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A famous Greek physician, was born in the island of Cos,
about B.C. 460. He was the son of Heraclides and of Phaenarete, and sprang from
the race of the Asclepiadae, a priestly family, who in the course of time had
gathered and preserved medical traditions, which were secretly handed down from
father to son. Like many of the Asclepiadae, he practised his art while travelling
in different parts of Greece. He is said to have been at Athens at the time
of the Peloponnesian War, and to have taken advantage of the instructions of
the sophists Gorgias and Prodicus; Democritus of Abdera is also named as one
of his teachers. The value he himself set upon philosophic education is proved
by his remark that "a philosophic physician resembles a god". Towards
the end of his life he lived chiefly in Thessaly and on the island of Thasos.
He died about B.C. 377 (or later) in the Thessalian Larissa, where his tomb
was to be seen as late as the second century A.D.
All through his long life his activity was unceasing in its
efforts to increase the amount of his knowledge on all subjects, by both practical
and theoretical investigations, and his practical knowledge was as great as
his theoretical. Some of his fragments and epigrammatic dicta have passed into
the literature of all time, as, for instance, the famous saying, "Life
is short, and Art is long." He was the founder of the school of a scientific
art of healing, and, as in the case of Homer, numerous writings of unknown authorship,
proceeding from the school which followed his system, were attributed to him.
Seventy-two works, great and small, in the Ionic and old Attic dialects, bear
his name, and, apparently, formed a single collection, even before they came
under the consideration of the critics of Alexandria. But it is clear that,
as the ancients themselves were aware, only a small portion, which can no longer
be precisely defined, really belongs to him.
It is highly probable that his nearest relations, who were
also distinguished physicians, contributed their share to the collection, and
that it contains works by his sons Thessalus and Dracon, his sonin-law Polybus,
and his two grandsons, the sons of Thessalus and Dracon, who bore his own name.
The best known of these works are the aphorisms (Aphorismoi), which, in antiquity
and in mediaeval times, were held in high esteem, and have been freely commented
on by Greeks, Romans, and Arabs; they consist of short sentences upon the nature
of illnesses, their symptoms and crises, and their final issue.
One of his treatises (Peri Aeron, Hudaton, Topon), which is
of general interest, and is in all respects among the best, is that on the influence
of the climate, the water, and the configuration of a country upon the physical
and intellectual life of its inhabitants. In the second portion of this work
are found the first beginnings of a comparative ethnography, which at once surprise
us by the acuteness and intelligence of its observation, and attracts us by
the simplicity and clearness of its style. Many ancient physicians wrote commentaries
on the works of Hippocrates, the most celebrated being those of Galen. The first
edition of the Greek text of Hippocrates is the Aldine.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Hippocrates, the second of that name, and in some respects the most celebrated
physician of ancient or modern times; for not only have his writings (or rather
those which bear his name) been always held in the highest esteem, but his personal
history (so far as it is known), and the literary criticism relating to his works,
furnish so much matter for the consideration both of the scholar, the philologist,
the philosopher, and the man of letters, that there are few authors of antiquity
about whom so much has been written. Probably the readers of this work will care
more for the literary than for the medical questions connected with Hippocrates;
and accordingly (as it is quite impossible to discuss the whole subject fully
in these pages) the strictly scientific portion of this article occupies less
space and than the critical; and this arrangement in this place the writer is
inclined to adopt the more readily, because, while there are many works which
contain a good account of the scientific merits of the Hippocratic writings, he
is not aware of one where the many literary problems arising from them have been
at once fully discussed and satisfactorily determined. This task he is far from
thinking that he has himself accomplished, but it is right to give this reason
for treating the scientific part of the subject much less fully than he would
have done had he been writing for a professed medical work.
A parallel has more than once been drawn be tween " the Father
of Medicine " and " the Father of Poetry; " and, indeed, the resemblances
between the two, both in their personal and literary history, are so evident,
that they could hardly fail to strike any one who was even moderately familiar
with classical and medical literature. With respect to their personal history,
the greatest uncertainty exists, and our real knowledge is next to nothing ; although
in the case of both personages, we have professed lives written by ancient authors,
which, however, only tend to show still more plainly the ignorance that prevails
on the subject. Accordingly, as might be expected, fable has been busy in sup
plying the deficiencies of history, and was for a time fully believed; till at
length a reaction followed, and an unreasoning credulity was succeeded by an equally
unreasonable scepticism, which reached its climax when it was boldly asserted
that neither Homer nor Hippocrates had ever existed. (See Houdart, Etudes sur
Hippocrate) The few facts respecting him that may be considered as tolerably well
ascertained may be told in few words. His father was Heracleides, who was also
a physician, and belonged to the family of the Asclepiadae. According to Soranus
(Vita Hippocr., in Hippocr. Opera, vol. iii.), he was the nineteenth in descent
from Aesculapius, but John Tzetzes, who gives the genealogy of the family, makes
him the seventeenth. His mother's name was Phaenarete, who was said to be descended
from Hercules. Soranus, on the authority of an old writer who had composed a life
of Hippocrates, states that he was born in the island of Cos, in the first year
of the eightieth Olympiad, that is. B. C. 460; and this date is generally followed,
for want of any more satisfactory information on the subject, though it agrees
so ill with some of the anecdotes respecting him, that some persons suppose him
to have been born about thirty years sooner. The exact day of his birth was known
and celebrated in Cos with sacrifices on the 26th day of the month Agrianus, but
it is unknown to what date in any other calendar this month corresponds. He was
instructed in medical science by his father and by Herodicus, and is also said
to have been a pupil of Gorgias of Leontini. He wrote, taught, and practised his
profession at home; travelled in different parts of the continent of Greece; and
died at Larissa in Thessaly. His age at the time of his death is uncertain, as
it is stated by different ancient authors to have been eighty-five years, ninety,
one hundred and four, and one hundred and nine. Mr. Clinton places his death B.
C. 357, at the age of one hundred and four. He had two sons, Thessalus and Dracon,
and a son-in-law, Polybus, all of whom followed the same profession, and who are
supposed to have been the authors of some of the works in the Hippocratic Collection.
Such are the few and scanty facts that can be in some degree depended on respecting
the personal history of this celebrated man; but though we have not the means
of writing an authentic detailed biography, we possess in these few facts, and
in the hints and allusions contained in various ancient authors, sufficient data
to enable us to appreciate the part he played, and the place he held among his
contemporaries. We find that he enjoyed their esteem as a practitioner, writer,
and professor; that he conferred on the ancient and illustrious family to which
he belonged more honour than he derived from it; that he rendered the medical
school of Cos, to which he was attached, superior to any which had preceded it
or immediately followed it; and that his works, soon after their publication,
were studid and quoted by Plato. (See Littre's Hippocr. vol. i.; and a review
of that work (by the writer of this article) in the Brit. and For. Med. Rev. April,
Upon this slight foundation of historical truth has been built a vast
superstructure of fabulous error; and it is curious to observe how all these tales
receive a colouring from the times and countries in which they appear to have
been fabricated, whether by his own countrymen before the Christian era, or by
the Latin or Arabic writers of the middle ages. One of the stories told of him
by his Greek biographers. which most modern critics are disposed to regard as
fabulous, relates to his being sent for, together with Euryphon, by Perdiccas
II., king of Macedonia, and discovering, by certain external symptoms, that his
sickness was occasioned by his having fallen in love with his father's concubine.
Probably the strongest reason against the truth of this story is the fact that
the time of the supposed cure is quite irreconcileable with the commonly received
date of the birth of Hippocrates; though M. Littre, the latest and best editor
of Hippocrates, while he rejects the story as spurious, finds no difficulty in
the dates (vol. i.). Soranus, who tells the anecdote, says that the occurrence
took place after the death of Alexander I., the father of Perdiccas; and we may
reasonably presume that one or two years would be the longest interval that would
elapse. The date of the death of Alexander is not exactly known, and depends upon
the length of the reign of his son Perdiccas, who died B. C. 414. The longest
period assigned to his reign is fortyone years, the shortest is twenty-three.
This latter date would place his accession to the throne on his father's death,
at B. C. 437, at which time Hippocrates would be only twenty-three years old,
almost too young an age for him to have acquired so great celebrity as to be specially
sent for to attend a foreign prince. However, the date of B. C. 437 is the less
probable because it would not only extend the reign of his father Alexander to
more than sixty years, but would also suppose him to have lived seventy years
after a period at which he was already grown up to manhood. For these reasons
Mr. Clinton (F. Hell. ii. 222) agrees with Dodwell in supposing the longer periods
assigned to his reign to be nearer the truth; and assumes the accession of Perdiccas
to have fallen within B. C. 454, at which time Hippocrates was only six years
old. This celebrated story has been told, with more or less variation, of Erasistratus
and Avicenna, besides being interwoven in the romance of Heliodorus (Aethiop.
iv. 7.), and the love-letters of Aristaenetus (Epist. i. 13). Galen also says
that a similar circumstance happened to himself. (De Praenot. ad Epig. c. 6. vol.
xiv. p. 630.) The story as applied to Avicenna seems to be most probably apocryphal
(see Biogr. Dict. of the Usef. Knoul. Soc. vol. iv.); and with respect to the
two other claimants, Hippocrates and Erasistratus, if it be true of either, the
preponderance of historical testimony is decidedly in favour of the latter. Another
old Greek fable relates to his being appointed librarian at Cos, and burning the
books there (or, according to another version of the story, at Cnidos,) in order
to conceal the use he had made of them in his own writings. This story is also
told, with but little variation, of Avicenna, and is repeated of Hippocrates,
with some characteristic embellish ments, in the European Legends of the Middle
The other fables concerning Hippocrates are to be traced to the collection
of Letters, &c. which go under his name, but which are universally rejected as
spurious. The most celebrated of these relates to his supposed conduct during
the plague of Athens, which he is said to have stopped by burning fires throughout
the city, by suspending chaplets of flowers, and by the use of an antidote, the
composition of which is preserved by Joannes Actuarius (De Meth. Med. v. 6., ed.
