Background information 12


Religion and Medicine

Religion and supernatural causes were linked to beliefs about the causes and cures of disease. Religious healing was an ever present alternative that was sought particularly in chronic cases eg: the epidemic that affected Athens in 430 - 427 BC helped spread the worship of Asklepios.

In Hesiod's poetry (c. 750BC), diseases mark the end of the Golden Age. They were created because of Zeus' anger against Prometheus; and are released from Pandora's box.



The Hippocratic Corpus.

These are a set of texts that date from 420 - 370BC. Attributed to Hippocrates - but in most cases this is wrong. This collection was brought together in the library of Alexandria in around the beginning of the 3rd century BC.

Hippocratic Medicine

Hippocratic medicine is easier to characterise - a description of it will normally include the following:

  1. Close observation of symptoms
  2. An openness to ideas from all sides.
  3. A willingness to explain the causes of diseases.

The Hippocratic oath is another element which has become associated with Hippocratic medicine (still used to this day).

"... I will use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgement; I will abstain from harming or wronging any man by it...

... I will not give a fatal draught to anyone if I am asked, nor will I suggest any such thing...

... Whatever I see or hear, professionally or privately, which ought not to be divulged, I will keep secret and tell no one."

Most Hippocratic texts presented fluids in the body as the main cause of disease.