The Hippocratic Corpus is made up of the remains of one of history’s most notorious libraries, featuring books written between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.
It gets its name from the assumption that the books within the library were written by Hippocrates, though this was later disproved by scientists who understand that the books were written by a variety of authors.
From the Hippocratic Corpus comes a variety of important ancient texts, such as On Ancient Medicine, a book written in the fifth century BCE. The book was written by an anonymous physician whose practices are especially interesting because of the parallels they draw to both contemporary theory and more traditional forms of techniques.
Another book found in the Hippocratic Corpus that is equally important is On the Sacred Disease, another anonymously-written book that contains a very modern understanding of epilepsy.
These texts are important because they harshly criticize the notion that there is a divine reason for disease, citing more practical methods and approaches to medicine that are surely more in line with modern philosophies.
An important manuscript found in the Hippocratic Corpus depicts the Four Humors, referring to the four traditional elements: earth, water, fire, and air. These elements were then depicted in a variety of ways, such as man’s four essential elements (black bile, blood, phlegm, and yellow bile), and also the four seasons. These groupings were largely influenced by Evangelical Christians, a group who had a large societal influence at the time.
The purpose of describing these elements was to communicate that the principle of four essential groupings could be applied to various aspects of society. In fact, these principles were used as the basis for a great portion of European medicine for over two thousand years.
Though it influenced a great deal of European thinking, the Four Humors has no biological or scientific relationship to medicine, mainly serving as a way to structure things. It certainly has had an influence on Western society, but more in the way that we think and not in any meaningful medical practice.
Despite this, though, the Hippocratic Corpus serves today as a very important reminder into the thought and perspective behind many ancient cultures that is continually helping us to shape the world around us.