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Medicine and Health in Ancient Rome

The average age to which most Romans lived was forty. There were exceptions. Some people lived well into their seventies or eighties. Only fifty percent of the children from wealth families lived to their twentieth birthdays, while even fewer of the poor would survive that long (#7 PG 53) Due to the high infant death rate the Romans waited until a baby was nine days old to name a child. Richer people often lived to a later age because of better nutrition and living conditions. Poor people were exposed to waste thrown out of apartment windows onto the streets. Common childhood diseases of today would hit with epidemic force on the population. although the Romans washed more often than in other civilizations of their time, the sanitary conditions of the water, plates and other items were poor.

Doctors in Rome were quite advanced for the time period. There is evidence that the Romans were able to perform cataract surgery, develop artificial legs, and were even able to drill into a skull to relieve pressure on the brain. Archeological digs have uncovered doctor's instruments which are similar to today's medical tools. Doctors were always men, and they were trained as apprentices because there were no formal schools to train doctors. Women often acted as herbal healers and mid wives in their own families. Doctors treated only those with enough money to pay for their services. Poor patients had to rely on herbal medicines or make sacrifices at local shrines and ask for the gods to help heal them.

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