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Week 8 - Egypt & Greece

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Ryan Iles

on 5 November 2018

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Transcript of Week 8 - Egypt & Greece

Plagues and People
Week 8:
Ancient Egypt & Greece

Ten Plagues of Egypt
Plagues 3, 4, 5 - Gnats/Lice, Flies, Dead Livestock
Context of warm, moist environment created; breeding areas increased and population of potential disease - vectoring insects.
caused 10th plague – death of firstborn or boils in 6th plague

Ancient Greece
Poems of Homer say little about
or anyone who practiced it.. Greek healers learned through
descent rather than schools.

views disease as
personalistic causation model
– similar to Egypt, Mesopotamia, foraging societies.

First philosopher in the Greek tradition who did not deny existence of gods, but suggested everything came from
Ancient Greece

s (pre-3000 BCE) – result of Egyptian colonization (possibly)

– 2nd civilization to occupy region c. 1500 BCE

Trichinella parasite
- most common affecting humans is
Trichinella spiralis
found in pigs globally.
Lifespan of ~4 weeks
Infects the intestines

Natural reservoir
: Wild game meat, pork

Mode of transmission
: Nematodes (roundworms)

Efforts to explain the prohibition of pork in Judaism and Islam were made to connect to diseases like trichinosis or taenia tapeworm… However this is not true. They used more cost effective animals like goats.
prohibition based on trichinosis argument – then they should also recognize relationship between cattle with anthrax, brucellosis, tapeworm; fish with ascarid

Greek Philosophy
Greek philosophy born on coast of Asia Minor in
– modern day Turkey
c. 600 BCE - part of Greek empire
Dedicated time to ‘

"Age of Reason", which followed a "Dark Age" in Greece

as the fundamental stuff of the universe - there is no void.
E.g., priest prays to god Apollo (god of healing) to inflict pain and suffering on enemies.

mentions Patroclus (a mortal) describing use of a crushed root to fight off pain and curb bleeding
Pharmacological properties of plants/roots
Healing requires

of causative agent
had close relationship with Egyptians (merchants).
Sought natural explanations for the phenomena they experienced -
Heraclitus of Ephesus claimed one could
step into the same river twice.

is the 'fundamental stuff' due to its ever-present change.
Argued fundamental stuff of cosmos was “infinite”, or... “

Famous physician who contemplated existence of

Searched for
natural explanations
for ultimate nature of reality.
this to happen?

Medical belief considered role of personalistic agents.

Thought “cinders that fell to earth when heavenly bodies were destroyed caused
epidemic disease

When he fell sick sent for Hippocrates, a semi magico-rational physician, to 'cure' his derangement..
Ten Plagues of Egypt
Plagues 7, 8, 9, 10 - Thunder/hail/fire, Locusts, Darkness, Death of 1st born
Related to
weather changes
– coastal warming produces super-cell storm (plague of hail), winds become severe –locust populations pushed into area.
E.g., in 1967 plague locusts blown into area as result of violent winds..

Jews not suppose to eat pork, shellfish, insects – taboo, but locusts are
Suggests they were abundant source of protein and not uncommon...
Plague 6 - Boils
Tumbu fly produces myiasis in legs and buttocks
Could explain biblical observation Egyptian magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils...
Homeric Greeks
– last to occupy region, invention of philosophy & rational medicine.
Migrated from North – destroyed Mycenaean culture.
Used pastoral economy (goat farmers) and
avoided dwellings
from predecessors.

Informal and weakly organized social structure – did not implement ‘
’ like Hammurabi’s Code, nor a theological text to guide them..
(informal rules) guided their behavior.
"Laughing philosopher"
Papyrus - Medical Knowledge
Kahun Papyrus
(c. 2000 BCE) -
veterinary medicine and gynecology
Concoction of honey, herbs, crocodile dung used as barrier method to block semen from entering vagina (c. 2000 BCE) –
used to limit population growth rather than infanticide

Edwin Smith Papyrus
(c. 1600 BCE) -
book of wounds, surgical casebook
Describes 48 cases involving medical procedures, e.g., mandible dislocations, fractures (set with ox-bone splints), wound dressings, circumcision, abscesses, dental braces, cauterizing wounds, suturing wounds.
Demonstrates factuality medical papyri had; referenced during surgery; shows skill-set

Ebers Papyrus
(c. 1550 BCE) -
62 diseases, 700 drugs, 800 formulas to cure
Cures for coughs to night-blindness
Diseases affecting abdomen, eyes, skin, etc.
One concoction for stomach ailments included a drink from cumin, goose-fat milk; others from black ass (donkey) testicles
Seen as a medical textbook outlining case studies, and importance in precise measurement
Other Healers
Ten Plagues of Egypt
Ten Plagues of Egypt
Edwin-Smith Papyri
Ebers Papyri
Ritually pure
– permitted to be in the presence of god (the pharaoh) and divided their time between temple healing and the community.
Some had expertise in specific body parts.
Goddess of childbirth and healing.
Society's theocratic nature led gods and goddesses to continue to play a large role in health.

