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Arch Hellen Med, 33(3), May-June 2016, 402-410


Bathing as a means of therapy in the Byzantine Era

Ν. Stavrakakis
"Venizelio-Pananion" General Hospital, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

During the Byzantine Empire one of the best known methods of health care used as ancillary treatment for various illnesses was bathing. This form of treatment was adopted from ancient Greek medicine and applied in exactly the same ways in Byzantine medical practice. The reasons for the approval by the Byzantines of these methods were, firstly, the general acceptance of traditional ancient Greek medicine and, secondly, the fact that the renowned physician-writers of that period reproduced almost everything that their predecessors had suggested for the treatment of various diseases. Bathing as means of therapy was therefore used widely and applied to everyone in need in the Byzantine Empire, in spite of the extreme views of some erimites and clerics against the practice. According to the supporters of bathing, the skin as a route of expulsion of waste matter from the human body was essential for balanced bodily function. The most widely accepted way to succeed in this was induction of perspiration by bathing or steam baths. The Byzantine physician-writers report that the therapeutic use of the spa was predefined according to the methods of use and frequency. They also list the indications and contra-indications of bathing for every known disease of that period. For this reason therapeutic baths were an integral part of the facilities of every hospital.

Key words: Bathing therapy, Byzantine Empire, Byzantine medicine, Rehabilitation.

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