Dimensions: Other: 7 3/16in. (18.3cm)
Credit Line: The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76
Accession Number: 74.51.5509
This bronze spatula consists of a long shaft with an olivary point at one end and a broad flat blade, oar-shaped and blunt-edged, at the other. It was a pharmaceutical, rather than strictly surgical, instrument. The olivary point was used for stirring medicaments and the spatula for spreading the mixtures on the affected area. The Roman physician Galen (ca. A.D. 129–199/216) tells us that certain applications first were to be softened in the palm of the hand with rosaceum by using a spatula. The second-century A.D. Roman physician and poet Marcellus refers to the spatula as used for stirring liquids in a vessel. Almost every ancient Greek and Roman medical writer mentions the spatula, citing various uses– as an instrument for applying medicaments or scraping off ointments, as a tongue depressor, and even as a means of cauterizing.