3. Means of Dating Hippocratic Works
The means of fixing the dates of the treatises
composing the Hippocratic collection are twofold--external
The external evidence consists of the statements
of Galen and other ancient authors.
The internal tests are :--
) The philosophical tenets stated or implied ;
) The medical doctrines ;
) The style of the treatise ;
) The language and grammar.
) When a philosophic doctrine is adopted, or
referred to as influential, it is presumptive evidence
that the treatise was written before that doctrine
grew out of date. We cannot, however, always be
sure when a doctrine did grow out of date. It is a
mistaken idea to suppose that the rise of a fresh
school meant the death of its predecessors. It is
certain, for instance, that Heraclitus had followers,
after the rise of other schools, who developed his
doctrines without altering their essential character.
) Medical doctrines also are by no means a
certain test. If we could be sure that a knowledge
of the pulse was unknown to the writers of the chief
Hippocratic treatises, we should be more confident
in dating, e.g.
, the work called Nutriment
recognizes the existence of a pulse. It is a fact
that no use is made of this knowledge in any
treatise of the collection, but we must not infer
from this that the Hippocratic writers were ignorant
of pulses. We can only infer that they were
ignorant of their medical importance.
) The style of a treatise is sometimes a sure
test and sometimes not. Sophistic rhetoric is of
such a marked character in its most pronounced
form that a treatise showing it is not likely to be
much earlier than 427 B.C., nor much later than
400 B.C., when sophistic extravagances began to be
modified under the influence of the Attic orators.
But a work moderately sophistic in general style
and sentence-structure may be much later.
There is also a subtle quality about writings later
than 300 B.C., an unnatural verbosity and tortuousness
of expression, a suspicion of the "baboo," that is as
unmistakable as it is impalpable. A few of the
Hippocratic treatises display this characteristic.
) In some respects grammar and diction are the
surest tests of all. If the negative μή
it is a sure sign of post-Alexandrine
date. A preference for compound words with
abstract meaning, in cases where a simple expression
would easily have sufficed, is a mark of later
Greek prose. If any reader wishes for concrete
evidence to support my rather vague generalisations,
he has only to read Epidemics I.
, then The Art
, and finally Precepts
, and try
to note the differences.