Medicine through time

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How far did medical ideas from the Ancient World continue to be used in the Middle Ages?

Many ideas that were developed in the Ancient World continued to be used in the Middle Ages. The works of Galen and Hippocrates were translated from Arabic into Latin and taught at the few universities that existed. Students at these universities were encouraged to explore the works and, in some cases, to challenge them. Whilst some changes were made the majority of ideas were transmitted through the Roman Catholic church and became the bedrock of 'taught' medicine. In the main, these ideas were those put forward by Galen and Hippocrates. The reason why these teachings were not challenged more frequently is partly due to the way in which the church was viewed at the time. Unlike the modern world where an idea can be challenged, in the Middle Ages it was considered to be heresy to challenge the authority of the church and so few people chose to criticise teachings and most simply accepted what the church said as being right.

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 Title: The survival of Galen's ideas

Duration: 02:06

Description: Galen wrote over 250 books in Greek, which spread through the Roman empire. In 410 the empire collapsed. The separation of the old empire into Latin west and Greek east meant his ideas weren't studied in the west, but did survive in the east to be read by Arabic nations. The west would not read his works again for over 200 years.

External links to BBC Class Clips.

See this page on Hippocrates' work and the theory of the four humours.

See this page on Galen's work.






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 Title: Christianity and the re-emergence of Galen's ideas

Duration: 04:15

Description: A monk known as Constantine the African, in the Monte Cassino monastery, Southern Italy, spent his life translating Arabic texts he'd discovered as a Muslim trader, prior to his conversion to Christianity. One book was by Galen, which Constantine translated into Latin so western scholars could read it. The Christian church liked his ideas which promoted the human body as the best design, as this fitted beliefs that God's creation was perfect. The church passed Galen's ideas to universities, leading to a resurgence of Galen's work.

External link to BBC Class Clips.





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