"The wretched quacks immediately began arguing between themselves about whether it was best to purge or bleed."

Surgical Tools from Pompeii
Public DomainSurgical Tools from Pompeii - Credit: G.dallorto/Wikimedia Commons
Ancient doctors had some strange ideas. Inducing vomiting and bleeding were two methods thought to purge sickness from the body - methods that were still used by doctors as late as the 20th century, sometimes involving placing leeches on the patient’s body. The Greek doctor Hippocrates believed that losing blood served to purge the patient of bad humours. The ancient theory of humours stated that a person was made up of four humours, black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood, and that a build up or lack of any one caused sickness. There were even theories that based different personality types on the different levels of humours within a person.

Despite these odd theories, the Romans knew that hygiene and fitness were important for good health of both body and mind; they enjoyed regular visits to the public baths, built advanced sewer systems, and constructed aqueducts to bring clean water to the city.

A Patient Being Bled
Public DomainA Patient Being Bled - Credit: Wikimedia Commons