Greeks fostered the development of a medical community

Greeks exceptional intellectual prowess not only sparked fleeting curiosity in their field, but also fostered the development of a medical community. The group consisted of men who were medically cultured and had a specific, albeit non-professional, interest in medical issues. They were set apart from the majority who had no opinion on the matter, as they possessed the ability to make informed judgments on these matters.

Naturally, the doctor’s most optimal occasion to present medical concepts to the general public was during the actual provision of medical care to his patients. Plato provides an entertaining portrayal in The Laws of the contrasting roles of the slave doctor and the medically educated physician who attends to individuals of higher social status. According to him, it is based on their approach towards their patients.

The slave doctor swiftly moves from one bed to another, dispensing medicines and instructions without engaging in any debate regarding his treatment approach. He relies solely on habit and past experience. He is an unequivocal despot. If he were to hear a physician speaking freely, without providing explanations to patients free of charge, in a way resembling scientific education and elucidating the causes of the disease by delving into the nature of all physical entities, he would undoubtedly find it amusing and respond with the common retort often employed by so-called doctors in such situations:

‘You are not effectively treating your patient; instead, you are imparting knowledge to him, almost as if your intention is not to restore his health, but to transform him into a medical professional.’

Plato asserts that the optimal approach to scientific healing relies on a comprehensive education of the patient. He assumes that perspective from modern medical science. The Hippocratic corpus has multiple discussions on the optimal approach to familiarize non-experts with the challenges faced by physicians.

The author of On ancient medicine emphasizes the importance of using language that is accessible to laymen while discussing this skill. It is necessary to start by considering the actual diseases that people have experienced. Due to their lack of expertise, individuals who are not experts in the field are unable to comprehend their illnesses, including their origins and remedies. However, it is feasible to elucidate these concepts to them by encouraging each person to recall their personal encounters. According to the author, a physician’s competence is demonstrated when their comments align with the patient’s memories.

It is unnecessary to include every excerpt in which this author talks about educating non-experts or directly speaks to them. Some doctors did not adhere to his concept of using inductive reasoning and assisting the patient based on information obtained from their own experience.

Alternatively, some individuals, with a contrasting perspective or facing distinct situations, took an opposing approach by formulating comprehensive principles on the essence of illness for the benefit of non-experts. They even went as far as encouraging the public to assess whether medicine could be considered a genuine kind of art.

In Plato’s Symposium, the physician Eryximachus delivers an extensive and clever discourse to non-experts following a meal, discussing the essence of Eros from the perspective of medicine and natural philosophy. Within refined society, there was a particular fascination in these subjects, which was further heightened by their association with the trendy field of natural philosophy.

Xenophon portrays young Euthydemus, who subsequently became a fervent disciple of Socrates, as a medical novice of a unique nature. His sole pursuits are intellectual: he has already acquired an entire collection of books encompassing architecture, geometry, astronomy, and, most notably, medicine. The considerable medical literature that emerged during the Peloponnesian war was a direct result of the devastating experience of the plague. This literature was eagerly consumed by the population.