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Hippocrates › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 20 April 2016
Gynaecological Instrument (Jehosua)

Hippocrates was born on the Greek island of Kos in the 5th century BCE, and he became the most famous physician in antiquity. He established a medical school on the island, wrote many treatises on medical matters, and is, through his systematic and empirical investigation of diseases and remedies, credited with being the founder of modern medicine.


Information regarding Hippocrates is patchy and unreliable. He was perhaps born c. 460 BCE, but details of his life were speculated upon even in ancient times. One of the oldest sources is the Life of Hippocrates credited to Soranus of Ephesus, himself a physician, who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Soranus' method of quoting from now lost earlier texts has been an invaluable source of information on ancient medicine. He states that Hippocrates knew several 5th-century sophists, notably Gorgias of Leontini, and was taught medicine by both his father and Herodicus of Selymbria, a gymnastic trainer. We also know that Hippocrates set up and ran a school of medicine on Kos.
Plato mentions Hippocrates in his Protagoras, suggesting that he worked for fees and believed the body should be treated as a whole ( Phaedrus ). The Roman scholar and medical writer Cornelius Celsus claims that Hippocrates was the first to separate medicine from philosophy, and other ancient sources also suggest that Hippocrates believed in the importance of diet and exercise for a healthy body. Soranus goes on to inform us that Hippocrates travelled throughout his life and died at Larissa in Thessaly, c. 370 BCE.


In antiquity, many legends arose of Hippocrates' great talents but most of these are likely pure invention. He reportedly discovered that King Perdiccas II of Macedon ’s health problems were down to lovesickness, he eliminated the plague that hit Athens in 430 BCE by burning fires everywhere, and he treated the philosopher Democritus whom everybody thought mad (not without some justification). Hippocrates had three sons who carried on his work - Thessalus, Dracon, and Polybus.


Hippocrates has long been credited with writing a large number of ancient treatises, speeches, and letters on medicine, collectively referred to as the Hippocratic Corpus ( Corpus Hippocraticum ), which was compiled in the Hellenistic period in Ptolemaic Alexandria. Modern scholars consider that, on stylistic grounds alone, these texts must actually have been written by multiple authors and point out that there is no reference to Hippocrates ever writing anything in sources contemporary with his lifetime. Scholars, therefore, hold the position that some of the texts were written by Hippocrates but exactly which ones are still debated.
The 3rd-century BCE Corpus was edited again in the 1st century CE by the scholars Dioscurides and Capiton. Several ancient writers, often famous physicians themselves, frequently wrote commentaries on works attributed to Hippocrates, amongst the most notable are Herophilus of Chalcedon (4th-3rd century BCE), Apollonius of Citium (1st century BCE), and Galen (2nd-3rd century CE).
The Hippocratic texts deal with all manner of medical topics but can be grouped into the four main categories of diagnosis, biology, treatment and general advice for doctors. There are over 60 treatises, each on specific topics, for example, joints, therapy, regime, surgery, physiology, the progression of diseases, purging remedies, and gynecology. The issues of ethics and medicine's relation to other subjects, especially philosophy, are also discussed.


The famous Hippocratic Oath probably appeared after Hippocrates' lifetime and was reserved for a select group of doctors. It was actually a religious document ensuring a doctor operated within and for community values. With the Oath the practitioner swore by Apollo, Hygieia, and Panacea to respect their teacher and not to administer poison, abuse patients in any way, use a knife, or break the confidentiality between patient and doctor. Modern versions of the oath, or similar such statements, are still today sworn by many medical students around the world.


Hippocrates is credited by historians with moving the subject of medicine away from the previously supernatural and religious approach, which had been closely linked to the Greek god of healing Asclepius, towards a modern approach of observation, classification, causes and effects, and so on. Even if others before him, such as Alkmaion of Kroton, had also begun to approach medicine in a rational manner and the details of his life and work are few, Hippocrates has, nevertheless, come to be known, just as he was in the ancient world, as the father of modern medicine.

