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
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
it is obscure to a
(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
(3) It has, like Ancient Medicine, Nutriment, Nature
of Man, Airs, Regimen I.,
a close relationship
(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.
) καὶ γὰρ καὶ ἐπίνοιαι πᾶς1αι ἀπὸ τῶν αἰς1θής1εων
γεγόνας1ι κατά τε περίπτως1ιν καὶ ἀναλογίαν καὶ
ὁμοιότητα καὶ ς1ν́νθες1ιν
, ς1υμβαλλομένου τι καὶ τοῦ
. . . . τὴν δὲ πρόληψιν λέγους1ιν οἱονεὶ
, ἢ δόξαν ὀρθήν
, ἢ ἔννοιαν
, τοῦτ᾽ ἐς1τι μνήμην τοῦ πολλάκις2
D. L., X. 20, 21, 32, 33.
) 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
D. L., X. 24, 75.
There are also several occurrences of the Epicurean
. The similarities are far too close to
(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
(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
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,
" IV. παραινές1ιος2 δ᾽ ἂν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπιδεηθείη τῆς2
νούς1ου γὰρ ταχυτὴς2 καιρὸν μὴ διδοῦς1α
" VI. ἢν δὲ καιρὸς2 εἴη
ἠς1θημένοι τὸ πάθος2 μὴ ἐὸν ἐν ἀς1φαλείη
" VII. μὴ ἐγκεχειρικότες2
, " because they have
δεόμενοι τὴν ὑγιεινὴν διάθες1ιν
" VIII. ἐπινέμης1ιν κέχρηνται
ὂ ἂν ἐρέω
" IX. ς1ὺν τῆ οὐς1ίη
== τῆς2 οὐς1ίης2
(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
Chapter I. καταφορή
" II. περὶ ταῦτα γίγνες1θαι
== to be occupied
" IV. προμύς1ς1ειν
" V. ἠδελφις1μένος2
" VI. εὐδοκίη
" VII. ἐκ ποδός2
" VIII. κατας1ιλλαίνω
" IX. μινύθημα
" X. εὐχαρίη
(if this reading be correct),
" XII. ἱς1τοριευμένην
" XIII. φιλαλυς1τής2
" XIV. ς1υμπάθης1ις2
(if this reading be
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
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
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
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
VII.,where our MSS. now have φθογγώδεα
. 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
Even if we allow full weight to this evidence of
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
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.
MSS. AND EDITIONS.
is found in several of the Paris manuscripts
and in M.3
There have been so far as I
no separate editions and no translations into English.