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3. Means of Dating Hippocratic Works

The means of fixing the dates of the treatises composing the Hippocratic collection are twofold--external and internal.

The external evidence consists of the statements of Galen and other ancient authors.

The internal tests are :--

a) The philosophical tenets stated or implied ;

b) The medical doctrines ;

c) The style of the treatise ;

d) The language and grammar.

a) 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or referred to as influential, it is presumptive evidence that the treatise was written before that doctrine grew out of date. We cannot, however, always be sure when a doctrine did grow out of date.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.

b) Medical doctrines also are by no means a certain test. If we could be sure that a knowledge

[p. xxxii] 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, which 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.

c) 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.

d) In some respects grammar and diction are the surest tests of all. If the negative μή is markedly ousting οὐ 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 or Regimen I., and finally Precepts or Decorum, and try to note the differences.

[p. xxxiii]

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