Pre-Hippocratic Greek medicine and its influence on the Hippocratic Corpus

  • Francois Retief University of the Free State
  • Louise Cilliers University of the Free State


The origins of the Hippocratic Corpus, traditionally held to herald the birth of empirical medicine, are traced in the works of the “pre-Socratic” philosopher-physicians. Although it retained many of the earlier, factually incorrect hypotheses on human physiology and pathology, and consequently proposed largely ineffectual therapies, the Corpus was a decisive milestone in that it described clinical disease patterns objectively, it prescribed medication on the basis of rational argument (as understood at the time) unadulterated by considerations of religion or superstition, and it was underpinned by an ethical code which has largely withstood the test of time.


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