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J Craniomaxillofac Surg. 2008 Jan;36(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jcms.2007.07.010. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Cranio-maxillofacial injuries in Homer's Iliad.

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1
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Metropolitan Hospital, N. Faliro, Piraeus, Greece. draimylo@otenet.gr

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Homer's Iliad, being one of the oldest and greatest European epic poems, is divided into 24 "books" or "rhapsodies", in which war injuries in general, and in particular cranio-maxillofacial (CMF) injuries, are described in a unique and detailed manner.

MATERIAL AND METHOD:

Homer's Iliad, Loeb Classical Library, translated by A.T. Murray, and revised by W.F. Wyatt, Harvard University Press, 2nd ed., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999, as well as the modern Greek translation by I. Polylas of Homer's Iliad, Publishing Organization for Educational Material, 4th ed., Athens, 1975, was studied for descriptions of CMF injuries, aiming at the presentation of their total number, received area of the head and neck, outcome, cause of injuries, and the engaged warriors.

RESULTS:

Forty-eight references regarding CMF injuries are found in the 24 books of Homer's Iliad. Forty-four of the CMF injuries were fatal, among them five were decapitations. The causes of the CMF injuries were usually strokes with weapons, while other means such as rocks and stones were also used. In the aforementioned injuries the engaged striking warriors were 17 Greeks and four Trojans, while the fallen warriors were eight Greeks and 38 Trojans.

CONCLUSIONS:

One could get an idea about the practice of Medicine and particularly of Surgery, in the 10th century BC in Ancient Greece, through the epic poems of Homer. The unique description of CMF injuries leads us to the conclusion that the anatomy of the head and neck was quite well known in those very old times, since the heroes and warriors of the Iliad knew exactly where to strike to achieve a fatal outcome.

PMID:
18222700
DOI:
10.1016/j.jcms.2007.07.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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