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In ancient Rome, an unusual remedy for epilepsy existed: drinking warm blood drawn from the cutthroat of a slain gladiator. This peculiar practice was believed to impart strength and vitality to those suffering from the condition. The origins of this belief can be traced back to Etruscan funeral rites, suggesting a deep-rooted cultural significance.

The ancient Romans firmly believed in the therapeutic properties of gladiators’ blood, viewing it as a potent elixir capable of curing epilepsy. While the influence of Etruscan religion waned over time, the tradition of using gladiators’ blood persisted for centuries, reflecting the enduring impact of ancient customs on Roman society.

Historical accounts reveal the extent of this practice. In 1668, Edward Browne documented instances of individuals attending executions to collect the blood of victims for medicinal purposes. Similarly, in the early 1600s, a German physician proposed the consumption of jerky made from the corpses of 24-year-old redheads as a cure for various ailments.

Despite the apparent risks associated with such practices, they underscore the lengths to which ancient civilizations went in search of remedies. However, with advancements in medical science, the legitimacy of using other people’s body parts for medicinal purposes has evolved. Organ donation and transplantation, pioneered in the 20th century, have provided a more ethical and effective means of treating illnesses, rendering ancient remedies like gladiators’ blood obsolete.

While the notion of using human blood as a remedy for illnesses has persisted throughout history, the earliest documented mention of this practice can be traced back to a Roman encyclopedist named Aulus Cornelius Celsus. In his extensive work “De Medicina” (On Medicine), written in 40 AD, Celsus discusses various medical treatments, including a particularly peculiar one for epilepsy.

Celsus recounts the practice of drinking hot blood extracted from the cutthroat of a gladiator as a supposed cure for epilepsy. He describes it as a desperate measure taken by individuals afflicted with this debilitating condition, acknowledging the grim nature of the remedy. Despite the barbarity of the method, Celsus suggests that some sufferers found relief from their affliction through this unconventional treatment, albeit in the face of a disease that he describes as even more wretched.

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