Book Review: Man and Wound in the Ancient World: A History of Military Medicine from Sumer to the Fall of Constantinople


by Richard A. Gabriel

Washington: Potomac Books, 2012. Pp. viii, 266. Illus., tables, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1597978485

The first systematic survey of military medicine in the pre-modern era from the pen of the well-regarded Prof Gabriel, who has written extensively in ancient military history.

Gabriel opens with a long chapter  on the evolution of warfare in the period through the mid-fifteenth century.  In this chapter he discusses early military organization, the design of weapons, with the mechanics of their use and the types of wounds they caused, and also the diseases that were most likely to affect armies.  A chapter follows on the origins of military medicine – indeed medicine in general -- and the treatment of diseases and injuries prior to the rise of civilization.  Then individual chapters of varying length examine military medical practice and organization among the Sumerians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Israelites, Persians, Indians, Greeks, Romans (among whom it attained its peak in the pre-modern era), the “Barbarians”, and the Byzantines, culminating with a chapter covering the Islamic world and medieval Christendom.  Gabriel ends the book with a thoughtful review of the developments in military medicine through the mid-fifteenth century.  Throughout the book, he avoids very technical language, while still giving the reader valuable insights into medicine, treatment, and military organization.  Gabriel is excellent at picking out surprisingly “modern” ideas later lost due to political or religious problems, a matter not wholly absent from contemporary attempts to advance medical treatment.  

Well written, Man and Wound in the Ancient World is an easy read, and will prove rewarding for anyone interested in ancient military history or the history of medicine, or just the curious.

Reviewer: A. A Nofi, Review Editor   

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