Being a king in ancient Egypt was exhaustingly dangerous; having been set aside that the chosen heir of a Pharaoh becomes the next god-king Pharaoh, there was always someone plotting to get rid of a new king or the heir to the throne. So, according to the legend, once a king is sworn in, he must have his personal staffs and servants who are ready to reach extra miles for the him in regards to his longevity on the throne. These staffs include the priest, butchers(surgeons), overseer and doctors or physicians( also known as Swnws in ancient Egypt language )
Whenever the god-king Pharaoh becomes ill, the doctors, priests and everyone serving him privately will be put to blame and can lead to their immediate execution if anything should go wrong. Every single Foods and drinks coming into the god-king Pharaoh’s chamber must be inspected by his physician and the “Inspector of liquids ” ( usually a slave or specialist who taste the Pharaoh’s meal so as to prevent poisoning him ). In case the Pharaoh’s meal is poisoned, the “Inspector of liquids” will be the first victim, as a result of this, the Pharaoh remain safe.
In the heist of ensuring the safety of the Pharaoh, the servants and physicians serving the court must do whatever it takes to ensure his safety. For every headache and stomach ache the god-king experiences, the physician in charge may be thrown into the dungeons for his incompetency. To avoid work overload and incompetency of every physician attending to the Pharaoh, the ancient Egypt systems of medicine were diversified, each physician specializes in a certain ailment and part of the body. During the mummification of a corpse in ancient Egypt, the physicians and the alchemist were able to study some anatomical part of the body they specialize on ( such as the brain, heart, intestine, tooth and Eyes ) along with their supposed functions even though some were misunderstood.
In the ancient Egypt, whenever a person is ill, they believed there is a blockage somewhere in the body. They developed their theory of “channels” that carried air, water, and blood to the body by analogies with the Nile River; believing that once it get bllocked, crops and livestocks also get unhealthy. They applied this principle to the human body: If a person was unwell, they would use laxatives to unblock the “channels” wherever it is, be it the nose, mouth, or anywhere —just name it!
This ancient practice takes us to another weird but real medical practice. Remarkably, there were many ranks and specializations in the field of medicine in the ancient Egypt. Apart from the Pharaoh himself, the royal family also employed their own swnw ( physicians ) and even their own specialists. As stated earlier, each physicians specializes in a certain niche. Known ancient Egyptian specialists were the Overseer of the eyes ( ophthalmologist ) , overseer of the mouth ( dentist ), “inspector of liquids” and more bizarrely, the “Shepard of the Anus”.
Impressively, ancient Egypt physicians administer medications through different ways and passage. These include oral pills, inhalations, ointments and enemas. However the most commonly used one are the enemas and ointments. A physician called Irenakhty lived around 2150 BC, was particularly skilled in administering these enemas. He was also a royal physician and more importantly the private specialist of the Pharaoh and was assigned the highly rank position of Neru pehut – The Herdsman of the Anus. Irenakhty was not the only known Shepard of the anus, he however inherited his proctological expertise from Is predecessor known as Khuy.
Additionally, Irenakhty wasn’t just a Shepard of the anus alone, he was also able to earn the trust of the god-king Pharaoh as he combined his role with his second skill as a dentist. So he ensured that the two ends of the Pharaoh (the mouth and the anus) were in good condition. As the Royal Shepard of the Anus, he had to manage the pharaoh’s bowel obstruction and constipation ( a medical conditions which impairs control of defecation and persistence constipation). In doing this, he used variety of bowel management techniques to manually remove obstructing fecal matter from the pharaoh’s rectal through the anus. He believed this will clear the bowel and rectal obstructions. To prevent this ailment from reoccurring, the Guardian of the Anus ensure to always keep check on the pharaoh’s two ends, and also administer laxatives and some other liquids by injecting them into the rectum then into the bowel. Without bowel frequent management, anyone suffering from bowel obstruction might either suffer from the feeling of not getting relief, or they might soil themselves—the Pharaoh will never take that easy with his Neru pehut
Surprisingly, we still have the Shepard of the anus even in our modern world. These specialist are Known as Proctologist. A proctologist, also known as a colon and rectal surgeon or coloproctologist, is a surgical specialist whose job is to diagnose and treat maladies of the colon, rectum or the anus. Ordinarily, we all pay little or no attention to our colon, our rectum or our anus. What going on in there? 🤔 💭
To diagnose any rectal ailment, the proctologist may examine the anal area with a mini scope called the Anoscope. Another instrument called Proctoscope may also be used to observe the inner membrane of the rectum. In case some picturing or medications is required, they can be administered by enema which is a technique used to anally inject medications into the rectum and colon. The medications cleanse the colon thoroughly, so constipation, fatigue, headaches, and backaches may be relieved by a cleansing enema, while Barium enema may be injected in case X-ray is required. Finally, your stool will be checked for any microscopic blood.
However, why would you ever need to see a proctologist? When required, will you allow the Shepard of the Anus to do his job?
Writer: Ahmad Abdullah
University Of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria