Hippocrates the Koan (ca 460-370 BC)
The most famous Koan of all time is indisputably Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine and author of numerous works, based on experimental scientific research and theoretical philosophy.
Hippocrates was born in Kos around 460 BC and was the son of a physician-priest. Hippocrates taught and practiced medicine throughout his life, traveled to many places, and exchanged ideas with other schools of thought. He reputedly lectured his students under the plane tree which is currently in Lotzia square in Kos Town. He died at a ripe old age in Larissa, Thessaly, around 370 B.C.
Hippocrates, father of medicine
Hippocrates was renowned for his pragmatic approach to medicine, separating it from religion and relying on clinical signs and logical conclusions to identify and treat sickness, acknowledging the need for professionalism and discipline in the exercise of the medical profession. He is often called the “father of medicine”, as he founded a novel practice through the introduction of groundbreaking methodology and a code of ethics.
He founded the Hippocratic school of medicine (around 430 B.C.), which adopted a generalist approach focusing mainly on the patient as a coherent integrated whole. The eminent Medical School of Kos, located in the Asklepieion, was one of the most famous in Ancient Greece.
The legacy of Hippocrates
The Hippocratic Oath is probably Hippocrates’ greatest contribution to medicine. This text was written by Hippocrates or by some of his followers and has been sworn to for centuries by members of the medical profession. The Hippocratic Oath establishes that physicians must maintain life, hold their elders in the highest regard, know their limitations, and renounce self interest during the treatment of patients, advocating selfless dedication to the preservation of human life. The moral message of the Oath has remained resilient throughout the ages and cultures.
Many documents, including the Hippocratic Oath, and a collection of around 60 works in Greek referred to since ancient times as the Hippocratic Corpus, in which one may find his famous quotes, are attributed to Hippocrates and his disciples.
The Asclepeion, where the Medical School of Kos flourished, is situated on a slope facing the coast of Asia Minor a mere 3.5kms north west of Kos Town. It is the most famous monuments on the island of Kos and is intrinsically connected to Hippocrates. It is an impressive site, surrounded by vegetation, mainly pine woods and cypress trees, with a stunning panorama.
Next to the Asclepion is the Hippocratic International Foundation, which hosts a museum, a botanical garden and other facilities, dedicated to Hippocrates and his legacy.