Pandemics of the Past

The Kyriazis Medical Museum is a fascinating time capsule of ancient medicine, including exhibits from pandemics of the past - some rather unusual and some rather disturbing! Founder Dr Marios Kyriazis tells us more…

The Kyriazis family has practised medicine for many generations, including Dr Marios Kyriazis, who collected artefacts from his own family collection as well as donations from other doctors in order to create the non-profit museum; an archive of the island’s medical history. 

Included in the epidemic exhibits at the museum are the outfits worn by medical staff. Whilst the scrubs are not dissimilar to those that our medical professionals wear today, the masks were very different, with the ancient ones designed to ‘scare’ the virus away and make the doctor look more authoritative

Likening the modern-day virus to those that plagued Larnaka in medieval periods - and many times since - Dr Kyriazis tells us: “We have reports from at least the 14th century about serious epidemics in Cyprus. In 1348 half of the island’s population was exterminated by the plague. A few years later, in 1363, most children died from an unknown epidemic. In 1572 death rates from an epidemic in Cyprus were rampant again. Even in more recent times, we had epidemics of cholera, typhus, malaria, smallpox and syphilis.” 

Other implements used for virus outbreaks included prayers, incantations, reading spells from holy or mystical books, charms, bloodletting, causing blisters with caustic substances, cupping, purgatives, leeches… and simply waiting!

Although now retired, Dr Kyriazis himself recently took up the call to arms and donned his scrubs once again to assist Larnaka Hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that in the past, all doctors tried their best to alleviate suffering and reduce the risk of epidemics - and this remains true today as the medical community battles the new ‘pestilence’.

When Larnaka region reopens to visitors be sure to stop by the museum, which is open on Wednesday and Saturdays, 9am – 12.30pm and is also included as one of the stops along our free ‘Larnaka – Past and Present’ walking tour held on Wednesdays.

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