Ancient Greek Medicine: Who Was Hippocrates And What Was The Hippocratic Oath?

Early medication in historic Greece borrowed various concepts from ancient Egypt, with lots of persons…

Ancient Greek Medicine: Who Was Hippocrates And What Was The Hippocratic Oath?

Early medication in historic Greece borrowed various concepts from ancient Egypt, with lots of persons searching for supernatural explanations for their ailments, such as curses and the judgment of the gods. If someone turned unwell, they would ordinarily conclusion up in an asclepeion – a temple committed to the god of medicine, Asclepius. The client would rest there and hope to be visited by Asclepius overnight, who would inform them their remedy.

On waking the up coming day, the individual would report their desires to clergymen, who would prescribe them a remedy – usually primarily based on prayer, workout, bathing and organic remedies. If they have been remedied, the grateful worshippers would leave at the rear of a model of their influenced physique portion in the temple as an supplying of many thanks. Having said that, a want to request much more pragmatic explanations for people’s illnesses grew as time went on.

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One particular of the most notable physicians to advocate science and explanation was Hippocrates (c460–c375 BC), who helped even further the principle of the four humours, and was just one of the very first doctors to properly explain disorders this sort of as epilepsy. Whereas some people today considered that the ailment was a end result of demonic possession, the Kos-born physician as a substitute established that the induce lay inside of the human mind.

Many thanks to the get the job done of Hippocrates and his adherents down the generations, distinctions now also commenced to be built in between acute (limited and sudden) and chronic (long-long lasting) diseases, even though emphasising the great importance of observation.

Physicians would also regularly get checks of their patient’s progressing signs, as very well as their pulse, temperature and excretions. In addition, the Hippocratic faculty pioneered important new procedures: a selection of writings attributed to the physician’s followers (identified as the Hippocratic Corpus) capabilities the earliest identified reference to an endoscopy making use of a rectal speculum.

What was the concept of the 4 humours?

Humourism was a widespread strategy in historical Greece. Nevertheless the idea is considered to have originated considerably previously, Hippocrates is usually credited with refining and popularising it.

The core belief was that the human entire body was designed up of four fluids – blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm – and that these corresponded with the 4 things of earth, fireplace, wind and drinking water. If any of these became imbalanced, you could grow to be sick.

The humours have been also thought to be related with temperature and weather. Blood was associated with dampness and heat if you experienced from redness, perspiration and swelling, you have been said to have far too much blood in your entire body.

To clear up the challenge, health professionals would practise bloodletting, realized by cutting the skin or by applying leeches. Fainting was ordinarily found as a indicator that the therapy was performing, but demise could happen if as well much blood was drained.

The four humours principle did not die out with the ancient Greeks. In reality, humourism would stay aspect of western drugs until finally as late as the 19th century, when germ theory (the strategy that pathogens trigger ailment) and other health-related discoveries took keep.

As medication was still a establishing discipline, medical professionals ended up usually considered with suspicion. Hippocrates, having said that, developed a code of ethics that aided transform medication into a respected job, and ensured that physicians came to be viewed as vital associates of society.

The so-referred to as ‘Hippocratic Oath’ laid out basic ground policies for a doctor’s bedside fashion, as very well as textual content on the value of honesty, compassion, confidentiality, cleanliness, and very careful noting of a patient’s signs (which could then be applied by other physicians).

Taking the oath

Indeed, far more than 2,300 a long time following Hippocrates’ death, much of the oath nonetheless resonates now:

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Hygieia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses as my witnesses, that, according to my skill and judgment, I will preserve this Oath and this contract… I will use people dietary regimens which will profit my sufferers according to my greatest capacity and judgment, and I will do no hurt or injustice to them… Into no matter what households I go, I will enter them for the gain of the unwell, steering clear of any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption, which include the seduction of women or men, whether they are cost-free gentlemen or slaves.

Whatsoever I see or hear in the lives of my individuals, no matter whether in link with my qualified exercise or not, which ought not to be spoken of exterior, I will hold key, as taking into consideration all these kinds of matters to be non-public. So long as I keep this Oath faithfully and devoid of corruption, may possibly it be granted to me to partake of everyday living absolutely and the follow of my art, gaining the respect of all males for all time.

However, must I transgress this Oath and violate it, may well the opposite be my destiny.

A fifth-century BC marble relief showing a Greek physician treating a woman

This fifth-century BC marble relief reveals a Greek medical professional managing a girl (Photo By DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini by using Getty Illustrations or photos)

Although Hippocrates is most likely the most popular of the historic Greek physicians, he surely was not the only doctor to have experienced an crucial effects on medical thinking.

Herophilus (c330–c280 BC), for instance, is considered to have been a person of the first to accomplish human dissections all through a time when a ban on the follow (for spiritual motives) was briefly lifted in Alexandria. Via his careful research of the system, Herophilus deduced that veins only carried blood (it was formerly imagined they also carried a mixture of h2o and air), and devised a strategy for measuring the pulse.

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A fertile creativity

Irrespective of their revolutionary ideas, the historical Greeks continue to had some unconventional beliefs when it came to conditions like being pregnant, which includes the idea that a baby’s gender could be determined as a result of the complexion of the mother – the visual appeal of freckles was assumed to be a signal that she was carrying a female, although a apparent complexion indicated that a boy was because of as a substitute.

If a pair wanted to maximize the chance of obtaining a boy, the man could tie up his left testicle right before intercourse in accordance to present-day considering, the proper testicle was thought to be ‘superior’ and would for that reason conceive a stronger (and additional desirable) male heir.

An additional health-related method that the historic Greeks utilised was trepanation – drilling a hole into the cranium. When previously civilisations may perhaps have adopted the method to allow for evil spirits to escape, it’s achievable that Greek medical professionals experienced other thoughts as to the positive aspects of the procedure. In accordance to some historians, trepanation may possibly have been employed as a way of managing head fractures, on the basis that recovery was extra most likely if pieces of dead bone could be eradicated ahead of infection established in.

Irrespective of how bizarre some of their procedures may possibly seem currently, however, the get the job done of ancient Greek medical professionals experienced an simple impact on the western planet. The teachings of historical Greece were being adopted by ancient Rome, and – as the Roman empire expanded – people ideas unfold even further afield. Jointly, they would affect medicine for quite a few generations to come.

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This post initially appeared in BBC History Revealed’s crucial guidebook to historical Greece