The ancient Greeks and Romans were great

Free University of Berlin

Regional differences also played an important role: In the eastern part of the empire, which has always been better organized and more densely populated than the west, Roman officials monitored compliance with the law. From the north, on the other hand, horror tales reached Rome: Celts and Teutons, it was rumored, abandoned their old people in the woods and left them there. In late antiquity, which was influenced by Christianity, the Jewish-New Testament view increasingly prevailed in society : Already the Ten Commandments admonished to honor father and mother, the Christian commandment of mercy was lived in the early Christian communities and was an essential part of the success of the new religion.

In Byzantium it was the duty of the empress to care for the poor, the sick and the elderly. Later, when the Roman state became weaker and weaker, private initiatives took over this task: In the fourth century AD, a brother of the Doctor of the Church Basilius, Naucratius of Caesarea, set up special houses for the first time in what is now Turkey for impoverished, old people. More than 30 such facilities are known today. The Eastern Roman state supported them by granting tax exemptions.

In the western part of the empire, the newly emerging monasteries always include hostels for the needy. But due to the upheavals of the great migration and the many armed conflicts, special old people's homes were not set up there until the early Middle Ages. However, ancient societies did not just seek to mitigate the economic consequences of aging.

Medicine also tried to understand and cure the symptoms of old age. The Greek physician Hippocrates and Emperor Marcus Aurelius personal physician Galen in particular shaped the medical conception of the ancient world. "The basis was the so-called four-juices theory," explains Professor Baltrusch: "Blood, phlegm, as well as yellow and black bile were considered the four juices of the human body, the natural balance of which was the basis for a healthy life." In old age, see above the idea was dominated by the phlegm, caused by the body getting cold and dehydrated.

On this basic assumption, the Roman doctor Galen developed a therapy that was supposed to slow down aging. Regular baths, massages and gymnastics should warm up the elderly as well as honey and wine. Lots of fluids should work against dehydration. The Roman poet and politician Cicero, however, not only wanted a healthy way of life, but also a healthy attitude towards life - and not only among the more mature citizens: “Old people who do not make too high demands, who are not sullen or unfriendly, lose their lives quite bearable age; Disgruntlement, however, and unfriendliness is repulsive at any age. "