Hippocrates was an ancient Greek physician and teacher, frequently regarded as “The Father of Medicine. He was born in 460 BCE and died in 370 BCE, making him a contemporary of Pericles and Plato. He grew up and lived on the island of Kos, a small island located in the southeastern Aegean Sea.
Hippocrates works covered a wide variety of ailments, holistic medications, and other topics. One of the cornerstone preachings of his work is that most diseases and illnesses can be prevented by maintaining a healthy diet and keeping a regimen for physical exercise. He also believed in the healing properties of certain types of plants and processed them for their medical benefits.
Hippocrates also challenged the widespread belief that disease or disorder was a product of the gods punishing someone or a family. He instead believed that disease was caused by natural forces and that a physician and patient can be proactive in combating and coping with illness in a way that didn’t leave it up to the gods. This was a relatively radical proposition at the time, as the gods were thought to be responsible for just about every aspect of everyday life.
Many of the medical conclusions he made were a product of observation and experimentation. He studied sick people and wrote of their particular ailments and tendencies to disease. Additionally, he learned about organs and the innards of the human body by dissecting animals and projecting those conclusions onto the human body. Ethics and law at the time forbid dissecting a human body, even one that had died of natural causes, so that was the closest he could get to understanding the inner function of the human body.
Hippocrates, although well-regarded in his lifetime, did not receive recognition and esteem until about a century after his death, when his medical works were collected in the Library of Alexandria, in Egypt, and labeled as the Corpus Hippocraticum. This compilation totals over 60 medical books, although often classicists debate whether it is the collected works of multiple contemporaneous physicians or just Hippocrates.
He is one of the leading figures that classicists regard today when seeking insight into the medical system, beliefs, and practices in the ancient world; his surviving texts provide valuable insight where little else survives.