H. Steph.) Connected with this, is the pretended letter from Artaxerxes Longimanus,
king of Persia, to Hippocrates, inviting him by great offers to come to his assistance
during a time of pestilence, and the refusal of Hippocrates, on the ground of
his being the enemy of his country.
Another story, perhaps equally familiar to the readers of Burton's
" Anatomy of Melancholy," contains the history of the supposed madness
of Democritus, and his interview with Hippocrates, who had been summoned by his
countrymen to come to his relief.
If we turn to the Arabic writers, we find "Bokrat" represented
as living at Hems, and studying in a garden near Damascus, the situation of which
was still pointed out in the time of Abu/lfaraj in the thirteenth century. (Abu-l-faraj,
Hist. Dynast.; Anon. Arab. Philosoph. Bibl. apud Casiri, Biblioth. A rabico-Hisp.
Escur. vol. i.) They also tell a story of his pupils taking his portrait to a
celebrated physiognomist named Philemon, in order to try his skill; and that upon
his saying that it was the portrait of a lascivious old man (which they strenuously
denied), Hippocrates said that he was right, for that he was so by nature, but
that he had learned to overcome his amorous propensities. The confusion of names
that occurs in this last anecdote the writer has never seen explained, though
the difficulty admits of an easy and satisfactory solution. It will no doubt have
brought to the reader's recollection the similar story told of Socrates by Cicero
(Tusc. Disp. iv. 37, De Fato, c. 5), and accordingly he will be quite prepared
to hear that the Arabic writers have confounded the word Sokrat, with Bokrat,
and have thus applied to Hippocrates an anecdote that in reality belongs to Socrates.
The name of the physiognomist in Cicero is Zopyrus, which cannot have been corrupted
into Philemon ; but when we remember that the Arabians have no P, and are therefore
often obliged to express this letter by an F, it will probably appear not unlikely
that either the writers, or their European translators, have confounded Philemon
with Polemon. This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that Philemon is said by
Abu-l-faraj to have written a work on Physiognomy, which is true of Polemon, whose
treatise on that subject is still extant, whereas no person of the name of Philemon
(as far as the writer is aware) is mentioned as a physiognomist by any Greek author.
(1) The only objection to this conjecture is the anachronism
of making Polemon a contemporary of Hippocrates or Socrates ; but this difficulty
will not appear very great to any one who is familiar with the extreme ignorance
and carelessness displayed by the Arabic writers on all points of Greek history
It is, however, among the European storytellers of the middle ages
that the name of "Ypocras" is most celebrated. In one story he is represented
as visiting Rome during the reign of Augustus, and restoring to life the emperor's
nephew, who was just dead; for which service Augustus erected a statue in his
honour as to a divinity. A fair lady resolved to prove that this god was a mere
mortal; and, accordingly, having made an assignation with him, she let down for
him a basket from her window. When she had raised him half way, she left him suspended
in the air all night, till he was found by the emperor in the morning, and thus
became the laughing-stock of the court. Another story makes him professor of medicine
in Rome, with a nephew of wondrous talents and medical skill, whom he despatched
in his own stead to the king of Hungary, who had sent for him to heal his son.
The young leech, by his marvellous skill, having discovered that the prince was
not the king's own son, directed him to feed on "contrarius drink, contrarius
mete, beves flesch, and drink the brotht," and thereby soon restored him to health.
Upon his return home laden with presents, "Ypocras" became so jealous of his fame,
that he murdered him, and afterwards "he let all his bokes berne." The vengeance
of Heaven overtook him, and he died in dreadful torments, confessing his crime,
and vainly calling on his murdered nephew for relief.
If, from the personal history of Hippocrates, we turn to the collection
of writings that go under his name, the parallel with Homer will be still more
exact and striking. In both cases we find a number of works, the most ancient,
and, in some respects, the most excellent of their kind, which, though they have
for centuries borne the same name, are discovered, on the most cursory examination,
to belong in reality to several different persons. Hence has arisen a question
which has for ages exercised the learning and acuteness of scholars and critics,
and which is in both cases still far from being satisfactorily settled. With respect
to the writings of the Hippocratic Collection "the first glance," says
M. Littre (vol. i.), "shows that some are complete in themselves, while others
are merely collections of notes, which follow each other without connection, and
which are sometimes hardly intelligible. Some are incomplete and fragmentary,
others form in the whole Collection particular series, which belong to the same
ideas and the same writer. In a word, however little we reflect on the context
of these numerous writings, we are led to conclude that they are not the work
of one and the same author. This remark has in all ages struck those persons who
have given their attention to the works of Hippocrates; and even at the time when
men commented on them in the Alexandrian school, they already disputed about their
But it is not merely from internal evidence (though this of itself
would be sufficiently convincing) that we find that the Hippocratic Collection
is not the work of Hippocrates alone, for it so happens that in two instances
we find a passage that has appeared from very early times as forming part of this
collection, quoted as belonging to a different person. Indeed if we had nothing
but internal evidence to guide us in our task of examining these writings, in
order to decide which really belong to Hippocrates, we should come to but few
positive results; and therefore it is necessary to collect all the ancient testimonies
that can still be found; in doing which, it will appear that the Collection, as
a whole, can be traced no higher than the period of the Alexandrian school, in
the third century B. C.; but that particular treatises are referred to by the
contemporaries of Hippocrates and his immediate successors. (Brit. and For. Med.
We find that Hippocrates is mentioned or referred to by no less than
ten persons anterior to the foundation of the Alexandrian school, and among them
by Aristotle and Plato. At the time of the formation of the great Alexandrian
library, the different treatises which bear the name of Hippocrates were diligently
sought for, and formed into a single collection; and about this time commences
the series of Commentators, which has continued through a period of more than
two thousand years to the present day. The first person who is known to have commented
on any of the works of the Hippocratic Collection is Herophilus. The most ancient
commentary still in existence is that on the treatise " De Articulis,"
by Apollonius Citiensis. By far the most voluminous, and at the same time by far
the most valuable commentaries that remain, are those of Galen, who wrote several
works in illustration of the writings of Hippocrates, besides those which we now
possess. His Commentaries, which are still extant, are those on the " De
Natura Hominis," " De Salubri Victus Ratione," " De Ratione
Victus in Morbis Acutis," " Praenotiones," Praedictiones I.,"
"Aphorismi," " De Morbis Vulgaribus I. II. III. VI," " De Fracturis,"
" De Articulis," "De Officina Medici," and " De Humoribus," with
a glossary of difficult and obsolete words, and fragments on the " De Aere,
Aquis, et Locis," and " De Alimento." The other ancient commentaries
that remain are those of Palladius, Joannes Alexandrinus, Stephanus Atheniensis,
Meletius, Theophilus Protospatharius, and Damascius; besides a spurious work attributed
to Oribasius, a glossary of obsolete and difficult words by Erotianus, and some
Arabic Commentaries that have never been published. (Brit. and For. Filed. Rev.)
His writings were held in the highest esteem by the ancient Greek
and Latin physicians, and most of them were translated into Arabic. (See Wenrich,
De Auct. Graec. Vers. et Comment. Syr. Arab., &c.) In the middle ages, however,
they were not so much studied as those of some other authors, whose works are
of a more practical character, and better fitted for being made a class-book and
manual of instruction. In more modern times, on the contrary, the works of the
Hippocratic Collection have been valued more according to their real worth, while
many of the most popular medical writers of the middle ages have fallen into complete
neglect. The number of works written in illustration or explanation of the Collection
is very great, as is also that of the editions of the whole or any part ot the
treatises composing it. Of these only a very few can be here mentioned: a fuller
account may be found in Fabric. Bibl. Gruec.; HIaller, Bibl. Medic. Pract.; the
first vol. of Kiihn's edition of Hippocrates; Choulant's Handb. der Bucherkunde
fur die Aeltere Medicin; Littre's Hippocrates; and other professed bibliographical
works. The works of Hippocrates first appeared in a Latin translation by Fabius
Calvus, Rom. 1525, fol. The first Greek edition is the Aldine, Venet. 1526, fol.,
which was printed from MSS. with hardly any correction of the transcriber's errors.
