‘Evidentemente il sapiente ha studiato medicina’. Per una revisione dei rapporti fra i cosiddetti presocratici e la medicina ippocratica. L’esempio di Democrito

M. Laura Gemelli Marciano


The belief in the dependence of the Hippocratic works on pre-Socratic doctrines will be reconsidered not only in relation to the fifth-century cultural context, but also in relation to specific cases. Medical knowledge was spread among both amateur scholars and among the ‘sapienti’ (Sophists) through treatises and public symposia. By the end of the last decades of the 5th century B.C., a new type of Sophist appeared as a result of the spread of this technical knowledge; who started writing treatises in parallel to the specialists. Consequently, we must reconsider the view that physicians always depended on the theories of natural philosophers. The case of Democritus is paradigmatic. The enthusiasm engendered by his anatomical theory and the aetiology of several phenomena has obscured his debt to the technical literature, in particular to the medical tradition. This essay seeks to underline the importance of that background to some crucial aspects of his doctrines and thus provides an alternative viewpoint to the traditional approach.

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