Book Club | January 2021: Hippocrates

Word cloud Greek physician

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asclepius, and Hygieia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses as my witnesses, that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this contract.

Our Book Club readings for January are from Hippocrates, the so-called “Father of Medicine”.
In the surviving treatises (which may have been by Hippocrates himself, or by his followers) we can see that instead of ascribing disease as having been caused by supernatural forces, Hippocrates thought there were natural reasons.

We will all read the Oath—even to this day doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath:

Then you can choose whichever section or sections are of most interest. Here are some examples (section headings may vary in different translations):

  • “On Ancient Medicine”—discounts earlier theories and argues for observation and knowledge of the effects of treatment
  • “Humors”—a notion that held sway until the Late Medieval period
  • “On Fractures”—detailed descriptions of different types of fracture, and what kind of bandage or splint to use
  • “Airs Waters Places”—the effects of location on health
  • “Epidemics”—description of plagues and epidemics, and multiple case studies

You can read any translation you like: here are some available for free online (different translators include different selections):

Charles Darwin Adams (on Perseus)

W.H.S. Jones, Volume 1 (on Perseus)

There is a more complete set of translations by W.H.S. Jones et al. on (to read online or to download)

  • Volume 1: (Ancient Medicine, Airs Waters Places, Epidemics I and II, The Oath, Precepts, Nutriment)
  • Volume 2: (Prognostic, Regimen in Acute Disease, Sacred Disease, Art, Breaths, Law, Decorum, Physician, Dentition)
  • Volume 3: (Head wounds, Surgery, Fractures)
  • Volume 4: (Nature of Man, Regimen in Health, Humours, Aphorisms, Regimen I, II, III, Dreams)

As background, you might like to view (or revisit) these discussion videos:

Online Open House | A French Book on Ancient Greek Diseases and Thoughts about Translating it into English, with Leonard Muellner

Online Open House | Disease and Social Order: The Plague Narratives of Thucydides and Lucretius, with Robert Cioffi

We will start and continue discussion in the Forum, and will meet via Zoom on Tuesday, January 26 at 11 a.m. EST.

Happy new year, and happy readings!

[1] Summary based on Encyclopedia Britannica: “Hippocrates”