medical practice in urban domestic and army spheres
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The study of medicine in the Roman world is, in many areas, hampered by lack of evidence yet, despite this, valuable research has been done in the areas of urban domestic and army medicine. The aim of this thesis is not to reproduce that research but to examine the material evidence for medicine and medical practice used in it, in particular the instruments and buildings where medicine might have been practiced and, through comparison of the data, to see what similarities and differences there were between medicine in the domestic and army spheres. At the same time this data will be placed in context through an examination of the general levels of health in the ancient world and the status of doctors. In the domestic chapter we shall see that the evidence for the status of doctors is sketchy and confusing while the evidence for the health of people is drawn mainly from the skeletons found at Herculaneum. The examination of the instruments from the Naples museum and the provenance of those to which it could be assigned, will shed light on the types of medicine practiced and where doctors might have seen their patients. Throughout this chapter the argument looks forward to the comparison with army medicine in the following chapter. The evidence for health in the army comes mainly from literary sources and that for the status of doctors comes from inscriptions. It appears that doctors had ranks in the army with equivalent levels of pay as the soldiers. While there are fewer finds of instruments from forts, they raise some interesting points. The debate about valetudinaria is addressed and I argue that, while they existed, there is evidence to suggest that the buildings identified as valetudinaria were not in fact hospitals and that each case must be examined on its own merits. The conclusions are more numerous than might have been expected. There are obvious differences in levels of health between the army and the urban population but there are significant overlaps between doctors in the army and the domestic spheres. The instruments in the two spheres are the same in design with some surprising types turning up. The question of where medicine was practiced remains hazy with the conclusion that in the domestic sphere there is no definite evidence while in the army sphere the buildings identified as valetudinaria may not have been hospitals.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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