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Old 12-26-2020, 03:35 PM   #1
business_kid
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Primum Non Nocere? Who?


This latin phrase is attributed to Hippocrates, but I want to dispute that, and consult the collective wisdom of the nerds, Gurus, Veterans, Geeks and <expletive deleted> who pass through here.

Hippocrates lived 460BC - 370BC. At this stage, the Romans had probably stopped swinging from tree to tree, but they were a bit better than a small fishing village on the Tiber, but no player on the world stage.

To expect Hippocrates, a Greek to know Latin would be a bit like Vladimir a Russian Medic to know Scots Gaelic, or Navajo. Latin was the language of the plebs, or lowest rung of society. I don't even know if the Romans had invented higher rungs at that stage.

So Hippocrates did not say "Primum Non Nocere." If he did, he wouldn't have known what it meant. So who did, or what did Hippocrates actually say?

/Personal theory:
I can imagine Hippocrates' Greek oath being translated into English, and then being re-translated/obfuscated into a classical language by some toffee nosed type with his head up his derrière. Likely those toffee nosed types only knew Latin because he was too dumb to be taught Greek. It's a plausible explanation for the language of the illiterate being pawned off as a Classical Language today.
 
Old 12-26-2020, 07:36 PM   #2
michaelk
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All the references show it being attributed to the English doctor Thomas Sydenham (1860) and did not become a widely used phrase until the 1930s.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15778417/
 
Old 12-27-2020, 07:12 AM   #3
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Haha, Thank you, Michaelk! I Grabbed the paper for the file, and I'll read over it at my leisure.

So my personal theory was correct. It's a pity that most of the "educated" were taught Latin, but most of the stuff really worth reading or saying was spoken in Greek.

Do you know, btw, if the Romans were still swinging from tree to tree in 460?
 
Old 12-27-2020, 09:17 AM   #4
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If they did I would guess there would be some historical record of the event.
 
Old 12-27-2020, 11:10 AM   #5
business_kid
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Didn't get that, exactly. they??

The Romans hardly wrote down when they stopped swinging from tree to tree. They were still some regional tribe in Italy that Alexander wasn't bothered conquering. The Gauls had just done them over in 387BC anyhow. They had become a force two hundred years later, partly because the Greeks had imploded in civil wars. It was when they put a war machine together, and conquered Carthage that they became conquerors.

Incidentally, I don't believe much from Ancient history. For instance, I always thought Caligula was out of his tree. But last night I watched Tony Robinson's Romans (episode 3) and he gave what I thought was a much more evidence-based and thoughtful account.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gpectv-3uc

Last edited by business_kid; 12-27-2020 at 11:17 AM.
 
Old 12-27-2020, 04:28 PM   #6
ondoho
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere says:
Quote:
The Hippocratic Oath includes the promise "to abstain from doing harm"
Personally I don't think that's very far way from "First, do no harm".

Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
/Personal theory:
I can imagine Hippocrates' Greek oath being translated into English, and then being re-translated/obfuscated into a classical language by some toffee nosed type with his head up his derrière.
Oh my.
The Romans enslaved the Greek, but that did not keep them from adoring their culture in all its facets. To the point that many Roman gods & godesses were actually Greek gods & goddesses with Latin names.
I find that a much more likely explanation for how Hippocrates first turned into Latin.
 
Old 12-27-2020, 05:14 PM   #7
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While there are several translations of the oath like "and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.” The experts seem to think the closet wording is from Epidemics I.11 "As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least to do no harm."

But from the posted wikipedia article the actual origin is unknown and unlikely to have originated with Hippocrates.
 
Old 12-28-2020, 03:40 AM   #8
ondoho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelk View Post
But from the posted wikipedia article the actual origin is unknown and unlikely to have originated with Hippocrates.
If you mean the exact Latin phrasing as per OP, yes.
But the article says very unambiguously "The Hippocratic Oath includes the promise "to abstain from doing harm". That is good enough for me to maintain that it did originate from Hippocrates.
 
Old 12-28-2020, 05:40 AM   #9
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So we're basically agreed then. The argument & sentiment is that of Hippocrates. The Latin was not.

I find the idea of a Roman Greek --> Latin Translation unlikely, as there was a huge class divide. The Latin speakers were Etruscans and other plebs, and were servants and lowlifes in Roman Society. Yes, they knew how to read & write, but I find it unlikely that a book for medical professionals would be translated for them.

The Gods were different. The Gods were for the plebs, as there was a notable lack of religious belief as you rose towards the top. No wars were started or even threatened for religious reasons by Rome. But the Gods got lip service from the top to sway the Masses. So the Gods had Latin names.
 
Old 12-28-2020, 01:12 PM   #10
ondoho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
So we're basically agreed then. The argument & sentiment is that of Hippocrates. The Latin was not.
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
I find the idea of a Roman Greek --> Latin Translation unlikely, as there was a huge class divide. The Latin speakers were Etruscans and other plebs, and were servants and lowlifes in Roman Society. Yes, they knew how to read & write, but I find it unlikely that a book for medical professionals would be translated for them.
Where are you getting this from? I don't get it. Of course there was a class divide, Greece was conquered and Greeks were enslaved by Romans.
And - are you saying the higher classes did not speak Latin? I find that unlikely. No, Latin was the official language. And Greek.

Greek influence on the Roman empire was huge and ubiquitous, esp. in areas of arts, architecture, education, warfare, religion, literature... It doesn't take a scholarship to know that, and a quick search will confirm it (and yes, I copied some phrasing from the first result).
 
Old 12-28-2020, 03:42 PM   #11
business_kid
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I was Jesuit educated, for my sins, and Ireland was bitten by class distinction in the past, whereas we have abandoned it now. Latin class had a module on Roman history. I was more interested in that than translating Virgil. That's where I got that stuff, in the main.

The Greeks were colonized more than enslaved, like everybody else. All was fine once they paid their taxes. An educated Greek with any pretense of philosophy who had written a book or two could earn a good living as a teacher in Rome. Pupils were brought to the 'Ludo' (=school) by the 'tutor' (a slave) whose job it was to bring and collect his family's pupils. Wven the merchants spoke Greek(and Latin).

Yes, the Romans imported their education from the Greeks. The aristocracy knew Latin- you needed Latin to order slaves and soldiers about, but spoke Greek, which had become the international tongue. Jews spoke Greek also. The entire Greek Empire converted their subjects to Greek. The Bible Jesus quoted from was the Greek Septuagint - a translation of the Hebrew ~270BC. Only one gospel was written in Hebrew - Matthew, which it is believed he translated into Greek.

I personally feel the Romans could sure organize and copy, but were not philosophers. Their engineering and aquaducts were brilliant. At one spot, they led off a feed to where they had 16 overshot water wheels (in parallel) for milling, or some such, and the water was recycled and fed on somewhere else!

Roman literature was burned when Rome fell, but copies survived in provinces. A copy of Flavius Josephus' history of the Jews was found in the 15/16th century - in Greek, of course.
 
  


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