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Ancient Greece

Hippocrates & his oath

The cult of the Greek God of healing, Aesculapius, led to the formation of healing temples throughout Greece in the third century BC. 

It is likely that these were places of medical learning as well. 

There were, according to written records, major medical schools at Kos (pictured right), Knidos and Epidauros.

The Works of Hippocrates

Medicine in Ancient Greece is most closely associated with the works of Hippocrates (c 496BC – 399BC). Although there is some controversy about how much of this writing was actually by Hippocrates, it certainly does contain some early urological facts.

For example, the following statements were made:

  • urine is made in the kidneys and flows into the bladder
  • blood in the urine comes from the kidneys or bladder
  • strangury, dysuria and anuria are separate symptoms
  • urinary symptoms are caused by diseases of the bladder, kidneys or urethra

The works of Hippocrates contain the first description of uroscopy (the visual examination of the urine to make a diagnosis) and, of course, mention of “cutting for the stone”.

The Hippocratic Oath

Contrary to popular belief, the Hippocratic Oath (pictured, right) has not been taken by newly-qualified UK doctors for many years. 

However, the speciality of urology was indirectly recognised in the Oath. Although the true meaning of “I shall not cut for the stone” in the Hippocratic Oath is not entirely clear, it tends to suggest that physicians and surgeons were regarded as separate practitoners, even in ancient Greece. 

The subsequent phrase, “I shall leave this to practitioners of that art” suggests that either bladder stone specialists or urologists were already practising in the 5th century BC.

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Greece    haematuria    stones    urinary