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6 The Cultural Setting of Ancient Babylonian Medicine

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Chapter Summary

Ancient Mesopotamian culture had its proper system of beliefs to explain what caused illness, how it could be cured and who should be involved in the process of treatment. This chapter presents one of the underlying cultural beliefs, namely the one which was related to the healing Goddess Gula. Gula (Ninisina) was associated with a number of afflictions; also parts of the human body were attributed to her. The chapter suggests that especially afflictions of the gastrointestinal tract, namely those caused by the dysfunction of the biliary system, were associated with the Goddess. One of the characteristic features of Ancient Babylonian medicine is its holistic approach to disease, which could be circumscribed as encompassing healing and curing. In a broad sense healing addresses the well-being of a patient in religious, and consequently, social and psychological terms, while curing refers to the actual treatment and removal of an illness.

Keywords: Ancient Babylonian medicine; biliary system; Goddess Gula



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