Hippocrates’ Role in the Shift From Irrational to Rational Medicine in Ancient Greece

Hippocrates’ Role in the Shift From Irrational to Rational Medicine in Ancient Greece

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Although populations in ancient societies suffered attacks, invasions, starvation, and persecution, there was a more efficient killer that exterminated countless people. The most dreaded killers in the ancient world were disease, infections and epidemics. In many major wars the main peril was not gunfire, nor assault, but the easily communicable diseases that rapidly wiped out whole divisions of closely quartered soldiers. Until the time of Hippocrates, in the struggle between life and death, it was, more often than not, death that prevailed when a malady was involved. In the modern world, although illness is still a concern, advances in thought and technique have led to the highest birth rates in recorded history. No longer is a fever a cause for distress; a quick trip to the store and a few days of rest is the current cure. An infection considered easily treatable today could have meant disablement, even death to an ancient Greek citizen.

In modern medicine when an ailment arises it can be quickly diagnosed, attributed to a precise bacteria, virus, or body system, and treated with medication, surgery or therapy. During the time before rational medical thought, this streamlined system of treatment was unheard of, and all complaints were attributed to the will of the multitude of commonly worshiped Greek gods (Greek Medicine 1). It was during the period of Greek rationalism that a perceptible change in thought was manifested in the attitudes towards treating disease. Ancient Greece is often associated with its many brilliant philosophers, and these great thinkers were some of the first innovators to make major developments in astrology, physics, math and even medicine. Among these academics was Hippocrates, one of the first e...


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...ill Cornell Medical College. 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
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Sources consulted:

"Greek Medicine - Asclepius." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 02 July 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.
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Hippocrates. On Regimen in Acute Diseases. Trans. Adams, Francis. Ca 400 BC. MS. The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
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Hippocrates. On Airs, Waters, and Places. Trans. Adams, Francis. Ca 400 BC. MS. The Internet Classics Archive: 441 Searchable Works of Classical Literature. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
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