Hippocrates on the Problems and Solution to Menstruation

Hippocrates, On Girls

“Blood returns only slowly from the heart and mind because the veins there are transverse and the place is really important and is inclined toward madness and anger. Whenever these parts are filled, a wandering shiver moves about with a fever. When the situation is like this, a woman goes into a rage because of the inflammation. She wants to murder because of the rotting. And because of the depression, she is frightened and afraid. The compression around the heart cause them to want to self-harm and because of the evil state of the blood, her mind is sad and sorrowful and longs for evil.

She also names weird and frightening things that push women to leap or to throw themselves in wells or hang themselves. Even when there are no visions, there’s some strange pleasure that makes her long for death as if it is a kind of good thing. When a woman is sensible again, women will dedicate many different things to Artemis, including really expensive women’s cloaks all because they are tricked by prophets.

Relief from this disease comes whenever there is nothing impeding the flow of blood. I tell young women who are suffering this kind of thing to live with a man as soon as possible, since, if they are pregnant, they become healthy. Otherwise, a girl will be overtaken by this disease or another in puberty or a little latter on.  Barren married women sometimes suffer these things.”

ἐκ δὲ τῆς καρδίης καὶ τῶν φρενῶν βραδέως παλιρροεῖ· ἐπικάρσιαι γὰρ αἱ φλέβες καὶ ὁ τόπος ἐπίκαιρος ἔς τε παραφροσύνην καὶ μανίην ἕτοιμος. ὁπόταν γὰρ πληρωθέωσι ταῦτα τὰ μέρεα, καὶ φρίκη ξὺν πυρετῷ ἀναΐσσει πλανήτης. ἐχόντων δὲ τούτων ὧδε, ὑπὸ μὲν τῆς ὀξυφλεγμασίης μαίνεται, ὑπὸ δὲ τῆς σηπεδόνος φονᾷ, ὑπὸ δὲ τοῦ ζοφεροῦ φοβέεται καὶ δέδοικεν, ὑπὸ δὲ τῆς περὶ τὴν καρδίην πιέξιος ἀγχόνας κραίνουσιν, ὑπὸ δὲ τῆς κακίης τοῦ αἵματος ἀλύων καὶ ἀδημονέων ὁ θυμὸς κακὸν ἐφέλκεται.

ἕτερον δὲ καὶ φοβερὰ ὀνομάζει· καὶ κελεύουσιν ἅλλεσθαι καὶ καταπίπτειν ἐς φρέατα ἢ ἄγχεσθαι, ἅτε ἀμείνονά τε ἐόντα καὶ χρείην ἔχοντα παντοίην. ὁκότε δὲ ἄνευ φαντασμάτων, ἡδονή τις ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἐρᾷ τοῦ θανάτου ὥσπερ τινὸς ἀγαθοῦ. φρονεούσης δὲ τῆς ἀνθρώπου, τῇ Ἀρτέμιδι αἱ γυναῖκες ἄλλα τε πολλὰ καὶ τὰ ἱμάτια τὰ πολυτελέστατα καθιεροῦσι τῶν γυναικείων, κελευόντων τῶν μάντεων ἐξαπατεώμεναι. ἡ δὲ τῆσδε ἀπαλλαγή, ὁκόταν μὴ ἐμποδίζῃ τι τοῦ αἵματος τὴν ἀπόρρυσιν. κελεύω δὴ τὰς παρθένους, ὁκόταν τι τοιοῦτο πάσχωσιν, ὡς τάχιστα ξυνοικῆσαι ἀνδράσιν· ἢν γὰρ κυήσωσιν, ὑγιέες γίνονται.  εἰ δὲ μή, ἢ εὐθέως ἅμα τῇ ἥβῃ ἢ ὀλίγον ὕστερον ἁλώσεται, εἴπερ μὴ ἑτέρῃ νούσῳ. τῶν δὲ ἠνδρωμένων γυναικῶν στεῖραι ταῦτα πάσχουσιν.

Hippocrates sticks to this logic elsewhere too.

Joseph Mallord William Turner – Vision of Medea, 1828

A Physician’s Notes on the Lives and Deaths of Women

Hippocrates, Epidemics 5.101

 “A woman in Abdera developed cancer on her chest, and bloody plasma leaked out through her nipple. Once the flowing stopped, she died.”

