Timeline related to Greek Medicine

Griechische Medizin: Zeitlinie

Ancient Greek Medicine

  1. Religious influenced Medicine 7th until 5th century BC but with increasing influence of the Ionian Pre-Socratic philosophers.
  2. Hippocratic 5th -4th century BC dominated by Hippocrates and his followers, rational medicine
  3. Hellenistic 300-50 BC, Alexandria as the main center (Erasistratus, Herophilus)
  4. Greco-Roman c. 50 BC – 395 AD, Romans initially against Greek medicine and physicians (Galen, Dioscorides)

937 BC, according to Isaac Newton :-)

The Argonautic expedition. Prometheus leaves Mount Caucasus, being set at liberty by Hercules. ..... Aesculapius and Hercules were Argonauts, and Hippocrates was the eighteenth from Aesculapius by the father's side, and the nineteenth from Hercules by the mother's side; and because these generations, being noted in history, were most probably by the chief of the family, and for the most part by the eldest sons, we may reckon 28 or at the most 30 years to a generation: and thus the seventeen intervals by the father's side and eighteen by the mother's, will at a middle reckoning amount unto about 507 years, which being counted backwards from the beginning of the Peloponnesiean war, at which time Hippocrates began to flourish, will reach up to the time where we have placed the Argonautic expedition. Sir Isaac Newton, A short chronicle: From the First Memory of things in Europe to the Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great See Asklepios, or Asclepius (or in Roman Aesculapius)

800-701 BC
Homer refers to highly developed battlefield surgery.

Recently Greek archaeologists discovered in Abdera evidence of a skilled surgeon who practiced skull surgery centuries before Hippocrates. http://www.archaeology.org/0603/abstracts/surgery.html/ , Medical instruments excavated at Abdera

About 522 BC

Democedes of Croton (Δημοκήδης ο Κροτωνιάτης)(southern Italy), son of Calliphon, a priest of Asclepius in Cnidus. "Physician of the tyrants", Worked probably as a physician in the civil service of Aegina and Athens before entering the service of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos (Herodotus, 3.131.1-2). Around 522 BC. he, together with Polycrates fell into the hands of the Lydian satrap Oroetes and was sent as a captive to Susa. He became a physician of Darius I. He was praised as "the most skillful physician of his time" by Herodotus. He once healed, without further trauma, a sprained ankle that Darius had received while hunting and that his Egyptian physicians were unable to treat. As a result, Democedes received immense rewards; he was held in high esteem at court and, despite his foreign origin, ate in the presence of the king. (Information from http://www.iranica.com/articles/v7/v7f3/v7f325.html )

About 520 BC?
Alcmaeon of Croton
(Αλκμαίων ο Κροτωνιάτης ) son of Peirithous (Πειρίθος), Greek anatomist (animal dissections) and member of the Pythagorean medical circle, a teacher of a teacher of Hippocrates, discovers difference between veins and arteries, also connection between brain (enkephalos) and sensing organs. Alcmaeon defines the four 'powers' of the body: hot, cold, wet, and dry. His studies in natural philosophy, biology, anatomy, and pathological and physical aspects of internal disease have been influential. He is credited as having been the originator of experimental psychology. He asks "Where does the nous live?" Alcmaeon said that there were passages connecting the senses to the brain, a position he was said to have arrived at by dissections of the optic nerve. He discovers Eustachian tubes. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/alcmaeon/ Author of the first? known Greek medical text Peri Physeos (Περί Φ?σεως)

Epicharmus of Cos (or Kos) (Επίχαρμος) (son of Elotheles, a physician of Cos ,a member of the Asclepiad clan), author among other of comedies ("I am not afraid of being dead, I just do not want to die") and physician, "It is the spirit that sees, it is the spirit that hears, all the rest is deaf and blind".

5th century BC

Herodicus (Herodikos) of Selymbria (Ηρώδικος), around 5th century BC, one of Hippocrates teacher. Working in Olympia like Ikkos of Tarent discussed the importance of exercises and diet for a good health

Ctesias of Cnidus physician and historian. His book about India from Photius (which is assumed to represent the opinions of the Persians about India) is full of strange stories such as strange animals, or humans with dog heads .".There is a serpent a span in length, of a most beautiful purple colour, with a very white head, and without teeth. ... If it is hung up by the tail it discharges two kinds of poison, one yellow like amber, when it is alive, the other black, when it is dead. If one drinks only as much of the former as a grain of sesamum dissolved in water, his brain runs out through his nose and he dies immediately; ..."