The first edition that had any pretensions to be called a critical edition was
that by Hieron. Mercurialis, Venet. 1588, fol., Gr. and Lat.; but this was much
surpassed by that of Anut. Foesius, Francof. 1595, fol., Gr. and Lat., which continues
to the present day to be the best complete edition. Vander Linden's edition (Lugd.
Bat. 1665, 8vo. 2 vols. Gr. and Lat.) is neat and commodious for reference from
his having divided the text into short paragraphs. Chartier's edition of the works
of Galen and Hippocrates has been noticed under Galen; as has also Kuhn's, of
which it may be said that its only advantages are its convenient size, the reprint
of Ackermann's Histor. Liter. Hippocr. (from Harless's ed. of Fabr. Bibl. Gr.)
in the first vol., and the noticing on each page the corresponding pagination
of the editions of Foes, Chartier, and Vander Linden. By far the best edition
in every respect is one which is now in the course of publication at Paris, under
the superintendence of E. Littre, of which the first vol. appeared in 1839, and
the fourth in 1844. It contains a new text, founded upon a collation of the MSS.
in the Royal Library at Paris; a French translation; an interesting and learned
general Introduction, and a copious argument prefixed to each treatise; and numerous
scientific and philological notes. It is a work quite indispensable to every physician,
critic, and philologist, who wishes to study in detail the works of the Hippocratic
Collection, and it has already done much more towards settling the text than any
edition that has preceded it; but at the same time it must not be concealed that
the editor does not seem to have always made the best use of the materials that
he has had at his command, and that the classical reader cannot help now and then
noticing a manifest want of critical (and even at times of grammatical) scholarship.
The Hippocratic Collection consists of more than sixty works; and
the classification of these, and assigning each (as far as possible) to its proper
author, constitutes by far the most difficult question connected with the ancient
medical writers. Various have been the classifications proposed both in ancient
and modern times, and various the rules by which their authors were guided; some
contenting themselves with following implicitly the opinions of Galen and Erotianus,
others arguing chiefly from peculiarities of style, while a third class distinguished
the books according to the medical and philosophical doctrines contained in them.
An account of each of these classifications cannot be given here, much less can
the objections that may be brought against each be pointed out: upon the whole,
the writer is inclined to think M. Littre's superior to any that has preceded
it; but by no means so unexceptionable as to do away with the necessity of a new
one. The following classification, though far enough from supplying the desideratum,
differs in several instances from any former one: it is impossible here for the
writer to give more than the results of his investigation, referring for the data
on which his opinion in each particular case is founded to the works of Gruner,
Ackermann, and Littre/, of which he has, of course, made free use. (2)
Perhaps a tabular or genealogical view of the different divisions and subdivisions
of the Collection will be the best calculated to put the reader at once in possession
of the whole bearings of the subject.
Class I., containing Prognostikon Praenotiones or Prognosticon
(vol. i., ed. Kuhn); Aphorismoi, Aphorismi (vol. iii.); Epidemion Bibgia A, G,
De Morbis Popularibus (or Epidemiorum), lib. i. and iii. (vol. i.); Peri Diaites
Oxeon, De Ratione Victus in Morbis Acutis, or De Diaeta Acntorumn (vol. ii.);
Peri Aepon, psdaton, topon, De Aere, Aquis, et Locis (vol. i.); Peri ton en kephale
tromaton, De Capitis Vulneribus (vol. iii.).
Class II., containing Peri Apchaies Ietpikes, De Prisca Medicina
(vol. i.); Peri axthron, De Articulis (vol. iii.); Peri Agmon, De Fractis (vol.
iii.); Mochlikos, Mochlicus or Vectiarius (vol. iii.); Horkos, Jusjurandum (vol.
i.); Nomos, Lex (vol. i.); Peri Helkon, De Ulceribus (vol. iii.); Peri Suringon,
De Fistulis (vol. iii.); Peri Aimorhro+idon, De Haemorrhoididibus (vol. iii.);
Kat ietreion, De Officina Medici (vol. iii.); Peri Ieres nousou, De Morbo Sacro
Class III., containing Prorhretikon A, Prorrhetica, or Praedictiones
i. (vol. i.); Koakai Prognoseis, Coacae Praenotiones (vol. i.).
Class IV., containing Peri Susios Anthropon, De Natura Hominis
(vol. i.); Peri Diaites, Hugieines, De Salubri Victus Ratione (?) (vol. i. );
Peri Gunaikeies Phusios, De Natura Muliebri (?) (vol. ii.); Peri nouson *B, *G,
De Uorbis, ii. iii (?) (vol. ii.); Peri Epikuesios, De Superfoetatione (?) (vol.
Class V., containing Peri Phuson, De Flatibus (vol. i.); Peri
Topon ton kat Anthropon, De Locis in Homine (vol. ii.); Peri technes, De Arte
(?) (vol. i.); Peri Diaites, De Diaeta, or De Victts Ratione (vol. i.); Peri enupnion,
De Insomniis (vol. ii.); Peri Pathon, De Affectionibus (vol. ii.); Peri ton entos
Pathon, De Internis Affectionibus (vol. ii.) ; Peri nouson A, De Morbis i. (vol.
ii.); Peri Heptamenou, De Septimestri Partu (vol. i.) ; Peri Oktamenou, De Octinestri
Partu (vol. i.); Epidemizu Bibgia B, D, Z, Epidemiorum, or De Morbis Popularibus,
ii. iv. vi. (vol. iii.); Peri Chumon, De Humoribus (vol. i.); Peri Hugron Chresios,
De Usu Liquidorum (voi. ii.)
Class VI., containing Peri Gones, De Genitura (vol. i.); Peri
Phusios Paidiou, De Natura Pueri (vol. i.); Peri Nouszn D, De Morbis in. (vol.
ii.); Peri Gunaikeion, De Mulierum Morbis (vol. ii.); Peri Parthenion, De Virginum
Morbis (vol. ii.); Peri Aphoron De Sterilibus (vol. iii.).
Class VII., containing Epidemion bibgla E, H, Epidemiorum, or
De Morbis Popularibus v. vii. (vol. iii.); Peri kardies, De Corde (vol. i.); *Peri\
*Trofh=s, De Alinmento (vol. ii.); Peri Sarkon, De Carnibus (vol. i.); Peri Hebdomadon,
De Septimanis, a work which no longer exists in Greek, but of which M. Littre
has found a Latin translation; Pororhretikon B, Prorrhetica (or Praedictiones)
ii. (vol. i.) ; Peri Odteon Sutios, De Natura Ossim, a work composed entirely
of extracts from other treatises of the Hippocratic Collection, and from other
ancient authors, and which therefore M. Littre is going to suppress entirely (vol.
i.); Peri Adenon, De Glandulis (vol. i.); Peri Ietrou, De Medico (vol. i.); Peri
Eudchemodunes, De Decenti Habitu (vol. i.); Papangegliai, Pracceptiones (vol.
i.); Peri Anatomes, De Anatomia (or De Resectione Corporum) (vol. iii.); Peri
Odontophuies, De Dentilione (vol. i.); Peri Enkatatomes Embruou, De Resectione
Foetus (vol. iii.); Peri Opsios, De Visu (vol. iii.); Peri Krision, De Crisibus
(or De Judicationibus) (vol. i.) ; Peri krisimon, De Diebus Criticis (or De Diebus
Judicatoriis) (vol. i.); Peri Pharmakon, De Medicamentis Purgatiris (vol. iii.).
Class VIII., containing Epistolai, Epistolae (vol. iii.); Presbeutikos
thessagou, Thessali Legati Oratio (vol. iii.; Epibomios Oratio ad Aram (vol. iii.);
Dogma Athenaion, Atheniensium Senatus Consultum (vol. iii.).
Each of these classes requires a few words of explanation. The first
class will probably be considered by many persons to be rather small; but it seemed
safer and better to include in it only those works of whose genuineness there
has never been any doubt. To this there is perhaps one exception, and that relating
to the very work whose genuineness one would perhaps least expect to find called
in question, as it is certainly that by which Hippocrates is most popularly known.
Some doubts as to the origin of the Aphorisms, and indeed the discussion of the
genuineness of this work may be said to be an epitome of the questions relating
to the whole Hippocratic Collection. We find here a very celebrated work, which
has from early times borne the name of Hippocrates, but of which som parts have
always been condemned as spurious. Upon examining those portions that are considered
to be genuine, we observe that the greater part of the first three sections agrees
almost word for word with passages to be found in his acknowledged works; while
in the remaining sections we find sentences taken apparently from spurious or
doubtful treatises; thus adding greatly to our difficulties, inasmuch as they
sometimes contain doctrines and theories opposed to those which we find in the
works acknowledged to be genuine. And these facts are (in the opinion of the critics
alluded to) to be accounted for in one of two ways: either Hippocrates himself
in his old age (for the Aphorisms have always been attributed to this period of
his life) put together certain extracts from his own works, to which were afterwards
added other sentences taken from later authors; or else the collection was not
formed by Hippocrates himself, but by some person or persons after his death,
who made aphoristical extracts from his works, and from those of other writers
of a later date, and the whole was then attributed to Hippocrates, because he
was the author of the sentences that were most valuable, and came first in order.
This account of the formation of the Aphorisms appears extremely plausible, nor
does it seem to be any decisive objection to say, that we find among them sentences
which are not to be met with elsewhere; for, when we recollect how many works
of the old medical writers, and perhaps of Hippocrates himself, are lost, it is
easy to conceive that these sentences may have been extracted from some treatise
that is no longer in existence. It must however be confessed that this conjecture,
however plausible and probable, requires further proof and examination before
it can be received as true.
The second class is one of the most unsatisfactory in the writer's
own opinion, and affords at the same time a curious instance of the impossibility
of satisfying even those few persons in Europe whose opinion on such a matter
is really worth asking; for, upon submitting the classification to two friends,
one of whom is decidedly the most learned physician in Great Britain, and the
other one of the best medical critics on the continent, he was advised by the
one to call this class "Works probably written by Hippocrates," and
by the other to transfer them (with one exception) to the class of " Works
certainly not written by Hippocrates." The amount of probability in favour
of the genuineness of all these works is certainly by no means equal; e. g. the
two little pieces called the " Oath," and the " Law," though
commonly considered to be the work of the same author, and to be intimately connected
with each other, seem rather to belong to different periods, the former having
all the simplicity, honesty, and religious feeling of antiquity, the latter somewhat
of the affectation and declamatory grandiloquence of a sophist. However, as all
of these books have been considered to be genuine by some critics of more or less
note, it seemed better to defer to their authority at least so far as to allow
that they might perhaps have been written by Hippocrates himself.
The two works which constitute the third class, and which are probably
the oldest medical writings that exist, have been supposed with some probability
to consist, at least in part, of the inscriptions on the votive tablets placed
in the temple of Aesculapius by those who had recovered their health, which certainly
constituted one of the sources from which the medical knowledge of Hippocrates
In the fourth class are placed those works which were certainly not
written by Hippocrates himself, which were probably either contemporary or but
little posterior to him, and whose authors have been, with more or less degree
of certainty, discovered. The works De Natura Homiinis, and De Salubri Victus
Ratione, are supposed by M. Littre to have been written by the same author, because
it is said by Galen that in many old editions these two treatises formed but one;
and this author he concludes to have been Polybus, the son-in-law of Hippocrates
(vol. i.), because a passage is quoted by Aristotle (Hist. Anim. iii 3), and attributed
to Polybus, which is found word for word in the work De Natura Hominis (vol .
i). For somewhat similar reasons, Euryphon has been supposed to be the author
of the second and third books De Morbis, and the work De Natura Muliebri; and
also (though with much less show of reason) a certain Leophanes, or Cleophanes
(of whom nothing whatever is known), to have written the treatise De Superfoetatione
(Littre, vol. i.).
In the fifth class there is one treatise (De Diaeta) in which an astronomical
coincidence with the calendar of Eudoxus has been pointed to the writer by a friend,
which (as far as he is aware) has never been noticed by any commentator on Hippocrates,
and which seems in some degree to fix the date of the work in question. If the
calendar of Eudoxus, as preserved in the Apparentiae of Ptolemy and the calendar
of Geminus (see Petav. Uranol.), be compared with part of the third book De Diaela
(vol. i.), it will be found that the periods correspond so exactly, that (there
being no other solar calendar of antiquity in which these intervals coincide so
closely,and all through,but that of Eudoxus), it seems a reasonable inference
that the writer of the work De Diaeta took them from the calendar in question.
If this be granted, it will follow that the author must have written this work
after the year B. C. 381, which is the date of the calendar of Eudoxus; and, as
Hippocrates must have been at least eighty years old at that time, this conclusion
will agree quite well with the general opinion of ancient and modern critics,
that the treatise in question was probably written by one of his immediate followers.
The sixth class agrees with the sixth class of M. Littre, who, with
great appearance of probability, supposes it to form a connected series of works
written by the same author, whose name is quite unknown, and of whose date it
can only be determined from internal evidence that he must have lived later than
Hippocrates, and before the time of Aristotle.
The works contained in this and the seventh class have for many centuries
formed part of the Hippocratic Collection without having any right to such an
honour, and therefore are not genuine; but, as it does not appear that their authors
were guilty of assuming the name of Hippocrates, or that they have represented
the state of medical science as in any respect different from what it really was
in the times in which they wrote, there is no reason for denying their authenticity.
And in this respect they are to be regarded with a very different eye from the
pieces which form the last class, which are neither genuine nor authentic, but
mere forgeries; which display indeed here and there some ingenuity and skill,
but which are still sufficiently full of difficulties and inconsistencies to betray
at once their origin.
So much space has been taken up with the preliminary, but most indispensable
step of determining which are the genuine works of Hippocrates, and which are
spurious, that a very slight sketch of his opinions is all that can be now attempted,
and for a fuller account the reader must be referred to the works of Le Clerc,
Haller, Sprengel, &c., or to some of those which relate especially to Hippocrates.
He divides the causes of disease into two principal classes; the one comprehending
the influence of seasons, climates, water, situation, &c., and the other consisting
of more personal and private causes, such as result from the particular kind and
amount of food and exercise in which each separate individual indulges himself.
The modifications of the atmosphere dependent on different seasons and climates
is a subject which was successfully treated by Hippocrates, and which is still
far from exhausted by all the researches of modern science. He considered that
while heat and cold, moisture and dryness, succeeded one another throughout the
year, the human body underwent certain analogous changes, which influenced the
diseases of the period; and on this basis was founded the doctrine of pathological
constitutions, corresponding to particular conditions of the atmosphere, so that,
whenever the year or the season exhibited a special character in which such or
such a temperature prevailed, those persons who were exposed to its influence
were affected by a series of disorders, all bearing the same stamp. (How plainly
the same idea runs through the Observationes Medicae of Sydenham, our " English
Hippocrates " need not be pointed out to those who are at all familiar with
his works.) The belief in the influence which different climates exercise on the
human frame follows naturally from the theory just mentioned; for, in fact, a
climate may be considered as nothing more than a permanent season, whose effects
may be expected to be more powerful, inasmuch as the cause is ever at work upon
mankind. Accordingly, Hippocrates attributes to climate both the conformation
of the body and the disposition of the mind-indeed, almost every thing; and if
the Greeks were found to be hardy freemen, and the Asiatics effeminate slaves,
he accounts for the difference of their characters by that of the climates in
which they lived. With respect to the second class of causes producing disease,
he attributed all sorts of disorders to a vicious system of diet, which, whether
excessive or defective, he considered to be equally injurious; and in the same
way he supposed that, when bodily exercise was either too much indulged in or
entirely neglected, the health was equally likely to suffer, though by different
forms of disease. Into all the minutiae of the "Humoral Pathology" (as
it was called), which kept its ground in Europe as the prevailing doctrine of
all the medical sects for more than twenty centuries, it would be out of place
to enter here. It will be sufficient to remind the reader that the four fluids
or humours of the body (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) were supposed
to be the primary seat of disease; that health was the result of the due combination
(or crasis) of these, and that, when this crasis was disturbed, disease was the
consequence; that, in the course of a disorder that was proceeding favourably,
these humours underwent a certain change in quality (or coction),which was the
sign of returning health, as preparing the way for the expulsion of the morbid
matter, or crisis;and that these crises had a tendency to occur at certain stated
periods, which were hence called "critical days." (Brit. and For. Med.
The medical practice of Hippocrates was cautious and feeble, so much
so, that he was in after times reproached with letting his patients die, by doing
nothing to keep them alive. It consisted chiefly in watching the operations of
nature, and promoting the critical evacuations mentioned above; so that attention
to diet and regimen was the principal and often the only remedy that he employed.
Several hundred substances have been enumerated which are used medicinally in
different parts of the Hippocratic Collection; of these, by far the greater portion
belong to the vegetable kingdom, as it would be in vain to look for any traces
of chemistry in these early writings. In surgery, he is the author of the frequently
quoted maxim, that " what cannot be cured by medicines is cured by the knife;
and what cannot be cured by the knife is cured by fire." The anatomical knowledge
displayed in different parts of the Hippocratic Collection is scanty and contradictory,
so much so, that the discrepancies on this subject constitute an important criterion
in deciding the genuineness of the different treatises.
With regard to the personal character of Hippocrates, though he says
little or nothing expressly about himself, yet it is impossible to avoid drawing
certain conclusions from the characteristic passages scattered through the pages
of his writings. He was evidently a person who not only had had great experience,
but who also knew how to turn it to the best account; and the number of moral
reflections and apophthegms that we meet with in his writings, some of which (as,
for example, " Life is short, and Art is long ") have acquired a sort
of proverbial notoriety, show him to have been a profound thinker. He appears
to have felt the moral obligations and responsibilities of his profession, and
often tries to impress upon his readers the duties of care and attention, and
kindness towards the sick, saying that a physician's first and chief consideration
ought to be the restoring his patient to health. The style of the Hippocratic
writings, which are in the Ionic dialect, is so concise as to be sometimes extremely
obscure; though this charge, which is as old as the time of Galen, is often brought
too indiscriminately against the whole collection, whereas it applies, in fact
especially only to certain treatises, which seem to be merely a collection of
notes, such as De Humoribus, De Alimento, De Officina Medici, &c. In those writings,
which are universally allowed to be genuine, we do not find this excessive brevity,
though even these are in general by no means easy. (Brit. and For. Med. Rev.)
Of the great number of books published on the subject of the Hippocratic
Collection, only a very few of the most modern and most useful can be here enumerated;
a fuller list may be found in Choulant's Handb. der Bucherkunde fur die Aeltere
Medicin, or his Biblioth. Medico-Histor.; or in Ackermann's Historia Literaria
Hippocratis. Foesii Oeconomia Hippocratis is a very copious and learned lexicon,
published in fol. Francof. 1588, and Genev. 1662. Sprengel's Apologie des Hippocr.
und seiner Grundsatze (Leipz. 1789, 1792, 2 vols. 8vo.), contains, among matter,
a German translation of some of the genuine treatises, with a valuable commentary.
The treatise by Ermerins, De Hippocr. Doctrine a Proynostice oriunda (Lugd. Bat.
1832, 4to.), deserves to be carefully studied; as also does Link's dissertation,
Ueber die Theorien in den Hippocratiscien Schriften, nebst Bemerkungen uber die
Echtheit dieser Schriften, in the " Abhandlungen der Berlin. Akadem."
1814, 1815. Gruner's Censura Librorum Hippocrateorum qua veri a falsis, integri
a suppositis segregantur, Vratislav. 1772, 8vo., contains a useful account of
the amount of evidence in favour of each treatise of the collection, though his
conclusions are not always to be depended on. See also Houdart, Etudes Histor.
et Crit. sur la Vie et la Doctrine d' Hippocr. Paris, 1836, 8vo.; Petersen, Hippocr.
Nomine quae circumferuntur Scripta ad Temporis Rationes dispos. Hamburg, 1839,
4to. ; Meixner, Neue Prufung der Echtheit und Reihefolge Sammtlicher Schriften
Hippocr., Munchen, 1836, 1837, 8vo.
1 There is at this present time among the MSS. at Leyden a little
Arabic treatise on Physiognomy which bears the name of Philemon, and which (as
the writer has been informed by a gentleman who has compared the two works) bears
a very great resemblance to the Greek treatise by Polemon. (See Catal. Biblioth.
Lugdun. p. 461. § 1286.)
2 Some of the readers of this work may perhaps be interested
to hear that a strictly philologicalclassification of the works of the Hippocratic
Collection is still a desideratum; and that, as this is in fact almost the only
question connected with the subject which has not by this time been thoroughly
examined, any scholar who will undertake the work will be doing good service to
the cause of ancient medical literature.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
The central historical figure in Greek medicine is Hippocrates. The
events of his life are shrouded in uncertainty, yet tales of his ingenuity, patriotism
and compassion made him a legend. He provided an example of the ideal physician
after which others centuries after him patterned their existence.
He was associated with the Asclepium of Cos, an island off the coast
of Asia Minor, near Rhodes
and with a group of medical treatises known collectively as the Hippocratic Corpus.
Celsus says that Hippocrates first gave the physician an independent standing,
separating him from the cosmological speculator, or nature philosopher. Hippocrates
confined the medical man to medicine. At the same time that he assigned the physician
his post, Hippocrates would not let him regard the post as sacrosanct. He set
his face against any tendency toward sacerdotalism. He was also opposed to the
spirit of trade-unionism in medicine. His concern was rather with the physician’s
duties than his “rights”. Hence the greatest legacy of Hippocrates:
the Hippocratic Oath.
This extract is cited Sept 2003 from the University of Virginia Historical Collections URL below, which contains image.
Hippocrates (c. 460 BC-377 BC). Ancient Greek physician, commonly regarded as one of the most outstanding
figures in medicine of all times. He is often called “the father of medicine”.
He was the leader of a medical school of Cos and the author of most of writings
of the school. He had a great impact on succeeding generations of practitioners
of medicine and some general rules still apply.
His work and writings rejected the superstition and magic of primitive
“medicine” and laid the foundations of medicine as a branch of science.
The whole collection of works of the Hippocratic medical school were gathered
as the Hippocratic Corpus.
The best known of the Hippocratic writings is the Hippocratic Oath.
“I swear by Apollo the physician, by Aesculapius, Hygeia, and
Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according
to my ability and my judgement, the following Oath. To consider dear to me as
my parents him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and if necessary
to share my goods with him; to look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach
them this art if they so desire without fee or written promise; to impart to my
sons and the sons of the master who taught me and the disciples who have enrolled
themselves and have agreed to the rules of the profession, but to these alone
the precepts and the instruction. I will prescribe regimen for the good of my
patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone.
To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which
may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion. But
I will preserve the purity of my life and my art. I will not cut for stone, even
for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be
performed by practitioners, specialists in this art. In every house where I come
I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional
ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women
or with men, be they free or slaves. All that may come to my knowledge in the
exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be
spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my
art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate
it, may the reverse be my lot.”
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Malaspina Great Books URL below, which contains image.
Hippocrates (c.460-377). Also called the “Father of Medicine”, Hippocrates was
born on the island of Kos.
Not much of him is known, except that he was exiled from his home,
an outstanding physician and that he died in Larissa,
where there is a monument of him. An anecdote tells us he was so sharp that once
he met a girl in the street, and greeted her saying “good morning, maiden”
but when he met her in the afternoon, he said “good evening, woman”.
Hippocrates was almost free of superstition, and believed disease
came from nature as opposed to from the gods. He even stated that epilepsy was
caused from a blockage in the brain. He was the first physician to actually examine
A revolutionary aspect that was invented by Hippocrates was the concepts
of cleanliness. When the plague broke out he recommended that people burn their
clothes and boil the water before they drank it. It was to take over 2000 years
before this was rediscovered. He wrote about diagnostical methods, diets, the
importance of hygiene, how to prevent diseases, surgery, women's diseases, the
construction of towns and houses in order for people's environment to be healthy,
Hippocrates believed the health is good when the four humours, blood,
yellow bile, black bile and phlegm, are in balance. When we vomit, cough or sweat
for example, the body is trying to get rid of excessive amounts of one or more
of these humours.
The Hippocratic Oath, which he might not have actually written himself,
is still sworn by new doctors in many parts of the world. This oath is the basis
for the ethics of the World Health Organization (WHO). Hippocrates also introduced
the vow of silence that all doctors still take.
This text is cited Sept 2003 from the In2Greece URL below.
Medicina (iatrike). The ancients ascribed the origin of the medical
art to the gods (Pliny , Pliny H. N.xxix. 2), and Prometheus, Chiron, and Asclepius
were among those who made it known to men. It was also believed to have been improved
by the observation of the remedies instinctively sought out by animals when suffering
from injuries or disease (Pliny , Pliny H. N.viii. 97). Thus, dogs taught the
Egyptians the use of purgatives, bleeding was learned from the hippopotamus, and
enemata from the ibis. Sheep and cattle led men to the use of the natural saline
and chalybeate waters. The results of these and various other observations of
cures were recorded on tablets, and suspended by the priests in the temples of
the gods both in Egypt and in Greece. These tablets were the beginnings of medical
The Asclepiadae, to which family Hippocrates belonged, were, in a
way, hereditary physicians, and founded a number of medical schools, of which
the most famous in early times were those of Rhodes, Cnidos, and Cos. From the
second came the collection of medical observations called Knidiai Gnomai, "Cnidian
Maxims", which long enjoyed a considerable repute. The school of Cos was,
however, the best known of the three, and one of its representatives was Hippocrates
himself. Herodotus mentions other schools at Crotona in Italy and Cyrene in Africa
(iii. 131). Of the different medical sects that sprang up at different times,
the following deserve especial mention:
(1) The Dogmatici or Hippocratici, founded about B.C. 400 by Thessalus,
the son, and Polybus, the son-in-law of Hippocrates;
(2) the Empirici, founded in the third century B.C., and so called
because they professed to base their knowledge and practice on experience alone;
(3) the Methodici, founded in the first century B.C. by Themison,
who taught doctrines partly theoretical and partly empirical;
(4) the Pneumatici, founded by Athenaeus in the first century a.d.;
(5) the Eclectici, founded at about the same time by Agathinus of
Sparta, or perhaps his pupil Archigenes.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Febr 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Medicus (iatros). A physician or surgeon, the name being indiscriminately
used of either. In Greece and Asia Minor, physicians were held in higher repute
than at Rome, probably because of the traditional association of medicine with
religion. A law of the Locrians quoted by Aelian (Var. Hist. ii. 37), punished
with death the patient who disobeyed the orders of his physician. Hippocrates
was treated as a demigod by the Athenians, if the account of Soranus
The Greek physician compounded his own medicines, and either sat in
his consulting-room (iatreion) or visited his patients, in the latter duty being
often accompanied by his pupils or assistants. There is only one mention of a
Greek hospital prior to the Roman period. State physicians were employed in Greece,
receiving a salary and their expenses, but no fees. Thus Democedes received from
the public treasury of Aegina about $1400 per annum, and from Athens afterwards
a salary of some $2000 ( Herod.iii. 131). A physician who cured King Antiochus
received from him a fee of over $100,000 (Pliny , Pliny H. N.vii. 123; xxix. 5).