Γυναικί, ἐν Ἀβδήροισι καρκίνωμα ἐγένετο περὶ στῆθος, διὰ τῆς θηλῆς ἔρρει ἰχὼρ ὕφαιμος· ἐπιληφθείσης δὲ τῆς ῥύσιος ἔθανεν.

There is an earlier account of breast cancer in Herodotus:

Herodotus, 3.133

“A little while later following these events, some other things happened. Cyrus’ daughter and Dareios’ wife, Atossa, developed a swelling in her breast. It burst out and expanded. As long as it was rather small, she hid it and told no one because she was ashamed. But when it became worse, she summoned Democedes and showed him. He told her that he could make her  healthy again but had her swear to him that she would reward him with whatever he asked from her, but that he would request nothing which would bring shame on her.”

ἐν χρόνῳ δὲ ὀλίγῳ μετὰ ταῦτα τάδε ἄλλα συνήνεικε γενέσθαι. Ἀτόσσῃ τῇ Κύρου μὲν θυγατρὶ Δαρείου δὲ γυναικὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ μαστοῦ ἔφυ φῦμα, μετὰ δὲ ἐκραγὲν ἐνέμετο πρόσω. ὅσον μὲν δὴ χρόνον ἦν ἔλασσον, ἣ δὲ κρύπτουσα καὶ αἰσχυνομένη ἔφραζε οὐδενί: ἐπείτε δὲ ἐν κακῷ ἦν, μετεπέμψατο τὸν Δημοκήδεα καί οἱ ἐπέδεξε. ὁ δὲ φὰς ὑγιέα ποιήσειν ἐξορκοῖ μιν ἦ μέν οἱ ἀντυπουργήσειν ἐκείνην τοῦτο τὸ ἂν αὐτῆς δεηθῇ: δεήσεσθαι δὲ οὐδενὸς τῶν ὅσα ἐς αἰσχύνην ἐστὶ φέροντα.

This has been called the “earliest account of inflammatory mastitis

Hippocrates of Cos Epidemics 5.25

“In Larissa, Dyseris’ servant, when she was still young, experienced severe pain whenever she had intercourse. But she was without pain otherwise. She was never pregnant. When she was sixty, she started feeling pan at midday as if she were in severe labor pains. Before midday, she had eaten many leeks and when the pain overcame her and was the strongest of all, she rose up and felt something rough-edged near the entrance to her womb. Then, because she had already fainted, another woman inserted her hand and withdrew a stone which was as big as a spindle top and very rough. After that she was immediately healthy.”

Ἐν Λαρίσῃ ἀμφίπολος Δυσήριδος, νέη ἐοῦσα ὁκότε λαγνεύοιτο περιωδύνει ἰσχυρῶς, ἄλλως δὲ ἀνώδυνος ἦν. ἐκύησε δὲ οὐδέποτε. ἑξηκονταέτης γενομένη ὠδυνᾶτο ἀπὸ μέσου ἡμέρης, ὡς ὠδίνουσα ἰσχυρῶς· πρὸ δὲ μέσου ἡμέρης αὕτη πράσα τρώγουσα πολλά, ἐπειδὴ ὀδύνη αὐτὴν ἔλαβεν ἰσχυροτάτη τῶν πρόσθεν, ἀναστᾶσα ἐπέψαυσέ τινος τρηχέος ἐν τῷ στόματι τῆς μήτρης. ἔπειτα, ἤδη λειποψυχούσης αὐτῆς, ἑτέρη γυνὴ καθεῖσα τὴν χεῖρα ἐξεπίεσε λίθον ὅσον σπόνδυλον ἀτράκτου, τρηχύν· καὶ ὑγιὴς τότε αὐτίκα καὶ ἔπειτα ἦν.

5.50

“Nerios’ beautiful virgin daughter was twenty years old when she was struck on the forehead by a flat hand when she was playing with a young woman friend. When it happened, she became blind and out of breath; when she went home, a fever came over her right away. Her head hurt; she was flushed all over her face. By the seventh day, a bad-smelling pus flowed out of her right ear—it was red colored and there was more than a fifth of a cup of it. She seemed to feel better and was relieved. But she was stretched out again later because of a fever. She was feeling badly and was speechless. The right part of her face was contracted and she breathed with difficulty. She also had spasms of trembling. Her tongue stopped working. Her eye was affected. She died on the ninth day.”

