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By Hippocrates
Commentary: A few comments have been posted about Aphorisms.

Download: A text-only version is available for download.


By Hippocrates

Written 400 B.C.E

Translated by Francis Adams

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Section V
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1. A spasm from taking hellebore is of a fatal nature.

2. Spasm supervening on a wound is fatal.

3. A convulsion, or hiccup, supervening on a copious discharge of blood is bad.

4. A convulsion, or hiccup, supervening upon hypercatharsis is bad.

5. If a drunken person suddenly lose his speech, he will die convulsed, unless fever come on, or he recover his speech at the time when the consequences of a debauch pass off.

6. Such persons as are seized with tetanus die within four days, or if they pass these they recover.

7. Those cases of epilepsy which come on before puberty may undergo a change; but those which come on after twenty-five years of age, for the most part terminate in death.

8. In pleuritic affections, when the disease is not purged off in fourteen days, it usually terminates in empyema.

9. Phthisis most commonly occurs between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years.

10. Persons who escape an attack of quinsy, and when the disease is turned upon the lungs, die in seven days; or if they pass these they become affected with empyema.

11. In persons affected with phthisis, if the sputa which they cough up have a heavy smell when poured upon coals, and if the hairs of the head fall off, the case will prove fatal.

12. Phthisical persons, the hairs of whose head fall off, die if diarrhoea set in.

13. In persons who cough up frothy blood, the discharge of it comes from the lungs.

14. Diarrhoea attacking a person affected with phthisis is a mortal symptom.

15. Persons who become affected with empyema after pleurisy, if they get clear of it in forty days from the breaking of it, escape the disease; but if not, it passes into phthisis.

16. Heat produces the following bad effects on those who use it frequently: enervation of the fleshy parts, impotence of the nerves, torpor of the understanding, hemorrhages, deliquia, and, along with these, death.

17. Cold induces convulsions, tetanus, mortification, and febrile rigors.

18. Cold is inimical to the bones, the teeth, the nerves, the brain, and the spinal marrow, but heat is beneficial.

19. Such parts as have been congealed should be heated, except where there either is a hemorrhage, or one is expected.

20. Cold pinches ulcers, hardens the skin, occasions pain which does not end in suppuration, blackens, produces febrile rigors, convulsions, and tetanus.

21. In the case of a muscular youth having tetanus without a wound, during the midst of summer, it sometimes happens that the allusion of a large quantity of cold water recalls the heat. Heat relieves these diseases.

22. Heat is suppurative, but not in all kinds of sores, but when it is, it furnishes the greatest test of their being free from danger. It softens the skin, makes it thin, removes pain, soothes rigor, convulsions, and tetanus. It removes affections of the head, and heaviness of it. It is particularly efficacious in fractures of the bones, especially of those which have been exposed, and most especially in wounds of the head, and in mortifications and ulcers from cold; in herpes exedens, of the anus, the privy parts, the womb, the bladder, in all these cases heat is agreeable, and brings matters to a crisis; but cold is prejudicial, and does mischief.

23. Cold water is to be applied in the following cases; when there is a hemorrhage, or when it is expected, but not applied to the spot, but around the spot whence the blood flows; and in inflammations and inflammatory affections, inclining to a red and subsaguineous color, and consisting of fresh blood, in these cases it is to be applied but it occasions mortification in old cases; and in erysipelas not attended with ulceration, as it proves injurious to erysipelas when ulcerated.

24. Cold things, such as snow and ice, are inimical to the chest, being provocative of coughs, of discharges of blood, and of catarrhs.

25. Swellings and pains in the joints, ulceration, those of a gouty nature, and sprains, are generally improved by a copious affusion of cold water, which reduces the swelling, and removes the pain; for a moderate degree of numbness removes pain.

26. The lightest water is that which is quickly heated and quickly cooled.

27. When persons have intense thirst, it is a good thing if they can sleep off the desire of drinking.

28. Fumigation with aromatics promotes menstruation, and would be useful in many other cases, if it did not occasion heaviness of the head.

29. Women in a state of pregnancy may be purged, if there be any urgent necessity (or, if the humors be in a state of orgasm?), from the fourth to the seventh month, but less so in the latter case. In the first and last periods it must be avoided.

30. It proves fatal to a woman in a state of pregnancy, if she be seized with any of the acute diseases.

31. If a woman with child be bled, she will have an abortion, and this will be the more likely to happen, the larger the foetus.

32. Haemoptysis in a woman is removed by an eruption of the menses.

33. In a woman when there is a stoppage the menses, a discharge of blood from the nose is good.

34. When a pregnant woman has a violent diarrhoea, there is danger of her miscarrying.

35. Sneezing occurring to a woman affected with hysterics, and in difficult labor, is a good symptom.

36. When the menstrual discharge is of a bad color and irregular, it indicates that the woman stands in need of purging.

37. In a pregnant woman, if the breasts suddenly lose their fullness, she has a miscarriage.

38. If, in a woman pregnant with twins, either of her breasts lose its fullness, she will part with one of her children; and if it be the right breast which becomes slender, it will be the male child, or if the left, the female.

