History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

The social status of physicians in Ancient Egypt

O.A. Jarman, PhD of Medical Sciencis, Senior Lecturer at the Humanities and Bioethics Department

G.L. Mikirtichan, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Chairman of Humanities and Bioethics Department

St. Petersburg State Pediatric Medical University, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

The culture of Ancient Egypt had a crucial role in shaping of classical Greek and Roman culture and science (including medicine) as well as in the historical evolution of ancient society. There were some specific features in the position of the art of healing and the healer, i.e. the physician, in the society of Ancient Egypt. The ‘event of death’ evoked in the hearts of ancient Egyptians neither asceticism nor philosophical pessimism but a strong and overwhelming “joie de vivre” for they were people of action struggling against the death. This paradox imprinted every sphere of human activities in the ancient Egyptian society including medicine. The article is trying to make a various sources based attempt to analyze the place and the status of the physician in the society of Ancient Egypt, as well as the ‘moral code of doctors’ deeply rooted in the pivotal Egyptian osirical myth, which considers both stability of the universe and favourable answer at Judgment of Osiris given to the individual (including a physician) as a result of Horus’ victory over Seth, i.e. the truth over the chaos of evil. The hierarchical place of the “swnw” physician in the highly sophisticated bureaucratic system of Ancient Egypt is also discussed here; an attempt to elucidate ambiguous and often contradictive titles of “swnw” hierarchical positions and their specialties both at the pharaoh’s court and in Egyptian noms is done. The portrayals of several physicians in the historical perspective of all periods of the history of Ancient Egypt – both members of the elite and commoners – are given. The range of opinions concerning “The House of Life” and its role in ancient Egyptian medical education are thoroughly discussed.

Keywords: Ancient Egypt, physicians, status, hierarchy, medical specialties, “The House of Life”

Full text of the article will be available after registration
Published in Vol. 2. №1, 2015


From 2021

The Journal is Published Twice a Year.

Founders of the journal

I.M. Sechenov

For Authors