Ἡ παρθένος ἡ καλὴ ἡ τοῦ Νερίου ἦν μὲν εἰκοσαέτης, ὑπὸ δὲ γυναίου φίλης παιζούσης πλατέῃ τῇ χειρὶ ἐπλήγη κατὰ τὸ βρέγμα. καὶ τότε μὲν ἐσκοτώθη καὶ ἄπνοος ἐγένετο, καὶ ὅτε ἐς οἶκον ἦλθεν αὐτίκα τὸ πῦρ εἶχε, καὶ ἤλγει τὴν κεφαλήν, καὶ ἔρευθος ἀμφὶ τὸ πρόσωπον ἦν. ἑβδόμῃ ἐούσῃ, ἀμφὶ τὸ οὖς τὸ δεξιὸν πύον ἐχώρησε δυσῶδες, ὑπέρυθρον, πλεῖον κυάθου, καὶ ἔδοξεν ἄμεινον ἔχειν, καὶ ἐκουφίσθη. πάλιν ἐπετείνετο τῷ πυρετῷ, καὶ κατεφέρετο, καὶ ἄναυδος ἦν, καὶ τοῦ προσώπου τὸ δεξιὸν μέρος εἵλκετο, καὶ δύσπνοος ἦν, καὶ σπασμὸς τρομώδης ἦν. καὶ γλῶσσα εἴχετο, ὀφθαλμὸς καταπλήξ· ἐνάτῃ ἔθανεν.

Image result for medieval manuscript medicine women
Wellcome Library, London, MS 49, Apocalypse

Some Magic Charms for Pregnancy and Sex

Pliny, Natural History 28.98-99

“A woman is guaranteed to carry a pregnancy to term if she wears around her neck the white flesh from a hyena’s chest with seven of its hairs and a stag’s genitals tied up in leather made from a gazelle,

A hyena’s genitals, consumed with honey, increases desire for sex even if men typically despise sex with women. Really, the peace of the whole home relies upon keeping these genitals and a spine with the skin still on it at hand.”

 mulieri candida a pectore hyaenae caro et pili septem et genitale cervi, si inligentur dorcadis pelle, e collo suspensa continere partus promittuntur; venerem stimulare genitalia ad sexus suos in melle sumpta, etiamsi viri mulierum coitus oderint; quin immo totius domus concordiam eodem genitali et articulo spinae cum adhaerente corio adservatis constare

Detail of the historiated initial 'P'(our) with a standing physician and pregnant woman. British Library
Image taken from here

A Physician’s Notes on the Lives and Deaths of Women

Hippocrates, Epidemics 5.101

 “A woman in Abdera developed cancer on her chest, and bloody plasma leaked out through her nipple. Once the flowing stopped, she died.”

Γυναικί, ἐν Ἀβδήροισι καρκίνωμα ἐγένετο περὶ στῆθος, διὰ τῆς θηλῆς ἔρρει ἰχὼρ ὕφαιμος· ἐπιληφθείσης δὲ τῆς ῥύσιος ἔθανεν.

There is an earlier account of breast cancer in Herodotus:

Herodotus, 3.133

“A little while later following these events, some other things happened. Cyrus’ daughter and Dareios’ wife, Atossa, developed a swelling in her breast. It burst out and expanded. As long as it was rather small, she hid it and told no one because she was ashamed. But when it became worse, she summoned Democedes and showed him. He told her that he could make her  healthy again but had her swear to him that she would reward him with whatever he asked from her, but that he would request nothing which would bring shame on her.”

ἐν χρόνῳ δὲ ὀλίγῳ μετὰ ταῦτα τάδε ἄλλα συνήνεικε γενέσθαι. Ἀτόσσῃ τῇ Κύρου μὲν θυγατρὶ Δαρείου δὲ γυναικὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ μαστοῦ ἔφυ φῦμα, μετὰ δὲ ἐκραγὲν ἐνέμετο πρόσω. ὅσον μὲν δὴ χρόνον ἦν ἔλασσον, ἣ δὲ κρύπτουσα καὶ αἰσχυνομένη ἔφραζε οὐδενί: ἐπείτε δὲ ἐν κακῷ ἦν, μετεπέμψατο τὸν Δημοκήδεα καί οἱ ἐπέδεξε. ὁ δὲ φὰς ὑγιέα ποιήσειν ἐξορκοῖ μιν ἦ μέν οἱ ἀντυπουργήσειν ἐκείνην τοῦτο τὸ ἂν αὐτῆς δεηθῇ: δεήσεσθαι δὲ οὐδενὸς τῶν ὅσα ἐς αἰσχύνην ἐστὶ φέροντα.

