The Role of Love in Ancient Greek Medicine Essay

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The Role of Love in Ancient Greek Medicine Among the many Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece, one that was worshipped on multiple levels and to a great extent was Love. This divine force held a powerful role in many aspects of the Greeks’ lives, including the understanding of their own bodies. As the society’s culture moved away from reliance on the Divine, and towards a more scientific method of understanding itself, the notion of love remained ingrained in the set assumptions; its dual ability to cure and destroy underscored the practices of medicine and the understandings of human anatomy. For the ancient Greek doctor and philosopher, Eryximachus, Love’s potential for health and destruction were…show more content…
The Greeks saw Love as the substance of all matter, and therefore, at the center of their own living bodies, making Eryximachus’ statement, “The science of medicine is completely governed by Love” (Symposium 21), a sharp intuition. With this observation at the core of their medicinal understandings, the ancient Greeks’ doctors’ approach to healing was through the means of manipulating the force of Love. The intricacies of the doctors’ love-manipulating methods were interwoven with the duality notion of love. With Love’s power to heal or destroy, the doctors needed to push the love into the healing realm, and learn how to shift it away from its destructive tendencies. A major way they practiced this was by “reconciling extremes of hostility between the bodily elements, and (of) making them love one another” (Symposium 21). The balancing of hot and cold, sweet and bitter, and wet and dry appears a number of times in many different treatments. To cure hysterical suffocation in a woman, the doctor “washes her thoroughly with hot water” and uses “sweet-scented fumigations beneath her vagina, but foul-scented ones at her nose” (Medicine and Anatomy 345). If the woman’s womb is displaced, she is washed with hot water, and a variety of sweet, and not so sweet, pessaries are applied to her, ranging
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