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unrivalled statuary, Phidias, with his illustrious pupils, and many other distinguished names, which have conferred immortal honor on the age in which they lived, and exalted the dignity of human nature. Hippocrates, it thus appears, came into the world under circumstances which must have co-operated with his own remarkable powers of intellect in raising him to that extraordinary eminence which his name has attained in all ages. From his forefathers he inherited a distin
a guished situation in one of the most eminent hospitals, or Temples of Health, then in existence, where he must have enjoyed free access to all the treasures of observations collected during many generations, and at the same time would have an opportunity of assisting his own father in the management of the sick. Thus from his youth he must have been familiar with the principles of medicine, both in the abstract and in the concrete,—the greatest advantage, I may be per
I mitted to remark, which any tyro in the healing art can possibly enjoy. In addition to all this, he had excellent opportunities of estimating the good and bad effects resulting from the application of gymnastic exercises in the cure of diseases, under the tuition of HERODICUS, the first person who is known for certain to have cultivated this art as a branch of medicine. He was further instructed in the polite literature and philosophy of the age, by two men of classical celebrity, Gorgias and Democritus; the latter of whom is well known to have devoted much attention to the study of medicine, and its cognate sciences, comparative anatomy and physiology.
Initiated in the theory and first principles of medicine, as now described, Hippocrates no doubt commenced the practice of his art in the Asclepion of Cos, as his forefathers had done before him. Why he afterwards left the place of his nativity, and visited distant regions of the earth, whither the duties of his profession and the calls of humanity invited him, cannot now be satisfactorily determined. The respect paid to him in his lifetime by the good and wise in all the countries which he visited, and the veneration in which his memory has been held by all subsequent generations, are more than sufficient to confute the base calumny, invented, no doubt, by some envious rival, that he was obliged to flee from the land of his nativity in consequence of his having set fire to the library attached to the Temple of Health, at Cnidos, in order that he might enjoy a monopoly of the knowledge which he had extracted from the records which it had contained. Certain it is, that he afterwards visited Thrace, Delos, Thessaly, Athens, and many other regions, and that he practised, and probably taught, his profession in all these places. There are many traditions of what he did during his long life, but with regard to the truth of them, the greatest diversity of opinion has prevailed in modern times. Thus he is said to have cured Perdiccas, the Macedonian king, of love-sickness; and although there are circumstances connected with this story which give it an air of improbability, it is by no means unlikely that he may have devoted his professional services to the court of Macedonia, since very many of the places mentioned in his works as having been visited by him, such as Pella and Acanthus, are situated in that country; and further, in confirmation of the narrative, it deserves to be mentioned, that there is more satisfactory evidence of his son THESSALUS having been court physician to Archelaus, king of Macedonia ; and that it is well ascertained that another of his descendants, the Fourth HIPPOCRATES, attended Roxane, the queen of Alexander the Great.
Our author's name is also connected with the great plague of Athens, the contagion of which he is reported to have extinguished there and in other places, by kindling fires. The only serious objection to the truth of this story is the want of proper contemporary evidence in support of it. It is no sufficient objection, however, that Thucydides, in his description of the circumstances attending the outbreak of the pestilence in Attica (see Vol. V. p. 261 ), makes no mention of any services having been rendered to the community by Hippocrates; while, on the contrary, he states decidedly that the skill of the physicians could do nothing to mitigate the severity of this malady. It is highly probable, that, if Hippocrates was actually called upon to administer professional assistance in this way, it must have been during one of the subsequent attacks or exacerbations of the disease which occurred some years afterwards. We know that this plague did not expend its fury in Greece during one season, and then was no more heard of; but
on the contrary, we learn that it continued to lurk about in Athens and elsewhere, and sometimes broke out anew with all its original severity. Thucydides briefly mentions a second attack of the plague at Athens about two years after the first, attended with a frightful degree of mortality; nor is it at all improbable that this was not the last visitation of the malady. Though the name of Hippocrates, then may not have been heard of at its first invasion, it is not at all unlikely that, after he had risen to the head of his profession in Greece, as we know that he subsequently did, he should have been publicly consulted regarding the treatment of the most formidable disease which was prevailing at the time. What adds an appearance of truth to the tale is, that several of the genuine works of Hippocrates, which were probably published in its lifetime, relate to the causes and treatment of epidemic and endemic diseases.
Another circumstance in the life of Hippocrates, for the truth of which a host of ancient authorities concur in vouching, is that he refused a formal invitation to pay a professional visit to the court of Persia. He spent the latter part of his life in Thessaly, and died at Larissa, when far advanced in years.
