Hippocrates Refusing the Gifts of Artaxerxes is part of the Girodet exhibit closing imminently at the Met. It’s a scene from antiquity that raises contemporary questions. Hippocrates, of “first do no harm fame,” refuses to doctor to Greece’s enemies. Despite the wealth offered by the Persian emissaries, Hippocrates tells them to go pound sand. For Hippocrates, his love of Greece trumped financial remuneration.
How would the dinosaur media react today if a famed American specialist refused to doctor to Castro or Ahmadinejad? Would they be expected to see themselves as doctors first, and Americans second, if at all? That certainly seems to the choice many reporters have made. Would they respond to a scene of Hippocratic patriotism as Girodet did?