Galen is the most important of the ancient commentators
on Hippocrates, and of his work a great
part has survived.
His writings are of value for two reasons :--
(1) They often give us a text superior to that of
the MSS. of the Corpus.
Sometimes this text is
actually given in Galen's quotations ; sometimes it
is implied in Galen's commentary.1
(2) They sometimes throw light upon the interpretation
of obscure passages.
Galen's ideal of a commentator is beyond criticism.
He prefers ancient readings, even when they are
the more difficult, and corrects only when these give
no possible sense. In commenting he is of opinion
that he should first determine the sense of the text
and then see whether it corresponds with the
Unfortunately he is not so successful when he
attempts to put his ideal into practice. He is intolerably
verbose, and what is worse, he is eager so
to interpret Hippocrates as to gain support therefrom
for his own theories. A good example of this
fault is his misinterpretation of Epidemics
Littré gives as another fault his neglect of observation
and observed fact.3
Galen wrote commentaries, which still survive, on
the following :--
Nature of Man.
Regimen of People in Health.
Regimen in Acute Diseases.
One book in ancient
Epidemics I., II., III., VI.
Airs, Waters, Places
(only fragments survive).
We also have his Glossary.
Commentaries on the following are altogether
Wounds in the Head.
He also wrote (or promised to write) the following,
none of which survive :--Anatomy of Hippocrates,
Characters in Epidemics III., Dialect of Hippocrates,
The Genuine Writings of the Physician of Cos.
Galen also knew : Coan Prenotions, Epilepsy, Fistulae,
Hemorrhoids, Airs, Places in Man, Regimen,
Seven Months' Child, Eight Months' Child, Heart,
Fleshes, Number Seven, Prorrhetic II., Glands
The most important of the Hippocratic treatises
not mentioned by Galen are Ancient Medicine