Who Treated the Sick in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, the treatment of the sick was a vastly different experience than what we have today. While our modern healthcare system is developed and efficient, ancient societies had to rely on primitive methods of healing. Let’s take a closer look at who treated the sick in ancient times.

Early Civilizations

In early civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, medical practices were primarily performed by priests. They believed that illnesses were caused by evil spirits or demons that needed to be expelled from the body through prayer or magic.


In Mesopotamia, priests known as ashipu were responsible for treating the sick. They used various methods such as burning incense and reciting incantations to heal their patients. They also prescribed herbal remedies and potions to alleviate symptoms.


In ancient Egypt, doctors known as “physicians of the soul” were highly regarded for their medical knowledge. They treated illnesses with natural remedies such as honey and oil and also performed surgeries such as amputations and trepanning (drilling a hole in the skull to relieve pressure).


In China, traditional medicine was practiced by Daoist priests who believed in balancing the body’s energy or qi. Acupuncture and herbal medicine were common practices used to treat various ailments.

Greece and Rome

During the time of ancient Greece and Rome, medicine began to shift towards a more scientific approach. Physicians studied the human body and its functions, leading to significant advancements in medical knowledge.


Greek physicians such as Hippocrates believed that diseases had natural causes rather than supernatural ones. They emphasized the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining good health. Surgery was also performed during this time period.


In Rome, medicine became more specialized with doctors focusing on specific areas of the body or illnesses. Galen, a prominent physician during this time, wrote extensively about anatomy and physiology and developed many medical techniques still used today.


While our modern healthcare system has come a long way, it’s important to recognize the contributions made by those who treated the sick in ancient times. From priests using magic and herbs to physicians performing surgeries and developing scientific theories, these early healers paved the way for modern medicine.