The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

HIPPOCRATES.

isted. (See Houdart, Etudes sur Bippocrale, p. 560.) The few facts respecting him that may be considered as tolerably well ascertained may be told in few words. His father was Heracleides, who was also a physician, and belonged to the family of the Asclepiadae. According to Soranus (Vita Hippocr.i in Hippocr. Opera, vol.'iii.), he was the nineteenth in descent from Aesculapius, but John Tzetzes, who gives the genealogy of the family, makes him the seventeenth. His mother's name was Phaenarete, who was said to be descended from Hercules. Soranus, on the autho­rity of an old writer who had composed a life of Hippocrates, states that he was born in the island of Cos, in the first year of the eightieth Olympiad, that is, B. c. 460 ; and this date is generally followed, for want of any more satisfactory inform­ation on the subject, though it agrees so ill with some of the anecdotes respecting him, that some persons suppose him to have been born about thirty years sooner. The exact day of his birth was known and celebrated in Cos with sacrifices on the 26th day of the month Agrianus, but it is unknown to what date in any other calendar this month cor­responds. He was instructed in medical science by his father and by Herodicus, and is also said to have been a pupil of Gorgias of Leontini. He wrote, taught, and practised his profession at home ; travelled in different parts of the continent of Greece ; and died at Larissa in Thessaly. His age at the time of his death is uncertain, as it is stated by different ancient authors to have been eighty-five years, ninety, one hundred and four, and one hundred and nine. Mr. Clinton places his death b. c. 357, at the age of one hundred and four. He had two sons, Thessalus and Dracon, and^_a_soii-in-law, Polybus, all of whom followed the same profession, and who are supposed to have been the authors of some of the works in the Hippocratic Collection. Such are the few and scanty facts that can be in some degree depended on respecting the personal history of this cele­brated man ; but though we have not the means of writing an authentic detailed biography, we possess in these few facts, and in the hints and allusions con­tained in various ancient authors, sufficient data to enable us to appreciate the part he played, and the place he held among his contemporaries. We find that he enjoyed their esteem as a practitioner, writer, and professor; that he conferred on the ancient and illustrious family to which he belonged more honour than he derived from it; that he ren­dered the medical school of Cos, to which he was attached, superior to any which had preceded it or immediately followed it; and that his works, soon after their publication, were studied and quoted by Plato. (See Littre's Hippocr. vol. i. p. 43 ; and a review of that work (by the writer of this article) in the Brit, and For. Med. Rev. April, 1844, p. 459.)

Upon this slight foundation of historical truth has been built a vast superstructure of fabulous error; and it is curious to observe how all these tales receive a colouring from the times and coun­tries in which they appear to have been fabricated, whether by his own countrymen before the Chris­tian era, or by the Latin or Arabic writers of the middle ages. One of the stories told of him by his Greek bjograpners, which most modern critics are disposed to regard as fabulous, relates to his being sent for, together with Euryphon [EuRY-

483

HIPPOCRATES.

phon], by Perdiccas II., king of Macedonia, and discovering, by certain external symptoms, that his sickness was occasioned by his having fallen in love with his father's concubine. Probably the strongest reason against the truth of this story is the fact that the time of the supposed cure is quite irreconcileable with the commonly received date of the birth of Hippocrates ; though M. Littr£, the latest and best editor of Hippocrates, while he rejects the story as spurious, finds no difficulty in the dates (vol. i. p. 38). Soranus, who tells the anecdote, says that the occurrence took 'place after the death of Alexander I., the father of Perdiccas; and we may reasonably presume that one or two years would be the longest interval that would elapse. The date of the death of Alexander is not exactly known, and depends upon the length of the reign of his son Perdiccas, who died B. c. 414. The longest period assigned to his reign is forty-one years, the shortest is twenty-three. This latter date would place his accession to the throne on his father's death, at b. c. 437, at which time Hippo­crates would be only twenty-three years old, almost too young an age for him to have acquired so great celebrity as to be specially sent for to attend a foreign prince. However, the date of b. c. 437 is the less probable because it would not only extend the reign of his father Alexander to more than sixty years, but would also suppose him to have lived seventy years after a period at which he was already grown up to manhood. For these reasons Mr. Clinton (F. Hell. ii. 222) agrees with Dodwell in supposing the longer periods assigned to his reign to be nearer the truth ; and assumes the ac­cession of Perdiccas to have fallen within b. c. 454, at which time Hippocrates was only six years old. This celebrated story has been told, with more or less variation, of Erasistratus and Avicenna, besides being interwoven in the romance of Heliodorus (Aethiop. iv. 7. p. 171), and the love-letters of Aristaenetus (Epist. i. 13). Galen also says that a similar circumstance happened to himself. (De Praenot. ad Epig. c. 6. vol. xiv. p. 630.) The story as applied to Avicenna seems to be most probably apocryphal (see Biogr. Diet, of the Usef. Knowl. Soo. vol. iv, p. 301) ; and with respect to the two other claimants, Hippocrates and Erasistratus, if it be true of either, the pre­ponderance of historical testimony is decidedly in favour of the latter. [erasistratus.] Another old Greek fable relates to his. being appointed librarian at Cos, and burning the books there (or, according to another version of the story, at Cnidos,) in order to conceal the use he had made of them in his own writings. This story is also told, with but little variation, of Avicenna, and is repeated of Hippocrates, with some characteristic embellish­ments, in the European Legends of the Middle Ages. [andreas.]

The other fables concerning Hippocrates are to be traced to the collection of Letters, &c. which go under his name, but which are universally rejected as spurious. The most celebrated of these relates to his supposed conduct during the plague of Athens, which he is said to have stopped by burn­ing fires throughout the city, by suspending chap-lets of flowers, and by the use of an antidote, the composition of which is preserved by Joannes Ac-tuarius (DeMetKMed. v. 6. p. 264, ed. H. Steph.) Connected with this, is the pretended letter from Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of Persia, to Hippo*

ii 2

Pages
About | First

482

483

484
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.