The opinions which Hippocrates held as to the origin of medicine, and the necessities in human life which gave rise to it, are such as bespeak the soundness of his views, and the eminently practical bent of his genius. It was the necessity, he says, which men in the first stages of society must have felt of ascertaining the properties of vegetable productions as articles of food that gave rise to the science of Dietetics; and the discovery having been made that the same system of regimen does not apply in a disordered as in a healthy condition of the body, men felt themselves compelled to study what changes of the aliment are proper in disease; and it was the accumulation of facts bearing on this subject which gave rise to the art of Medicine. Looking upon the animal system as one whole, every part of which conspires and sympathizes with all the other parts, he would appear to have regarded disease also as one, and to have referred all its modifications to peculiarities of situation. Whatever may now be thought of his general views on Pathology, all must admit that his mode of prosecuting the cultivation of medicine is in the true spirit of the Inductive Philosophy; all his descriptions of disease are evidently derived from patient observation of its phenomena, and all his rules of practice are clearly based on experience. Of the fallaciousness of experience by itself he was well aware, however, and has embodied this great truth in a memorable aphorism, and therefore he never exempts the apparent results of experience from the strict scrutiny of reason. Above all others, Hippocrates was strictly the physician of experience and common sense. In short, the basis of his system was a rational experience, and not a blind empiricism so that the Empirics in after ages had no good grounds for claiming him as belonging to their sect.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics, then, of the Hippocratic system of medicine, is the importance attached in it to prognosis, under which was comprehended a complete acquaintance with the previous and present condition of the patient, and the tendency of the disease. To the overstrained system of Diagnosis practised in the school of Cnidos, agreeably to which diseases were divided and subdivided arbitrarily into endless varieties, Hippocrates was decidedly opposed; his own strong sense and high intellectual cultivation having, no doubt, led him to the discovery, that to accidental varieties of diseased action there is no limit, and that what is indefinite cannot be reduced to science.
Nothing strikes one as a stronger proof of his nobility of soul, when we take into account the early period in human cultivation at which he lived, and his descent from a priestly order, than the contempt which he everywhere expresses for ostentatious charlatanry, and his perfect freedom from all popular superstition. Of amulets and complicated machines to impose on the credulity of the ignorant multitude, there is no mention in any part of his works. All diseases he traces to natural causes, and counts it impiety to maintain that any one more than another is an infliction from the Divinity. How strikingly the Hippocratic system differs from that of all other nations in their infantine state must be well known to every person who is well acquainted with the early history of medicine. His theory of medicine was further based on the physical philosophy of the ancients, more especially on the doctrines then held regarding the elements of things, and the belief in the existence of a spiritual essence diffused through the whole works of creation, which was regarded as the agent that presides over the acts of generation, and which constantly strives to preserve all things in their natural state, and to restore them when they are preternaturally deranged. This is the principle which he called Nature, and which he held to be a vis medicatrix. “Nature,” says he, or at least one of his immediate followers says, “is the physician of diseases."
Though his belief in this restorative principle would naturally dispose him to watch its operations carefully, and make him cautious not to do anything that would interfere with their tendencies to rectify deranged actions, and though he lays it down as a general rule by which the physician should regulate his treatment, "to do good, or at least to do no harm," there is ample evidence that on proper occasions his practice was sufficiently bold and decided. In inflammatory affections of the chest he bled freely, if not, as has been said, ad deliquum animi, and in milder cases he practised cupping with or without scarification. Though in ordinary cases of constipation he merely prescribed laxative herbs, such as the mercury (mercurialis perennis), beet, and cabbage, he had in reserve elaterium, scammony, spurges, and other drastic cathartics, when more potent medicines of this class were indicated. And although when it was merely wished to evacuate upwards in a gentle manner, he was content with giving hyssop and other simple means, he did not fail, when it was desirable to make a more powerful impression, to administer the white hellebore with a degree of boldness, which his successors in the healing art were afraid to imitate. A high authority has expressly stated that he was the discoverer of the principles of derivaiion and revulsion in the treatment of diseases. Fevers he treated as a general rule, upon the diluent system, but did not fail to administer gentle laxatives, and even to practise venesection in certain cases. When narcotics were indicated, he had recourse to mandragora, henbane, and perhaps to poppyjuice.
In the practice of surgery he was a bold operator. He fearlessly, and as we would now think, in some cases unnecessarily,