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August 1965

A Note on Greek Medicine

Author Affiliations

President University of Nevada Reno, Nevada

Am J Dis Child. 1965;110(2):115-116. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1965.02090030125001

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THE ANCIENT GREEKS, in their studies of the physical world and its properties during the classical period from the sixth through the fourth centuries before Christ, are justly credited with laying many of the foundations of modern science. Hippocrates, practicing his medical art in the fifth century BC, is acknowledged as the father of scientific medicine.

Yet it is interesting to note that another observant Greek, writing at least 500 years before the time of Hippocrates, anticipated modern medicine in at least two particulars. And he was not a scientist, but rather a poet, albeit a great one—Homer.

In the first book of the Iliad, Homer tells us how the god Apollo (the Destroyer, as the etymology of his name indicates), in response to the prayers of one of his priests, Chryses, who has been dishonored by the Greek commander-in-chief before Troy, Agamemnon, sends a plague upon the Greek host.

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