IT is with considerable misgiving that I have included this work as a kind of appendix to the first volume of the Hippocratic collection. In the first place there is not yet available the material necessary for a really satisfactory restoration of the text. Furthermore, the editors have generally neglected it. Littré reserved it for his ninth and last volume of text and translation, and by the time he reached it even his untiring energy was beginning to flag ; his edition is hasty, erratic and in places unintelligible. Ermerins gives over the task in despair, and leaves whole chapters untranslated.

In spite of all these things I have determined to include Precepts, because it illustrates so well the characteristics of many parts of the Hippocratic collection, and the problems that face both editors and translators. It forms also a complete contrast to the nucleus of Hippocratic writings composing the rest of the first volume.

(1) Like Humours and Nutriment, it is obscure to a degree.

(2) It is, like so many Hippocratic works, a cento. Beginning and end are quite unconnected with the main portion of the book, and the main portion itself is a series of rather disconnected remarks.

[p. 306] (3) It has, like Ancient Medicine, Nutriment, Nature of Man, Airs, Regimen I., a close relationship to philosophy.

(4) It shows, I think conclusively, the wide period covered by the Hippocratic collection.

No reader can fail to notice that, short as it is, the work is a cento with three main divisions.

(1) Chapters I and II defend the principle that medicine must be based upon observed fact and not on any plausible but fallacious hypothesis (ἐκ πιθανῆς2 ἀναπλάς1ιος2 λόγου). The writer uses language remarkably similar to that attributed to Epicurus by Diogenes Laertius. I must quote two passages from the latter.

a) καὶ γὰρ καὶ ἐπίνοιαι πᾶς1αι ἀπὸ τῶν αἰς1θής1εων γεγόνας1ι κατά τε περίπτως1ιν καὶ ἀναλογίαν καὶ ὁμοιότητα καὶ ς1ν́νθες1ιν, ς1υμβαλλομένου τι καὶ τοῦ λογις1μοῦ. . . . τὴν δὲ πρόληψιν λέγους1ιν οἱονεὶ κατάληψιν, δόξαν ὀρθήν, ἔννοιαν, καθολικὴν νόης1ιν ἐναποκειμένην, τοῦτ᾽ ἐς1τι μνήμην τοῦ πολλάκις2 ἔξωθεν φανέντος2.

D. L., X. 20, 21, 32, 33.

b) ἀλλὰ μὴν ὑποληπτέον καὶ τὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύς1ιν πολλὰ καὶ παντοῖα ὑπὸ τῶν αὐτὴν περιες1τώτων πραγμάτων διδαχθῆναί τε καὶ ἀναγκας1θῆναι: τὸν δὲ λογις1μὸν τὰ ὑπὸ ταύτης2 παρεγγυηθέντα καὶ ὔς1τερον ἐπακριβοῦν.

D. L., X. 24, 75.

There are also several occurrences of the Epicurean word ἐναργής2. The similarities are far too close to be accidental.

[p. 307] (2) Chapters III-XIII contain remarks on medical etiquette, fees, patients' whims, quacks, consultants, lecturing to large audiences, late learners. These remarks are sometimes connected, but follow no plan.

(3) Chapter XIV contains a few disconnected remarks on illnesses and invalids.

So the work as a whole shows no signs of a prearranged plan. It is disjointed and formless. As far as subject-matter is concerned, the three parts distinguished above ought to be classed under separate branches of medicine :--

(1) This belongs to the theory of medicine, or rather to the theory of science generally.

(2) This belongs on the whole to etiquette (εὐς1χημος1ύνη).

(3) This consists merely of a few disconnected hints. Littré justly says of it (IX. 248): " J'y vois done une de ces intercalations que les copistes se permettaient quelquefois é la fin d'un traité, soit, comme dit Galien, pour grossir le volume, soit pour placer quelque fragment qu'on ne savait ou mettre, et qui, autrement, s'en allait perdu."

Yet it is remarkable that there is a certain style common to all three parts which points to the conclusion that the compiler, whoever he was, was no mere " paste-and-scissors " man, but an author who stamped his characteristics even on his borrowings. This style is marked by a studied aphoristic brevity combined with a genius for choosing out-of-the-way terms and expressions. It so happens that in addition the author appears to have been an imperfect

[p. 308] Greek scholar. It is indeed hard to believe that he was writing his mother tongue.

I am ready to admit that a more perfect recension of the MSS. will prove that certain of these vagaries are merely errors of the copyists, but when considered together they are too numerous and too strange to be explained in this way. A few examples only shall be chosen.

Chapter I. ἢν τὰ ἐπίχειρα ἐκομίζοντο.

" II. μὴ εἴη ἐπαύρας1θαι, " perhaps it is impossible to gain " (see Oath, p. 300, 1. 33).

" IV. παραινές1ιος2 δ᾽ ἂν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπιδεηθείη τῆς2 θεωρίης2.

