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Many principles behind conditions and their treatment have been attributed to the Ancient Greeks. They could be regarded as the first to use a scientific approach, however they were also the first to document in detail their history and developments. Homer alone, in his account of the Trojan war, has provided us with an adequate insight to the understanding of injuries at that time and the treatment used for those injuries. The Iliad also contains references to various deformities. The Greek anatomists of Alexandria, during the 3rd century BC were also great contributors. Herophilus, who is believed to have practised human dissection, is regarded as the first to divide nerves into sensory and motor components and also the first to distinguish arteries from veins. Hegetor also of Alexandria, but of 100 BC, described in detail the anatomical relations of the hip joint, and was the first to record a description of the ligamentum teres.
In the period between 430 and 330 BC a very important Greek text was collated and is known as the Corpus Hippocrates. It is named after Hippocrates who is known as the father of Medicine. Hippocrates was born on the island of Cos in 460 BC and died at an old age in 370 BC. He is known as having brought a systematic and scientific approach to Medicine and as having defined for the first time the position and the role of a doctor in society. Although centuries have passed, the Hippocratic oath will always remain central to our practices.
Various volumes in the Corpus Hippocrates had relevance to Orthopaedics. One such volume is the one on joints. Here dislocation of the shoulder was described together with the various methods used in reduction. There were also sections describing the reduction of acromioclavicular, temporomandibular, knee, and hip and elbow joint dislocations. The correction of club foot was described. The problem of infection after compound fractures was described and treated with pitch cerate and wine compresses without forcible bandaging. Probing into any compound fracture was avoided.
Hippocrates had a thorough understanding of fractures. He knew of the principles of traction and counter-traction. He developed special splints for fractures of the tibia, similar to external fixation. Hippocrates also developed the Hippocratic bench or "scamnum". Of all the developments that Hippocrates has given to us, his careful clinical observation and rationale thinking must be particularly commended.