Today I read Hippocrates' piece on how the environment creates health or illness. The core idea is that a harsh, dry, mountainous, unfriendly environement gives rise to a courageous and strong people, while a soft, swampy, luxurious environment gives rise to weak and soft people.
Hippocrates tries his hand at some ethnology too. He compares the Scythians, Persians, and Europeans. His views don't seem very cogent. But the most interesting part about his opinions is his views on the causes of the impotence of the Scythians. His diagnosis of the Scythian's commonplace impotence is fascinating. I have to wonder if he borrowed it from someone who had lived among them, though. Hippocrates does not seem much like a travelling man.
The piece is called 'Airs, Waters, Places'. It's quite a sensible paper when you read it in historical context. Hippocrates apprehends the malleable nature of humans, and tries to grasp how humans fit the environment without recourse to myth or religion. In that light, his first efforts are very good indeed.