Chapter 1. Medicine as Science

  1. Markham J. Geller

Published Online: 19 MAR 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444319996.ch1

Ancient Babylonian Medicine: Theory and Practice

Ancient Babylonian Medicine: Theory and Practice

How to Cite

Geller, M. J. (2010) Medicine as Science, in Ancient Babylonian Medicine: Theory and Practice, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444319996.ch1

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 MAR 2010
  2. Published Print: 16 APR 2010

Book Series:

  1. Ancient Cultures

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405126526

Online ISBN: 9781444319996



  • medicine as science;
  • Babylonians, within realm of medicine - having no “theory of humors,” seeing diseases as caused by demons and magical agents;
  • complicated system of medicine - functioning in Babylonia, being devoid of theory;
  • “theory” within ancient context - three preconditions, identifying what we consider to be rational but non-technological thinking;
  • Materia Medica, Babylonian therapy - plants and drugs use in medical recipes;
  • šiknu, character or nature - an Akkadian word;
  • therapeutic texts, largest genre of Babylonian medical texts - symptom, drug lists and symptom relieving procedures;
  • Sumerian and Akkadian therapeutic magic - medical problems and catastrophic situations occasioned by demon attacks;
  • kultmittelbeschwörungen, incantations conveying sanctity on instruments - and paraphernalia used in relevant rituals;
  • multābiltu, diagnostic handbook - theoretical composition teaching theory of diagnosis


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • “Scientific” Medicine

  • Academic Medicine

  • Materia Medica

  • Anatomical Science

  • Medical Predictions

  • Medical Prescriptions

  • Sumerian and Akkadian Therapeutic Magic

  • Psychosomatic Illness

  • Divination