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[Perspectives] Epilepsy

Whoever wrote the Hippocratic treatise On the Sacred Disease—almost certainly not the historical Hippocrates— had an eye for an ironic title. This short text is a manifesto for the secular, materialistic medicine we associate with the Hippocratics, and a blistering attack on the claims of ancient Greek folk healers and “temple medicine”. The sacred disease—a condition characterised by fits, foaming lips, and loss of consciousness—was not, the author argued, caused by a demon or a heavenly thunderbolt, but was the result of a blockage in the flow of chilly phlegm around the body.