Amphora › Antique Origins

Definition and Origins

by Mark Cartwright
published on 30 August 2016
Amphorae (Jehosua)

An amphora ( Greek : amphoreus ) is a jar with two vertical handles used in antiquity for the storage and transportation of foodstuffs such as wine and olive oil. The name derives from the Greek amphi-phoreus meaning 'carried on both sides', although the Greeks had adopted the design from the eastern Mediterranean. Used by all the great trading nations from the Phoenicians to the Romans, the sturdy-walled amphora spread throughout the ancient world and they have become an important survivor in the archaeological record providing clues as to dates of sites, trade relations, and everyday diet.


Evolving from the large Bronze Age pithoi vessels, which the Minoans and Mycenaeans used for storage purposes, the amphora became perhaps the most common ancient pottery shape. However, the size and form had a great many variations.Amphorae could also be plain – typically when used for the transport of goods – or highly decorated, just as any other red-figure or black-figure pottery. Specific places, already noted for their pottery production, such as Corinth and Attica, along with famed wine-producing islands like Chios, Lesbos, and Samos all produced distinctive amphora types. So too did colonies in the Black Sea area and Magna Graecia, although some cities were happy enough to copy tried and tested designs. All amphorae were made in stages on the wheel with a period of drying between the addition of a new section.


The two basic types of amphora were the neck-amphora, which has the shoulder joining the neck at a sharp angle, and the belly amphora (or simply amphora) which curves continuously from neck to foot. Those vessels with broad mouths were known as either kadoi or stamnoi while the plain types for transport were referred to as amphoreus. Gradually the form of the vessel evolved to reflect its primary function as a carrier of wine and for ease of packing. The base foot became a spike and the vessel overall became taller and slimmer. In addition, during the Roman period the contents of amphorae became easily identifiable from the shape of the vessel in question, a useful feature when stored in busy ports. Decorative amphorae w ith a pointed base would have been kept upright in a bronze stand or deep ceramic ring.
Amphora, Wine Storage Jar

Amphora, Wine Storage Jar


The average capacity for amphorae was 20-25 litres, although early versions were considerably larger. The general size became limited by the necessity for one or two persons to easily carry the vessel, and a standardisation, although attempted, was not achieved in practice until the Byzantine period. Foodstuffs transported in them included wine, olive oil, honey, milk, olives, dried fish, dry food such as cereals, or even just water. Non-food contents included pitch, and some were used in tombs as containers for the ashes of the deceased. Another special type was the Panathenaic amphora which was a large vessel of around 36 litres decorated with black-figure designs. They were filled with olives and given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games, held every four years in Athens. Finally, miniature amphorae known as amphoriskoi (sing. amphoriskos ) or pelikai ( pelike ) were used for storing perfume.
The Romans used amphorae in much the same way as the Greeks but with the addition of such Roman staples as fish sauce ( garum ) and preserved fruits. For this reason, amphorae were sealed using clay or resin stoppers, some also had a ceramic lid when used to store dry goods. Very few lids have survived in proportion to amphorae but those that do commonly have a single knob handle, sometimes made into the shape of a fruit. Finally, amphorae were used for completely unrelated purposes to their original design such as burial whole in marshy land to provide more solid foundations for buildings and walls or in roof domes as a means to provide additional support between courses.
Amphorae Packed for Transportation

Amphorae Packed for Transportation


Many amphorae (but certainly not all) used to transport goods were given a stamp before firing, typically placed on the neck, rim, or handles. This identified the place of origin (pottery workshop), indicated the vessel was part of a particular batch, named a controlling official, or guaranteed the content volume and quality. The name or monogram of the manufacturer might appear on the stamp, a month, or a regional adjective or symbol ( Rhodes, for example, used a rose emblem). In the case of wine, the age of good wine was indicated and the drink-by-date (year) for cheap wine. Stamps were also a means by which authorities could exercise a control on customs duties. Stoppers could be stamped for the same purpose. In addition to stamps, the Romans painted information labels on their vessels to make their contents easily identifiable.
All of this information has often been invaluable for archaeologists when attempting to date a site which contains amphorae, especially shipwrecks. Finally, the discovery of amphorae whose origin can be identified and their quantities are helpful in determining the extent of trade in the ancient world. The Monte Testaccio in Rome is an artificial mound of pottery shards coming from some 53 million discarded amphorae; impressive testimony to the fact that the amphora was one of the most common and useful objects in antiquity.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
Content is available under License Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. CC-BY-NC-SA License

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