The role of Religion in Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Religion in Ancient Egypt.

Egyptian culture was largely based upon religion and many of their greatest monuments and festivals were a result of a desire to please Gods. In ancient Egypt there were many different Gods. They did not have one god as most modern religions do. Each god would need to be pacified in order to ensure good health and prosperity. This religious belief heavily influenced medical belief at the time.

Weighing souls of the dead
Weighing souls of the dead

Religion played a major role in the development of Egyptian medicine. The believe in the afterlife meant that bodies were cut open and parts removed. This would have improved anatomical knowledge (the extent to which physicians benefited from the embalming process is debatable as it is more than likely that specialist embalmers existed who would not act as physicians). These religious beliefs also prevented the further dissection of the body: it had to remain intact to get to the afterlife. In this way it can be argued that Religion both aided medical development and prevented it.

Gods were thought to have a direct influence over most aspects of life. As a result prayers were common and the archaeology, papyrus and artwork left by the Egyptians all portray gods overseeing all manner of things. This type of belief meant that in towns and cities there were clean, beautified areas. Cleanliness around these places was important. Priests were held in high regard and they were cleansed on a regular basis.

Water was channelled from the Nile to provide not only irrigation for fields but also a regular supply of water for homes. This was not as sophisticated a means of supplying water as would come in later civilisations.