Roman Surgical Tool

This Roman Surgical Tool is part of our History of Medicine Collection.

It is made of bronze and dates to around 100 AD. Roman surgical instruments were used for examining injuries, making small incisions, for gynecological examinations using the speculum and even for abortions (such as described by Hippocrates). Double-level forceps were used as tooth extraction devices at least since 300 BC.

Galen describes a range of medical instruments used by Greeks and Romans. The medical surgical instruments were made of iron, copper or copper alloys. The instruments were used to remove stones from the bladder as described in the Hippocratic books using the forceps. The ancient Greeks inserted a hollow metal tube through the urethra into the bladder to empty it and the tube came to be known as a catheter made of copper or lead, straight for women and S-shaped for men.

You can listen to Professor Helen King, Professor Emerita of Ancient Medicine, Open University, talking about Roman surgical tools here: