The Role of Temperament

  • Kostas N. Fountoulakis


While early versions of the concept of temperament might had existed in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, essentially this approach was developed by the school of Cos and specifically by Polybus who was a pupil and son-in-law to Hippocrates (fourth century BC) and author of the book ‘Peri physeos anthropou’ (‘On the Nature of Man’). This theory is in fact a microcosmic form of the macrocosmic theory of the four elements (earth, water, air, fire) and the four qualities (dry, wet, cold, hot) as first proposed by Empedocles (fifth century BC). According to this ancient approach, temperament (in Greek crasis or idiosyncrasia), health and disease are the products of the balance four body humours (in Greek choli). According to the predominance of a given humour, four temperamental types were described: the choleric (yellow bile from the liver; cyclothymic), the sanguine (blood from the heart; hyperthymic), the melancholic (black bile from the kidneys; depressive) and the phlegmatic (phlegm from the lungs; self-content). The theory was further elaborated by Eristratos, Asclepiades (first century BC) and eventually by Galen (second century AD) with his treatise ‘Peri crasaion’ (‘De temperamentis’). This approach was the standard until the sixteenth century and in the India and the Muslim world constituted the basis of Yunani or Unani medicine (after Yunan that is Iones-Greeks in Eastern languages). In ‘The Canon of Medicine’, Avicenna (980–1037 AD) extended the theory of temperaments to include ‘emotion, mental ability, moral attitudes, self-awareness, movement and dreams’. Ιn English texts, temperament is mentioned in Wycliff’s sermons (1380), in the writings of Shakespeare and in Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.


Bipolar Disorder Mood Disorder Personality Disorder Social Anxiety Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kostas N. Fountoulakis
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Neurosciences 3rd Department of PsychiatryAristotle University of Thessaloniki School of MedicineThessalonikiGreece

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