Ancient Roman Bronze Medical Tool


An Ancient Roman bronze medical tool known as a spathomele. One end features a barbed spatula with a rounded tip, and the other an olivary terminal. A series of engraved rings around a small sphere adorns the point where the spatula meets the shaft. This tool would have been used to prepare medications, with the olivary terminal used for stirring and the spatula for applying the unction to the affected area. There is a pleasing green patination across the surface.

Date: Circa 1st - 3rd Century AD
Condition: Fine condition. Patination and earthly encrustations on surface. A few very small chips to spatula edge.


SKU: BL-20 Category: Tag:

The spathomele was a pharmaceutical rather than a surgical instrument, and is mentioned by almost every Ancient Roman medical writer. The dual ends were used for the preparation and application of medicines. Spathomeles were also used by painters in the production of pigments – they are found in numbers that suggest they were used for more than medical purposes.

Deriving their knowledge in from the Etruscans, Egyptians, Persians, and other conquered peoples, the Romans devised one of the best and most sophisticated medical systems of the ancient world. They were influenced predominantly, however, by the ancient Greeks: the first surgeons and doctors to come to Rome were Greek, and the practice of medicine advanced drastically when they did so in the third century BC. The Roman army had permanent doctors and military hospitals, with one usually placed in each fort. Civilian medicine did not enjoy such impressive progress, however, due to the enormous risks of infection, blood loss, and pain, which were associated with any surgery delving deeper than the surface. The most common ailments requiring medical intervention were those of the skin, digestion, fertility (and contraception), and fractures.

Weight 10.6 g
Dimensions L 18.2 x W 1.1 cm



Reference: For similar: The British Museum, London, item 1867,0508.124

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