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date: 31 October 2020

Agnodicelocked

  • Helen King

Extract

Appears in *Hyginus (3) (Fab.274) in a list of discoverers and inventors. She is described as an Athenian girl who lived at a time when there were no *midwives, because women and slaves were forbidden to learn medicine; this scenario matches no known historical period. Disguising herself as a man, Agnodice studied medicine under ‘a certain Herophilus’, and then practised medicine at Athens successfully, challenging the professional monopoly on the part of male doctors. Accused by her jealous rivals of seducing her patients, Agnodice demonstrated her innocence by performing the gesture of anasyrmos, lifting her tunic to expose her lower body. This revelation led to a charge of practising medicine unlawfully, but she was saved when the wives of the leading men lobbied the *Areopagus in her defence. Hyginus claims that Athenian law was then changed so that freeborn women could study medicine.

Subjects

  • History of Gender and Sexuality
  • History of Science and Technology

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