Health care part 1

by Andrea Elizabeth

Hearing a Catholic on the Facebook Orthodox and NonOrthodox Discussion Group say that Orthodox could learn from Catholic social engagement made me think of the west’s reliance on technology and science to cure problems while people in traditional Orthodox countries have relied more on prayer. Then I started thinking about how much of western technological advancement has been in response to war. Clara Barton in the Civil War and Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War pioneered advances in nursing care for overwhelming casualties. Since then health care has been more and more institutionalized. But I know there were hospitals before the 19th century great wars. The Wikipedia article on hospitals has some interesting information after explaining that the first hospitals were in Egypt and India:

“The declaration of Christianity as accepted religion in the Roman Empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. Following the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. construction of a hospital in every cathedral town was begun. Among the earliest were those built by the physician Saint Sampson in Constantinople and by Basil, bishop of Caesarea in modern-day Turkey. Called the “Basilias”, the latter resembled a city and included housing for doctors and nurses and separate buildings for various classes of patients.[18] There was a separate section for lepers.[19] Some hospitals maintained libraries and training programmes, and doctors compiled their medical and pharmacological studies in manuscripts. Thus in-patient medical care in the sense of what we today consider a hospital, was an invention driven by Christian mercy andByzantine innovation.[20] Byzantine hospital staff included the Chief Physician(archiatroi), professional nurses (hypourgoi) and the orderlies (hyperetai). By the twelfth century, Constantinople had two well-organised hospitals, staffed by doctors who were both male and female. Facilities included systematic treatment procedures and specialised wards for various diseases.[21]

A hospital and medical training centre also existed at Gundeshapur. The city ofGundeshapur was founded in 271 CE by the Sasanian king Shapur I. It was one of the major cities in Khuzestan province of the Persian empire in what is today Iran. A large percentage of the population wereSyriacs, most of whom were Christians. Under the rule of Khusraw I, refuge was granted to Greek Nestorian Christianphilosophers including the scholars of the Persian School of Edessa (Urfa)(also called the Academy of Athens), a Christiantheological and medical university. These scholars made their way to Gundeshapur in 529 following the closing of the academy by Emperor Justinian. They were engaged in medical sciences and initiated the first translation projects of medical texts.[22] The arrival of these medical practitioners from Edessa marks the beginning of the hospital and medical centre at Gundeshapur.[23] It included a medical school and hospital (bimaristan), a pharmacology laboratory, a translation house, a library and an observatory.[24] Indian doctors also contributed to the school at Gundeshapur, most notably the medical researcher Mankah. Later after Islamic invasion, the writings of Mankah and of the Indian doctor Sustura were translated into Arabic at Baghdad.[25]


I wonder if traditional Orthodox, most notably Greek, Russian and Eastern European countries went Emperor Justinian’s direction when he closed the academies. Perhaps this is why the Byzantines eventually fell to the Turks as well. I’ll have to read more on that. I’ll also add for future reference that just because one is not good at wars or other institutionalized things, does not make one’s Christianity less valid, nor technological Christians who win devastating wars and care for the sufferers of the aftermath should be emulated.

I also looked up the Crimean War. It is interesting how that war seems to be repeating itself now in Ukraine and in the Middle East. And it has the same involvement with the Holy Land. And it was a repetition of the Crusades, but since then Russia, which suffered under not being as technologically advanced, has become the new Byzantium.

Another idea for further thought is how the French and Indian War was won by adopting more primitive methods, which the Muslim extremists are using now.