This has been called the “earliest account of inflammatory mastitis

Hippocrates of Cos Epidemics 5.25

“In Larissa, Dyseris’ servant, when she was still young, experienced severe pain whenever she had intercourse. But she was without pain otherwise. She was never pregnant. When she was sixty, she started feeling pan at midday as if she were in severe labor pains. Before midday, she had eaten many leeks and when the pain overcame her and was the strongest of all, she rose up and felt something rough-edged near the entrance to her womb. Then, because she had already fainted, another woman inserted her hand and withdrew a stone which was as big as a spindle top and very rough. After that she was immediately healthy.”

Ἐν Λαρίσῃ ἀμφίπολος Δυσήριδος, νέη ἐοῦσα ὁκότε λαγνεύοιτο περιωδύνει ἰσχυρῶς, ἄλλως δὲ ἀνώδυνος ἦν. ἐκύησε δὲ οὐδέποτε. ἑξηκονταέτης γενομένη ὠδυνᾶτο ἀπὸ μέσου ἡμέρης, ὡς ὠδίνουσα ἰσχυρῶς· πρὸ δὲ μέσου ἡμέρης αὕτη πράσα τρώγουσα πολλά, ἐπειδὴ ὀδύνη αὐτὴν ἔλαβεν ἰσχυροτάτη τῶν πρόσθεν, ἀναστᾶσα ἐπέψαυσέ τινος τρηχέος ἐν τῷ στόματι τῆς μήτρης. ἔπειτα, ἤδη λειποψυχούσης αὐτῆς, ἑτέρη γυνὴ καθεῖσα τὴν χεῖρα ἐξεπίεσε λίθον ὅσον σπόνδυλον ἀτράκτου, τρηχύν· καὶ ὑγιὴς τότε αὐτίκα καὶ ἔπειτα ἦν.

5.50

“Nerios’ beautiful virgin daughter was twenty years old when she was struck on the forehead by a flat hand when she was playing with a young woman friend. When it happened, she became blind and out of breath; when she went home, a fever came over her right away. Her head hurt; she was flushed all over her face. By the seventh day, a bad-smelling pus flowed out of her right ear—it was red colored and there was more than a fifth of a cup of it. She seemed to feel better and was relieved. But she was stretched out again later because of a fever. She was feeling badly and was speechless. The right part of her face was contracted and she breathed with difficulty. She also had spasms of trembling. Her tongue stopped working. Her eye was affected. She died on the ninth day.”

Ἡ παρθένος ἡ καλὴ ἡ τοῦ Νερίου ἦν μὲν εἰκοσαέτης, ὑπὸ δὲ γυναίου φίλης παιζούσης πλατέῃ τῇ χειρὶ ἐπλήγη κατὰ τὸ βρέγμα. καὶ τότε μὲν ἐσκοτώθη καὶ ἄπνοος ἐγένετο, καὶ ὅτε ἐς οἶκον ἦλθεν αὐτίκα τὸ πῦρ εἶχε, καὶ ἤλγει τὴν κεφαλήν, καὶ ἔρευθος ἀμφὶ τὸ πρόσωπον ἦν. ἑβδόμῃ ἐούσῃ, ἀμφὶ τὸ οὖς τὸ δεξιὸν πύον ἐχώρησε δυσῶδες, ὑπέρυθρον, πλεῖον κυάθου, καὶ ἔδοξεν ἄμεινον ἔχειν, καὶ ἐκουφίσθη. πάλιν ἐπετείνετο τῷ πυρετῷ, καὶ κατεφέρετο, καὶ ἄναυδος ἦν, καὶ τοῦ προσώπου τὸ δεξιὸν μέρος εἵλκετο, καὶ δύσπνοος ἦν, καὶ σπασμὸς τρομώδης ἦν. καὶ γλῶσσα εἴχετο, ὀφθαλμὸς καταπλήξ· ἐνάτῃ ἔθανεν.

Image result for medieval manuscript medicine women
Wellcome Library, London, MS 49, Apocalypse