ii MAGIC HEALING IN THE PRE-CHRISTIAN ERA 65
doctors of the medical school of Cos, who were themselves priests of Asklepios but appear to have broken down the barriers of secrecy and exclusiveness that hemmed in the older temple. This school is famous in history as being the first scientific institution from which complete treatises have come down to us. From it we have a collection put together at a later date into a corpus known as the Hippocratic Collection, but certainly consisting mainly of the work of members of the school. The school was founded about 600 B.C., and the earliest extant work was composed about 500 B.C.
The great man, Hippocrates, after whom the school came to be called, was born about 470 B.C. and lived to a great age, dying perhaps as late as 370 B.C. Three or four treatises were possibly the work of Hippocrates himself; all were contemporary with him and embody his teaching. They are of supreme importance in the history of scientific thought.
With the Hippocratic school of medicine we enter the domain of science in the fullest sense. Of positive science we must not indeed expect very much. It is recognized that the fund of medical knowledge can only grow slowly with the passage of the generations, and a tradition is established of teaching the results of experience.
Among the most notable treatises one is called On the Sacred Disease. Here we find a formal and explicit denial of the supernatural view of the nature of disease. The sacred disease was epilepsy, then generally regarded as a divine visitation. ' It seems to me ', says the writer, ' that the disease is no more divine than any other. It has a natural cause, just as other diseases have. Men think it divine only because they^do not understand it. But if they called^everything divine which they do not understand, why there would be no end of divine things/