Medical Community of Ancient Rome - The Practice of Medicine - Fees


That the poor paid a minimal fee for the visit of a medicus is indicated by a wisecrack in Plautus: "It was less than a nummus." Many anecdotes exist of doctors negotiating fees with wealthy patients and refusing to prescribe a remedy if agreement was not reached. Pliny says:

”I will not accuse the medical art of the avarice even of its professors, the rapacious bargains made with their patients while their fate is trembling in the balance, …”

The fees charged were on a sliding scale according to assets. The physicians of the rich were themselves rich. For example, Antonius Musa treated Augustus’ nervous symptoms with cold baths and drugs. He was not only set free but he became Augustus’ physician. He received a salary of 300,000 sesterces. There is no evidence that he was other than a private physician; that is, he was not working for the Roman government.

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