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Musculoskeletal Injuries in Homer’s Iliad: The War of Troy Revisited

Kömürcü, Erkam MD; Tok, Fatih MD; Şimşek, Ayşe; Özçakar, Levent MD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: April 2014 - Volume 93 - Issue 4 - p 335–341
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000051
Literature Review

ABSTRACT Homer’s Iliad—the most famous and influential epic poem—has been previously reviewed with respect to head, craniomaxillofacial, neck, thoracic, and hand injuries in the literature. However, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, there are no data regarding musculoskeletal injuries. This article describes the musculoskeletal injuries that had ensued during the war of Troy. The Turkish translation of the original epic poem Iliad was reviewed for musculoskeletal injuries, that is, their descriptions, outcome, the weapons used, and the engaged warriors. Extremity injuries were evaluated as regards the affected bones. The pertinent treatment methods were also recorded. In total, 103 musculoskeletal injuries were detected during 81 combats. The most commonly involved areas were the shoulder (15.5%), the head (14.5%), the cervical vertebrae (14.5%), and the thoracic vertebrae (8.7%). The weapons used were spear (n = 52); sword (n = 9); arrow (n = 9); stone (n = 8); and cane, animal, the hand, Chariot race, and broken yoke (n = 1 for each). Fifty-four combats (66.6%) resulted in death. Therapeutic herbs, compound of milk, and essence of fig were used as treatment alternatives. While providing a historic snapshot on the war of Troy, in this article, the authors have reviewed the musculoskeletal injuries and their management in those ancient times. Despite the long period in between, unfortunately, physicians/surgeons are still faced with war injuries in current medical practice. The authors strongly hope that, at least in the near future, physicians will be left with only natural health problems and without those artificially generated by human beings.

From the Medical School Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Çanakkale, Turkey (EK); Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Clinic, İskenderun Military Hospital, Hatay, Turkey (FT); School of Art in Medicine (AŞ), Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Çanakkale, Turkey; and Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Hacettepe University Medical School, Ankara, Turkey (LÖ).

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Erkam Kömürcü, MD, Medical School, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Çanakkale, Turkey 17100.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins