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Who Treated Wounded Gladiators?

Roman Doctors – The Medicus

The Medicus in the Roman Empire was a physician who played a critical role in the health and medical care of the population, including soldiers and gladiators. Their responsibilities varied widely, from general medical practice to specialised surgical procedures.

Roman empire surgeon performing an autompsy
The Availability of Corpses in Roman Times Helped Doctors Learn Anatomy

Primary Healthcare Providers

The Medici (plural of Medicus) provided general medical care to Roman citizens, soldiers, and slaves. They treated various ailments, performed surgeries, and provided preventive care.

Medical Training

Many Medici were trained through apprenticeships with experienced physicians or by studying medical texts, such as those of Hippocrates and Galen. Some may have also received training in Alexandria, a major centre of medical knowledge.

Specialised Medics - Treating Wounded Gladiators

Special Medici were assigned to gladiatorial schools (ludi), where they treated wounded gladiators. Due to the severe and often life-threatening injuries gladiators sustained, these physicians had to be highly skilled.


Gladiator Leg with wound from a battle being stitched up by a Roman Empire Doctor
The High Number of Injuries Gladiators Recived in the Arena Helped Ludus Medici become Great Surgeons.

Given the nature of their work, Medici who treated gladiators were often skilled surgeons. They performed complex procedures such as suturing deep wounds, amputations, and trepanations (drilling into the skull to relieve pressure).

Effective pain management was crucial. The Medicus used opium and other narcotics to help manage severe pain, as well as herbal sedatives like henbane.

23 Treatments Used by 'Doctors' - Treatment of Wounded Gladiators and Sick Romans


  1. Wine and Vinegar for cleaning and disinfecting wounds

  2. Honey applied to wounds for its antibacterial properties

  3. Sutures using linen or animal sinew to stitch wounds

  4. Bandages made from linen strips to cover wounds and prevent infection

  5. Willow Bark for pain relief (contains salicin, a precursor to aspirin)

  6. Garlic for its antiseptic properties

  7. Aloe Vera for soothing burns and promoting wound healing

  8. Opium used as a painkiller

  9. Henbane for its sedative and pain-relieving effects

  10. Splinting using wooden splints to immobilise broken bones

  11. Traction by applying tension to align bones correctly

  12. Cool Water and Oils to soothe and treat burns

  13. Herbal Pastes from plants like myrrh or frankincense for their healing properties

  14. Hot Iron or Boiling Oil used to cauterise wounds and stop bleeding

  15. Venesection using a small blade to release blood from a vein

  16. Amputation in severe cases of injury or infection

  17. Trepanation drilling a hole in the skull to relieve pressure from head injuries

  18. Massage to relieve muscle pain and improve circulation

  19. Exercise Regimens to help injured gladiators regain strength and mobility

  20. Nutritious Diet rich in proteins and vitamins to aid in recovery

  21. Herbal Teas and Infusions to support general health and recovery

  22. Clay or Mud Poultices for reducing swelling and pain

  23. Hot and Cold Compresses to manage pain and inflammation

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150 New AI Generated Images from Ancient Texts and Murals Found in Roman Buildings and Paintings

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