General practitioners
assigned to heal within specific institutions and employed by government - definite
amongst swnw.
Used combination of religion and medicine.

imyr swnw – responsible for overseeing swnw (making sure done properly)
wr swnw – chief of doctors
smnw swnw – class of elders
shd swnwn – inspectors of physicians
sau – magicians – everyday common healer within community
Supervisor of all female doctors "Overseer of House of Health"

Guardian of Royal bowel movement, nose doctors
Dental practitioners
makers of teeth and tooth physicians (image c. 2600 BCE)
“Chief of Dentists” – title of eldest physician
Infectious disease caused by polio virus (
only 0.1% of cases progress to acute paralysis.

RNA virus colonizes gastrointestinal tract where it can survive/multiply in infected patients blood (viremia).
Natural Reservoir:
Enterovirus genus

Transmission: Spread orally through contaminated water with infected fecal matter; or eating contaminated food.

Vaccine developed by Koprowski (1950), Salk (1952), Sabin (1957)
Sabin's OPV (weakened, oral) used worldwide (1961)
very rarely revert causing paralysis
Jonas Salk's IPV (inactive, injection) vaccine more frequently used (1955)

Only 98 cases in 2015 - eradication efforts are working!
Americas polio free as of 1994

: In Pakistan, polio vaccine believed to contain forbidden materials and causes impotence and infertility in male children, which is hampering eradication efforts and leading to attacks on polio vaccination teams.
ancient stele, c. 1400 BCE Egypt
Described in Exodus & Old Testament, but nothing in
Egyptian records

10 plagues visited and demoralized Egyptians, and a played role in liberation of Jews enslaved by Egyptian ruling class.
Old Testament claims plagues work of God…
Supernatural explanations are not uncommon – part of

Unsettled severe weather may produce
justification for plagues – possible result from abnormal El Nino weather pattern.
1st Plague: Bloody Nile
– likely attributed to excessive growth of
(not uncommon in Alexandria region) from rising temperature.
Causes water to turn red and toxins killed fish.. amphibians that could leave river did so and moved into areas inhabitable by humans

Could be seen as influx of red soil (sediment) from adjacent lands from heavy rainfalls… affects respiratory system of fish – so they died..

2nd Plague: Frogs
Frogs left water and buried themselves in moist sand, eventually emerging appearing to have been spontaneously created.
(prime minister and healer) for King Djoser of Old Kingdom.

Earliest known engineer, architect, and physician.
Constructed new type of temple to house body after death
Architect of Djoser Step-Pyramid of Saqqara
First engineer to use a support column
Deified following his death – became son of Goddess of pestilence, war, and healing -
Instrumental in ending a 7 year famine
May have been
archetypical figure
other healers who achieved divine status were based upon, e.g.,

dedicated to his following started after his death
First Intermediate Period (2181-1991 BCE)
Saw power struggles between Lower and Upper Egypt

Fertility was exhaustible
– pyramid building and widening inheritance circle
Egypt’s kingship
too many resources consumed for pyramid building..

Led to power shifting in the provinces' nobles and priests favour during First Intermediate Period, which resulted in social upheaval and political chaos.
e.g., temples pillaged, statues of kings broken
Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BCE)
Egypt re-organized during Middle Kingdom under
Amenemhat I
12th dynasty pharaoh - murdered in his 30th year of power - presumed palace conspiracy

Regular flood-levels around Nile resumed - high inundation levels corresponded to prosperous years.
Instructions of Amenemhat:
the king tells his son how agriculture prospered under his reign - and conspiracy surrounding his death..

Fell during Second Intermediate Period with Hyksos invasion.
Cult of Osiris
Origin in Fifth Dynasty (middle of Old Kingdom) – became mass religion during Middle Kingdom and widespread by New Kingdom.
Seen in myth Osiris – deified mythical ancient human king who gave humans

Emphasized importance of
, tradition and trial on judgment day
than acquisition of

Masses were pacified and found comfort in idea of afterlife, which was
Throth weighs a heart for Osiris to determine if individual should be let into after world.
Early Egyptian creation stories suggest the sun god
and ‘
spit out
’ males and females.

Medical papyri
explain role of semen and how it can be blocked to

Sacrifices to bring fertility to the crops (
supernatural beliefs
) were common, such as animals, people – and parts of the penis -ouch!

Every body part associated with a god - offering a fertile organ would seem appropriate.
Possibly started with priests/nobles, and slowly spread to others..
Pyramid building and mummification were entirely religious – ensure otherworldly success for the king.

They thought humans were composed of a number of elements:
Shadow (swt), Personality/soul (ba), Life force (ka)

Following death, spiritual aspects released and judged by Osiris – if spirits deemed
and their home (body) remained preserved then they would live among the living as a blessed spirit.
This was now attainable for ALL Egyptians – started new funerary economy focusing on preservation and funerary items.
e.g., canoptic jars – stores individual’s viscera or innards.

- did not fear contact with dead or dissection of body
Expertise (e.g., evisceration) set stage in Alexandria under King Ptomely I to dissect corpses
People previously feared dead/avoided contact with corpses because personalistic agents would afflict them
Led to embalming guild
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