Medicine and Social Welfare in the Byzantine Empire

Demetrios J. Constantelos


Byzantine medicine was guided by Hippocratic principles and Christian theo­logical precepts, all of which viewed the human being as a psychosomatic en­tity. Medical philosophy and Christian theology had achieved an alliance, and the well-being of the entire person was the central objective of both.

Along with pharmaceutical herbs and drugs, diet and baths, exercises and op­timistic outlooks, Byzantine physicians, whether laymen or clergymen, em­phasized rational treatment but also the need for religious faith and hope. Even though the holy man and his miraculous therapeutic powers were highly respected, appreciation of the power of logic had never gone into a total eclipse throughout the Byzantine era.

Thanks to the work of good physicians and their impact on the welfare of society medicine obtained high respect in 9th century. Nevertheless, the dialogue between secular medicine and sacred medicine, and the debate between secular and spiritual approaches to health and social welfare con­tinued unabated down to the fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Key words: Social welfare - Byzantine Empire - Philosophy 

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