Antique medicine

Asclepios and Telesphoros (1)



About the origin of the healing god Asklepios and its close relationship to Apollo, the scholars argue. Asklepios cult sites in connection with thermal springs were particularly popular in Thrace. The etymology of the name and its Thessalian homeland, Trikka, could allude to a Thracian authorship of the deified Asclepius. Incidentally, his gnomish companion Telesphorus - "who brings it to the [good] end" - always in Thracian costumes with a hooded coat.


In Greek mythology (especially in Thrace), Telesforos (or Telesphoros) was a son of Asclepius. He was a close friend of his, Hygieia. He was a boy whose face was covered with a cowboy and a Phrygian cap Illus., as his name means "bringing fulfillment" in Greek. He is believed to have originated around 100 AD in Pergamon as part of the large Asclepian cult there places adopted his cult. Representations of him occur mainly in Anatolia and the area around the Danube. " (Wikipedia 2006).


Splintered into many tribes, Thracians from the Carpathians settled across the northern Aegean to Asia Minor, forming the heart of present-day Bulgaria. They were among the Indo-European peoples who immigrated to the Danubian-Balkan region during the second millennium BC. Only in the fifth century BC did the Odrysen king Teres succeed in founding a Thracian empire, which shortly thereafter lost to its neighbors. Afterwards, Persian and Celtic invasions weakened the country, until it was finally conquered by the Romans in 46 AD.



From the time of the Roman occupation of the country comes the votive tablet presented here: on the left in the picture the healing god ASKLEPIOS (say Aesculapius, since we are no longer in the Greek but in the Roman period), right next to him the barefoot TELESPHOROS in his typical cape coat ,



Lit .:
W. Deonna, De Telesphore au "moine bourru", Collection Latomus, vol.XXI, Berchem / Bruxelles 1955

Antique medicine

Asclepios and Telesphoros (2)

Schönert-Geiss 146 (V 67/R 124) Moushmov 5041



TELESPHOROS - who carries the goal - the perfector who brings the end of suffering, the genius of recovery who helps to find a happy ending to any project ... Telesphorus was thought of as the genius of the hidden or secret life force, or as a deity who protected the convalescents against relapses into their previous illness, often alongside the Aesculapius, or between him and the Hygiea "as a small, barefoot boy covered in a mantle and covering his head with his cap, which signifies the hidden and mysterious, almost veiled power which the boy represents, may also be expressed by the fact that the greatest caution is exercised in recovery in the clothing ".

He joined Asklepios late than his 'rice' or 'son'. It was introduced by oracles at the end of the 1st century. A.D. in Pergamon, from where his cult spread quickly. He interpreted the dreams to the Greeks: the healing sleep in the temple with its medically meaningful dream - an important element of ancient medicine.
Because of its small shape and hooded cloak, Telesphoros is identical to genii cucullati, which were fertility, healing, and even gods of death. Cucullus is the hood. They are probably ancient Celtic deities.


Telesphoros was worshiped primarily along the coast of Asia Minor and in the Black Sea basin. Related to him is EUAMERION, the demon of the "good day", d. H. the happy crisis of the disease. Temple in Smyrna and Pergamos.
... in the third century AD, ancient deities in Europe are still ubiquitous - in politics, in medicine. 700 years after HIPPOKRATES the separation of medicine and theology is still not done correctly ...


The personified cupping head?
"In the Greeks, the cupping head was a sacred symbol of Asclepius cult (god of healing), whereby the bell-shaped instrument itself was raised to the deity Telesphoros and was imprinted on numerous coins"


The coin presents an exquisitely preserved coin, made under Emperor Caracalla [* 188; Emperor of 211-217 AD] in the province of Thrace in Trajanopolis [today Rekna Devia / Bulgaria] was coined (so-called provincial coinage):

obvers: Bust with laurel wreath AUgustaTrajana K Marcus AURelius Caesar - [ANTONEINO C].

reverse: Telesphoros standing, [TRAIANO-POLEITON] (imprint).

Finally, a curiosity: Caracalla (real Caracallus) was a nickname, which the emperor received after 213 after a long Celtic hooded coat. Consequently, we obvers see an Emperor with Celtic cloak, reverse a deity with the typical Celtic cape coat.

To the question, why this God appears on so many coins, I could not find anything reasonable. Did the ruler in question wish to imply that he, like Telesphorus, was the perfector, the great man sent by history to finally fulfill all the longings of the people?

