Useful known and unknown views of Hippocrates

Hippocrates was born in Astypalaia the ancient capital of the island of Kos in 460 BC. His father was an Asklepiad physician. Hippocrates traveled to Samos, where he learned mathematics from Pythagoras, to Ephesus and Militos, to Memphis in Egypt, to Larissa, Thessaly and other Greek cities. There is no certainty that all books related to Hippocrates were written by him.


Democritus was a contemporary of Hippocrates and one of his teachers. Democritus lived in Avdira, in Thrace. Democritus was a scientific pillar of modern physics because he believed that there exists a multiple universe and that the universe is immortal and unfading. The universe as a whole and everything exciting in it i.e. το όν in Greek, consists of atoms which could not split any further. Atoms can not be sensed by us but are considered to exist by reason. Larger and heavier parts or atoms are pushed inside and the lighter at the outside portion of any existing part of the universe. Similar atoms adjust to each other and are gravitated by other similar atoms. Today we know that the heavier particles, neutrons and protons are inside and the electrons at the periphery of the molecule. Sometime before his death, Democritus chose to live outside the city of Avdira studying birds and other animals and often laughing with his own thoughts. His co-citizens thought he was crazy and invited Hippocrates to examine him. Hippocrates came from Kos and after meeting with Democritus he said to the citizens of Avdira, that Democritus was his teacher and he was healthy and sound more than many other people in Avdira.

The views of Hippocrates about treatment relied on the power of Nature and were directed to the patient as a unique physical, mental and spiritual entity. Galen, after about 500 years said, that Hippocrates considered Nature as: “the teacher of all teachers”.

In his book: “The Aphorisms”, the first aphorism reads:

“Life is sort and the art long, the occasion fleeting, experience fallacious and judgment difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right… but also to make the patient, the attendants and externals, cooperate”.

Hippocrates also pledged never to participate in euthanasia and abortion.

In his treatise: “On the Epidemics”, book 1(5) he stated the axiom “… as to disease, make a habit of two things –to do good, or at least to do no harm”.

In acute hepatitis Hippocrates in his book “About Diseases” described: “Acute jaundice rapidly spreading…urine has a red sentiment….high fever, uneasiness and cnidoses. The patient dies within 4 to 10 days”

He also described askitis: “Liquid collection… around the abdomen becomes…”

He also described acute cholangeitis: “Hard and painful hypochondria, jaundice…bile in the urine…fever…bile in the blood”.

In “The Aphorisms” part II, Hippocrates wrote: “those by nature over weight, die earlier than the slim”.

Hippocrates was asked to find out why Scythian had male impotence. He noticed that the wealthier Skythians who were able to buy horses, had impotence because they passed a great part of their lives riding on horses, thus harming their genitalia. On the contrary the poor were unable to buy and ride horses and they were sexually competent.

For surgery and for treating wounds, Hippocrates in his book: “About the Physician” advised: “clean clothes or othonia…and old wine as antiseptic…”

Also Hippocrates in his books: “Of Surgery in the Clinic” and “About the Clinician” wrote: “…the nails of the surgeon should be cut in a certain manner, there should be proper light coming from the proper directionskilled assistants are necessary…and they should be silent…”

Hippocrates knew that “in the wounds there are miasmata causing disease if entered the body…” Miasmata or miasma in single tense, is a word meaning “something dirty”.

Ages later, Pasteur will describe with his microscope the microbes.

Hippocrates described plectrodactelia in cradiopathies and in lung cancer.

For the treatment of anaemia he suggested solutions of iron dissolved in wine.

For pain confront he suggested extract of “salycasia” a tree between acacia and leuki. This is the so called today salix tree or aspen or willow. Only on 1829 Leroux isolated salycin. On 1899 Felix Hoffman produced synthetic acetylsalycilic acid –aspirin from the word aspen.

Hippocrates in his book: “On the Sacred Disease” described for the first time epilepsy not as a sacred disease as was considered at those times, but as a hereditary disease of the brain and added: “do not cut this (temporal) place, because spasms (on the opposite area) do attach the man who is cut”.

He declared that all feelings have a seat in the brain.

In his book: “On the Articulations” Hippocrates described “the tubercular spine” which is to day called: “Potteian illness”.

In his book: “On Haemorrhoids” he treated them by styptic suppositories, by operation or by cauterization. He used the first proctoscope or hedroscope which he called “katopter” meaning: to investigate downwards.

According to Hippocrates, people must have either one or two meals (lunch and dinner) every day. He suggested that these habits should be strictly followed…in order to give time to digest.

Hippocrates also suggested : “…little exercise…and walkdo not eat to saturation”.

In order to increase the natural internal temperature of our body and to better adjust ourselves to cold weather, Hippocrates advised healthy men: “to cool their body during the winter by taking cold baths or by any other means… of long duration…”. This is what the winter swimmers do today.

In his book “Mochlikon-Instruments of Reduction” Hippocrates uses the word “apoptosis” to indicate tissue death, detachment and fall from the body. Recently in 1972, Kerr JFP et al re-used the same word “apoptosis”.

In “Decorum” (5) Hippocrates declares that: “Physician must convert or insert wisdom to medicine and medicine to wisdom”.

(Source: “Useful known and unknown views of the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates and his teacher Democritus”, by Philip C. Grammaticos, Aristidis Diamantis)


Surgical tools, 5th century BC

Research-Selection for NovoScriptorium: Maximus E. Niles

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