Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, approximately 6000-5000 BC, mental and physical illness were seen as the same thing. In this time period the heart and mind were translated as one, showing why there was no difference between mental and physical illnesses. The cause of illness, whether physical or mental, was seen as originating from evil spirits/demons or as the wrath of the gods (Keonig, 2000; Mohit, 2001). The Ancient Egyptians also viewed life as a continuous cycle, therefore they focused a lot of their beliefs on life after death. Healing, for these illnesses, was seen as a religious practice and the majority of therapy involved the use of temples and advice from religious deities (Mohit, 2001). Physicans, magicians, and priests all had the same role therefore the treatment of the mentally ill was no different from other illness treatment (Okasha, 2005). Ancient Egyptians had a very Monistic view of medicine, attributing little to the mind and all to the body. The majority of illnesses began with a bodily etiology and were treated physically or with psychotherapy (Okasha, 1999).

Medical knowledge from the Ancient Egyptian time period is drawn from  multiple sources:

  • Kahun Papyrus (1900 BC): addresses morbid states attributed to the displacement of the uterus.
  • Ebers’ Papyrus(1600 BC): the world’s oldest medical document.
  • Edwin Smith Papyrus(1600 BC): mainly about surgeries.
  • Hearst Papyrus: similar to Ebers’ Papyrus.
  • Berlin Medical Papyrus (1250 BC): prescriptions in an unsystematic arrangement.
  • London Medical Papyrus(1350 BC): contains enchantments or incantations for diseases (Okasha, 2005).

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Keonig, H. G. (2000) Religion and medicine I: Historical background and reasons for separation. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 30, 385-398.

Mohit, A. (2001) Mental health and psychiatry in the middle east: Historical development. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 7, 336-347.

.Okasha, A. (1999). Mental health in the Middle East: An Egyptian perspective. Pergamon, 19, 917-933.

.Okasha, A. (2005). Mental health in Egypt. Isr J. Psychiatry Related Science, 42, 116-125.

Page created by: Taylor Warner

15 Responses to “Ancient Egypt”

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    ignoring the strange comments below me, thank you for using this post, i will be citing this in my research project on the treatment of mental illness throughout history. glad to see i am not the only one researching this 😉 vvv

  3. angela says:

    Thank you for this informative post. I have recently begun research into ancient treatments of mental illness, and what I learned here was very helpful.

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