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Pliny the Elder

A picture of Hell

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder

Gaius Plinius Secundus was a Roman scholar, encyclopaedist, and naturalist who was born in Novum Comum in Gallia Cisalpine (today Como, Italy)

Around 77 AD, Pliny began the work for which he is best known: the Naturalis Historia. A thirty-seven-chapter book written in ten volumes, this text used all of the experience Pliny went through during his travels and the knowledge of his youth to create a compilation of Roman life.

The book dictated astronomy, geography, anthropology, zoology, botany, medicine, magic, and mineralogy, as well as a cornucopia of other topics. (24)

He mentioned the sacrificial ceremonies of the Druids (Druid means Oak Knowledge) in ancient Britain.

These wizards and physicians fuelled the stories of Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. Folk lore or as we would say today "Old wives Tales" was the major form of reference for cures. 

Physicians were in the main, well-educated men who were articulate and had a very wide knowledge of herbal medicine. Surgeons were seen as uncaring heartless fellows who could work very quickly to remove a limb. It was however not the case as the reason for speed was very simple, to reduce the time the patient in agony.

There were however several other reasons for the low regard for surgery, in general any medical intervention for a surgical or medical condition was looked upon as cruel and against the will of God or Gods. Pain in ancient times was considered and accepted as an inevitable occurrence in life.

There was no resentment to pain in the minds of most people. Pain gives you a warning of something that is wrong with you, if you received no sensation from ailments or injury as pain provides, your ailment would become incurable before you recognised a problem exists, and example is the detection of breast or other cancers they are not painful till its latter stages, if pain was felt when it first started to develop, most would be completely curable.

It was the case however that most would be so petrified that they would rather risk death rather than trusting their condition to the knife of the surgeon

There was also the theory that the attempt to control pain, would interfere with the will of the almighty, who instigated it in the first place.

This attitude of mind was still the case well into the 20th century when some obstetricians believed it necessary for women to suffer labour pains as that is what the Almighty said would have to happen in the book of Genesis.

The feelings from the religious establishments about pain has always been that it was a trial from God to test the faith of those that were suffering, in very much the same way as the biblical Job suffered to test his faith.

In effect if Jesus had to suffer cruel scourging and crucifixion, we should be willing to suffer also.

This would also be to remind the unfortunate person that the suffering on earth was nothing in comparison to the suffering your soul would have to endure if you did not turn to God, the suffering of the soul would take place in the domain that we know as Hell, for all eternity.

Pliny the Younger, (nephew of the Elder) in Letters 10:96, recorded early Christian worship practices including the fact that Christians worshiped Jesus as God and were very ethical, and he includes a reference to something that is interesting to us today, the love feast and Lord’s Supper.

Pliny the Elder died in 79 AD when he went to investigate the eruption of Vesuvius, it is believed of an asthma attack.


A passage from the book "A Sight of Hell" is a typical pre 20th century picture of the non-believers."The sinner lies chained down on a bed of red-hot blazing fire. All the body is salted with fire. The fire burns through every bone and every muscle. Every nerve is trembling and quivering with the sharp fire. The fire rages inside the skull, it shoots out through the eyes, it drops out through the ears, it roars in the throat as it roars in the chimney"25




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The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia was created as a free resource to educate Students or indeed anyone wishing to understand the beginings of surgery and Anaesthesia.

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