Four Humors

Discipline: Philosophy

Four bodily juices (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) whose balance or imbalance in the body was commonly regarded in Ancient Greek medicine as the source of health or disease.

The doctrine was made influential for later thought by Galen (129-C.AD 199), though its origins are much earlier in the Hippocratic tradition (see the treatise On the Nature of Man in, for example, volume 4 of the Loeb edition of the Hippocratic Treatises).

The four humors are linked to the four elements (fire, air, water, earth, or hot, cold, moist, dry - stuffs and qualities were not properly distinguished until the time of Aristotle in the 4th century BC), which first appear as such in the cosmology of Empedocles (5th century BC).

G Sarton, A History of Greek Science, 1 (1953)


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