Ottoman Medical Institutions – 1500-1700 :

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The cultural variety existing in the Ottoman Empire created the Ottoman hospital. The Ottoman medical system, like Ottoman culture as a whole, was the result of combining central Asian, Anatolian, Arab-Muslim, and Byzantine influences.

Hospitals were the outcome of the merging of several medical traditions together. For instance, the architecture of Ottoman hospitals that practiced Arab-Muslim medicine was influenced by Seljukid medrese and hospital buildings.


The blending of Arab-Muslim and Seljukid medical influences allowed the Ottoman hospital to become the epitome of the basic concept in Ottoman medicine—namely, integralistic medicine.

Following integralistic medicine, Ottomans considered quality of life and health, and not just disease; diagnosis and treatment regarded all body parts and mind as meshed into one complex integralistic entity.

Ottomans shared with these two preceding Muslim cultures integralistic perceptions about health and illness and medical treatment.

However, it was in the Ottoman hospital that these theoretical conceptions were implemented in an actual course of treatment. Integralism determined the structure of the building, required the nurturing of gardens, and helped to shape the nature of the staff and their duties.

By, Ottoman Imperial Archive

In hospitals general practitioners, ophthalmologists, and surgeons took care of the patients’ body; musicians and other personnel took care of the patients’ mind and soul. The physicians, the cooks, and other staff members were supposed to treat the patients gently and kindly; hammams occupied an important medical role in hospitals: treatment at the bathhouse was expected to restore the patient’s humoral balance and thus his or her physical and mental health.

By, Ottoman Imperial Archive

Ornamental fountains and small gardens were active players in creating an integralistic ecology surrounding the ill. They calmed both the temperamental patients and the pressured personnel, and gave them some peace and quiet.

By, Ottoman Imperial Archive

Hospitals in Ottoman urban centers were all established as charitable institutions. Setting up endowments was the usual legal mechanism for managing and financing charitable activities, including within the medical realm.

By, Ottoman Imperial Archive

Like other charitable institutions in the early modern Ottoman Empire, therefore, the hospital was established, and operated, as part of a complex of charities for the community.

It was an amalgamation of different institutions, with mosques situated at the very center of the site, offering an urban Ottoman-Muslim community various material and spiritual services.

Reference : Ottoman Medicine. Healing and Medical Institutions, 1500–1700. Miri Shefer-Mossensohn. State University of New York Press.

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Dr. Zareen Fatima

Dr Zareen is an ambitious general dentist working and residing in UAE. She is able to handle multiple tasks on a daily basis. Alongside her busy work schedule, she is a vivid reader, researcher, writer editor and is currently pursuing Masters in Public Health. In her leisure she brings out the forgotten history in the field of medicine and associated disciplines.