Antique medicine

Blood lancets



   The medical use of these instruments is little secured by archaeological finds. Künzl writes that "bloodletting instruments were frequent in antiquity". If there are few among the grave finds, it is either a coincidence of preservation or the instruments are present, but we do not recognize them "(*).

Size 128x13mm resp. 131x11mm


The lancets presented here could be phlebotomes, bloodletting knives; the similarity with the find from Ephesus / Asia Minor (fig.20 nr.22 at Künzl) is astonishing.
(*) E. Künzl, Medicine. Instruments from Sepulcher finds d.röm. Kaiserzeit, Bonner Jahrb. 182, 1982 p.17.

Location South England

Antique medicine

Cataract needle (?)



Needles can only be interpreted as medical instruments if they are found in connection with other instruments that are clearly used for medical purposes. Basically, needles with oehr used for suturing wounds are distinguished from needles without oehr. The thickening of the needle, the Milne (*) at the top suspected "round the tip", this thickening was of course on the handle so that it was firmly in the hand. In a grave in Reims, whose ointment punches and collyrines clearly characterize the tomb as the last resting place of an eye species, found a set consisting of 9 needles made of steel, which were interchangeable - so in principle similar to the scalpels, their knives were also interchangeable. You have to distinguish hollow needles from solid needles. The latter are likely to be star needles used to force the clouded lens out of the optical axis of the eye. Hollow needles indicate that one tried - although without much success - to suck the lens out of the eye (sucking with the mouth?), A technique that the Arabs later tried and soon gave up again, as inconclusive ...

A needle (length about 115 mm, length handle 24 mm, max thickness 10 mm) is presented, which was possibly used medically: on our "star needle", however, that, below the tip attached spherical thickening, as they are missing on the silver instrument of Meyer-Steinegg (**) (Plate VIII fig 10), which should prevent unintentional penetration of the needle! Presumably it is a (banal) hairpin (acus comatoria).


(*) J.St. Milne, Surgical instruments in Greek and Roman Times, 1907 (reprinted 1970) p. 20ff.
(**) Th. Meyer-Steinegg, surgeon. Instruments of antiquity, Jenaer Med.hist. Contrib. 1, 1912 Plate VIII fig. 10

Antique medicine

Roman cautery

Cautery, about 300 BC


The red-hot needle-shaped tip made it possible to burn out wounds and stop bleeding. The angling of the needle prevented a too deep penetration of the probe into the wound with the risk of a constriction of deep-seated veins and arteries ...

Perhaps the device represents that "hamulus acutus" as mentioned by CELSUS (VI, 7, 9) as "hamulus retusus paulum recurvatus, or as" hamulus acutus paulum mucrone intus recurvatus "(vi, 7,4).

Penetration depth 6 mm. Length of the instrument 189 mm.

Antique medicine

Cupping glas



Bronze Roman cupping pots are exhibited in several European museums. They come from so-called "doctor's graves" and represent as "pars pro toto" the entirety of the instruments of the doctor dar. They all have a slim mushroom shape - the round top is sharply separated from the neck and can have a ring for hanging. exhibits:

- The Science Museum London "This bronze cupping vessel is from Pompeii, Italy".

- at the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum

- Ventouse en bronze recueillie à Martigny (Suisse). Cliché service Archéologique et Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Musée archéologique

- in the Museum of Bingen, where 3 cupping heads from the famous local doctor's tomb are on display,

- the "Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg" shows two bells made of thin bronze plate, which had come to light in 1964 during the excavation of the Roman burial ground of Heidelberg-Neuenheim and to the inventory of a doctor's grave from the first half of the 2nd century AD. belong.



As a particularly "vitrinefähig" we present a "Roman" cup of unknown provenance, purchased in a Canadian antique shop in Ottawa / Ontario (Certificate of Authenticity) - the previous owner had acquired it in the early 60s in New York. Typical bell-shaped vessel body with distinct neck. Height 8.3 cm. The edge is rounded, often also bent back outward. This avoids a painful pressure of the edge on the skin and achieves a good seal. Whether real or fake, we dare not decide - you ask Mr Künzl, you do not need to wait for the answer to know that he is unreal! Be that as it may, the subject stimulates discussion about medical practice 2000 years ago.

Antique medicine

Drill (?)




It is conceivable to use such a fine drill in woodwork, or decorating pottery. But also in dentistry, one could settle the instrument - far more daring instruments are offered in medical collections as dental cutlery ...

