Surgery in Ancient Turkey

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“Knife is good if medicine doesn’t work, fire is good if the knife doesn’t.”

Roman saying
Surgery in Ancient Anatolia
Surgery in Ancient Anatolia

Although the history of surgery is as old as humanity, the development of modern surgery has only been in the last 120 years. In ancient times, surgery was not a separate specialty in the science of medicine. Surgery was performed by doctors in these ages. he would try to heal wounds and stop bleeding, pierce the skull (trepanation) to treat head injuries, or cut off the injured limb.

Since medicine was born out of necessity, its record goes as far back as the history of humanity. Therefore, the first examples of tools to be used for the treatment of diseases date back earlier than ancient times, to prehistoric times. The Romans produced many surgical instruments and spread their knowledge of surgical procedures. Many of these medical discoveries, not so surprisingly, took place on the battlefield.

An ancient doctor on duty

Some of the Greco-Roman tools that have helped shape modern surgery include the bone drill and forceps (a device for pulling the unborn child out of the womb). Bone drills were used to cut out diseased bone and were similar in appearance to today’s corkscrews. Forceps were among the most common surgical instruments of the Roman period. Forcep was used to remove small pieces of bone from the body. In addition, there are some records of the earliest use of the syringe in Ancient Roman literature. These syringes were used to apply medicinal ointments.

In ancient Rome, there was a written rule that when a woman died in childbirth, the child had to be removed from the woman’s body. This rule paved the way for the first form of cesarean section surgery. In those years, Rome was not much cleaner than a pigsty. Therefore, skin diseases and sexual diseases were seen very frequently. Diseases of old age were rare because the average life expectancy was on 37 years. So there was no prostate problem.

To open an abscess, drain urine, clean the wounds in the ear, drain the water of the lungs, to treat the tumors outside they had several surgeries. When treating bleeding patients and breast cancer, they heated an iron bar and cauterized the cancerous area.

Surgical Instruments

During the Greek period in Anatolia surgery became a specialty. Greek surgeons were trained in semi-official schools called Askleia. This training was the beginning of today’s modern medicine education that continues centuries later. Hippocrates, who lived between 460-370 BC, was the greatest physician and surgeon of the Antiquity. In his book “On Surgery”, he gives extensive information about the characteristics of the surgeon, what he should know, and the treatment phases. In his works, he talked about surgeries for fractures, wounds, ulcers, and hemorrhoids.

Galen the Greatest Doctor of Antiquity

Surgery was more or less separated from medicine during the reign of Galen of Pergamon (129-216 AD). For a long time (until the 13th and 14th centuries), doctors avoided surgery. Therefore, surgery fell into the hands of illiterate, ignorant, low-class people. They learned their craft not from books, but from their masters. With the exclusion of surgery from medicine, medicine actually lost an important branch. The second reason for the lag of surgery is the neglect of anatomy.

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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