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women in science  

Sophia Connell

Women were involved in both practical and theoretical aspects of scientific endeavour in the ancient world. Although the evidence is scant, it is clear that women innovated techniques in textile manufacture, metallurgy, and medical sciences. The most extensive engagement of women in science was in medicine, including obstetrics, gynaecology, pharmacology, and dermatology. The evidence for this often comes from male medical writers. Women were also involved in the manufacture of gold alloys, which interested later alchemists. Maria of Alexandria innovated equipment and techniques while also theorizing about chemical change. Many of the works ascribed to women in antiquity were not written by women. However, they do indicate what sorts of sciences were taken to be the province of women.

Scientific achievements are not the result of individual genius. Science has been a collective endeavour, involving the whole structure of society. The ancient world is no exception to this. Indeed, what is known about the desire for knowledge and control of the physical world indicates that the ways in which Greeks and Romans pursued it were various and diverse, and included the thoughts and activities of many women.



Patty Baker

Complex perceptions existed about abortion in the ancient world, indicated by different medical definitions of what constituted an abortive, contraceptive, and expulsive. According to Soranus (1st/2nd century ce) an abortive was “that which destroys what has been conceived”; a contraceptive (atokion) was something that prevents conception, and an expulsive (ekbolion) could be defined in two ways (Gyn 1.59–65). Some thought it was synonymous with an abortive because both resulted in the termination of a pregnancy. In contrast, others defined an expulsive strictly as shaking and leaping to dislodge the fetus from the womb. In explaining this, Soranus (Gyn 1.60) repeats a story told in the Hippocratic work (see hippocrates) Nature of the Child (13, L7.488–490; late 5th bce) about a dancing girl thought to be six days pregnant. She was told to expel the seed by jumping up and down so her heels touched her buttocks. After the seventh leap, the fetus dropped from her body. This technique for early-stage abortion was preferable to termination caused by pharmaceutical preparations and surgical intervention, which could cause harm to the mother. Therefore, Soranus stated that it was safer to prevent pregnancy than to perform an abortion (Gyn 1.



J. T. Vallance

Western literature begins with a *disease; in the first book of Homer'sIliad the god *Apollo (associated with the medical arts directly or through his Asclepiad progeny; see Asclepius) sends a plague on the Greeks camped before Troy to avenge Chryses' treatment at the hands of *Agamemnon. No attempt is made to treat the plague; the activity of doctors in the Homeric epics is generally limited to the treatment of wounds and injuries sustained in combat. Many later authorities (e.g. A. *Cornelius Celsus) argued that this was a sign of the high moral standards which then prevailed. If disease had its own moral force in literature—note, for example, Hesiod's account of diseases escaping from *Pandora's jar (Op.69–105), the role of illness and *deformity in the *Oedipus legends, in *Sophocles' Philoctetes, in Attic comedy, and down to the Roman Stoic (see Stoicism) disapproval of over-reliance on medical help—the status and social function of those who treated diseases was similarly a matter for moral ambivalence.


Hippocratic Corpus  

Laurence Totelin

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of around sixty medical texts, the majority of which were written in the fifth and fourth century BCE. While they are attributed to the physician Hippocrates of Cos, their authenticity has been debated since antiquity.The Hippocratic texts are varied in style and in content, and sometimes present contradictory views. As a result, it is difficult to give a strict definition of what constitutes Hippocratic medicine. Broadly, it is a techne, in which dietetics and prognostication play important roles, and in which diseases are considered to have natural causes.The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of approximately sixty medical texts, all in the Ionic Greek dialect, attributed to Hippocrates of Cos, the famous physician mentioned by Plato (Phdr. 270c) and Aristotle (Pol. 1326a15). Since antiquity, it has been recognized that Hippocrates could not have authored all those texts, which vary vastly in style and sometimes present contradictory views. Most Hippocratic treatises can be dated to the .


Anonymus Londiniensis  

Daniela Manetti

An anonymous work, preserved in a manuscript of the 1st century ce from Egypt, about several medical issues (definition of basic concepts, medical historiography on the causes of disease, physiology of digestion), Anonymus Londiniensis represents a rare example of an autograph from antiquity. An important source for peripatetic doxography and the reception of Hellenistic medicine.The papyrus P. Lit. Lond. 165, now held in the British Library as inv. 137 (P. Brit. Libr. inv. 137), was published first in 1893 by Hermann Diels, who learned of it through Fridericus G. Kenyon’s first notice.1 Diels set immediately to work, with the help of Kenyon, and produced the edition after a very short time. The papyrus, as reconstructed by Kenyon (with some later additions in 1901), is a roll around 3.5 metres long. Thirty-nine columns, almost complete, are preserved: one or two columns are missing at the beginning, as is at least one between columns IX and X. The text breaks off abruptly halfway down col. XXXIX. The handwriting suggests a date around the later part of the 1st century .