State physicians attended gratis any one who called for them.
In the early days of the Republic, Rome had no regular physicians.
The haruspices and augurs pretended to some knowledge of medicine; but when a
man fell ill, he was usually treated by the old women with their simples; or if
the disease was a very serious one, he trusted to religious rites, vows, and sacrifices
for his recovery. The various deities of disease were propitiated by temples and
altars. In Varro's time there were in Rome three temples to the goddess of Fever;
in the Esquiline quarter, an altar to Mefitis, the goddess Malaria; in the centre
of the Forum Romanum, an altar to Cloacina, "the goddess of typhoid"
(so Lanciani), and near the Praetorian Camp, an altar to Verminus, the god of
At a later period, among the Greeks who first came in numbers to Rome
in the second century B.C., were many professed physicians; and from that time
the practice of medicine became a lucrative profession among the Romans, though
the chief practitioners remained Greeks, a fact to which the Latin vocabulary
bears witness in that its medical terms are nearly all of Greek origin. The elder
Pliny gives some interesting details regarding the fees received by the leading
doctors. The native physicians of celebrity, Cassius, Calpetanus, and Arruntius,
received, he estimates, an income of not less than 250,000 sesterces ($10,000)
a year. Quintus Stertinius, a fashionable physician, was asked by the emperor
to give up his private practice and devote himself to the imperial family alone.
Stertinius said that, as an especial favour, he would do it if he could receive
a salary of 500,000 sesterces ($20,000). This struck the emperor as an exorbitant
demand, but Stertinius showed from his books that his private practice was worth
to him at least 600,000 sesterces per annum. The brother of this Stertinius had
a sort of partnership with him, and when they died, which they did at about the
same time, they left a property of 30,000,000 sesterces ($1,200,000), though they
had lived very expensively, and given large sums to public objects. The Greek
physicians at Rome probably earned still larger sums. An ex-praetor paid 200,000
sesterces ($8000) as a single fee to the practitioner who treated him for leprosy.
Pliny mentions one Thessalus, of whom he says: "No popular actor, no famous
jockey, had a greater throng attending him when he appeared in public".
Nothing is known of the course of study necessary to qualify a man
for medical practice. That there were medical students and clinical lectures is
seen from Martial. It is probable that the profession was open to all kinds of
quacks and impostors, for we read of men taking up medicine as they would any
form of trade, with no mention of any special qualification. It is, in fact, likely
that, in the main, ancient medicine was little better than quackery, and that
the best physicians were men like Crinas who made a careful study of dietetics,
and like Asclepiades, who said "Nature is the true physician". How absurd
much of the treatment must have been is shown in the list of remedies given by
Pliny in his Historia Naturalis. The patent medicines of to-day sink into insignificance
beside them. Thus, we read of a mysterious preparation called Theriaca with 600
ingredients, and of another known as "the Mithridatic antidote" with
450. Pliny mentions 35 nostrums prepared from wool, 22 from eggs, and also several
pastes of which the principal constituent was pounded bugs. The notion, which
is still largely prevalent among the laity, that the efficacy of a drug is in
direct proportion to its nastiness seems to have had a strong hold on the minds
of the ancients. Dog's blood was given for narcotic poisons; urine for gout; goat's
gall for ophthalmia; bull's gall and garlic for ear-ache. Superstition entered
largely into the treatment. A person afflicted with hiccoughing was gravely advised
to touch his lips to a mule's nostrils and be cured. Hydrophobia was treated by
applying to the bite the ashes of the dead dog's hair. A still more effectual
remedy for the same disease was to cut out the liver of the dog and to eat it
raw, applying at the same time to the wound, horse-dung sprinkled with vinegar.
All these prescriptions are the serious advice of men of reputation.
It is not surprising if, on the whole, the profession was less esteemed than others.
Pliny the Elder sums up the matter in the following sentences: "There is
no doubt that physicians in pursuit of celebrity, by the introduction of some
novelty or other, purchase it at the cost of human life. Hence these woful discussions,
these consultations at the bedside of the patient; hence, too, the ominous inscription
to be read upon a tomb--'I perished by the multitude of physicians' . . . And
there is, moreover, no law to punish the mistakes of a physician, and no instance
before us of any punishment so inflicted. They acquire skill at our risk, and
put us to death for the sake of making an experiment; for a physician is the only
person who is licensed to kill".
Other scandals besides those due to ignorance were not unknown. So
many unprincipled persons entered the profession that it is not surprising to
find complaints made of their conduct. Even the palace of the Caesars was the
scene of strange occurrences, for it is recorded that both Livia, the wife of
Drusus, and the empress Messalina were criminally intimate with their medical
attendants. It is not remarkable, therefore, to find a Roman writer concluding
a discussion of the subject with the words: "Medicine is the only one of
the arts of Greece that, lucrative though it be, Roman dignity still refuses to
Nevertheless, medicine flourished, and its followers kept increasing
in number. We hear of the practice of specialties. General practitioners were
known as medici; surgeons as chirurgi and vulnerarii. There were also oculists
(ocularii) and dentists (medici a dentibus). We even read of female physicians
(Orell. Inscript. 4320-31), and, of course, of numerous midwives (obstetrices).
Pharmacies existed, their sign being the Aesculapian snake; and though physicians
usually furnished their own drugs, they also gave signed prescriptions (Duruy).
The physicians attached to the imperial household were under the direction of
a chief styled archiater (archiatros), or in pure Latin dominus medicorum. The
name archiater was also applied to the dispensary-physicians who gave their services
to the people (archiatri populares).
Surgery was the branch of medicine most scientifically pursued, and
successful operations were performed by the ancient surgeons for stone and cataract,
while trephining was not unknown.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Febr 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Diaetetica (diaitetike). One of the principal branches into which
the ancients divided the art and science of medicine. The word is derived from
diaita, which meant much the same as our word diet. It is defined by Celsus (De
Medic. Praef.lib. i.) to signify that part of medicine which cures diseases by
means of regimen and diet. Taken strictly in this sense, it would correspond very
nearly with the modern "dietetics", and this is the meaning which it
always bears in the earlier medical writers.
In later times the comic poet Nicomachus introduces a cook who, among
his other qualifications, implies that he is a physician; but no attention seems
to have been paid to eating as a branch of medicine before the date of Hippocrates.
Homer represents Machaon, who had been wounded in the shoulder by an arrow ( Il.xi.
507) and forced to quit the field, as taking a draught composed of wine, goat's-milk
cheese, and flour, which probably no surgeon in later times would have prescribed
in such a case. Hippocrates seems to claim for himself the credit of being the
first person who had studied this subject, and says that "the ancients had
written nothing on it worth mentioning". Among the works forming the Hippocratic
collection, there are four that bear upon this subject, of which, however, only
one (viz. that just quoted) is considered to be undoubtedly genuine. It would
be out of place here to attempt anything like a complete account of the opinions
of the ancients on this point, so that in this article only such particulars are
mentioned as may be supposed to have some interest for the classical reader.
In the works of Hippocrates and his successors almost all the articles
of food used by the ancients are mentioned, and their real or supposed properties
discussed, sometimes quite as fancifully as by Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy.
In some respects they appear to have been much less delicate than the moderns,
as we find the flesh of the fox, the dog, the horse, and the ass spoken of as
common articles of food. Beef and mutton were of course eaten, but the meat most
generally esteemed was pork. A morbid taste for human flesh appears to have been
secretly indulged in the time of Xenocrates (first century A.D.); so that the
unnatural practice was forbidden by an imperial edict, which decree serves to
illustrate the "strange and revolting anecdote", as Milman calls it,
of the wild cry that, in a time of scarcity amounting to famine, assailed the
ears of the emperor Attalus, "Fix the tariff for human flesh" (pone
pretium carni humanae, Zosim. vi. 11).
With regard to the strength or quality of the wine drunk by the ancients,
we may arrive at something like certainty from the fact that Coelius Aurelianus
mentions it as something extraordinary that Asclepiades at Rome in the first century
B.C. sometimes ordered his patients to double and treble the quantity of wine,
till at last they drank half wine and half water. From this it appears that wine
was commonly diluted with five or six times its quantity of water. Hippocrates
also in particular cases recommends wine to be mixed with an equal quantity of
water, and Galen approves of the proportion. According to Hippocrates, the proportions
in which wine and water should be mixed together vary according to the season
of the year; for instance, in summer the wine should be most diluted, in winter
the least so. In one place the patient after great fatigue is recommended to get
himself drunk once or twice, in which passage it has been doubted whether actual
intoxication is meant or only the "drinking freely and to cheerfulness",
in which sense the same word is used by St. John and the Septuagint.
