'The most important factor in improving public health was always in the role of the government.' Do you think this true of the period from Ancient Egypt to the end of the Middle Ages?

Essay by AnnaaarHigh School, 10th grade October 2009

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The knowledge of public health in history is seen as something that shows intelligence in ancient empires. There would have been many things that helped the Romans to develop their understanding of the importance of good hygiene, but was the government really the most important influence on public health throughout the empires of the Ancient Egyptians to the Middle Ages?The Ancient EgyptiansIt's known that the Egyptians had knowledge of hygiene, but they had it for very different reasons to the Romans, for example. The Egyptians practiced cleanliness for mostly religious and social reasons, not for the good of the population. They still had baths and toilets for basic personal hygiene, but they had not connected some things with hygiene. For instance, they used mosquito nets but these were just to prevent the bites, not to prevent malaria. Priests were very clean for only religious reasons, and the Egyptian population only washed because it 'appealed to the gods'.

They hadn't developed the technology for sewers or public medical care, although they had doctors who mixed herbal remedies, but a lot of these were ineffective because they were designed to ward off spirits. To protect a son from disease, in 'Papyrus Berlin' (c.1800bc) it says, 'I have made a charm for my child which will protect him against you, oh evil spirits! This charm is made from evil-smelling herbs and from garlic which is harmful to you, from honey which is sweet to people and horrible to spirits, from a fish tail and a rag and a backbone of a perch.'This is an example of how the Egyptians focused on evil spirits causing disease, and though the early Greeks believed this too, they found remedies which they believed to ward off spirits, but also work as basic bacteria-killing concoctions. The Egyptians'...