Aegimus according to Galen was the first Greek physician who wrote about the pulse in "Peri Palmon".

Euryphon of Cnidus

About 460 BC

Two fragments from Diogenes of Apollonia (or Apolloniates) (Διογένης ο Απολλωνιάτης) found contain detailed descriptions of the blood vessels of the human body (B6 DK) and of how air effects mentality (A19 DK). Diogenes was also a biologist, according to Aristotle he said that a fish can leave in the water because air is in the water “Ο δε Διογένης λέγει ότι οι ιχθ?ς, όταν απορρίπτωσι το ?δωρ διά των βραγχίων, τότε διά του κενο? το οποίον γίνεται εις το στόμα αυτών ροφο?σι τον αέρα εκ του ?δατος, όπερ περιστοιχίζει το στόμα των, διότι υποθέτει ότι υπάρχει αήρ εις το ?δωρ.? See also Aristotle in The History of Animals Book 3:

About 450 BC
Empedocles of Agrigentum
492- c 430 BC), son of the Olympic champion Meton, student of Xenophanes of Colophon, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae and Parmenides of Elea. Among his books De natura: a didactic poem (3 books, ca. 20% survived). He emphasized the therapeutic value of exercise, a healthy diet, and the maintenance of the purity of mind and body. Because he believed in the transmigration of souls, he taught that to eat an animal was an act of cannibalism. He considered the heart to be the center of the system of blood vessels through which the blood distributed innate heat to other parts of the body. He explained the phenomenon of breathing through the experiment with the clepsydra. He describes drugs against the ailments of old age. (Some information from the Technology Museum of Thessaloniki)

About 440 BC

Hippocrates of Cos (Ιπποκράτης) also locating thought, pleasure, and pain in the brain, maintained that diseases have natural causes, and observed that head injuries led to impairments on the opposite side of the body. The 'Hippocratic method' of treatment of the sick was to keep the patient in bed and let nature take its course.

430 BC

Plague in Athens (smallpox or typhus?) in 430 that lasts three years. A third of the population of Athens dies and is one of the reasons of Athens’ decline.

427 BC

Philistion of Locri (Φιλιστίων) (427-347 BC), Sicily, physician On Dieterics (Περί διαίτης) , Οψαρτυτικά , supporter of the four elements theory of Empedocles

About 420 BC

Democritus of Abdera (Δημόκριτος ο Αβδηρίτης) produced two major concepts in the history of ideas concerning the brain--that thought was situated there and, anticipating the nervous system, that psychic atoms constituted the material basis of its communication with the rest of the body and the world outside. Socrates, and hence the Platonic school, followed Democritus in locating thought in the brain.

4th century BC

Thessalus of Cos, the son of Hippocrates

About 380 BC

Evenor of Argos a gynecologist and ophthalmologist wrote a book entitled "On Treatments."

About 370 BC

Chrysippus of Cnidus (Χρ?σιππος ο Κνίδιος) was associated with the traditions of the Cnidian center of medical instruction. He wrote a treatise on vegetables, noting the health-promoting properties of cabbage.

Dexippus of Cos physician of Mausolus ruler over Caria (c.376–353 BC).

About 360-336 BC

Menecrates, a physician, was so puffed up with pride, that he styled himself Jupiter. Accordingly, Philip, king of Macedon, having upon one occasion prepared a most sumptuous banquet, and invited him amongst others, ordered a table to be laid for him apart from the rest, and a censer to be placed upon it, and frankincense and other perfumes to be burnt therein. Well, the rest partook of the feast. Menecrates, however, was at first delighted with the divine honours paid to him; but when hunger gradually crept over him, and he was proved to be a man -- and, moreover, a vain and stupid one, he arose up and went away, complaining that he had been insulted. William Smith, Short Tales and Anecdotes from Ancient History, 1866

Pyrrhon of Elis (c. 360 – c. 270 BC)

About 350 BC

Diocles of Karystos (or Carystus) (Διοκλής ο Καρ?στιος)( fl. 360-330 BC), student of Aristotle, was called a “second or younger Hippocrates? by the Athenians. He was known to have carried out experiments in dissection. He was an author about anatomy, physiology, pathology, embryology, gynecology, dietetics. He also wrote on medical botany. See: Philip van der Eijk , Diocles of Carystus (2 Vols., Leiden: Brill, 2000–1).