νούς1ου γὰρ ταχυτὴς2 καιρὸν μὴ διδοῦς1α κ.τ.λ.

" VI. ἢν δὲ καιρὸς2 εἴη.

ἠς1θημένοι τὸ πάθος2 μὴ ἐὸν ἐν ἀς1φαλείη.

" VII. μὴ ἐγκεχειρικότες2, " because they have not entrusted."

δεόμενοι τὴν ὑγιεινὴν διάθες1ιν.

" VIII. ἐπινέμης1ιν κέχρηνται [an emendation of Coray].

ἂν ἐρέω.

" IX. ς1ὺν τῆ οὐς1ίη == τῆς2 οὐς1ίης2.

οὐ διαμαρτής1ει (3rd person singular).

" XIII. ὅποι ἂν καὶ ἐπις1τατής1αιμι.

Notice in particular that μή is ousting οὐ. This is a sure sign of late date.

Words and expressions that occur only in late Greek, or are used in a strange sense, are fairly common, and there appear to be a few ἅπαξ λεγόμενα.

[p. 309] Chapter I. καταφορή == deducing.


" II. περὶ ταῦτα γίγνες1θαι == to be occupied with.

" IV. προμύς1ς1ειν.

" V. ἠδελφις1μένος2.

" VI. εὐδοκίη.

" VII. ἐκ ποδός2.



" VIII. κατας1ιλλαίνω.

" IX. μινύθημα.

" X. εὐχαρίη (if this reading be correct), or εὐχαρις1τίη.

" XII. ἱς1τοριευμένην.


" XIII. φιλαλυς1τής2.


" XIV. ς1υμπάθης1ις2.


ὑποπαραίτης1ις2 (if this reading be correct).

The aphoristic style, which appears to have been popular among medical writers (Coan Prenotions, Prorrhctic I., Aphorisms, Nutriment) tended to become oracular and obscure. The writer of Precepts seems to have gone out of his way to wrap up his meaning in unusual diction, which is often almost unintelligible. He is fond of allusive, metaphorical language, which savours sometimes of the lyric poets.

In spite of his weaknesses as an author, and they are many, he is a man of sound common sense. I would note in particular his insisting upon reasoning

[p. 310] from accurately observed facts only, and upon the necessity of not worrying the patient about fees, and his pungent criticisms of quacks, their dupes, and all " late-learners."

There is something about the style which is reminiscent of Latin, particularly παραινές1ιος2 τοῦτο in Chapter IV, meaning " this piece of advice," and perhaps the future in Chapter V with imperatival sense.1 The perfect tense too is commonly used for the aorist. One would be tempted to regard the author as a Roman who wrote in Greek an essay, compiled from Epicurean literature and fairly sound medical sources, were it not for two scholia, one discovered by Daremberg and the other in the MS. Vaticanus gr. 277. The latter quotes a great part of Erotian's explanation of φλεδονώδεα as a comment upon Precepts VII.,where our MSS. now have φθογγώδεα or φθεγγώδεα. In other words, the treatise appears to have been known to Erotian, or to the authorities used by Erotian, as an Hippocratic work. Daremberg2 discovered in a Vatican MS. a gloss from which it appears that Galen commented on Precepts, and that Archigenes (a physician of the early second century A.D.) and Chrysippus the Stoic commented on the distinction between καιρός2 and χρόνος2 with which Precepts opens.

Even if we allow full weight to this evidence of

[p. 311] early authorship, we need conclude no more than that Chrysippus knew the originals from which the compilation was made--indeed he must have been well acquainted with the Epicurean original of Chapters I and II. There is nothing in the evidence to prevent our taking Precepts to be a cento from good sources made by a late writer not perfectly familiar with Greek. Somehow it became incorporated in a collection of Hippocratic writings, probably a little-known one, as none of the ancient " lists " of Hippocratic works includes Precepts. There was no generally accepted canon, and a work of unknown or uncertain authorship might easily find its way into the Hippocratic collection in one or other of the great libraries.

Although linguistic difficulties obscure the details, the reader will be interested in the picture of medical practice in antiquity. The " late-learner " covering up his mistakes in a flood of medical jargon will suggest the doctors of Moliére. The public lectures, with quotations from poetry, are the exact counterpart of modern advertisements of patent medicines.


Precepts is found in several of the Paris manuscripts and in M.3 There have been so far as I know no separate editions and no translations into English.

1 Since I wrote the above my attention has been called to ς1τενῶν ἔνδος1ιν in Chapter VII. The word ς1τενῶν looks like angustiarum.

2 See Notices et extraits des manuscrits médicaux grecs, latins et franéais des principales bibliothéques de l'Europe, pp. 200-203.

3 There is no good apparatus criticus. I have tried to infer from Littré's " vulgate " and Ermerins' text what is the reading of the majority of the manuscripts, and it is generally this reading which I denote by " MSS." Only more careful examination of the actual manuscripts can show how far I am justified in so doing.

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