A real progress was the drill drill of the physician ARCHIGENES (2nd half 1st / beginning of the 2nd century), with which he trebled aching teeth. Like (almost) all the physicians of the time, Archenigen was a Greek - he came from Apamea, in today's Syria. His father Phillipos was a disciple of Agathinos. ARCHIGENES reports that he tapped a dark, aching tooth with a small trephine drill and thus alleviated a toothache for a patient (quoted by Walter von Hoffmann-Axthelm, Die Geschichte der Zahnheilkunde., Buch- und Zeitschriftenverlag, Die Quintessenz, 1973). , His technique went to school: in the second century AD GALEN, like ARCHIGENES in the first century, recommended that the diseased tooth be drilled with a small drill (De Compositione medicamentorum secundum locus, lib. 5, c.


Total length of the drill: 156 mm, diameter of the drill head: 3 mm



Antique medicine

Drill bit

Trepan, um 300 n.Chr.
Fundort: Trier, Ortsteil Feyen.



The surgical trepan represents a special form of the trephine - also other occupations such as the sculptor, the Trepane used to roundish structures, such as eyes, hair curls, etc. represent.

The surgical trepan

The trepanation so widespread in prehistoric times was rather rare among the ancient Egyptians and Romans - presumably the indication for this daring intervention had drastically changed. According to the Hippocratic inscription "Injuries to the head," the sawing of the skull was explicitly limited to those cases where the bone was splintered (Chapter 9). To ensure this diagnosis, the surgeon first had to expose the skull bone over a large area and scrape it clean. If there were doubts, a black paste could be applied and then wiped away to reveal fine hairline cracks in the bone (chapter 14).

HIPPOCRATES described 2 varieties of Trepan:
- the trepan "à tarière" (with drill)
- the Trepan "à couronne avec pyramide" (Krontrepan)
At the time of GALEN, the latter variety had been forgotten. To prevent the "trépan à tarière" from sagging too deeply, a circular bead was added and the trepan was now called "abaptison" = not immersed (see baptism by immersion in a baptistery).

In CELSUS the trepanation is described for small infection sites (for him was the "infection" of the bone as an indication for trepanation) was the so-called Kron-trepan, called CELSUS modiolus, which meant something like "little cylinder". The actual Trepan was indeed a metal cylinder whose lower edge was toothed serrated. The middle was marked by a removable spike that fixed the trephine until the teeth had gripped the bone. The trepan was kept moving by a small fiddle bow. He rotated with light pressure, gradually milled into the bone. During the procedure, the surgical field should be cooled frequently with water. The "inflamed" site circumscribed by the trephine was finally removed with a bone chisel. Before and during the procedure, the condition of the bone had to be checked again and again with a fine probe.

The Trepan presented here has a diameter (measured at the sprocket) of 29 mm. The length of the teeth is on average 4 mm. A small bead of 0.5 mm prevented an uncontrolled breaking of the drill into the cranium. Our "abaptison" differs significantly from the famous Krontrepanen from Bingen, who had no such protections and suddenly could break into the brain mass including rondels.

Antique medicine

Heart scarab

Copy of an aegyptian Hear scarab

14x1 = 14 parts of the beetle
14x2 = 28 days of the female cycle.


Thus, the beetle was the ideal component of medication ... for women. It was minced in a mortar and added with ointments and pills - a good example of ancient Egyptian magic!


No arrogance! As early as the 17th and 18th centuries, beetles were treated and treated in Europe for the treatment of rabies (Math. Martini poor Kranken Rath, Frankf. 1676, 8, p. 23). Frederick the Great eagerly swallowed the beasts - from 1777 on, the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus) was even considered a Specificum against Lyssa in Prussia ...

Antique medicine

Hook and drill

Bronze, about 300 BC.



Many artefacts from Roman times are difficult to classify, as well as the two devices presented here:

- a kind of hook (lat. hamulus) (length 113 mm, width of the eyelet 9 mm), which could have all imaginable functions (why not stop also smaller wounds, so that the surgeon could clean it),

- A small handy device with a kronförmigem end that may have served as a drill. From the Roman Empire it is known that the Greek physician Archigenes bored painful teeth around 100 AD with a fine drill. Galen has told us how to treat toothache in his time: "If it does not give way to any of the remedies mentioned above, but the pain is violent, then I will use the medicines mentioned after drilling the tooth with a delicate drill". This did not mean that with the help of the drill, the carious spots were removed and a filling was applied, no, the drill was only used to eliminate the pain, similarly Avicenna recommended using a thin drill bit later on in toothache to remove the damaged matter and The cure was able to get to the bottom of the pain, and the same was recommended by the physician Giovanni d'Arcoli from Verona around 1450.