Phanostrate a woman physician and midwife, her stele (tomb) includes an inscriptios characterizing her as "iatros"

Gazzaniga V., Phanostrate, Metrodora, Lais and the others. Women in the medical profession , Med Secoli. 1997;9(2):277-90.

About 340 BC
Praxagoras of Cos (Πραξαγόρας) discovers the difference between arteries and veins (a pupil of Diocles, a physician influenced by Aristotle. He was famed for his "experimental" proof that the arteries beat independently of the heart. This was demonstrated by cutting flesh from an animal and watching it continue to move, much like innocent children gleefully removing the legs from harvestmen and watching them continue to wiggle apart from the body. Despite his somewhat morbid practices, he was able to acquire a great deal of anatomical knowledge. Cutting to the chase ) The Human Cardiovascular System

About 334 - 323 BC

Alexander the Great is accompanied during his expedition by physicians among which some are: Critobulus, Critodemus of Cos (some consider him as a bodyguard of Alexander but he is reported to carried out some operations in lack of medical instruments with the help of his sword ), Philippus of Acarnania (Alexander's personal physician) Alexippus, Pausanias and Glaucus (or Glaucias) ( Γλαυκίας ) , respectively the personal physicians of Peucestas, Craterus and Hephaestion. Alexander himself was trained into the art of medicine by Aristotle such that he had "sufficient medical knowledge to attend to the medical and pharmaceutical care of his friends and his men". See Plutarch, Life of Alexander

A problem with snake bites in India according to Arrian (Anabasis, Book 8 / Indica): “No Greek physicians have discovered a remedy against Indian snake-bite; but the Indians themselves used to cure those who were struck. And Nearchus adds that Alexander had gathered about him Indians very skilled in physic, and orders were sent round the camp that anyone bitten by a snake was to report at the royal pavilion?

About 334

Aristotle (Αριστοτέλης ο Σταγειρίτης) settles in Athens, founds Lyceum. He said that universals are abstractions from particulars and that we "have knowledge of a scientific fact when we can prove that it could not be otherwise." But "since observation never shows whether this is the case," he established "reason rather observation at the center of scientific effort" (Park 1990:32). After weighing the evidence, Aristotle decided that the organ of thought and sensation was the heart. But he was also the first to perceive the antithesis between epigenesis, "fresh development," and preformation, the "simple unfolding of pre-existing structures." The subsequent history of this controversy is "almost synonymous with the history of embryology" (Needham 1934:40).

About 300 BC

Birth of Agnodice, the only source of her story is Hyginus. A certain maiden named Agnodice desired to learn medicine and since she desired to learn she cut her hair, donned the clothes of a man and became a student of Herophilus. After she learned medicine, she heard a woman crying out in the throes of labor so she went to her assistance. The woman, thinking she was a man, refused her help; but Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed herself to be a woman and was thus able to treat her patient. When the male doctors found that their service were not wanted by the women, they began to accuse Agnodice, saying that she had seduced the women and they accused the women of feigning illness [to get visits from Agnodice]. When she was brought before the law court, the men began to condemn Agnodice. Agnodice once again lifted her tunic to show that she was indeed a woman. The male doctors began to accuse her all the more vehemently [for breaking the law forbidding women to study medicine]. At this point the wives of the leading men arrived saying “you men are not spouses but enemies since you are condemning her who discovered health for us.? Then the Athenians emended the law so that freeborn women could study medicine.

3rd century BC

Philinos of Cos

About 280 BC
Herophilus of Chalcedon
(Ηρόφιλος ο Χαλκηδόνιος) in Alexandria studied anatomy and compared humans and animals, distinguished between sensory and motor nerves,and between the cerebellum and the brain, noted that the cortex was folded into convolutions, and named the 'duodenum.'

