The Status of
History is philosophy teaching by example.
—DIONYSIUS OF HALICARNASSUS
TO FULLY PENETRATE the values and conduct of the ancient Greek physician, it is necessary first to examine certain fundamental elements of his historical setting. Thus, I have selected three areas of initial inquiry that hold the key to comprehending the cultural framework within which the ancient physician practiced his craft. These three areas are best introduced in the form of three questions. First, who was the Greek physician? Second, what were some of the leading theories of health and disease that guided his care of patients? And third, what were the dominant attitudes and theories of his culture regarding death and the afterworld?
In Part I, I shall develop answers to these three important questions, with the present chapter restricted to the first among them. My primary focus throughout will be centered on cultural developments in and around the Greek mainland between the sixth through fourth centuries B.C. My secondary focus will include selected features of the Greco-Roman world up to the time of Galen in the second century A.D.
Who was the ancient physician of fifth-century-B.c. Greece? What was his social rank? Ludwig Edelstein asserts that “whatever the situation may have been in prehistoric Greece, in Homer's time [ca. 725 B.C.], the physician was already the