Medicine and the Making of Roman Women: Gender, Nature, and Authority from Celsus to Galen

By Rebecca Flemming | Go to book overview

Introduction
Medicine and the Historical
Relations of Gender, Nature,
and Authority

MEDICINE has now become an accepted, even favoured, area of enquiry for those interested in the history of women, and in past interpretations and organizations of sexual difference more broadly.1 It is asked of an increasing number of historical societies, whether, for instance, there were female healers, and how they related to other contemporary medical practitioners, both individually and institutionally. How female patients fared, how women’s bodies were conceived and comprehended both when sick and well, and why. How these situations and conceptions interrelate, and what broader sets of circumstances are also at stake in all this. The answers offer enriching insights into both the particular times and places of study, and the wider ways in which women, medicine, and society have variously coalesced in human history.

Classical scholars have been no exception. Investigations into women and medicine in the ancient world have proliferated over the last decade or so, and this topical conjunction has become a standard component of surveys and syllabuses.2 The

1 Such studies, at least of book length, are concentrated in the modern(ish) period, from the 18th cent, onwards, e.g. Barbara Duden, The Woman Beneath the Skin: A Doctor’s Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany, trans. Thomas Dunlap (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991); Ludmilla Jordanova, Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989); and Ornella Moscucci, The Science of Woman: Gynaecology and Gender in England 1800–1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). Joan Cadden, Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) is one of the rarer works that cover the earlier period.

2 There are more articles and essays on the subject than monographs, but

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