A Referral Relationship: The Hippocratic Doctors and the Asklepios Cult in the Ancient Medical Marketplace

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Abstract/Description: Many modern physicians recognize Hippocrates and his followers as the founders of rational medicine—the belief that disease does not come from the gods, but natural causes; however, while the Hippocratic physicians did discuss therapeutics that were distinctly non-religious and renounced faith-healing in their writings, the physicians may not have denounced religious-healing all together. The Hippocratics actually publicly linked themselves to the Asklepios Cult, a popular religious healing group of the era that practiced medicine at temples devoted to the god of medicine. This thesis seeks to shed light on the connections between the two groups. First, I will analyze the use of the term “Asklepiads,” or sons of Asklepios, in descriptions of Hippocrates by his admirers, namely Plato and Aristotle. The use of the term suggests that Hippocrates’ connection to Asklepios increased his credibility as a rational medical practitioner in Ancient Greece. Second, I will discuss the reverence to Asklepios and his family in the Hippocratic Oath. The allusions to the gods in Hippocratic Oath reveal the ways in which Hippocratic physicians viewed their relationship with Asklepios and wanted others to view the relationship. Third, I will look into the public dedications of rational physicians to Asklepios. Temple inscriptions and lists of inventories from this time period indicate that physicians showed outward respect for the healing group. Finally, I will address the overlaps in the actual healing practices, specifically dream-healing, of the Hippocratic physicians and Asklepios Cult. Evidence from temple inscriptions and Dreams, a book of the Hippocratic writings, highlight the similarities and differences in their healing techniques. Using these pieces of evidence, I argue that, while the Hippocratic physicians likely did practice rational medicine in Ancient Greece, it was in their best interest to remain connected to religious-healing, namely the Asklepios Cult, in order to maintain their credibility as medical practitioners
Subject(s): Hippocrates.
Aesculapius (Greek deity) -- Cult.
Medicine -- History.
Davidson College. Classics Department.