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by Archaeology Newsroom

Byzantine medicine

Official medicine in the Byzantine era creates compendiums- encyclopedias in order to record existing knowledge: Paul Aeginetes, Dioskourides, Myrepsos, Oreivasios. Laboratory methods used for medical purposes, accomplish an important scientific feat through the development of uroscopy which is utilized for diagnostic purposes. (Theophilos, Ioannes Actuarius). The progress of these methods, directly depends on the implementation of these discoveries on a greater part of the population in a clinical setup, namely in monastery-hospices gradually turned into hospitals. Nonetheless, the Byzantines have a hazy perception of the symbolic division between the natural and the supernatural or magic. Miracles did not have specific boundaries. Popular medicine turned to healer saints and their miraculous icons. The Lives of woman healer saints reveal the ambivalence of a culture divided between The Virgin Mary and Eve. Maria/Marinos, who had the divine gift of healing the possessed, had first to dress up himself/herself as a monk and live in a monastery. Daemonic possession which seized women who then displayed an unbridled sexual passion, was cured by the intervention of healer saints. Byzantine hagiography is full of contests between saints and sorcerers. It is worth noting that the evil eye is held responsible for illnesses. In the Byzantine court of the 12th and 13th century, there are many well documented accusations of sorcery causing illness and death. The Church was uncomfortable in condemning “the proof” of magic and sorcery. It is obvious to what degree “popular” beliefs infiltrated all levels of an officially orthodox society.