Transport containers for bandages called the Romans "capsae". In a "capsa" was transported bandages, but also hemostatic drugs. Originally they were intended for the transport of scrolls and correspondingly large. The carrier of such containers was called "Capsarius".

Antique medicine


Scalpell handle to 100 AD.

Lat. Scalpellum, or scalpellus, in the same meaning the Romans used the word scalprum. Skalpell. "Scalepel is the most famous for all the medical instruments.


The Roman doctors once again defined a standard for the fact that the scientific have differentiate the deficiency. The finds of the scale palp. The following laddies of the spray, which are dated to be daddy. All the findings that were dated, are not older than the early Roman casual period. This could be an indication that this skal phrase is a Roman development. As form and appearance in the Empire time, no longer change, it can be assumed that the scalpel for the Roman doctors was considered mooded. The structure of the scalpel is typical of medical instruments of the Romans, because most instruments were two-sided on the one side The actual scalpel, on the other side a myttie-shaped spatula, which could be used to use the salted pallet spot.


The shape of the blades and the spatula varies very strongly from scalpel to scalpell and can be considered as specialization of the scalpel for certain tasks. The handle of the scalpel usually consists of bronze, on the other hand, iron, which explains why the scalpel usually are found without blade, since the iron blade goes fancy in the soveref as the bronze handle. To secure the blade to the handle, the rectangular shaft was provided with the narrower cut in the baffle ending in a bore. In the bore, the blade could then be fixed. Banked or shame sounded sounds could be replaced without having to dispose of the complete scalpel. Since the scalp handles were partly small artworks, it is only quite understandable that the blades could be replaced. The handles of the scalpel were deemed each year after the purse of the client. Often, the handles were designed with decomposing, in which a metal groove (e.g., gold or silver) was stimulated. It can be assumed that such a skalpel was already expensive to expensive in antiquity. In our current time you will have to be arousing to find a craftsman who usually staff this art. The ornaments were varied and rich by circles and dots over efeuricians up to figurative motives such as birds. In order to look more beautiful, the handles were also partly also provided with cross-casting between spatte and shank "(zit:


Several Greek and Roman reliefs overlide us the shape of the then common sorgrams, a relief from Roman casual time shows knife with round sounds and spatial handle, two knives with narrow curved blade. The round sounds could be different long and with a different curvature - depending on the purpose of use:" both tip and width knife use, not in all cases to use (to the cupping, use the curved, at the top of not to narrow Knife ("The doctor, Chap.7) More frequently than the corrosion-stage steel blades have the trades are formed, which are usually designed as spatulas. This grip form is so characteristic, which alone to be made of your surgical knife, as well as the sounds are lost, even if the blades are lost, even if the blades are lost, not even when the sounds are lost, the evenly the blades knife are lost: mostly the bronze knife handle (Lat." Manubrium Scalpelli) to a myrtle-shaped, strap splat-spot-spot, with the varices, branch breaks, or tumors after the separation of the overlying skin could be freely spread; without triggering bleeding. Some lateral rummers show inserts made of gold or silver in shaft: Cave, celebrity surgeon at work - that could be expensive! The strong, in cross-section rectangular or round handle had a slot-shaped, in rod-wide extended insert at the upper end, in which the blade was fitted with a groove - she was removed after wear and replaced by a new one. "The staff is at his one end a more or less deep cut, which soon shows in the length of the same width, but soon after the center of the staple can be tightened to scented. At his end but the cut-in spread is reversed in this way, his cross section at this point is circular. In this incision now the fitting to the fixed in the clip certain end of the blade fits in the right. The rolling widened had the purpose of being a sliding or invalidity of the blade from the strip to prevent" (*). This connection of blade and handle proved to be so much that you are in Steinshal as well as in Greece and Italy, Germany and England.



(*) Th. Meyer-Steinge and Sudhoff, history of medicine at a glance with Fig. 1922, p. 17. Location: Trier, on the so-called meat market Length 110 mm

Antique medicine

Potters spatula

Pottery tools? 


Many of the so-called "surgical devices" presented in the Antikensammlungen are utensils of Roman craftsmen who were probably patient rather than doctor ...

Each rod, whose end was thickened and formed into an olive (lat. Baca, bacula), could be used as a probe (lat. Specillum) with which the extent of an injury could be felt.


The 5 spatulas and styluses presented here probably served to smooth and decorate pottery or to describe or smooth a waxboard. But nothing prevented the surgeon from using them for his purposes ...