The prospect of time-travelling to the past, in order to witness the major breakthroughs in human evolution is quite appealing. The prospect of travelling back in time to change the history is even more appealing. People believe that bringing the advanced knowledge of the twenty-first century into the ancient times would mean bringing enlightenment into the dark ages.
With this idea in my mind, I travel back to the dawn of the health education and promotion in the ancient Greece.
Health Education and Promotion in the Ancient Greece
With a blink of an eye, I have reached the destination point. What I encountered, amazed me. The Greek society is hardly a poorly developed gathering of people with uneducated vision of human health and medicine. Instead, it is a highly ordered entity, in which human health is associated with the body condition, human behavior, social behavior and environment, in general. Moreover, health is viewed through the prism of sociology, psychology and even numerology. The latter component may seem superstitious to a modern man, but after having assessed the concept more attentively, one can see its logic. The ancient Greek art of heath education and promotion rests upon the pillars of Pythagorean, Socratic and Platonic philosophies, and is centered around the idea of the balance between the four ‘fluids’ in the human body, namely, blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. This theory is linked to the theory of the four elements and their four corresponding qualities, i.e. heat, dry, humid and cold. The balance accounts for a good health condition and the imbalance means a certain kind of illness. In this respect, I realize that, in contrast to this multidimensional worldview, the idea of health in the Western tradition in the twenty-first century, I am trying to impose on the Greeks, looks relatively flat and primitive. Being an alien to this time, place and worldview, I just wait helplessly until Hippocrates shapes the Greek vision of health and presents it as a correlation of the outer environmental forces and inner individual habits (Cottrell, Girvan & McKenzie, 2012). This vision is strikingly close to the modern scientific vision of health, but unlike me with my vain attempts to reform the Greek health philosophy via pure ‘ratio’, Hippocrates succeeds because he uses the concept of the four fluids to bring his message home. Thus, the major problem I encounter is that I do not speak the same medical and philosophic language, as the ancient Greeks, which is why they do not understand me, despite the fact that me and Hippocrates speak of basically the same things.
This time-travel made me realize that many concepts in health and medicine which we consider modern or new are rooted deep in the ancient history and are centuries or millennia old. Surprisingly, the Greek health culture was not primitive at all. In fact, if Hippocrates travelled forward in time, he would have brought something for our contemporaries to learn.