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Hippocrates: a conventionalized image in a Roman "portrait" bust (19th century engraving)
Hippocrates: a conventionalized image in a Roman "portrait" bust (19th century engraving)

Hippocrates of Cos (c. 460 BC380 BC) was an Ancient Greek physician, commonly regarded as one of the most outstanding figures in medicine of all time; he has been called the father of medicine. He was a physician from the so called medical school of Kos. 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.

The Hippocratic writings introduced patient confidentiality, which is still in use today. This was under the Hippocratic Oath and other treatises, which meant that people were to record their findings and methods used, to be passed down.

Other Hippocratic writings associated personality traits with the relative abundance of the four humours in the body: phlegm, yellow bile, black bile, and blood, and was 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 one of them at least 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").



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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