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Gynecology in the Ancient World

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In the recent discussion on childbirth, there was a request for bibliography on gynecology in the ancient world. The following list reflects personal favorites. For more comprehensive listings, the recent pieces listed below will have bibliography that can take you into the more detailed literature in the field. If you are *really* interested in keeping up with the field, get a subscription to the *Society for Ancient Medicine Review*; write Heinrich von Staden, Department of Classics, Yale University, P. O. Box 208266, New Haven, CT 06520-8266. Current fee is $25.00, made payable to Yale University. *SAMR* covers medieval as well as ancient medicine.

Also, for bibliography on medieval medicine as it relates to women, notices have been posted in the *Medieval Feminist Newsletter* for the past several years. See numbers 10 (Fall 1990), pp. 23-24; 11 (Spring 1991), pp. 25-26; 13 (Spring 1992), pp. 32-34; 15 (Spring 1993), pp. 42-43; and 19 (Spring 1995), pp. 39-42.

Dean-Jones, Lesley. *Women's Bodies in Classical Greek Science* (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). In large part derivative of the work of Hanson and King (see below), this book should be used for scholarly purposes only as a general summary, not a definitive analysis.

Demand, Nancy. *Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece* (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994). "This thoughtful and sober discussion of the women and children of V- and IV-cent. [BC] Greece combines Hippocratic material with literary sources and artistic representations to recreate the ancient contexts of childbirth and to underscore how men's desires to control female reproductivity played a central role in the dynamics of birthing" (from Hanson's review in *SAMR* 22 [1994], pp. 120-21).

Hanson, Ann Ellis. "A Division of Labor: Roles for Men in Greek and Roman Births," *Thamyris* 1 (1994), 157-202. Argues that men had ancillary roles in childbirth, such as making arrangements prior to birth for medicines and equipment needed. Males then retreated from the scene during most normal births, but male physicians intervened in cases of dystocia (difficult birth).

"The Medical Writers' Woman," in David Halperin, ed., *Before Sexuality* (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). Probably the single best summary yet published of medical views of the female body in antiquity.

"Obstetrics in the *Hippocratic Corpus* and Soranus," *Forum* 4.1 (1994), 93-110. A concise survey of Greek and Roman obstetrical practices.

*Helios* 19.1 and 2 (1992). Two-volume special issue on women in antiquity. Articles by Heinrich von Staden ("Women and Dirt" on the uses of excremental materials in therapies for women, pp. 7-30), Ann Ellis Hanson (Conception, gestation, and the origin of female nature in the *Corpus Hippocraticum*, pp. 31-71) are especially important. See also Leslie Dean-Jones, "The Politics of Pleasure: Female Sexual Appetite in the *Hippocratic Corpus*," pp. 72-91; and Jody Rubin Pinault, "The Medical Case for Virginity in the Early Second Century C.E.: Soranus of Ephesus, *Gynecology* I 32," pp. 123-39.

King, Helen. "Bound to Bleed: Artemis and Greek Women," in Averil Cameron and Amelie Kuhrt, eds., *Images of Women in Antiquity* (Detroit, 1983), pp. 109-127. Brilliant analysis of the Hippocratic text *Diseases of Young Girls* which shows persuasively how medicine can be used as a highly nuanced form of social control.

"Agnodike and the Profession of Medicine," *Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society* 32 (1986), 53-77. Incisive analysis of the apocryphal story of the woman doctor Agnodike who dresses in man's clothing in order to study medicine, thereby ultimately winning for all women the right to study medicine.

"Once Upon a Text: Hysteria from Hippocrates," in *Hysteria Beyond Freud*, ed. Sander L. Gilman, et al. (Berkeley, etc.: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 3-90. Now the definitive study of notions of "uterine suffocation" from Antiquity through the Renaissance.

"Producing Woman: Hippocratic Gynaecology," in L. J. Archer, et al., eds., *Women in Ancient Societies: An Illusion of the Night* (London: Macmillan, 1994), pp. 102-114. A brief but wonderfully lucid summary of ancient gynecology that would be great for an undergraduate survey. Argues succinctly that medicine, like other sciences, is "a system for ordering the world."

A final note: as should be obvious, none of the observations made about medical theory or medical practice in the ancient world can be *assumed* to hold true as well for medieval Europe, since the social structures and textual canons of the latter were so profoundly different from the Mediterranean-based, urban society of Greco-Roman antiquity. The critical question is, then, how ancient ideas, practices, etc. were *transmitted*, if at all, to medieval Europe. Not much has yet been done on this question, though see the following:

Cadden, Joan. *The Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages* (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Focuses primarily on the high Middle Ages, but prefaces that discussion with a rich survey of ancient and early medieval precedents.

Green, Monica. "The Transmission of Ancient Theories of Female Physiology and Disease Through the Early Middle Ages," Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University (History), 1985. Must be used with caution as much of the material here has now been superseded by my more recent researches. Case in point: the 1994 article on Soranus and his medieval fate by Hanson & Green (cited in my posting of 21 Feb. '96).

Wack, Mary. *Lovesickness in the Middle Ages* (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990). The definitive scholarly survey on the topic.

Sorry, but there's nothing to recommend as a survey of medieval midwifery practices.

Monica H. Green
Department of History
Duke University
Durham, NC  27708-0719
e-mail:  mhgreen@acpub.duke.edu

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