Print this page



Hippocrates - philosopher, scientist, author, doctor - one of the greatest in a galaxy of great minds of the ancient Greek World, was born on the island of Kos in 460 BC.

He died in 370 BC, about a decade before the birth of Alexander the Great and the dawn of the Hellenistic era during which the Greek ideas and achievements in mathematics, philosophy, science, literature, architecture, art and politics, along with the Hippocratic rational medicine were spread to the then known world.

The ancestry of Hippocrates is connected to Greek mythology. It is said that he was 20th generation descendant of demigod Hercules (son of Zeus) and 18th generation descendant of demigod - later deified as God of Medicine - Asklepios (son of Apollo). He was thus a descendant of two of the most respected and honored Olym¬pian Gods in the ancient Greek World. Suffice it to point out that the installations of the Olympic Games in Ancient Olympia were dedicated to Zeus, while the Oracle Place in Delphi was a shrine of Apollo.

By heredity, Hippocrates could be in the guild of Asclepiads ¬physicians who were practicing their healing art based mainly on a combination of religious beliefs and prejudice by administrating of various herbs, an art passed on from father to son - since his grandfather, his father and his uncle had been Asclepiads. Regarding the beginning of this practice in Kos, Homer mentions that Asclepiads Podalerios of Thessalia (in mainland Greece) physician-son of Asklepios had fought with the Greeks in the Trojan War. After the fall of Troy, Asclepiads was returning by ship to his homeland, but got ship-reeked and landed on Kos. There he settled and began practicing his healing art, which survived and evolved through the guild of the Asclepiads, until the era of Hippocrates.

Among the teachers of Hippocrates were men like Herodecos, as well known dietician of that time and the sophist Gorgias, while Democritos, the inventor of the concept of the atomic constitution of matter, became his friend.
Hippocrates was practically a contemporary of Plato (429-347 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC, who later became the tutor of Alexander the Great) and of some of the great playwrights of Athens. He traveled extensively and offered his services in many Greek cities.Plato mentions Hippocrates twice in his dialogues. Once in "Pro¬tagoras" where Socrates urges a young man, also named Hippocrates, to travel to Kos in order to study medicine near Hippocrates of Kos. In "Phaedrus", Hippocrates is mentioned as the man who teaches that the practice of medicine requires the understanding of natural events.

Aristotle in his Politics VII says: "When one mentions the Great Hippocrates, one means not the man but the Physician"Hippocrates was the first to secularize medicine by rejecting the ancient religious-oriented healing practice. His therapeutic methods started with the careful observation of the phenomena of disease, attempting a rational approach to diagnosis. The treatment placed emphasis on the patient and relied on the recovery ability of the human body when placed in the proper environment and supported by the appropriate medicines. When necessary, surgery was applied on external parts, using opium and mandragora as anesthetics.

Thus, he introduced principles of Science in the therapy of Man's Body and Mind. It is in this respect that, since Roman times, he is considered as the Father of Medicine.

Galenos (Galen), a Greek who lived and worked in Pergamos, Asia Minor, in the second century AD, is the most famous of the intellec¬tual pupils of Hippocrates and another giant in the history of Medicine.

Galen's numerous writings demonstrate his complete devotion and reverence for the Father of Medicine. His writings - alongwith the Hippocratic Corpus (first Latin translation of which was published in AD 1525) - constituted the standard text books of scientific medi¬cine from the Hellenistic-Roman to the post-Medieval period. Through his ideas and actions, Hippocrates became a strong legacy and was the reason behind the creation of the Asclepieion.

The Asclepieion complex, remnants of which can be seen today, was built on the same site of the ancient sanctuary of the Asclepiads, of which only the ancient altar of Asclepios had survived. It was situated in an ancient cypress grove, sacred to Apollo Kyparissios, about 100 meters above sea level, on a downward sloping terrain, through which ran waters that came from natural mineral springs. The evergreen cypress grove still grows all around the site of the remnants of the Asclepieion.

The construction of the complex began toward the end of the 4th century. The various buildings were built over four centuries on three levels of the sloping terrain, an indication that the Asclepieion of Kos kept expanding its facilities, as a result of its increasing fame and influence.

Through its Asclepieion, Kos succeeded in achieving a special kind of influence over political powers like Athens, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and his successors, and the Roman Empire, by sending Koan doctors to all cities and states that needed them.

Numerous inscriptions have been found in Kos and elsewhere, honour¬ing Koan doctors for their services to various cities and states. Some well known Koan doctors, after Hippocrates, were Thessalos and Drakon sons of Hippocrates, the anatomist Praxagoras, Kritodemos the surgeon of Alexander the Great, Dexippos, Erasistratos and Ster¬tinios Xenophon who practiced in Rome, in the service of Emperors

Despite the fact that the splendor that was there for almost 900 years is now absent, to modern physicians visiting the Asclepieion is just as moving and breath-taking as visiting anyone of the above three great symbols of Greece.

One of the greatest Greek Hippocrateans of the last 50 years undoubtedly was the late Spyros Economou, Professor of Urology at the University of Athens. Professor Economou captured the idea of creating an international medical center in Kos, to honor of the Great Son of Kos and Father of Medicine Hippocrates. He began this effort knowing the difficulties. Thanks to his patience, however, he was lucky to see his dream become reality.

But first, the people of Kos envisioned honoring their great ancestor during the years of black slavery covering our islands. Despite the ambitious efforts of the regional government as well as those of scientific world this idea did not materialize because the dramatic events of the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Second World War had taken place.After the liberation and integration of the Dodecanese into the National Corps, the leadership of Kos and other feisty patriots continued their efforts to create an International Medical Studies Center in honor of Hippocrates in his homeland , the island of Kos.

In order to realize this vision and to find financial resources, charities were formed both at home and abroad, especially between the medical world. Unfortunately, however, Greece's financial situation did not allow for the materialization of these plans.

This ambitious idea will be realized a few decades later, namely in 1960, with Professor Spyros Economou. Founding members for the creation of IFHK based in Athens, were:

1) Panos Panagiotou, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Athens
2) Nicholas Grigoriou, Counselor of State
3) Ioannis Koutsoheras, Lawyer - Writer / Parliament Member of Greece and the EU
4) Loukas L