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Hippocrates of Cos (c. 460 BC–c. 380 BC) was an ancient Greek physician. He has been called "the father of medicine", and is commonly regarded as one of the most outstanding figures in medicine of all time. According to the biographical tradition, he was a physician trained at the Dream temple of Kos, and may have been a pupil of Herodicus. Writings attributed to him (Corpus hippocraticum, or "Hippocratic writings") rejected the superstition and magic of primitive "medicine" and laid the foundations of medicine as a branch of science. Attributed sayings of Hippocrates include: "He who does not understand astrology is not a doctor, but a fool," and "There are in fact, two things: science, and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance." Little is actually known about Hippocrates' personal life, but some of his medical achievements were documented by such people as Plato and Aristotle.


The Hippocratic writings introduced patient confidentiality, a practice still in use today. This was described under the Hippocratic Oath and other treatises. Hippocrates recommended that physicians record their findings and their medicinal methods, so that these records may be passed down and employed by other physicians.

Other Hippocratic writings associated W;personality traits with the relative abundance of the four humours in the body: phlegm, yellow bile, black bile, and blood, and were a major influence on Galen and later on medieval medicine.

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of about sixty treatises, most written between 430 BC and AD 200. They are actually a group of texts written by several different people holding several different viewpoints erroneously grouped under the name of Hippocrates, perhaps at the Library of Alexandria. None of the texts included in the Corpus can be considered to have been written by Hippocrates himself, and at least one of them was written by his son-in-law Polybus. The best known of the Hippocratic writings is the Hippocratic Oath; however, this text was most likely not written by Hippocrates himself. A famous, time-honoured medical rule ascribed to Hippocrates is Primum non nocere ("first, do no harm"); another one is Ars longa, vita brevis ("art is long, and life short").


Of these works, none can be demonstrably credited to Hippocrates, but they are considered to form the Corpus Hippocraticum:

The "portrait" of Hippocrates

The purely conventional iconography of Greek poets and philosophers were set in the "portrait" busts, (illustration, above right), produced in series to decorate the villas of the Roman cultured class. The changing careers of these idealized "character" images have been studied by Paul Zanker, The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, translated by Alan Shapiro. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. [ ISBN 0-520-20105-1]. See review in Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

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