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 re-action fol lowed, 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, Études 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. p. 43; and a review of that work (by the writer of this article) in the Brit. and For. Med. Rev.
April, 1844, p. 459.)
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 [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. p. 38). 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.
2.222) 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. p. 171), and the love-letters of Aristaenetus (Epist.
1.13). Galen also says that a similar circumstance happened to himself. (De Praenot. ad Epig. 100.6.
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. p. 301); 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. [ERASISTRATUS.] 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 Ages. [ANDREAS.]
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. p. 264, 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 "Bokrát"
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. (Abú-l-faraj, Hist. Dynast.
p. 56; Anon. Arab. Philosoph. Bibl.
apud Casiri, Biblioth.
A rabico-Hisp. Escur.
vol. i. p. 235.) 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.
4.37, De Fato,
100.5), and accordingly he will be quite prepared to hear that the Arabic writers have confounded the word Sokrát,
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
This conjecture is confirmed by the fact that Philemon is said by Abú-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 and chronology.
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. (See Ellis, Spec. of Early Enyl. Metr. Roman.
vol. iii. p. 39 ; Weber, Metr. Rom. of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Cent.,
&c., vol. iii. p. 41; Way, Fablliaux or Tales of the 12th and 13th Cent., &c.
vol. ii. p. 173; Legrand d'Aussy, Fabliaux ou Contes, Fables et Romans du 12ème et du 13ème Siècles,
tome i. p. 288; Loiseleur Deslongchamps, Esai sur les Fables Ind. §.,
p. 154, and Roman des Sept Sages, p.
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. Littré (vol. i. p. 44), "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 authenticity."
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. Rev.
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. [HEROPHILUS.] The most ancient commentary still in existence is that on the treatise De Articulis,
by Apollonius Citiensis. [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.,
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. Graec.;
HIaller, Bibl. Medic. Pract.;
the first vol. of Kiihn's edition of Hippocrates; Choulant's Handb. der Bücherkunde für 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 Kühn'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. Littré, 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.
Classification of the Hippocratic Collection
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. Littré'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 Littré, 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.
Six Classes of Work
Class I., containing
(vol. i. p. 88, ed. Kühn).
(vol. iii. p. 706).
A, G, De Morbis Popularibus
), lib. i. and iii. (vol. i. pp. 382, 467).
Περὶ Διαίτης Ὀξέων
, De Ratione Victus in Morbis Acutis,
or De Diaeta Acutorum
(vol. ii. p. 25).
Περὶ Ἀέρων, ὑδάτων, τόπων
, De Aere, Aquis, et Locis
(vol. i. p. 523).
Περὶ τῶν εν κεφαλῆ τρωμάτων
, De Capitis Vulneribus
(vol. iii. p. 346).
Class II., containing
Περὶ Ἀρχαιης Ἰητρικῆς
, De Prisca Medicina
(vol. i. p. 22).
, De Articulis
(vol. iii. p. 135).
, De Fracturis
(vol. iii. p. 64).
, Mochlicus or Vectiarius
(vol. iii. p. 270).
(vol. i. p. 1).
(vol. i. p. 3).
, De Ulceribus
(vol. iii. p. 307).
, De Fistulis
(vol. iii. p. 329).
, De Haemorrhoididibus
(ol. iii. p. 340).
, De Officina Medici
(vol. iii. p. 48).
Περὶ Ἱρῆς νούσου
, De Morbo Sacro
(vol. i. p. 587).
Class III., containing
i. (vol. i. p. 157).
, Coacae Praenotiones
(vol. i. p. 234).
Class IV., containing
Περὶ Φύσιος Ἀνθρώπου
, De Natura Hominis
(vol. i. p. 348).
Περὶ Διαίτης, Ὑγιεινῆς
, De Salubri Victus Ratione (?)
(vol. i. p. 616).
Περὶ Γυναικεὶης Φύσιος
, De Natura Muliebri(?)
(vol. ii. p. 529).
*B, *G, De Morbis,
ii. iii(?) (vol. ii. p. 212).
, De Superfoetatione(?)
(vol. i. p. 460).
Class V., containing
, De Flatibus
(vol. i. p. 569).