About 260-250 BC

Erasistratus of Ioulis (Ερασίστρατος ο Κείος) in Alexandria dissected the brain and distinguished between the cerebrum and the cerebellum.

Probably in the 3rd century BC first evidence of an hemisphere specialization of the brain (left right asymmetry) that until 1982 was considered a modern discovery (maybe of 1836 first mentioned in a publication of 1863). In the first half of the nineteenth century everyone was convinced that the brain is functionally symmetric. G. J. C. Lokhorst. The first theory about hemispheric specialization: Fresh light on an old codex. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 51 (3): 293-312, July 1996.

About 250 BC
Death of Erasistratus and Herophilus.

About 240 BC

Eudemus of Alexandria, an anatomist, studied the nervous system, human osteology, female sex organs, and experimented in embryologic studies.

About 219 BC

The first Greek doctor to work in Rome, Archagathus of Sparta (Αρχάγανθος), was known as ‘the butcher’ because of his fondness for surgery and cautery. The activities of him and his kind prompted Cato the Censor to think that sending healers to Rome was one way in which the Greeks’ sought revenge on their captors (Plutarch Cato 23).

Cassius Hemina, one of our earliest authorities, asserts that the first physician to come to Rome was Archagathus son of Lysanias, who migrated from the Peloponnese in (219 BC). He adds that citizen rights were given him, and a surgery at the Acilian crossroads was bought with public money for his own use. They say that he was a wound specialist, and that his arrival at first was wonderfully popular, but presently from his savage use of the knife and cautery he was nicknamed "The Executioner", and his profession, with all physicians, became objects of loathing.
Pliny the Elder , H.N. 29.12-13

The Romans derived their knowledge of medicine at first from the Etruscans, and afterwards from the Greeks....Archagathus, who being the first foreign surgeon that settled at Rome, had a shop bought for him at the public expense, and was presented with the jus Quiritium B.C. 219 (Cassius Hemina, ap. Plin. H.N. Xxix.6); William Smith?

Around 200 BC
was noted for his combination of surgery with the use of drugs.

197-130 BC
Nicander of Colophon
, the son of Demaeus, Pharmacologist, Physician. Born in Clarus, near the Ionian city of Colophon. He served as a priest of Apollo in Clarus., Books: On prognostics, Theriaca a poem in 958 hexameters, describes venomous beasts, including 14 species of snakes, the effects of their poisons and the proper remedies. Mentions 125 species of plants. Alexipharmaca a poem in 630 hexameters, describes poisons in general, analyses 19 specific poisons, 8 animal and 11 vegetable and lists appropriate cures. (More other books about other topics most did not survive)

129-40 BC

Asclepiades of Bithynia (Ασκληπιάδης ) physician establishes Greek Medicine in Rome

First century BC

Apollonius Mys (maybe the same person known as Apollonius Herophileius), from the school of Herophilus, mentioned by Strabo. Comments about the work of Herophilus and his students, a book about pharmacy .

Apollonius Herophileius maybe the same person known as Apollonius Mys who wrote Peri Murown On Ointments , Peri Enropistown, De Facile Parabilibus according to Athenaeus and Galen

Themison of Laodicea (Θεμίσων) [1st century B.C.] Greek physician founder of the Methodist (Μεθοδικοί) school of medicine in Rome. A satyrical text (Juvenal): “As many sick folk as Themison has killed in a single autumn" (quot Themison aegros autumno occederit uno)?

About 100 BC

Demetrius of Apamaea was a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics.

Heracleides of Tarentum (Ηρακλείδης ο Ταραντίνος)( c. 70 BC) was the most famous of the Empirical physicians of his day. He made experiments on the properties of opium.

Crateuas the Herbalist (Κρατε?ας)(fl. c. 100 BC), botanist, pharmacologist, court physician to Mithridates VI Eupator, King of Pontus. Some of his books: De materia medica, On mineral remedies and aromatics, Herbalist (5 books), used by Dioscorides.

