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Lecture 7

CLA219H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Hippocratic Corpus, Body Fluid, Bsc Young Boys

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Regina Höschele

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Lecture 7 Ancient Medicine & the
Female Body
Born around 460 BCE on the island of Cos
Most of the writings attributed to him are not actually his he was just the stereotypical doctor
of the time
Corpus Hippocraticum dozens of writings under his name
His most common work is On The Sacred Disease
o Refers to epilepsy (believed to have been sent by the gods)
The Hippocratic Oath
o Anyone who practises medicine must swear this oath
o This oath is sworn to Apollo and Ascleipius (the son of Apollo and the god of medicine)
o Doctors swear to help patient to the best of their ability & judgement
Cannot be held accountable if something goes wrong (otherwise doctors would
be very hesitant to treat patients/ try new methods)
o Swear to do no harm, to administer no deadly drugs, to uphold doctor-patient
confidentiality, not to have sex with patients, and to not give permission for abortion
Lots of gynecological texts are still existing
On the Nature of Women and Sterility - focuses largely on pathology
o Not really about body, but cases of disease, the results, and the cures
o What can go wrong and why?
Doctors were all male at the time therefore access to female bodies was difficult
Hagnodike the first female doctor
o Disguised herself as a man in the 4th century and went to Alexandria to practise
o Would reveal to female patients her gender and they would allow her to treat them
o She was so successful with women that other doctors suggested that she would sleep
with her patients
o She was put on trial where she revealed her gender
o Accused of a crime but the women banded together and protested
o Result was that free born women could now become doctors
Hippocrates believed that men and women were two completely different sexes
Aristotle on the other hand believed that a woman is an inferior, infertile man
o Reflects a cultural bias
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Defining characteristic of a woman
Believed to be the cause of many diseases
Was the result of too much fluid/moisture in the body
o Excess must be released once a month
o Caused women to be unpredictable
Related to a problem of body temperature
Humor’s Theory
Humor bodily fluid
Temperature and moisture cause different symptoms and moods
Hot, cold, dry, wet
o Hot + dry = yellow bile choleric hot tempered
o Cold + dry = black bile melancholic depressed, lethargic
o Hot + wet = blood sanguine optimistic
o Cold + wet = phlegm phlegmatic unemotional, calm
Constitutes attitude and behaviour
Too wet? Leaches were used for bloodletting
A man was considered to be firm and compact
A woman was considered to be loose and spongy
Women’s bodies absorb excess blood from the stomach
o Compares to wool that absorbs liquid
Breasts prove how much looser the female body is
o Looser = more irrational
Aristotle believed that semen was the male equivalent of menstruation
o Leftover blood in the male body turns to semen through exercise and heat
Women’s bodies are cold and can therefore not create semen
Young boys are ‘imperfect males’ still cold and can therefore not yet produce semen
In antiquity a woman was not banned from temples during menstruation
o Sex was actually often prescribed by a physician during sex
Reading by Aristotle: if a woman who is menstruating looks in a mirror, the mirror is clouded
and turns dark red
o The air is disturbed by the blood
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