Περὶ Τόπων τῶν κατ᾽ Ἄνθρωπον
, De Locis in Homine
(vol. ii. p. 101).
, De Arte(?)
(vol. i. p. 5).
, De Diaeta,
or De Victus Ratione
(vol. i. p. 625).
, De Insomniis
(vol. ii. p. 1).
, De Affectionibus
(vol. ii. p. 380).
Περὶ τῶν ἐντος Παθῶν
, De Internis Affectionibus
(vol. ii. p. 427) .
Περὶ νούσων α
, De Morbis
i. (vol. ii. p. 165).
, De Septimestri Partu
(vol. i. p. 444) .
, De Octinestri Partu
(vol. i. p. 455).
Ἐπιδημίου Βιβλὶα Β
or De Morbis Popularibus,
ii. iv. vi. (vol. iii. pp. 428, 511, 583).
, De Humoribus
(vol. i. p 120).
Περὶ Ὑγρῶν Χρήσιος
, De Usu Liquidorum
(voi. ii. p. 153)
Class VI., containing
, De Genitura
(vol. i. p. 371).
Περὶ Φύσιος Παιδίου
, De Natura Pueri
(vol. i. p. 382).
Περὶ Νούσων Δ
, De Morbis
in. (vol. ii. p. 324).
, De Mulierum Morbis
(vol. ii. p. 606).
, De Virginum Morbis
(vol. ii. p. 526).
Περὶ Ἀφόρων De Sterilibus
(vol. iii. p. 1).
Class VII., containing
E, H, Epidemiorum
, or De Morbis Popularibus
v. vii. (vol. iii. pp. 545, 631).
, De Corde
(vol. i. p. 485).
, De Alimento
(vol. ii. p. 17).
, De Carnibus
(vol. i. p. 424).
, De Septimanis,
a work which no longer exists in Greek, but of which M. Littré has found a Latin translation.
) ii. (vol. i. p. 185) .
Περὶ Ὀστέων Σύτιος
, 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. Littré is going to suppress entirely (vol. i. p. 502).
, De Glandulis
(vol. i. p. 491 ).
, De Medico
(vol. i. p. 56).
, De Decenti Habitu
(vol. i. p. 66).
(vol. i. p. 77).
, De Anatomia
(or De Resectione Corporum
) (vol. iii. p. 379).
, De Dentitione
(vol. i. p. 482).
Περὶ Ἐγκατατομῆς Ἐμβρύου
, De Resectione Foetus
(vol. iii. p. 376).
, De Visu
(vol. iii. p. 42).
, De Crisibus
(or De Judicationibus
) (vol. i. p. 136) .
, De Diebus Criticis
(or De Diebus Judicatoriis
) (vol. i. p. 149).
, De Medicamentis Purgatiris
(vol. iii. p. 855).
Class VIII., containing
(vol. iii. p.769).
, Thessali Legati Oratio
(vol. iii. P. 831).
Ἐπιβώμιος Oratio ad Aram
(vol. iii. p. 830).
, Atheniensium Senatus Consultum
(vol. iii. p. 829).
Explanation of the Classes
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 was derived.
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 Hominis,
and De Salubri Victus Ratione,
are supposed by M. Littré 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. pp. 46, 346, &c.), because a passage is quoted by Aristotle (Aristot. HA 3.3
), and attributed to Polybus, which is found word for word in the work De Natura Hominis
(vol . ip. 364). 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
[EURYPHON]; 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
(Littré, vol. i. p. 380).
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.
pp. 64, 71), be compared with part of the third book De Diaela
(vol. i. pp. 711-715), 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. Littré, 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. Rev.
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 Bücherkunde fur die Aeltere Medicin,
or his Biblioth. Medico-Histor.;
or in Ackermann's Historia Literaria Hippocratis.
Föesii Oeconomia Hippocratis
is a very copious and learned lexicon, published in fol. Francof. 1588, and Genev. 1662. Sprengel's Apologie des Hippocr. und seiner Grundsätze
(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 über 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 Prüfung der Echtheit und Reihefolge Sämmtlicher Schriften Hippocr.,
München, 1836, 1837, 8vo.