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October 2021

Am J Nephrol. 1997 ; 17(3-4): 205-8.

The parallels between Asclepian and Hippocratic medicine on the island of Kos.

Marketos SG.

Department of History of Medicine, Athens University Medical School, Greece.

At the end of the 20th century, Hippocratic medicine--which developed at the cross-roads between the occidental and oriental civilisations--acts as a link, a bridge and a symbol for the need to combine both the experience of traditional (Eastern) and the trends of modern (Western) medicine. Hippocratic medicine is one vital pathway to the proper study of the evolution of the medical art. Not only is it the beginning of the art and science of medicine, but modern medicine can still learn from the Hellenic medicine of ancient Greece. Hippocratic medicine is both an antidote to an overconcentration and overemphasis on medical technology and a stimulus to more humane technical achievements. Hippocratic bedside examination has not died, but is merely pushed aside temporarily by modern technology. The fact that ancient Hellenic medicine was based on the coexistence of both Asclepian (traditional) and Hippocratic (rational) medicine on the island of Kos reveals and symbolises the necessary coexistence and cooperation of both systems, a synthesis of their concepts being essential to solve the problems threatening the future of humankind. Hellenic medicine serves to highlight that the parallels between Asclepian and Hippocratic medicine are closer than medical historians usually realise, and that alternative medicine may function in a complementary way to conventional primary medical care.

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