1st century BC

Athenaius of Atteleia, Pneumatic school

About 60 BC

Menodorus (Μηνόδωρος ) wrote drug recipes and some works on wounds of the head.

About 30 BC

Anaxilaus of Larissa, Physician and Philosopher, is considered to use magic tricks (was he such a good healer or a charlatan?). Like other “Magicians? , due to an order of Augustus, he was banished from Italy.

1st century AD

Thessalus of Tralles, a physician, one of the methodists. He claimed that with him as a teacher it is possible to learn medicine in 6 only months (compare Hippocrates statement: “art is long?). His epitaph claimed he was the greatest physician ever.

Aretaeus (or Aretaios) of Cappadocia

10 BC – 54 AD

The physician from Cos Stertinius Xenophon during the period of the Emperor Claudius, with an estimated fortune of 30000000 sesterces, more than Galen with “only? 20000000.

About 10-40 AD

Celsus (Κέλσος) a Roman physician writes the eight volume "De Medicina" that is a part of a larger encyclopedia. It was among the first medical texts to be published by the printing press in 1478. Many of the practices were used up till the 19th century. He named heat, pain, redness, and swellings as the four telltale signs of inflammation. He discussed such topics as: the history of medicine, diet and regimen, fevers, ulcers, venereal disease, facial plastic surgery using skin transplants, antiseptics, eye surgery, surgical hygiene, heart disease, the use of ligatures to stop arterial hemorrhage, insanity, hydrotherapy, tonsillectomy, oral and dental surgery, and the removal of bladder stones.

About 50-70 AD

Pedanius Dioscorides (Διοσκουρίδης o Πεδάνιος) published recommendations as to the medicinal use of specific plant extracts.

Archigenes of Apamaea (Αρχιγένης), a pharmacologist and Physician (54-117 AD), mentioned by Galen

Agathinus Claudius (Aγαθίνος) of Sparta, physician in Rome

c. 53 AD

Birth of Rufus of Ephesus (c. 53–117 AD ) a physician during the period of Trajan, an anatomist, interpretation of melancholia, invents the name of pancreas from pan-kreas 'all flesh', an organ described earlier also by Herophilus. Rufus describes methods to filter impure drinking water. He is the first author who describes a Plague epidemy in Syria and North Africa.

About 100-140 AD
Soranus of Ephesus
, (Σωρανός) Roman physician, studied medicine in Alexandria and wrote in Greek. He practised gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics. He was famous for his knowledge, observation, methodology, and sound judgment. He is considered the father of obstetrics. His books deal diagnostics, fracture surgery, history of medicine, hygiene, methodology, nervous disorders, problems of terminology, and symptomatology. His "Gynecology" tells of Roman belief regarding the female reproductive system, abortion, birth control, fertility, midwifery, and family planning. His opinions on women's and infants' care remained until the end of the Renaissance. He also described nervous disorders and their treatment. Selections from Soranus, Gynecology (1.2 MB PDF File)

About 170 AD

Claudius Galen (Γαληνός Κλα?διος ) used pulse taking as a diagnostic, performed numerous animal dissections, and wrote treatises on anatomy aid. The Galenic doctrine assumed that health depends on a balance of affinities or antagonisms associated with various bodily fluids or 'humors:' blood and fire (hot and dry), yellow bile and air (hot and wet), black bile and earth (cold and dry), and phlegm and water (cold and wet). "The object of good medical practice was to restore the balance of the humors by such treatment as bleeding or purgation with plant extracts" (Fruton 1972:27). Galen eskewed 'action at a distance' through the agency of gods or spirits, in his formulas he employed many odd ingredients, such as crocodile blood and mouse dung. But, if he can, he relates the efficacy to some mechanism: for example, for a root worn around the neck, inhalation of the particles of the root. He distinguished three ventricles and proposed that nerves are ducts conveying fluid pneuma secreted by the brain and spinal cord to the periphery of the body, which was the basis of the idea, widespread until the eighteenth century, that nervous tissue had a glandular function He broke pneuma, which means spirit or soul in Greek, down into various faculties, motor, sensory including the five senses, and rational. He divided the rational pneuma into several functions, imagination, reason, and memory. He also wrote of 'seeds of disease,' presumably what are now called germs.