Exercises of various kinds and bathing are also much insisted on by
the writers on diet and regimen, but for further particulars on these subjects
the articles Balneae and Gymnasium must be consulted. It may, however, be added
that the bath could not have been very common, at least in private families, in
the time of Hippocrates, as he says that "there are few houses in which the
necessary conveniences are to be found". Another very favourite practice
with the ancients, both as a preventive of sickness and as a remedy, was the taking
of an emetic from time to time. In one of the treatises of the Hippocratic collection
the unknown author recommends it two or three times a month. Celsus considers
it more beneficial in the winter than in the summer, and says that those who take
an emetic twice a month had better do so on two successive days than once a fortnight.
In the first century B.C. this practice was so commonly abused that Asclepiades
rejected the use of emetics altogether.
It was the custom among the Romans to take an emetic immediately before
their meals, in order to prepare themselves to eat more plentifully; and again
soon after, so as to avoid any injury from repletion. Cicero, in his account of
the day that Caesar spent with him at his house in the country, says, "Accubuit,
emetiken agebat (he was meditating an emetic), itaque et edit et bibit adeos et
iucunde"; and this has by some persons been considered a sort of compliment
paid by Caesar to his host, as it intimated a resolution to pass the day cheerfully
and to eat and drink freely. He is represented as having done the same thing when
he was entertained by King Deiotarus. The glutton Vitellius is said to have preserved
his own life by constant emetics, while he destroyed all his companions who did
not use the same precaution; so that one of them, who was prevented by illness
from dining with him for a few days, said, "I should certainly have been
dead if I had not fallen sick". It might truly be said, in the strong language
of Seneca, Vomunt, ut edant; edunt, ut vomant. By some, the practice was thought
so effectual for strengthening the constitution that it was the constant regimen
of all the athletae, or professed wrestlers, trained for the public shows, in
order to make them more robust. Celsus, however, warns his readers against the
too frequent use of emetics without necessity and merely for luxury and gluttony,
and says that no one who has any regard for his health and wishes to live to old
age ought to make it a daily practice.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Febr 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Chirurgia (cheirourgia). Surgery; a word meaning literally "handiwork".
The practice of surgery was at first considered by the ancients to be merely
a part of a physician's duty; but, as in later times the two branches of the
profession were to a great extent separated, it will perhaps be more convenient
to treat of it under a separate head. Without touching upon the disputed question,
which is the more ancient branch of the profession, or even trying to give such
a definition of the word chirurgia as would be likely to satisfy both the physicians
and the surgeons of the present day, it will be sufficient to determine the
sense in which the word was used by the ancients; and then to give an account
of this division of the science and art of medicine as practised among the Greeks
and Romans, referring to the article Medicina for further particulars.
The word chirurgia is derived from cheir, "the hand",
and ergon, "a work", and is explained by Celsus to mean that part
of medicine quae manu curat, "which treats ailments by means of the hand";
in Diogenes Laertius (iii. 85) it is said to cure dia tou temnein kai kaiein,
"by cutting and burning". Omitting the fabulous and mythological personages,
Apollo, Aesculapius, Chiron, etc., the only certain traditions respecting the
state of surgery before the establishment of the republics of Greece, and even
until the time of the Peloponnesian War, are to be found in the Iliad and Odyssey.
There it appears that surgery was almost entirely confined to the treatment
of wounds, and the imaginary power of enchantment was joined with the use of
topical applications ( Il.iii. 218). The Greeks received surgery, together
with the other branches of medicine, from the Egyptians; and from some
observations made by the archaeologists who accompanied the French expedition
to Egypt in 1798, and by subsequent investigators, it appears that there are
documents fully proving that in very remote times this extraordinary people
had reached a degree of proficiency of which few of the moderns have any conception.
Upon the ceilings and walls of the temples at Karnac, Luxor, etc., bas-reliefs
are seen, representing limbs that have been cut off with instruments very similar
to those which are employed for amputations at the present day. The same instruments
are again observed in the hieroglyphics, and vestiges of other surgical operations
may be traced, which afford convincing proofs of the skill of the ancient Egyptians
in this branch of medical science.
The earliest remaining surgical writings are those in the
Hippocratic Collection, where there are ten treatises on this subject,
of which, however, only one is considered undoubtedly genuine. Hippocrates (B.C.
460-357?) far surpassed all his predecessors in the boldness and success of
his operations; and though the scanty knowledge of anatomy possessed in those
times prevented his attaining any very great perfection, still one should rather
admire his genius, which enabled him to do so much, than blame him because,
with his imperfect information, he could not accomplish more. The scientific
skill in reducing fractures and luxations displayed in his works De Fracturis,
De Articulis, excites the admiration of Haller (Biblioth. Chirurg.); and he
was most probably the inventor of the ambe, an old surgical machine for dislocations
of the shoulder, which, though now fallen into disuse, enjoyed for a long time
a great reputation. In his work De Capitis Vulneribus he gives minute directions
about the time and mode of using the trephine, and warns the operator against
the probability of his being deceived by the sutures of the cranium, as he confesses
happened to himself (De Morb. Vulgar. lib. v. tom. iii. p. 561, ed. Kuhn). Amputation,
in the modern sense of the word, is not described in the Hippocratic Collection;
though mention is made of the removal of a limb at the joint, after the flesh
has been completely destroyed by gangrene. The author of the "Oath"
commonly attributed to Hippocrates binds his pupils not to perform the operation
of lithotomy, but to leave it to persons specially accustomed to it (ergateisi
andrasi prexios tesde); from which it would appear as if certain persons confined
themselves to particular operations.
The names of several persons are preserved who practised surgery
as well as medicine in the times immediately succeeding those of Hippocrates;
but, with the exception of some fragments, inserted in the writings of Galen,
Oribasius, Aetius, etc., all their writings have perished. Archagathus deserves
to be mentioned, as he is said to have been the first foreign surgeon who settled
at Rome, B.C. 219 ( Plin. H. N.xxix. 12). He was at first very well received,
the ius Quiritium was conferred upon him, a shop was bought for him at the public
expense, and he received the honourable title of Vulnerarius; which, however,
on account of his frequent use of the knife and cautery, was soon changed by
the Romans, who were unused to such a mode of practice, into that of Carnifex.
Asclepiades, who lived at the beginning of the first century B.C., is said to
have been the first person who proposed the operation of tracheotomy. Ammonius
of Alexandria, surnamed Lithotomos, who is supposed to have lived rather later,
is celebrated in the annals of surgery for having been the first to propose
and to perform the operation of lithotrity, or breaking a calculus in the bladder
when found to be too large for safe extraction. Celsus has minutely described
his mode of operating, which in some respects resembles that of Civiale and
Heurteloup in the early part of the present century, and proves that, however
much credit they may deserve for perfecting the operation and bringing it out
of oblivion into public notice, the praise of having originally thought of it
belongs to the ancients. "A hook or crotchet", says Celsus, "is
fixed upon the stone in such a way as easily to hold it firm, even when shaken,
so that it may not revolve backward; then an iron instrument is used, of moderate
thickness, thin at the front end, but blunt, which, when applied to the stone
and struck at the other end, cleaves it: great care must be taken that the instrument
does not come into contact with the bladder itself, and that nothing fall upon
it by the breaking of the stone". The next surgical writer after Hippocrates,
whose works are still extant, is Celsus, who lived at the beginning of the first
century A.D., and who has devoted the four last books of his work De Medicina,
and especially the seventh and eighth, entirely to surgical matter. It plainly
appears from reading Celsus that since the time of Hippocrates surgery
had made very great progress, and had, indeed, reached a high degree of perfection.
We find in him the earliest mention of the use of the ligature for the arrest
of hemorrhage from wounded bloodvessels; and the Celsian mode of amputation
was continued down to comparatively modern times. He is the first author who
gives directions for the operation of lithotomy, and the method described by
him (called the apparatus minor, or Celsus's method) continued to be practised
till the commencement of the sixteenth century. It was performed at Paris, Bordeaux,
and other places in France, upon patients of all ages, even as late as the latter
part of the seventeenth century; and a modern author (Allan On Lithotomy, p.
12) recommends it always to be preferred for boys under fourteen. He describes
the operation of infibulatio, which was so commonly performed by the ancients
upon singers, etc., and is often alluded to in classical authors. He also describes
the operation of circumcision alluded to by St. Paul. Paulus Aegineta (De Re
Med. vi. 53) transcribes from Antyllus a second method of performing the same
The following description by Celsus of the necessary qualifications
of a surgeon deserves to be quoted: "A surgeon ought to be young, or, at
any rate, not very old; his hand should be firm and steady, and never shake;
he should be able to use his left hand as readily as his right; his eyesight
should be clear, and his mind not easily startled; he should be so far subject
to pity as to make him desirous of the recovery of his patient, but not so far
as to suffer himself to be moved by his cries; he should neither hurry the operation
more than the case requires, nor cut less than is necessary, but do everything
just as if the other's screams made no impression upon him".
