Lecture 8: The Female Body – Ancient Gynecology
1. A lot of writing still preserved from antiquity. Modern perception bizarre medicine
compared to our medicine
a) Hippocratic Oath future doctors swear this oath
i) Certain rules to follow
ii) Goes back to antiquity but post Hippocrates
a) From the island of Cos. Born in 460 BCE.
b) Countless writings under H. yet most are not authentic
i) What we do know for certain dozens may be hundreds.
ii) 12 treaties under Hippocrates.
Hippocratic corpus (LT. Corpus Hippocraticum): a collection of around 60
early ancient Greek medical works associated to Hippocrates and his
teachings, they are however, varied in content, age, style and are largely of
iii) His most famous work/coverage: Epilepsy! (chronic neurological disorder that
is characterized by seizures)
In antiquity – considered a divine disease
iv) Asclepius: son of Apollo ( God of healing)
He was originally a demi-god. Trained under Chiron, later up graded to god
c) Hippocratic Oath: an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare
professionals swearing to practice medicine ethically and honestly. It is widely
believed to have been written either by Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of
western medicine, or by one of his students. The Hippocratic Oath (orkos) is one
of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. It requires a new physician to
swear upon a number of healing gods that he will uphold a number of professional
i) “ to the best of my knowledge”
“Do no harm”, “no deadly drugs”, not to harm or to have sex with patience
and to keep secret – recall oikos.
Not allowed to abort child/fetus, unless poses a danger to mother.
d) In the corpus:
i) Gynecological procedures and health
ii) i.e.: nature of starility, children etc.
e) mainly pathological
i) Cases of diseases and complications not really on the female body.
But how it goes wrong.
f) In antiquity, doctors were all males
i) Some would not appreciate a male doctor nor approach one.
“Proper” female didn’t come in contact with stranger
ii) Hagmidic (3rd-4 century) – first female doctor. Anectote (not historical fact): disguised himself as a male. Made all the
physicians jealous able to have all those female patience accused
with sleeping with all the female patience
- Went to court shows she is actually female. All the females
protested that she lost her license new rule: all free-born females
could become doctors
3. 2 concepts of the female body: Hippocrates women are completely different from
males. Aristotle (4 century, philosopher, Scientist, historian examined everything)
women were inferior versions of a male i.e. infertile male.
i) Reflects the cultural bias towards women.
a) Various reasons why bleeding: excess of moisture in the female body -> this
makes them unstable; body temperature.
b) Humor: fluid causes change in behavior
i) 4 categories different combinations
Hot + dry = yellow bile (kholos)
Dry + cold = black bile
Wet + cold = blood
Wet + hot = phelgm
ii) Each of us these elements makes our moods/behaviour
4 character types
- Bloody – sanguine optimistic/cheerful
- Yellow bile : choleric hot tempered
- Black bile : melancholy sadness/depression
- Phelgm: phlegmatic Lazy
This theory was present until the 19 century.
- Medical theories based on it.
- Blood letting present until 19 century
iii) Body structure in antiquity:
Male firm and structural/ compact – this is why he doesn’t menstruate.
Female loose and spongy – the body soaks up excess liquid from
stomach – like wool – this why they menstruate
- Breasts – how loose or firm it