2nd century AD


Jason of Athens, His stele with the text... 'Jason, also known as Decimus, of the Archarnian deme ..., Jason examines a child, with an unnaturally enlarged stomach. To the right a cupping vessel is shown (scale exaggerated) which when heated is used to draw blood or pus from a wound.

3rd Century AD

Antyllus, a surgeon, discusses 2 versions of aneurysm: developmental (caused by dilatation) and traumatic (as a result of wounding of an artery). He performed tracheotomies, eye surgery, tumor operation. He also discussed the importance of a healthy life which includes gymnastics, walking and swimming. He is remembered by the he Antyllus' method applied for the operation of aneurysms.

c. 350 AD

Oribasius (325-400) AD physician from Pergamum (Pergamon), adviser to emperor Julian the Apostate, mainly a compiler of the medical knowledge and author of a Medical Encyclopedia of around 70 book two third of which are lost (Image)

Byzantine Period

(some of the early Physicians influenced by ancient Greek medicine). Translation into Syriac-Arabic languages

c. 430 AD

Nestorians move from Byzantium to Persia, translate works of Hippocrates and Galen in Syriac language

500-600 AD

Aetius (502-575 AD) (Αέτιος / Αμίδα) described gynecological operations with instruments like the Uvula Crushing Forceps, in “περί των εν μήτρα παθών? he describes breast cancer operations. Some consider his work as a compilation of the work of others.

642 AD

Alexandria captured by the Arabs

c. 650 AD

Paul of Aegina (Paulus Aeginata; 625-690 AD)(Πα?λος ο Αιγινήτης) a Greek physician, especially famous as a surgeon. He compiled a medical history in seven volumes, “Pragmateia? . The sixth volume about surgery written about 642 AD in Alexandria influenced European and Arabic practice in the Middle Ages. See: Peter E. Pormann , The Oriental Tradition of Paul of Aegina's Pragmateia , Studies in Ancient Medicine, 29 Leiden Brill 2004 (Image Latin translation) (Image Greek Text)

Medicine (A History of Science, Volume 2, by Henry Smith Williams):

He was essentially a surgeon, being particularly familiar with military surgery, and some of his descriptions of complicated and difficult operations have been little improved upon even in modern times. In his books he describes such operations as the removal of foreign bodies from the nose, ear, and esophagus; and he recognizes foreign growths such as polypi in the air-passages, and gives the method of their removal. Such operations as tracheotomy, tonsellotomy, bronchotomy, staphylotomy, etc., were performed by him, and he even advocated and described puncture of the abdominal cavity, giving careful directions as to the location in which such punctures should be made. He advocated amputation of the breast for the cure of cancer, and described extirpation of the uterus. Just how successful this last operation may have been as performed by him does not appear; but he would hardly have recommended it if it had not been sometimes, at least, successful. That he mentions it at all, however, is significant, as this difficult operation is considered one of the great triumphs of modern surgery.

c. 850 -860 AD

Translation of works of Hippocrates and Galen into Arabic by Qusta ibn Luqa (a philosopher of Greek descent) and by Hunayn ibn Ishaq (Johannitius).

Vivian Nutton, Ancient Medicine. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Pp. xiv, 486; ills. 31, maps & plans 4. ISBN 0-415-08611-6

J. Longrigg, Greek Rational Medicine: Philosophy and Medicine from Alcmaeon to the Alexandrians (London,1993)

Other Physicians : Mnesitheus of Athens, Phylotimos a student of Praxagoras (both mentioned by Galen), Artaeus of Cappadocia (2nd cetury AD?), Nicias of Miletus a student of Erasistratus

Metrodora, woman physician (2nd to 4th century AD)

Selected pre-Socratics; Hippocratic Writings, pp. 67-86, 139-46, 170-84; Clendening: Galen "A case history," pp. 45-47

Ancient Anatomy

Alexandrian school of anatomy

Greek Medicine By Charles Singer

A History of Pharmacy : Robert Thom's Paintings

Mark McPherran, ‘ryximachus and Greek Medicine in Plato’s Symposium’. Site with PDF File

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