Omitting Scribonius Largus, Moschion, and Soranus, the next author
of importance is Caelius Aurelianus, who is supposed to have lived about the
beginning of the second century A.D., and in whose works there is much surgical
matter, but nothing that can be called original. He rejected as absurd the operation
of tracheotomy. He mentions a case of ascites that was cured by tapping, and
also a person who recovered after being shot through the lungs by an arrow.
Galen, the most voluminous and at the same time the most valuable
medical writer of antiquity, is less celebrated as a surgeon than as an anatomist
and physician. He appears to have practised surgery at Pergamus, but upon his
removal to Rome (A.D. 165) he entirely confined himself to medicine. His writings
prove, however, that he did not entirely abandon surgery. His Commentaries on
the treatise of Hippocrates De Officina Medici, and his treatise De Fasciis,
show that he was well versed even in the minor details of the art. He appears
also to have been a skilful operator, though no great surgical inventions are
attributed to him.
Antyllus, who lived some time between Galen and Oribasius, is the
earliest writer whose directions for performing tracheotomy are still extant,
though the operation (as stated above) was proposed by Asclepiades about three
hundred years before. Only a few fragments of the writings of Antyllus remain,
and among them the following passage is preserved by Paulus Aegineta: "When
we proceed to perform this operation, we must cut through some part of the windpipe,
below the larynx, about the third or fourth ring; for to divide the whole would
be dangerous. This place is commodious, because it is not covered with any flesh,
and because it has no vessels situated near the divided part. Therefore, bending
the head of the patient backward, so that the windpipe may come more forward
to the view, we make a transverse section between two of the rings, so that
in this case not the cartilage, but the membrane which unites the cartilages
together, is divided. If the operator be a little timid, he may first stretch
the skin with a hook and divide it; then, proceeding to the windpipe, and separating
the vessels, if any are in the way, he may make the incision".
This operation appears to have been very seldom, if ever, performed
by the ancients upon a human being. Avenzoar tried it upon a goat, and found
it might be done without much danger or difficulty; but he says he should not
like to be the first person to try it upon a man.
Oribasius, physician to the emperor Julian (A.D. 361), professes
to be merely a compiler; and though there is in his great work, entitled Sunagogai
Iatrikai (Collecta Medicinalia), much surgical matter, there is nothing original.
The same may be said of Aetius and Alexander Trallianus, both of whom lived
towards the end of the sixth century A.D. Paulus Aegineta has given up the fifth
and sixth books of his work De Re Medica entirely to surgery, and has inserted
much useful matter, derived in a great measure from his own observation and
experience. Albucasis translated into Arabic great part of these two books as
the basis of his work on surgery. Paulus was particularly celebrated for his
skill in midwifery and female diseases, and was called on that account, by the
Arabians, Al-Kawabeli, "the Accoucheur" (Abulfaraj, Hist. Dynast.
p. 181, ed. Pococke). He probably lived towards the end of the seventh century
A.D., and is the last of the ancient Greek and Latin medical writers whose surgical
works remain. The names of several others are recorded, but they are not of
sufficient eminence to require any notice here. For further information on the
subject both of medicine and surgery, see Medicina; and for the legal qualifications,
social rank, etc., both of physicians and surgeons, among the ancient Greeks
and Romans, see Medicus.
The surgical instruments from which the accompanying engravings
... (see more in the URL below)
This extract is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Febr 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
The Hippocratic Oath was unquestionably the exemplar for medical
etiquette for centuries, and it endures in modified form to this day. Yet uncertainty
still prevails concerning the date the oath was composed, the purpose for which
it was intended, and the historical forces which shaped the document. The date
of composition in modern debate varies from the sixth century BCE to the fourth
In antiquity it was generally not considered a violation of medical
ethics to do what the Oath forbade. An ancient doctor who accepted the rules laid
down by “Hippocrates” was by no means in agreement with the opinion
of all his fellow physicians; on the contrary, he adhered to a dogma which was
much stricter than that embraced by many, if not by most, of his colleagues.
I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygeia and Panaceia and
all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according
to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant: To hold him who has taught
me this art as equal to my parent and to live my life in partnership with him,
and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring
as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art--if they desire
to learn it--without fee and covenant; to give share of precepts and oral instruction
and all other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me
and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to
the medical law, but to no one else. I will apply dietetic measure for the benefit
of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and
injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will
I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give a woman an abortive
remedy. In purity and in holiness I will guard my life and my art. I will not
use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of
such men as are engaged in this work. Whatever houses I may visit, I will come
for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all
mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons,
be they free or slaves. What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment
or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account
one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself holding such things shameful to
be spoken about. If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted
to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time
to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite be my lot.
--Translated by Ludwig Edelstein
The organization of the Hippocratic Oath is clearly bipartite. The first half
specifies the duties of the pupil toward his teacher and his obligations in transmitting
medical knowledge; the second half gives a short summary of medical ethics.
It is the second half, the ethical half, which is inconsistent with
the principles and practices of Hippocrates, thus the manifesto was incorrectly
attributed to him. One immediate inconsistency is the Oath’s prohibition against
abortion. The Hippocratic Corpus contains a number of allusions to the methods
of abortion and the use of pessaries. Apparently the prohibitions found within
the Oath did not echo the general feeling of the public. Abortion was practiced
in Greek times no less than in the Roman era, and it was resorted to without scruple.
In a world in which it was held justifiable to expose children immediately after
birth, it would hardly seem objectionable to destroy the embryo.
A second discrepancy between the Oath and general Hippocratic principles
is the ban on suicide. Suicide was not censured in antiquity. Self-murder as a
relief from illness was regarded as justifiable, so much so that in some states
it was an institution duly legalized by the authorities. Nor did ancient religion
proscribe suicide. It did not know of any eternal punishment for those who had
ended their own lives. Law and religion then left the physician free to do whatever
seemed best to him.
Pythagoreanism is the only philosophical dogma that can possibly account
for the attitude advocated in the Hippocratic Oath. Among all the Greek philosophical
schools, the Pythagoreans alone outlawed suicide and abortion and did so without
qualification. The Oath also concurs with Pythagorean prohibitions against surgical
procedures of all kinds and against the shedding of blood, in which the soul was
thought to reside.
The interdiction in the Oath against the knife is especially out of
keeping with the several treatises that deal at length with surgical techniques
and operating room procedures. It is little wonder that this Oath, although a
non-Hippocratic document, has remained steadfastly the symbol of the physician’s
pledge. The prohibition against abortion and suicide were (and remain) in consonance
with the principles of the Christian Church. The earliest reference to this Oath
is in the first century CE, and it may have been appropriated soon after to fit
the religious ideals of the time. The substitution of God, Christ and the saints
for the names of Asclepius and his family is easy enough.
It is ironic that the Hippocratic Oath in its present form with its
religious subtext is associated with Hippocrates, the man who first separated
medicine from religion and disease from supernatural explanations.
This text is cited Sept 2003 from the University of Virginia Historical Collections URL below, which contains image.
Thessalus (Thessalos). A Greek physician, son of Hippocrates. He passed some of
his time at the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia, who reigned B.C. 413-399.
He was one of the founders of the sect of the Dogmatici, and is several times
highly praised by Galen, who calls him the most eminent of the sons of Hippocrates.
He was supposed by some of the ancient writers to be the author of several of
the works that form part of the Hippocratic Collection, which he might have compiled
from notes left by his father.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Febr 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
From the death of Hippocrates about the year 375 B.C. till the founding
of the Alexandrian School, the physicians were engrossed largely in speculative
views, and not much real progress was made, except in the matter of elaborating
the humoral pathology. Only three or four men of the first rank stand out in this
period: Diocles the Carystian, "both in time and reputation next and second to
Hippocrates" (Pliny), a keen anatomist and an encyclopaedic writer; but only scanty
fragments of his work remain. In some ways the most important member of this group
was Praxagoras, a native of Cos, about 340 B.C. Aristotle, you remember, made
no essential distinction between arteries and veins, both of which he held to
contain blood: Praxagoras recognized that the pulsation was only in the arteries,
and maintained that only the veins contained blood, and the arteries air. As a
rule the arteries are empty after death, and Praxagoras believed that they were
filled with an aeriform fluid, a sort of pneuma, which was responsible for their
pulsation. The word arteria, which had already been applied to the trachea, as
an air-containing tube, was then attached to the arteries; on account of the rough
and uneven character of its walls the trachea was then called the arteria tracheia,
or the rough air-tube.(Galen: De usu partium, VII, Chaps. 8-9)We call it simply
the trachea, but in French the word trachee-artere is still used.
Praxagoras was one of the first to make an exhaustive study of the
pulse, and he must have been a man of considerable clinical acumen,as well as
boldness, to recommend in obstruction of the bowels the opening of the abdomen,
removal of the obstructed portion and uniting the ends of the intestine by sutures.
This text is cited Sept 2003 from the Greek & Roman Science & Technology URL below.
- The Evolution of Modern Medicine, by William Osler