Treatment from the Asclepiads seemed effective simply because most patients recovered from illness themselves.
The Asclepiads also had an excuse for their failures: they said that those who didn’t recover had angered the gods too much.
Hippocrates’ approach to medicine was scientific.
The symptoms of the patient were observed and recorded daily.
The condition of the eyes and skin, body temperature, appetite, and urine were examined. He would press his ears against the patient’s body and listen to the sounds of the heart and other internal organs.
He learned that understanding the exact symptoms could lead to an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment was more difficult. We know now that many common diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses.
There was no technology to detect these germs in Hippocrates’ time. There were no drugs, anesthesia, or surgical tools.
An important part of Hippocratic medicine was prevention. As the true causes of diseases became known, physicians could inform their patients how to avoid illness.
This became known as prognosis, from the Greek for “to know beforehand.”
The Persian king Artaxerxes offered Hippocrates his entire fortune if he would stop an epidemic that was wiping out his army.
Hippocrates turned him down because Greece was at war with Persia at the time.