Fun Fact: What Was Believed to Treat Epilepsy in Ancient Rome?

January 22, 2021

The influence of this treatment continued for centuries.

Question: What treatment was believed to treat epilepsy in Ancient Rome?

Answer: Cannibalism

In addition to gaining strength and vitality, ancient Romans believed that consuming the blood of gladiators could cure epilepsy. Historians believe the origins of this belief lie in Etruscan funeral rites. Although the influence of this religion faded during the time of ancient Rome, the use of gladiators’ blood continued for centuries.

In 1668, Edward Browne wrote that people attended executions to collect the blood of victims, and in the early 1600s, a German physician suggested that making a jerky out of the corpses of 24-year-old redheads could cure a range of conditions. Although the risks of drinking blood are now obvious, the use of other people’s body parts for medicine has been legitimized through the development of organ donation and transplantation in the 20th century.

REFERENCES

  • Waxman O. 3 Strange Treatments Doctors Used to Think Were Good for You. Time; October 17, 2017. https://time.com/4982099/quackery-medicine-history/. Accessed January 21, 202
  • Moog F, and Karenberg A. Between horror and hope: gladiator’s blood as a cure for epileptics in ancient medicine. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences; June 12, 2003. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12953616/. Accessed January 21, 2021.