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Just what the doctor ordered

As the Olympics are held in Athens this year, I was sure there was some way we could tie the Games in with our studies of ancient Greek medicine.

We look at the theories of Hippocrates for our study of medicine through time in GCSE history and investigate to what extent they mark a turning point from earlier beliefs that the gods caused and cured disease.

In particular, we make comparisons between a patient visiting a priest of Asklepios, the Greek god of healing, and visiting a Hippocratic doctor.

The emphasis is on Hippocrates' belief that balance is the crucial element in health. "Nothing in excess" and "Moderation in all things" sum up Hippocrates' views.

This ties in with the idea in ancient Greece that the perfect athlete was the all-rounder: the pre-eminent sportsman to the ancient Greeks was the pentathlete.

Hippocrates extolled the virtues of eating a variety of foods in moderation and taking regular exercise - advice that GPs would endorse today.

I worked with Year 10 to set up some web pages. We decided our first readers would have to be other students at our school as part of the aim would be to give them some background information about the beginnings of the Olympic Games.

The girls also wanted the results of their work to be available to students taking the Schools History Project course elsewhere. We discussed content and themes and narrowed this down to individual topics which the girls then volunteered to write pages on.

They chose to write about the Greek context (which is where I made sure they included their knowledge of Greek medicine), the sports that took place (with comparisons with modern ones) and about the revival of the Olympic Games in the 19th century.

They peer reviewed and revised their efforts. The idea of having people all over the world reading their work on the web proved motivating.

See their work at: www.lsg.sch.aedepartments historyolympichtmfinalwebpagesHome.htm

Rosalind Stirzaker

Head of history, Latifa School for Girls, Dubai, UAE

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