Hippocrates at rest in Larisa

Hippocrates was born in about 460 BC on the island of Kos near Turkey, where it is assumed he studied medicine (records of him by ancient Greek writers are scant).

There are a variety of renditions of his life, but it seems that he spent over half of his about 90 years in Larisa (Larissa) the current capital of Greek Thessaly and city of the port of Volos, the launching pad of Jason and the Argonauts. Though there is little textual history, there are a number of connections that give evidence to Larisa being the home of Hippocrates and the region of his death at a great age.

Who among today’s doctors, even those of Larisa, know that the father of their art worked, lived, created and died on their doorsteps?

 Apparently Julius Caesar knew and he visited Hippocrates tomb when it was known to be near Larisa. To connect this history to today we have to come forward to 1826 when there was a great flood in Larisa and a tomb was unearthed and Hippocrates’ ‘ownership’ was identified by a simple inscription in ancient Greek on the tomb. No alternative claimants have arisen, so what great monument has been erected to this amazing man?

Behind a bus stop on a regional road in the outskirts of Larisa stands a simple marble monument, half below ground level, of flat pyramidal shape with a statue on top of Hippocrates completed near Christmas in 1978. The museum was opened 8 years later, but has not been attended with much tourist (or donor) attention, for reasons that are a little obscure.

Simple inscriptions bear witness to this being the monument to the great doctor. Mostly, the monument is closed pending its ultimate revitalisation by the municipality. A private viewing was arranged by our hosts, local mosaic artist, Antonis Karakonstantakis and surgeon, Marios Xiromeritis, so we had the opportunity to survey historical records of Hippocrates and a wide range of news-clippings and publications of medical and scientific history, interestingly, much of which recorded great German contributors.

What were the many claims to fame of Hippocrates? Possibly, the oath that captured his name followed his death, but many sayings of men become better described in the hereafter. Prognosis was a foundation of Hippocratic medicine. In fact, the medical interest of Hippocrates seems to have sometimes concentrated on human orifices.

The rear wall of the monument includes the reproduction of an ancient drawing of a lady seated in a chair, giving birth, aided obviously by gravity, in comparison with the modern technique whereby the lady is prone somewhat fighting gravity. Hippocrates is also still remembered for his proctological inventiveness to the extent that his procedures for hemorrhoid treatment are still in vogue, and these are explained in various drawings on the rear monument walls. Maybe, this pragmatic approach to medicine reduced the ‘romantic’ attachment of historians to celebrate the achievements of Hippocrates.

Yet, given that the number of medical graduates around the world exceeds 100,000 per annum, there would seem to be an opportunity missed in medical tourism, that an entrepreneurial Greek tourism authority or promoter could address.