Medicine in ancient Cyprus: the archaeological evidence


Demetres Michaelides (University of Cyprus)

Respondent: Daniel King (University of Exeter)

Opening remarks by HE, the High Commissioner of Cyprus, Andreas S. Kakouris.

15 April 2021, 16:00 p.m. (UK time)

Demetrios Michaelides, Professor Emeritus at the University of Cyprus, was appointed Archaeological Officer for the District of Paphos at the Cyprus Department of Antiquities of Cyprus in 1982. He joined the University of Cyprus in 1992. He was the first Head of the Department of History and Archaeology (1996-2000), and Director of the Archaeological Research Unit (1996-2014). He has directed excavations at ancient Berenice (Benghazi) in Libya, Otranto in southern Italy and the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome; as well as at the house of Orpheus, the house of the Four Seasons, and of the baths of the Triton in Paphos. He also carried out numerous salvage excavations of all periods in Paphos and its district. He has presented his research at over 150 international conferences and has given numerous lectures in Europe, the Near East, North Africa, the United States of America and Australia. He has published over 170 scientific articles, and is the author, editor or co-editor of 20 books. He is the Vice President of the “Association international pour l’Etude de la Mosaïque antique” (AIEMA), and, after being President for 18 years, he is now President Emeritus of the “International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics” (ICCM). He is the National Delegate for Cyprus in the International Society for the History of Medicine, and is a member of the Board of several national and international foundations and societies. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (1988), and in 2015 he was honoured by the President of the Italian Republic with the title of Grande Ufficiale della Stella d’ Italia. In 2019, he was one of the 12 elected Founding Members (Archaeology) of the Cypriot Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Arts.

Medicine in ancient Cyprus: the archaeological evidence

The association of ancient Cyprus and Medicine derives mainly from the writings of Dioscorides, Pliny the Elder, and Galen, who make frequent references to the island’s plants and minerals, and their use in the preparation of medicaments. On the other hand, mention of Cypriot doctors in the ancient sources is very limited with, of course, the glowing exception of Apollonios of Kition and Zenon the Cypriot.

Since the 1960s, however, archaeological discoveries, dating mainly to Imperial times, have changed thus picture entirely. These reflect an island with an active medical community, very much up-to-date with contemporary Roman practices. The paper will examine some of this evidence, which includes a number of particularly rare items. The discussion will include, amongst other groups of finds. surgical instruments, hot-water bottles, medicaments, ex-votos and prophylactic amulets. Deities associated with medicine and healing, as well as the palaeopathological study of skeletal remains will not be discussed.

The event is supported by the Cyprus High Commission in the UK

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