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The father of Pisistratus, the Athenian tyrant.


A famous Greek physician, was born in the island of Cos (an ancient seat of the worship of Asclepius), about B.C. 460. He was the son of Heraclides and of Phaenareté, and sprang from the race of the Asclepiadae, a priestly family, who in the course of time had gathered and preserved medical traditions,

Hippocrates. (Louvre.)

which were secretly handed down from father to son. Like many of the Asclepiadae, he practised his art while travelling in different parts of Greece. He is said to have been at Athens at the time of the Peloponnesian War, and to have taken advantage of the instructions of the sophists Gorgias and Prodicus; Democritus of Abdera is also named as one of his teachers. The value he himself set upon philosophic education is proved by his remark that “a philosophic physician resembles a god.” Towards the end of his life he lived chiefly in Thessaly and on the island of Thasos. He died about B.C. 377 (or later) in the Thessalian Larissa, where his tomb was to be seen as late as the second century A.D. All through his long life his activity was unceasing in its efforts to increase the amount of his knowledge on all subjects, by both practical and theoretical investigations, and his practical knowledge was as great as his theoretical. Some of his fragments and epigrammatic dicta have passed into the literature of all time, as, for instance, the famous saying, “Life is short, and Art is long.” He was the founder of the school of a scientific art of healing, and, as in the case of Homer, numerous writings of unknown authorship, proceeding from the school which followed his system, were attributed to him. Seventy-two works, great and small, in the Ionic and old Attic dialects, bear his name, and, apparently, formed a single collection, even before they came under the consideration of the critics of Alexandria. But it is clear that, as the ancients themselves were aware, only a small portion, which can no longer be precisely defined, really belongs to him. It is highly probable that his nearest relations, who were also distinguished physicians, contributed their share to the collection, and that it contains works by his sons Thessalus and Dracon, his sonin-law Polybus, and his two grandsons, the sons of Thessalus and Dracon, who bore his own name. The best known of these works are the aphorisms (Ἀφορισμοί), which, in antiquity and in mediæval times, were held in high esteem, and have been freely commented on by Greeks, Romans, and Arabs; they consist of short sentences upon the nature of illnesses, their symptoms and crises, and their final issue. One of his treatises (Περὶ Ἀέρων, Ὑδάτων, Τόπων), which is of general interest, and is in all respects among the best, is that on the influence of the climate, the water, and the configuration of a country upon the physical and intellectual life of its inhabitants. In the second portion of this work are found the first beginnings of a comparative ethnography, which at once surprise us by the acuteness and intelligence of its observation, and attracts us by the simplicity and clearness of its style. Many ancient physicians wrote commentaries on the works of Hippocrates, the most celebrated being those of Galen.

The first edition of the Greek text of Hippocrates is the Aldine (Venice, 1526). The best modern editions are those of Littré, with a French translation, 10 vols. (Paris, 1839-61), and that of Ermerius, with a Latin version (Utrecht, 1859-65). A good English translation is that by Adams, 2 vols. (1849). See Berdoe, Origin and Growth of the Healing Art (London, 1893), and the article Medicina.

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