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Arch Hellen Med, 30(3), May-June 2013, 335-339


Homeric reports on upper extremity trauma

I. Delikonstantinou,1 A. Gravvanis,1 I. Karavokyros,2 D. Tsoutsos1
1Department of Plastic Surgery-Microsurgery and Burns Unit, "J. Ioannovich", "G. Gennimatas" General State Hospital, Athens,
2First Department of Surgery, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, "Laiko" General Hospital, Athens, Greece

Homer's Iliad may represent the very first Greek written document, the earliest proof of Greek literature and perhaps the first account of a historical event. The reader, after browsing the rhapsodies, realizes that the author describes in detail a variety of battle injuries, while providing data about their treatment and care. In this study of the text of the Iliad a total of 130 injuries were found, 32 of which were in the upper arm and were caused mainly by spearheads and swords. Additionally, the poet mentions 4 wrist-hand injuries, 1 forearm trauma, 3 elbow injuries, and 2 arm injuries. A further 4 wounds were located in the supraclavicular zone and 14 in the shoulder, and reference was made to 4 upper-limb amputations. Two accounts of brachial plexus injuries may be the earliest written report of such an injury. Homer delineates these battle injuries with precision and surgical detail, demonstrating that he was aware of human anatomy and the principles of surgery many years before the Hippocratic era.

Key words: Homer, Iliad, Upper extremity trauma.

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