From "Harvard Classics Volume 38" Copyright
1910 by P.F. Collier and Son. This text is placed in the Public Domain,
HIPPOCRATES, the celebrated Greek physician, was a
contemporary of the historian Herodotus. He was born in the island of
Cos between 470 and 460 B.C., and belonged to the family that claimed
descent from the mythical AEsculapius, son of Apollo. There was already
a long medical tradition in Greece before his day, and this he is
supposed to have inherited chiefly through his predecessor Herodicus;
and he enlarged his education by extensive travel. He is said, though
the evidence is unsatisfactory, to have taken part in the efforts to
check the great plague which devastated Athens at the beginning of the
Peloponnesian war. He died at Larissa between 380 and 360 B.C.
The works attributed to Hippocrates are the earliest
extant Greek medical writings, but very many of them are certainly not
his. Some five or six, however, are generally granted to be genuine, and
among these is the famous "Oath." This interesting document
shows that in his time physicians were already organized into a
corporation or guild, with regulations for the training of disciples,
and with an esprit de corps and a professional ideal which, with slight
exceptions, can hardly yet be regarded as out of date.
One saying occurring in the words of Hippocrates has
achieved universal currency, though few who quote it to-day are aware
that it originally referred to the art of the physician. It is the first
of his "Aphorisms": "Life is short, and the Art long; the
occasion fleeting; experience fallacious, and judgment difficult. The
physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but
also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals cooperate."
THE OATH OF HIPPOCRATES
I SWEAR by Apollo the physician and ∆sculapius, and
Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to
my ability and judgment,
I will keep this Oath and this stipulation -- to reckon
him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my
substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look
upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach
them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or
stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of
I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and
those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath
according to the law of medicine, but to none others.
I will follow that system of regimen which, according to
my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and
abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.
I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor
suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman
a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass
my life and practice my Art.
I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but
will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work.
Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the
sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and
corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of
freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional
service, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of
men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad,
I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be
kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be
granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by
all men, in all times. But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may
the reverse be my lot.