We have already said, that nearly everywhere the temples of Esculapius were dispensaries, in which advice was given and remedies administered, and that the young sacerdotal aspirants were there trained in the practice of Medicine. The Asclepiadae had preserved, until that epoch, the tradition of the Egypto-Indian school, which only allowed
them to transmit their doctrines to the members of their caste, and to such strangers as fulfilled satisfactorily the iniatory tests. But when the disciples of Pythagoras had revealed the secret of their mysteries, and the philosophers had dared to teach and discuss publically the principles of morals, physics, and theology, and when the itinerant physicians, and the professors of the gymnasiae, had acquired the confidence of the public, the priests of Esculapius could no longer keep silence, under the penalty of seeing the scepter of Medicine, which they had held until then, fall from their hands. They were constrained to bring to the light of discussion the principles and rules of their medical practice. In this way the science, whose aim is the preservation and re-establishment of health, came forth at last from the shadow of the sanctuary, and, vivified by public discussion, made in a short time extraordinary progress.
The priests who served in the temples at Cnidus were the first to follow the impulse of the age. They published the little collection of Cnidian sentences, of which we have already made mention. The Asclepiadae, of Cos, did not hesitate to follow their example. They published a series of treatises, that were collected at a later period under the title of the Hippocratic Works. This collection, which overshadowed all the medical publications of that period, constitutes one of the most precious monuments of ancient Medicine. But before speaking of the matter which it contains, we shall say a word or two about the personage whose name it bears.
From History of medicine by P.V. Renouard M.D.