Hippocrates, who lived 2,500 years ago, helped people maintain or restore their health by changing their DIET (ΔΙΑΙΤΑ). The word diet in Ancient Greek means ‘way of life’ and encompasses food, physical activity, massage, baths, sleep and other aspects of everyday activities.
We’ve known since ancient times that food, exercise and lifestyle, as well as the external environment, influence our health. For this and many other reasons, food has always been a subject of interest for lay people, writers and philosophers alike. In the famous ancient cookery book ‘Deipnosophists’ (which means the ‘Banquet of Philosophers’) written by Athenaus in the 3rd century AD, we read the interesting story of the death of Democritus of Abdera, the ‘Laughing Philosopher’.
Feeling quite old at the age of 104, he had decided that his time had come to die. He had gradually reduced his food intake and was expecting to leave this life soon. It was however the time of a very important womens only festival, the Thesmophoria, dedicated to the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. His sister, who looked after him at his home and, who was herself more than 100 years old, asked him not to die during the festivities because she wanted to take part in them. Democritus, wanting to grant her wish, asked for a pot of honey to be brought to him. He kept himself alive for three days just by inhaling the fumes from the honey. When the festival had finished, the pot of honey was taken away and he passed away without any suffering.
This story from Ancient Greece graphically depicts many elements of nutritional care which we encounter in our modern medical practice and which we categorise as physical, cultural, social, ethical and emotional.