39. If a woman who is not with child, nor has brought forth, have milk, her menses are obstructed.

40. In women, blood collected in the breasts indicates madness.

41. If you wish to ascertain if a woman be with child, give her hydromel to drink when she is going to sleep, and has not taken supper, and if she be seized with tormina in the belly, she is with child, but otherwise she is not pregnant.

42. A woman with child, if it be a male, has a good color, but if a female, she has a bad color.

43. If erysipelas of the womb seize a woman with child, it will probably prove fatal.

44. Women who are very lean, have miscarriages when they prove with child, until they get into better condition.

45. When women, in a moderate condition of body, miscarry in the second or third month, without any obvious cause, their cotyledones are filled with mucosity, and cannot support the weight of the foetus, but are broken asunder.

46. Such women as are immoderately fat, and do not prove with child, in them it is because the epiploon (fat?) blocks up the mouth of the womb, and until it be reduced, they do not conceive.

47. If the portion of the uterus seated near the hip-joint suppurate, it gets into a state requiring to be treated with tents.

48. The male foetus is usually seated in the right, and the female in the left side.

49. To procure the expulsion of the secundines, apply a sternutatory, and shut the nostrils and mouth.

50. If you wish to stop the menses in a woman, apply as large a cupping instrument as possible to the breasts.

51. When women are with child, the mouth of their womb is closed.

52. If in a woman with child, much milk flow from the breasts, it indicates that the foetus is weak; but if the breasts be firm, it indicates that the foetus is in a more healthy state.

53. In women that are about to miscarry, the breasts become slender; but if again they become hard, there will be pain, either in the breasts, or in the hip-joints, or in the eyes, or in the knees, and they will not miscarry.

54. When the mouth of the uterus is hard, it is also necessarily shut.

55. Women with child who are seized with fevers, and who are greatly emaciated, without any (other?) obvious cause, have difficult and dangerous labors, and if they miscarry, they are in danger.

56. In the female flux (immoderate menstruation?), if convulsion and deliquium come on, it is bad.

57. When the menses are excessive, diseases take place, and when the menses are stopped, diseases from the uterus take place.

58. Strangury supervenes upon inflammation of the rectum, and of the womb, and strangury supervenes upon suppuration of the kidney, and hiccup upon inflammation of the liver.

59. If a woman do not conceive, and wish to ascertain whether she can conceive, having wrapped her up in blankets, fumigate below, and if it appear that the scent passes through the body to the nostrils and mouth, know that of herself she is not unfruitful.

60. If woman with a child have her courses, it is impossible that the child can be healthy.

61. If a woman's courses be suppressed, and neither rigor nor fever has followed, but she has been affected with nausea, you may reckon her to be with child.

62. Women who have the uterus cold and dense (compact?) do not conceive; and those also who have the uterus humid, do not conceive, for the semen is extinguished, and in women whose uterus is very dry, and very hot, the semen is lost from the want of food; but women whose uterus is in an intermediate state between these temperaments prove fertile.

63. And in like manner with respect to males; for either, owing to the laxity of the body, the pneuma is dissipated outwardly, so as not to propel the semen, or, owing to its density, the fluid (semen?) does not pass outwardly; or, owing to coldness, it is not heated so as to collect in its proper place (seminal vessels?), or, owing to its heat, the very same thing happens.

64. It is a bad thing to give milk to persons having headache, and it is also bad to give it in fevers, and to persons whose hypochondria are swelled up, and troubled with borborygmi, and to thirsty persons; it is bad also, when given to those who have bilious discharges in acute fevers, and to those who have copious discharges of blood; but it is suitable in phthisical cases, when not attended with very much fever; it is also to be given in fevers of a chronic and weak nature, when none of the aforementioned symptoms are present, and the patients are excessively emaciated.

65. When swellings appear on wounds, such cases are not likely to be attacked either with convulsions, or delirium, but when these disappear suddenly, if situated behind, spasms and tetanus supervene, and if before, mania, acute pains of the sides, or suppurations, or dysentery, if the swellings be rather red.

66. When no swelling appears on severe and bad wounds, it is a great evil.

67. In such cases, the soft are favorable; and crude, unfavorable.

68. When a person is pained in the back part of the head, he is benefited by having the straight vein in the forehead opened.

69. Rigors commence in women, especially at the loins, and spread by the back to the head; and in men also, rather in the posterior than the anterior side of the body, as from the arms and thighs; the skin there is rare, as is obvious from the growth of hair on them.

70. Persons attacked with quartans are not readily attacked with convulsions, or if previously attacked with convulsions, they cease if a quartan supervene.

71. In those persons in whom the skin is stretched, and parched and hard, the disease terminates without sweats; but in those in whom the skin is loose and rare, it terminates with sweats.

72. Persons disposed to jaundice are not very subject to flatulence.

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