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HEALTH CULTURE OF THE THRACIANS




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Exposition:

The Thracians are one of the most ancient peoples in the history of mankind. They are related to the Indo-European ethno-linguistic community and inhabited the lands between the lower course of the Danube, the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea and the river of Struma, as well as entire areas of Asia Minor and the lands of the straits centered around Troy. According to Herodotos, in terms of their number they conceded the first rank only to the Hindus and according to Al. Fall, the Thracian population was about one million people.

The history of the Thracians started in the Bronze Age. Their distinctive culture was established in the middle of the second millenium and flourished in the second half of 6th, 5th and 4th century B.C. in the Odrysian state. The invasions of the Celts and Romans in the period from 3rd to 1st century B.C. was the reason for its decline.[1]

In the period from 6th to 3rd century B.C. the rulers of the Odrysian state expanded their territories, erected fortresses and cities, coined money, built castles and monumental vaults. Archaeology gives us information about the town-building performed by the Thracians. At the end of 4th century B.C. the ruler of the Odrysian state, Seuthes III, founded his capital Seuthopolis not far from present day Kazanlak. This city occupying about 50 ha existed until 2nd century B.C. It was constructed under a preliminary design in a Hellenic style. The Thracians knew and erected public utility and hygienic facilities, typical of the ancient cities. The rectangular quarters were almost identical in size, and the streets crossed each other under a straight angle. The hygienic two-storey buildings had a southward exposure and were protected against cold winds. Seuthopolis had a water supply and sewerage network. The pure water came from wells and the drainage sewerage system consisted of domestic canals with pipes from baked clay, connected into a joint sewerage network. The waste water was discharged outside the fortified wall and poured into the river of Tundzha, which encircled the city from three sides.[2;3]

 The Thracians dealed with agriculture, animal breeding, leather working and metal processing. They were good vine-growers and wine producers.

We have some data on the food of the Thracians. It is known for example, that they used yoghurt, later called elixir of the Thracians. They spread yoghurt ferment on wounds and burns, treated stomach-ache, etc. Yoghurt served as a cosmetic means used by the women for cosmetic masks.

 There are some literature sources regarding the health and demographic condition of the Thracians: high level of birth and death rate, low average life expectancy (around 35) [4]

 There were plaque epidemics (pandemic in 5th century B.C.) ad other contageous diseases. In 1st and 2nd century B.C. they were very destructive and led to total decline and ruin.

 The Thracians believed that the divine pantheon was inhabited by gods and demigods who were related to health and welfare of the ancient people. The Heros (the Thracian rider) was among the most popular and worshipped gods. He patronized life, death and fertility. Compassionate to people, Heros listened to their prays and protected them against diseases and all kinds of evil.

Bendis, the goddess of the hunt, patronized life in nature, as well as the fertility of the Thracian women. The cult towards the Three nymphs who had healing and remedial skills, was also significantly spread and sanctuaries called nympheums were constructed. Great popularity in the lands of the ancient Thracians had the Thracian priest Orpheus (around 13th century B.C.), the founder of the philosophic doctrine later named after him (Orphism). In his healing practice he used different means, including music, songs, casting spells. Orpheus is the deified ancient Thracian founder of healing through music on our lands in the antiquity.

The cult to Asclepius gained considerable popularity in the Thracian culture during the Roman ruling. The god of health was pictured in a typical Thracian manner as a horse rider, with a juvenile face and curly hair.[7]

 Apart from healers – half gods, half humans, Ancient Thrace could boast with very good physicians who were considered to be servants of those gods.

The oldest evidence of the use of mineral water for the treatment of skin diseases in Ancient Thrace is found in the description given by Herodotus of the march of Darius I through the Thracian lands in the 5th century B.C. Later on the mineral springs and their healing water gained even greater popularity.

 Typical of the Thracian healing system was the treatment with herbs. Theophrastus of Eresos (3rd century B.C.) indicates that the Thracians used remedial plants such as centaurеа, mugwort, hellebore, bindweed, wild thyme, etc. The Thracians also used for healing the mineral calamine (zinc hydroxylate) with alum and other minerals obtained by them. The evidence provided by Dioscorides was widely used by Galenus and Avicenna, as well as other medieval physicians and in this way the Thracian remedial means became known to the European and world medicine.[13]

 Natural healing, together with herbal healing, the influence of music and „good lectures“, as well as the use of a number of remedial methods and means of the medicine of Ancient Thrace were later used in the old Bulgarian, medieval and contemporary Bulgarian medicine.

There were remedial events carried out in Ancient Thrace, which included surgical intervention. Traces on bone excavations from that epoch evidence that the people used to suffer from rachitis, diseases of the intervertebral joints, curving of the joints of the extremities, tooth erosion (caries). There are traces of trepanation (opening of the scull), performed with the help of flint knives, probably for an occult purpose (chasing away of an evil spirit which has taken hold of the patient).[14]

Later on, the Thracian population nominated specific persons who dealt with healing as priest-doctors at the temples and also as army doctors. Similar Thracian doctors are mentioned for example in the fight at Potidaea and in the Trojan War. In the first four centuries А. D. the Thracians developed in almost all branches of medicine (there was comparatively well-developed surgery, internal diseases, children»s and eye diseases).

