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The Iliad Essay: Research of Medicines and Doctors during the Trojan War

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The project I chose was the science/ medicine project. I decided to do this project was because the thought of how medicines and doctors helped cure people has always amazed me, and during my research, I found out that a lot of the home remedies we use today are actually from the Trojan War. For example, during the Trojan war obviously, they didn’t have sunscreen to put on before they went to fight so after a long day filled with killing one another, they would rub aloe on their sunburns. To this day when we get sunburns, we will rub aloe gel on them until the burn is completely healed.

One thing many people don’t know about the Trojan war, or just ancient Greece, in particular, is that usually they relied more on pray to the Gods than medicine, on God they would usually pray to was Asclepius. Asclepius is known as the Greek God of medicine. He is the son of the God Apollo and Coronis, who was the daughter of Phlegyas, King of the Lapiths. He was married to Epione, the goddess of soothing. Together, Asclepius and Epione had a number of children, their daughters were Panacea (goddess of medicines), Hygeia (goddess of health), Iaso (goddess of recuperation), Aceso (goddess of the healing process), Aglaea or Aegle (goddess of magnificence and splendor). They also had four sons, two of them were Machaon and Podalirius who were legendary healers who fought in the Trojan War.

In the Iliad, Homer only scratches the surface of the story of Asclepius, he mentions Asclepius only as a skillful physician and the father of two Greek doctors at Troy, Machaon, and Podalirius. In later times, however, Asclepius was honored as a hero and eventually, and still to this day, worshiped as a God.

At first, Greek doctors believed that demons caused diseases and that gods, like Asclepius, would cure the diseases. Greek healers tried to cure patients using sacrifice and prayer. People often bought models of the part of their body that was sick to leave at Asclepius’ temples, as a way of letting the god know what to fix. Because it was supposed that Asclepius cured the sick by “entering” their dreams, the practice of sleeping in his temples, located in Epidaurus, in southern Greece, became very common during this time.

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Because of their life experience with their father, Machaon and Podalirius were considered the most eminent professional healers in the Trojan war, famous for their skill as healers, straddling the fine line between professionalism and amateurism. Through their medical knowledge, they occupy a special place in healing art and are called “ïetroi”. In the Homeric world, a physician “ïatros” was a respected figure performing no heroic deeds other than medical caring and healing art.

In The Iliad the way serious wounds were treated was, the wound was first cleaned with lukewarm water, next, depending on the type of wound, blood was then carefully but quickly sucked out of the wound, then they were treated with herbs to help prevent infection and disease, after the cleaning process the wound was bandaged. As for the medicines, these were usually herbs used to relieve pain and prevent diseases and infections. Wines, opium .and henbane were also used to help the healing process.

The advanced technology and machines we have today allow doctors and surgeons to perform amazing surgeries and procedures such as open-heart surgeries and amputations. One thing that is we could not imagine life without is anesthesia. Anesthesia is a medication that allows medical procedures to be done without pain and without the patient being awake during the procedure. Anesthesia was used as much as 90 percent of the time during surgeries such as amputations. The two most common types of anesthesia were chloroform and ether. Chloroform was used about 75 percent of the time during Civil War surgeries.

Modern-day medical procedures are much different and much more advanced than those in the Trojan war, yet we still get bits and pieces of ancient Greek culture in the medicines we use now. For example, many organic treatments used by doctors today were recipes and herbs we took from ancient Greece that include, mint, fennel, olive, parsley, and saffron. In Greek mythology, the mint plant was cherished by many Gods and Goddesses, especially Demeter, the Goddess of harvest, and her daughter, Persephone. It is believed that a Nymph named Minthê made mint leaves. Hades liked Minthê more than he liked Demeter. In jealousy and anger, Demeter turned Minthê into her own creation, a mint plant. Mint was used to treat gastrointestinal issues, body odor, bad breath, and insomnia in Ancient Greece. Now, mint is still used for many things such as treating bronchitis, headaches, influenza, motion sickness, and muscle pain. Fennel was used, in Greek mythology, as the plant Prometheus used to help him steal fire from the demigods. Fennel is now used to help relieve all manners of digestive disorders, especially bloating. This sweet herb can also stimulate appetite and its anti-inflammatory properties. The olive tree was very appreciated, in fact, the olive tree was the most relished tree in ancient Greece. It was especially important to Athena. Athena and Poseidon argued with each other over who should get to rule Athens. They finally agreed, that whoever produces a better gift will get to be the ruler of Athens. Athena produced an olive tree, and Poseidon produced a horse. Athena was victorious. Her victory, due to the plentiful benefits that olive oil and olive leaves have to treat a wide variety of illnesses, led to her becoming the new ruler of Athens. Olive leaves can be used to treat arthritis, prevent diabetes, lower high blood pressure as well as improve brain function. Olive oil helps fight against cardiovascular issues and strokes. In a Greek myth, parsley is thought to grow from the ground, soaked with the blood of Archemoros. The ancient Greeks, who believed parsley seeds made many journeys to the underworld before beginning to sprout, used the herb in funeral ceremonies. In modern herbalism, parsley seeds are used as a strong diuretic and kidney cleanser, and the leaves are used in salads as a good source of nutrition, parsley leaves are rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Saffron was sacred to Hermes. In Greek mythology, a boy named Krokos, whom Hermes adored, died. When he died, Hermes transformed Krokos into a saffron flower. This exotic spice was adored in ancient Greece, and it continues to be used in many spicy meals in modern times for its one-of-a-kind flavor and medicinal properties. Saffron also helps fight depression, boost immunity, and aids in digestion. This is because of its high content of vitamins and antioxidants. Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough, and to loosen phlegm. It is also used for sleep problems, atherosclerosis, intestinal gas, Alzheimer’s disease, shock, spitting up blood, heartburn, and dry skin.

Although it seems like our medical practices have changed a lot since 1250 BC the truth is that without our knowledge of the medical practices of healers in the Trojan War and Greek doctors in ancient Greece, we wouldn’t be able to help as many people as we do today.

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