Ancient Civilization – Nature, Health and Disease


(a) The iron age brought significant advances in intellectual creativity there was a sudden burgeoning of genius in every corner of the inhabited world. This rationalism uprooted many superstitious beliefs which way to scientific theories.

(b) Ancient Indians wrote many Shasta’s or treatises on medicine and branches of knowledge. They classified the universe into four or elements made up of atoms or anu.

(c) The Sulvasutras or treatises that give details of how to construct alters for sacrifices, later helped in the development of the Pythagoras Theorem.


(d) In India, the superstitious belief in sacrifices added to the knowledge anatomy. The Theravada gives detailed information about diseases, their symptoms and their cures with herbs, water, etc. Indian medicine so greatly influenced the Greeks that it became popular as the Yunani system of medicine.

(e) The Ayurvedic system of medicine was perfected during the Gupta period due to the efforts of Susruta and Charak. Like modern times, great – was laid on hygiene and food. There were advancements in surgery and difficult operations were performed successfully.

(f) The ancient Chinese gave up belief in magical chanting to cure diseases. They scientifically correlated good health with a good diet and could distinguish between various diseases and their symptoms.

(g) In Greece, the scholar Herophilus described the brain in detail as also the function of arteries in blood circulation. Dissection of human bodies was done to get first hand knowledge about human anatomy. In these circumstances, superstitious beliefs ceased to flourish. The Scholar Galen piled an encyclopedia on medicine and did pioneering work in the study of blood circulation.


(h) The Roman scholar Celsius gave details about surgery. The Roman poet Lucretius, regarded belief in Supernatural powers as a barrier to human growth. Cicero, a famous Roman Orator, believed that Natural law could only be discovered by reason.

(i) In the pre-historic times, when man could not understand or control natu­ral phenomena, he succumbed to their fury and indulged in superstitious beliefs. With growth in civilization, and expansion of knowledge in every field of human activity, these superstitious beliefs gave way to scientific theories based on observation and experimentation. The ancient belief that the earth was the centre of the universe gave way to the theories of Copernicus and Galileo, based on mathematical calculations and invention of the telescope.

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