Earlier, we talked about Ptolemaic Egypt’s tax problems, as was evident from an analysed receipt that shows payment of over a whopping 230 lbs of coins. However, the ‘Diadochi‘ State (successor of Alexander the Great’s empire) also had some nifty medical tricks up its sleeve when it came to curing human ailments and conditions. One among such procedures pertained to the curing of drunken headache (or hangover), and the prescription written in Greek on a papyrus entailed the use of a shrub known as Alexandrian chamaedaphne . Oddly enough, the leaves of this plant had to be strung together and worn around the neck, as opposed to consuming them. Beyond this weird solution, there are also a slew of other medical methods mentioned in over 500,000 texts – that seemingly had actual beneficial effects.
All of these documents were salvaged in early 20th century from the Ancient Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus, with their dates being presumed to be from 2nd century AD. Thirty of such medical treatises were translated, complied and published as a volume by historians at a recent event. To that end, the texts have mentioned treatments of ailments ranging from hemorrhoids, ulcers to even eye surgeries. For example, an eye cleaning lotion known as collyrium required a number of elaborate ingredients like copper flakes, antimony oxide, white lead, washed lead dross (produced in smelting), starch, dried roses, rainwater, gum Arabic, poppy juice and Celtic spikenard (a type of plant). This composite was then used for treating rheum, a condition where a thin layer of mucus is naturally discharged from the eyes.
Other treatments were supposedly not that pleasant – with one particularly gruesome method entailing eye surgery without anesthesia, which had not been invented back then. Used for correcting an everted eyelid (which being turned inside out causes irritation), the incomplete passage reads (translated by Marguerite Hirt, one of the researchers from University of Cambridge)-
…the eye…I began…by the temple…the other from the temple…to remove with a small round-bladed knife…the edge of the eyelid from outside…from within until I scooped out…
In that interesting note, Ancient Egypt also gave us the world’s oldest extant medical treatise, also known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus. As for the medical papyri in question here, they are currently housed at the Sackler Library of Oxford University.
Via: Live Science
All images are courtesy of Egypt Exploration Society.