6 Health and Wellness in Antiquity through the Middle Ages in the Hippocratic text On the Nature of Man that the body contained four humors: blood, phlegm, bile (often called yellow bile or choler), and black bile (or melancholy). Blood, bile, and phlegm were observed being excreted in times of illness or injury and correlate to fluids we recognize today. Modern scholars continue to debate what bodily fluid black bile might be associated with, but it was supposed to be vis- ible in vomit and excreta. These humors were believed to combine in the body to regulate its proper functioning even the blood found in the veins was considered to consist of a mixture of humoral blood with the three other humors, so that one might be able to separate out the other humors from venous blood. Galen also credited Hippocrates with the concept of the four oppos- ing qualities (hot, cold, wet, and dry), although this concept is normally This bas-relief from a Roman sarcophagus from about 100 c.e. shows a doctor reading a scroll before a cabinet, which contains other scrolls and a bowl, likely used for collecting blood when bloodletting. The doctor’s surgical instruments rest on top of the cabinet. The image emphasizes both the doctor’s theoretical learning from books and his practical skills in surgery. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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