This is the original version of the famed Hippocratic Oath, which physicians 2500 years ago took. While we no longer swear by the Greek gods, notice the deeply religious overtones of this oath. In addition, one can see how in the second paragraph, medicine is very much a carefully guarded body of knowledge. Finally, notice the emphasis on not causing death and respecting all people. For comparison, take a look at a modern version of the oath.

Translated by W.H.S. Jones and Calvin Gross


I swear by Apollo Physician, by Asclepius, by Hygeia, by Panacea and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this contract.

To hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood ; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture; to impart precepts, oral instruction, and all other instruction  to my own sons, the sons of my teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to nobody else.

I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing.

Neither will I administer a deadly drug to anyone when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.

But in purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on those suffering from stones, but I will defer to those who practice such work.

Into whatever households I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all voluntary wrongdoing and corruption, especially from abusing the bodies of men and women, slave and free. And whatever I see or hear in the lives of my patients, whether in the course of my practice or not, which ought not to be spoken of, I will keep secret, regarding such things as unutterable.

Now as long as I hold to this oath, and corrupt it not, may I be granted the fruits of my life and my art and hold the respect of all men for all time; but if I transgress and violate it, may the opposite befall me.