Writing in the Ps. - Hippocratic Letters, Speeches, and Decrees


  • Jochen Althoff Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz


Hippocrates , Democritus, Use of writing, Scientific texts, Act of composing a book , Biography , Communication between researchers, Knowledge transfer in antiquity , Hippocratic letters, Exchange of “offprints”, Recomposing scientific texts from originals


  Whereas the importance of writing for the development of a rational medicine has often been remarked, there has so far been little discussion of the practical aspects of composing medical books. The ps.-Hippocratic texts, although from Imperial times and not being original documents of Hippocrates’ lifetime, offer a few passages about exactly this practical side of writing.Some vividly depicted scenes show Democritus researching and writing. Besides, the letters provide examples of the exchange of scientific texts among researchers and of the composing of secondary texts based on (still extant) writings of the Corpus. Written compositions and letters are also shown to be media of quick communication in case of danger. This for the most part reflects the ideas of a later period about the everyday work of an intellectual, but does at least provide rarely acknowledged evidence for this era.