Οὐχ ὡς τῶν παλαιοτέρων ἐν τοῖς κατὰ τὴν τέχνην τι παραλελοιπότων τήνδε τὴν πραγματείαν ἐποιησάμην, ἀλλὰ συντόμου χάριν διδασκαλίας· τοὐναντίον γὰρ ἐκείνοις μὲν ὀρθῶς τε καὶ ἀνελλιπῶς ἅπαντα πεφιλοπόνηται, οἱ δὲ νεώτεροι πρὸς τῷ μηδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐπιχειρεῖν ἐντυγχάνειν αὐτοῖς ἔτι μὴν καὶ ἀδολεσχίαν αὐτῶν κατηγοροῦσιν. ὅθεν ἐπὶ τὸ παρὸν ἥκω σύνταγμα τοῖς μέν, ὡς εἰκός, ἔχειν αὐτὸ βουλομένοις ὑπόμνημα γενησόμενον, ἐμοὶ δὲ γυμνάσιον. ἄτοπον γὰρ τοὺς μὲν ῥήτορας τοῖς συντόμοις τε καὶ συνεκδήμοις ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ὀνομαζομένοις χρῆσθαι δικανικοῖς συντάγμασιν, ἐν οἷς ἁπάντων ἐμφέρεται τῶν νόμων τὰ κεφάλαια πρὸς τὸ τῆς χρείας ἕτοιμον, ἡμᾶς δὲ τούτων καταμελεῖν, καίπερ ἐκείνων μὲν οὐ πρὸς ὀλίγον μόνον αλλ’ ἤδη καὶ συχνὸν ὑπερτίθεσθαι χρόνον πρὸς ἐπίσκεψιν δυναμένων, ἡμῶν δὲ μηδαμῶς ἢ πάνυ γε σπανίως τὴν τοιαύτην ἐχόντων ἐξουσίαν· τὰ γάρ τοι τῆς χρείας ἐπὶ τινων νοσημάτων ἀπαραίτητον πολλάκις ἔχει τὴν ἀγνίαν· διόπερ ὀρθῶς Ἱπποκράτης ὀξὺν ἀπεφήνατο τὸν καιρόν. ἐκείνους μὲν γὰρ ἐν μόναις σχεδὸν ταῖς πόλεσι κατεπείγει τῶν πραγμάτων τὸ χρήσιμον, ἔνθα καὶ τῶν βιβλίων ἄφθονός ἐστιν εὐπορία, τοῖς δὲ ἰατροῖς οὐκ ἐν πόλεσι μόνον ἢ ἀγροῖς ἢ καί τισιν ἐρήμοις χωρίοις ἀλλ’ ἤδη καὶ κατὰ θάλατταν πολλάκις ἐν αὐταῖς ναυσὶν ἐξαιφνίδιος νοσημάτων ἀνάγκη προσπίπτει, ἐφ’ ὧν ἡ ἀναβολὴ θάνατον ἢ πάντως γε κίνδυνον ἔσχατον ἀπεργάζεται. πάσας δὲ τὰς ἰατρικὰς μεθόδους ἢ τὴν κατὰ μέρος πᾶσαν ὕλην διὰ μνήμης ἔχειν τῶν χαλεπωτάτων ἢ καὶ παντάπασιν ἀδυνάτων ἐστίν· διόπερ τήνδε τὴν ἐπίτομον ἐκ τῶν ἀρχαίων ἐνεστησάμην συναγωγήν. οὔτε γὰρ ἐμὰ παρεθέμην ἐν αὐτῇ γεννήματα πλὴν ὀλίγων δή τινων, ὅσαπερ ἐν τοῖς τῆς τέχνης ἔργοις εἶδόν τε καὶ ἐπείρασα.
(Paul of Aegina, Comp., prooemium)
It is not because the more ancient writers had omitted anything relative to the Art that I have composed this work, but in order to give a compendious course of instruction; for, on the contrary, everything is handled by them properly, and without any omissions, whereas the moderns have not only in the first place neglected the study of them, but have also blamed them for prolixity. Wherefore, I have undertaken the following Treatise, which, it is like, will serve as a commentary to those who may choose to consult it, whilst it will prove an exercise to me. For it appears strange that lawyers should be possessed of compendious and, as they call them, popular legal synopses, in which are contained the heads of all the laws, to serve for immediate use, whilst we neglect these things, although they have it generally in their power to put off the investigation of any point not only for little but even for a considerable time, whereas we can seldom or very rarely do so; for, in many cases, necessity requires that we act promptly, and hence Hippocrates has properly said, “the season is brief” [Aph. 1.1]. For their business is generally conducted in the midst of cities, where there is an abundant supply of books, whereas physicians have to act not only in cities, in the fields, and in desert places, but also at sea in ships, where such diseases sometimes suddenly break out as, in the event of procrastination, would occasion death, or at least incur the most imminent danger. But to remember all the rules of the healing art, and all the particular substances connected with it, is exceedingly difficult if not altogether impossible. On this account I have compiled this brief collection from the works of the ancients, and have set down little of my own, except a few things which I have seen and tried in the practice of the art. (tr. Francis Adams)