Medea and Argonautics: Medicine, pharmacy, toxicology


  • Ramaz Shengelia Department for the History of Medicine and Bioethics, Tbilisi State Medical University, Tbilisi, Georgia



Medea, Colchis, history of medicine, pharmacy, toxicology


According to mythical heritage, Medea, a daughter of the king of Colchis (Western Georgia, 13th century BC), famous for her beauty, was very wise and closely associated with plant lore, concoction of medicines, and medical activities. She knew various forms of remedies for internal and external use, respiratory, and so forth. In her therapeutic arsenal, there were medical remedies for a variety of uses: for treatment of various diseases, soporifics, poisons, ointments, miraculous and magical substances as well.

Medea prepared the poisons by using special processing of medical remedies – extraction, infusion/tincture, thermal, mechanical, or chemical exposure, or concentration. The principle, according to which the modern medicine is developing, is contraria contrariis curantur (CCC), or contraries are cured, or allopathic medicine. At present, the priority still belongs to CCC. This is the direction that modern medicine and pharmacy throughout the world are following today.

The way of effective realization of this principle is a strong chemical source. The stronger the source, the more effective the result. This thesis is based on two major ways of realization of the CCC principle – suppressing and compensating therapy where achieving an effect without a potent substance would not be possible.

Toxicology and pharmacy were formed in the Roman Empire at the beginning of our era and are associated with the King of Pontus, a descendant of Colchis – Mithridates VI Eupator. Such a notion as the medicine/drug appeared in the Roman period. The authors do not describe the plant, animal or mineral resources but the product – the characteristics of the drug.

Thus, Medea is not only considered a pioneer of cosmetics, hematology, surgery, toxicology, and other areas but also the founder of the way for effective implementation of the main principle of modern medicine and the donor of word root medicine. Afterwards, the term acquired a broader generalization and consequently become a synonym of medical art.


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