The art of providing anaesthesia in Greek mythology Review uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Anesthesia
  • Mythology


  • We endeavored to thoroughly review Greek mythology and collect tales dealing with anaesthesia and myochalasis (paralysis). Among the evaluated sources were the poems of Hesiod, the epics of Homer, the tragedies of the great Athenian poets (namely Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) as well as the contributions of several Latin writers, including Ovid. We found several examples of achieving hypnosis, analgesia and amnesia through the administration of drugs (inhaled or not) and music. Adverse events of drugs used for this purpose, such as post-anaesthetic emergence delirium, hallucinations, respiratory arrest and penis erection, were described in the presented myths. We noted that providing sleep was considered a divine privilege, although several mortals (mainly women) exhibited such powers as well. The concepts of sleep and death were closely associated in ancient classical thought. This review may stimulate anaesthetists' fantasy and may help them realise the nobility of their medical specialty.

publication date

  • July 2012



  • Review



  • eng

PubMed ID

  • 23230686

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 22

end page

  • 7


  • 40


  • SUPPL. 1