Bronchial asthma in the medical literature of Greek antiquity

J Asthma. 1982;19(4):263-9. doi: 10.3109/02770908209104771.


The actual term asthma is a Greek word that is derived from the verb aazein, meaning to exhale with open mouth, to pant. The expression asthma appeared for the first time in the Iliad, with the meaning of a short-drawn breath, but the earliest text where the word is found as a medical term is the Corpus Hippocraticum. However it is difficult to determine whether in referring to "asthma," Hippocrates and his school (460-360 B.C.) meant an autonomous clinical entity or simply a symptom. The best clinical description of asthma in later antiquity is offered by the master clinician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia (1st century A.D.). The numerous mentions of "asthma" in the extensive writings of Galen (130-200 A.D.) appear to be in general agreement with the Hippocratic texts and to some extent with the statements of Aretaeus.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / history*
  • Child
  • Greece, Ancient
  • History, Ancient*
  • Humans
  • Medicine in Literature
  • Poetry as Topic

Personal name as subject

  • None Hippocrates
  • None Aretaeus
  • C Galen