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Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia$
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Jean Bottero

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780748613878

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613878.001.0001

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Magic and Medicine

Magic and Medicine

(p.162) Chapter 10 Magic and Medicine
Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia

Jean Bottéro


Ancient Mesopotamia has left an astonishing example of the paradox in the form of its medicine – its organised battle against physical evil, illness. These people had, in fact, constructed two techniques, vastly different in both inspiration and application, but with the same therapeutic intent – a medicine for doctors and a medicine for ‘magi’. In every culture, people very soon learnt to fight physical ills with the means to hand; this was empirical medicine, and was known in Mesopotamia as early as the first half of the third millennium, shortly after the beginnings of writing, and first of all by its specialist, its technician – the doctor, in Akkadian asû, a word whose root meaning is not known. The asû made use first and foremost of ‘remedies’, drawn from all natural sources, but mostly plants, hence their generic title of ‘simples’.

Keywords:   Mesopotamia, medicine, illness, doctors, magi, empirical medicine, asû, remedies, simples

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