Archaeologists find in the tombs of Thracian physicians different medicinal tools used for abdominal, obstetric and gynecological and bone and joint operations. They also used cups, gynecological speculums, different cases and boxes.

Studies revealed that the main ingredients of the ancient medicines were lead, copper and zinc. Lead and lead compounds were used as styptics, laxatives and appetite inducing means. The medicines containing zinc were used for eye diseases and the copper oxide was used for treatment of burns and surface wounds.

Conclusion:

The health culture of the Thracians has the following specifications:

  • It is connected with the Thracian divine pantheon – mainly with god Heros, Bendis, the three nymphs with healing skills. During the Roman ruling the cult for Asclepius, the god of health, appeared and was widely spread. The most famous physicians deified after their death were ORPHEUS, SALMOXIS, ABARIS.
  • Medicine had a magical nature – treatment with music and songs (Orpheus), with whispering, preaching and good words (Salmoxis)
  • the main part of the health culture is the knowledge of herbs – centaurea, mugworth, chelidonium, centaurium erythraea, polypodium vulgare, thyme, dill, etc.
  • Construction of balneological centres (described by Herodotus)
  • their health culture was very susceptible to favourable foreign influences – town-building, public utility and hygienic facilities
  • evidence of the eating habits for some foods of vegetable and animal nature – yoghurt, called the elixir of the Thracians, is a high remedial factor. They used it as a cosmetic means, for stomach diseases, etc.
  • In Ancient Thrace some remedial events took place, including surgical intervention.

Bibliography:

  1. Apostolov M. and I. Ivanova. Chrestomathy of the History of Medicine. BAS Publishing House, S., 1995, p. 252
  2. Apostolov M. History of Medicine and Social Activity. BAS Publishing House, S. 1994, p. 193
  3. Apostolov, M. History of Medicine, S., Medicine and PT, 1992.
  4. Apostolov, M. History of Healthcare and Nursing. V. Tarnovo, 1993, p. 78
  5. Bogdanov I. Avicenna. S., Medicine and PT, 1971, p. 145
  6. Boev, P. Symbolic Trepanations from Bulgaria – Notices of the Institute of Morphology at BAS, 1964, books 9-10
  7. Vasilev, V. Medicine of Ancient Thrace. S., Medicine and PT, 1975, p. 104.
  8. Dzhakov, St. History of Medicine. S., 1932, p. 112
  9. Zlatarski, V. History of the Bulgarian State over the Middle Ages, volume 1 and 2, S., Science and Art, 1970
  10. Ivanova, P. The Secret of the Green Treasure-House. S., 1992, p. 48
  11. Kristanov, Tsv. Development of Natural History and Medicine on Our Lands. S., BAS, 1966, p. 264
  12. Kristanov, Tsv., Iv. Duychev. Natural History in Medieval Bulgaria. S., BAS, 1954
  13. Miteva, N., Thracian Beliefs and Their Connection with Healing, a Collection of reports, Second National Congress of History of Medicine, Veliko Tarnovo, 1-4 November 1985, p. 173.
  14. Pavlova, V. /editor/ History of Medicine in Bulgaria. S., Medicine and PT, 1980, p. 272
  15. Petrov, B. D. Ibn Sina /Avicenna/ 980-1037. M., Medicine, 1980, p. 152
    HEALTH CULTURE OF THE THRACIANS
    It is hard to say that the Thracians have had a well-developed medicine. However, there is historical evi-dence that they had different means and methods of treatment of diseases, including habits and various rituals for their prevention. Considering archaeological data, it is the authors' idea to go deep into the secrets of the past and study as far as possible some specifications of the health culture of the Thracians. Here are some interesting facts:  There are many gods, goddesses and demigods in the sacred Thracian pantheon and each one of them was related to the health of the most ancient inhabitants of our lands.  The Thracians have used magical methods as a means of restoration of the overall health through connection with nature. One of the most ancient, worldly recognized principles of harmony is Orphicism, which outlines the role of the mind in maintaining both the inner peace of the organism and its connection with the surrounding world.  The Thracians skillfully combined the healing power of the herbs, water, air and food with the cult impacts, in order to strengthen the health or treat a disease.
    Written by: Shopov Dimitar Georgiev, Mihaylova Vanina Krasteva
    Published by: БАСАРАНОВИЧ ЕКАТЕРИНА
    Date Published: 02/15/2017
    Edition: ЕВРАЗИЙСКИЙ СОЮЗ УЧЕНЫХ_30.01.2017_1(34)
    Available in: Ebook