Women's History and Ancient History

By Sarah B. Pomeroy | Go to book overview

uterine displacements so as to make a place for doctors' interventions in uterine suffocation. In the third case study, however, Hippocratic gynecology accepted folk traditions about birthing and elaborated them with scientific seriousness. The dialogue between Hippocratic therapy and theory and the home remedies of Greek society, ta gynaikeia, was complex and various. The Hippocratic effort to equip these remedies for women with a medical sophistication that offered a more coherent female anatomy, physiology, and etiology for female diseases resulted in the evolution of a new medical genre, the gynecological treatise, which interspersed narrative and therapy in a kind of catalogue of morbid conditions that was likely to share material with other, similar gynecological catalogues. When referring to the most important of their writings, the Hippocratics themselves and their contemporaries employed the title "Female Diseases," using both adjective and noun to characterize the writings. 118 In post-Hippocratic times, however, the genre was called simply Ta gynaikeia (or, in Latin, Gynaecia). 119 "Diseases of Women" is the conventional English translation for both titles, Gynaikeia nousoi and Ta gynaikeia, but the translation blurs the Hippocratic distinction between the two. Gynaikeia nousoi was used as the proper title for a gynecological treatise, but Ta gynaikeia was used to indicate the gynecological recipes that formed part of such a treatise. Later centuries preferred to use Ta gynaikeia or Gynaecia, the Hippocratic term for gynecological recipes, as the title for gynecological treatises. Such a practice underscores the dominant role therapeutic remedies played and continued to play in the gynecology of Graeco-Roman antiquity.


Notes
1.
For the male body as norm in the Corpus see, e.g., Paola Manuli, "Donne mascoline, femmine sterili, vergini perpetue" and "Appendice" in Madre materia: sociologia e biologia della donna greca, ed. Silvia Campese, Paola Manuli, and Giulia Sissa (Turin: Boringhiari, 1983), 147-92, esp. 155. For treatment of female patients by doctors in treatises of general pathology ( Epidemiae1-7), as compared with male patients, see G. E. R. Lloyd, Science, Folklore and Ideology ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 62-68.
2.
Identifying the audience for which the Hippocratic gynecology was composed is beyond the scope of this essay. Nevertheless, discussion below does show that Hippocratic writers were aware of what their fellows were writing and that in at least one instance a prevailing scientific assumption of the time passed from oral

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