HIPPOCRATES: The Oath; On Ancient Medicine; On Airs, Waters, and Places; The Book of Prognostics; Of the Epidemics; The Law; On the Sacred Disease

Hippocrates is known as the “Father of Medicine.” Although many of his medical claims have been proven false, his approach to medicine was revolutionary, and it has endured to the present day. He sought for the causes of disease in natural things, such as the weather, a person’s diet, and a person’s genetics. This is a radical departure from the previous belief that illness was a punishment sent from the gods.

His discussion of the varied effects that weather and geography have on the temperament of a person is interesting. He claims that people who live in a temperate climate, where there is no significant change of seasons, are indolent and lack courage. On the other hand, people who live in harsh climates, where the winters are frigid and the summers are hot, are enterprising and war-like.

He also asserts that the political constitution that a person lives under has similar effects as the weather and geography. A person who lives under a monarchy is unambitious and cowardly because he does not receive the benefits of his labor. The opposite holds true in a democracy.

“The principal reason the Asiatics are more unwarlike and of gentler disposition than the Europeans is, the nature of the seasons, which do not undergo any great changes either to heat or cold, or the like; for there is neither excitement of the understanding nor any strong change of the body whereby the temper might be ruffled and they be roused to inconsiderate emotion and passion, rather than living as they do always in the state. It is changes of all kinds which arouse
understanding of mankind, and do not allow them to get into a torpid condition. For these reasons, it appears to me, the Asiatic race is feeble, and further, owing to their laws; for monarchy prevails in the greater part of Asia, and where men are not their own masters nor independent, but are the slaves of others, it is not a matter of consideration with them how they may acquire military discipline, but how they may seem not to be warlike, for the dangers are not equally shared, since they must serve as soldiers, perhaps endure fatigue, and die for their masters, far from their children, their wives, and other friends; and whatever noble and manly actions they may perform lead only to the aggrandizement of their masters, whilst the fruits
which they reap are dangers and death; and, in addition to all this, the lands of such persons must be laid waste by the enemy and want of culture. Thus, then, if any one be naturally warlike and courageous, his disposition will be changed by the institutions. As a strong proof of all this, such Greeks or barbarians in Asia as are not under a despotic form of government, but are independent, and enjoy the fruits of their own labors, are of all others the most warlike; for these
encounter dangers on their own account, bear the prizes of their own valor, and in like manner endure the punishment of their own cowardice.”

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