Roman Medicine and Medical Knowledge


The Roman Empire > Roman Medical Knowledge and Practices >





Prev | Next | Contents


"THE OATH.


"I swear by Apollo, the physician, and Æsculapius, and Health, and Panacea, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this oath and this stipulation--to reckon him who taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practise my Art. I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption, and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freedmen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath inviolate, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the Art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass or violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot!"

It would be a great task to attempt anything like a full review of the writings of this great doctor of antiquity, but enough has been written to reveal the great powers of his mind, and to show that he was far in advance of his predecessors, and a model for his successors. In the island of Cos, made illustrious by the name of Hippocrates, it is strange to find that he has no fame now other than that of being regarded in the confused minds of the people as one of the numerous saints of the Greek Church.[6]

"When," says Littré, "one searches into the history of medicine and the commencement of science, the first body of doctrine that one meets with is the collection of writings known under the name of the works of Hippocrates. The science mounts up directly to that origin, and there stops. Not that it had not been cultivated earlier, and had not given rise to even numerous productions; but everything that had been made before the physician of Cos has perished. We have only remaining of them scattered and unconnected fragments. The works of Hippocrates have alone escaped destruction; and by a singular circumstance there exists a great gap after them as well as before them. The medical works from Hippocrates to the establishment of the School of Alexandria, and those of that school itself, are completely lost, except some quotations and passages preserved in the later writers; so that the writings of Hippocrates remain alone amongst the ruins of ancient medical literature." Sydenham said of Hippocrates: "He it is whom we can never duly praise," and refers to him as "that divine old man," and "the Romulus of medicine, whose heaven was the empyrean of his art."

Hippocrates died in Thessaly, but at what age is uncertain, for different authors have credited him with a lifetime of from eighty-five to a hundred and nine years. By virtue of his fame, death for him was not the Great Leveller.

Hippocrates had two sons, Thessalus and Draco; the former was physician to Archelaus, King of Macedonia, the latter physician to the wife of Alexander the Great. They were the founders of the School of Dogmatism which was based mainly on the teaching and aphorisms of Hippocrates. The Dogmatic Sect emphasized the importance of investigating not the obvious but the underlying and hidden causes of disease and held undisputed sway until the foundation of the Empirical Sect at Alexandria.


Footnotes:

[5] Vide "History of Gynæcology," by W. J. Stewart McKay. Baillière, Tindall and Cox, 1901.

[6] Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin, May, 1912.





Table of Contents


  OUTLINES OF
  GREEK AND ROMAN
  PREFACE.
  EARLY ROMAN MEDICINE.
  EARLY GREEK MEDICINE.
  MACHAON (SON OF ASKLEPIOS),
  HIPPOCRATES.
  "THE LAW.
  "THE OATH.
  PLATO, ARISTOTLE, THE SCHOOL OF ALEXANDRIA AND EMPIRICISM.
  THE ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL.
  ROMAN MEDICINE AT THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE BEGINNING OF THE
  IN THE REIGN OF THE
  PHYSICIANS FROM THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS TO THE DEATH OF NERO.
  THE FIRST AND SECOND CENTURIES OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA.
  GALEN.
  I.--WORKS ON ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY.
  II.--WORKS ON DIETETICS AND HYGIENE.
  III.--ON PATHOLOGY.
  IV.--ON DIAGNOSIS.
  V.--ON PHARMACY, MATERIA MEDICA, AND THERAPEUTICS.
  VI.--SURGERY.
  THE LATER ROMAN AND BYZANTINE PERIOD.
  INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ON ALTRUISM AND THE HEALING ART.
  ROMAN HOSPITALS.
  GYMNASIA AND BATHS.
  GYMNASTICS.
  GREEK AND BATHS
  SANITATION.
  THE WATER-SUPPLY.
  DRAINAGE.
  DISPOSAL OF THE DEAD.
  APPENDIX.
  FEES IN ANCIENT TIMES.
  INDEX.


Prev | Next | Contents








Roman Medicine
Advertisements: