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Hippokrates (c. 460 BCE – c. 370 BCE), alternatively Hippocrates, was a Greek physician who is widely credited as the "Father of Medicine" for his enduring contributions to the field. He revolutionized medicine by subjecting it to systematic study rather than depending on religious guidance, a methodology that clashed with the orthodox views in Greece during his time.[1]

Religiously devout citizens deemed his secular approach to curing disease impious—as though to attempt to defy what the gods had already willed. Despite this controversy, his efficacy attracted those in need of proper medical treatment who met him in secret for his services if their local area was especially conservative. This also drew several apprentices to him, one of which was Sostratos. Hippokrates was targeted by the Cult of Kosmos, but he was also aided by the Spartan misthios Kassandra, who came to question him about her mother.[1]


Early years

"I was young then—I didn't know how to help. I turned her away. But her look of determination and despair was burned into my mind. It has never left me and it never will."
―Hippokrates to Kassandra about encountering her mother, c. 430 BCE.[src]-[m]

Born in Astypalia City on the island of Kos, Hippokrates was raised as an Asklepiad, a member of a group people believed to be the descendants of the healing god Asklepios himself.[2][3]

In his youth while serving as a healer assistant, Hippokrates met a Spartan woman named Myrrine, who was the daughter of King Leonidas I. Myrrine, who was carrying a heavily wounded Alexios, sought him out for medical aid. Hippokrates however was forced to turn Myrrine down due to his inexperience, and sent her to the Sanctuary of Asklepios for help instead. That encounter left an impression on Hippokrates, such that he swore to never turn away another patient who sought his aid.[4] By the time of the Peloponnesian War, Hippokrates had became an experienced physician and was widely recognized for his contributions to the medicine. He would later establish a school on his home island as well as a clinic in Argos.[5]

Hippokrates later fathered two sons, Thessalos and Drakon.[6]

Encounter with Kassandra

Hippokrates meeting Kassandra

While Hippokrates was well renowed amongst the Greek world for his skill, his philosophy and theory that diseases were caused naturally was not well-received amongst the Priests of Asklepios, including the priestess Chrysis, who confided in the "traditional" way of healing, which was praying to the gods. After Hippokrates departed the clinic to treat the sick near the Cave of Pan, his student Sostratos, who was left behind at the clinic, was berrated by the elderly priestess, who demanded to know Hippokrates' whereabouts.[7]

Hippokrates' whereabouts was later given by Sostratos to the misthios Kassandra, the daughter of Myrrine who sought out her mother's whereabouts. While Hippokrates was treating a patient in need of aid, he was greeted by Kassandra who immediately requested his knowledge of her mother. In exchange for telling Kassandra what he knew, Hippokrates requested her to recover his notes that had been stolen and taken to Fort Tiryns.[7]

However, Hippokrates' notes had been burned by the fort's guards and as such, Kassandra returned with another physician named Dymas, who managed to memories the notes before they were burned. After tasking Dymas to recreate the notes, Hippokrates spoke to Kassandra, revealing his encounter with Myrrine years ago. He then suggested that Kassandra speak to the elder priest at the sanctuary of Asklepios, believing she may find more information there.[7]

Plague of Athens

Kassandra: "Hippokrates, it's good you're here."
Hippokrates: "Is it? Look around you. Athens is dying..."
—Hippokrates and Kassandra discuss the plague, 429 BCE[src]-[m]

Hippokrates in Athens during the plague

When the plague reached Athens around 429 BCE, Hippokrates came to the city in order to help. He realized the disease was spread via the feces of the infected, and that the best method of dealing with the dead was to burn their corpses. However, he was harassed by the Followers of Ares who disagreed with his practice, and when he met Kassandra in the city, he asked for her help in dealing with them.[8]

Sometime after the plague, Hippokrates departed Athens to Thebes in Boeotia, setting up another temporary clinic there. Like in Argolis, people lined up to see him. One of his patients told him that they'd heard screams in the wilderness beyond the city's walls, and they suspected that a hunting party had met their match during their hunt. To help any possible survivors, Hippokrates asked for Kassandra's help. She agreed and following his directions, found a couple of bears were advancing on a man south of the Snake Head Rock. Kassandra saved the man and took him back to Hippokrates.[9]

Hippokrates recognized the man as the slaver Galeos and was loathe to help him. He agreed to do so, however, if Kassandra agreed to save Galeos' victims. The misthios did as asked, freeing the slaves at Galeos' camp.[10]

Later life

Following Perikles' death during the Plague at the hands of Deimos, Kleon, an Athenian statesman and a Sage of the Cult of Kosmos, took the opportunity to gain power and influence. By 425 BCE, Hippokrates joined Perikles' associates to oppose against his rule.[11]

Following Kleon's defeat in 422 BCE, Hippokrates joined the resistance members in Perikles' residence to celebrate and mourn the associates they have lost.[12]

Later in his travels, Hippokrates travelled to Abdera in Thrace to cure the philosopher Demokritos of madness. He also travelled to the Achaemenid Empire. There, he was consulted by King Artaxerxes II of Persia to cure a plague decimating the Persian army. However, Hippokrates refused to help an enemy of Greece.[6]

Hippokrates eventually died in Thessaly between 375 and 370 BCE.[6]

Behind the scenes

Being regarded as the 'Father of Medicine', Hippocratic Oath derives its name from his; it's the oath that compels a physician to follow specific ethical standards, one of the key principles of which is "do no harm".