beards, birth, death, doctors, Hippocrates, love, menstruation, pregnancy, womb

Gendered flesh, prolapse and sex change: the case of Phaethousa

‘Her body was masculinized (τό τε σῶμα ἠνδρώθη)’. This is one aspect of the description of Phaethousa of Abdera, who features in one of the Hippocratic ‘case histories’ from probably the fourth century BC. When her husband leaves, or goes into exile, this previously fecund woman stops menstruating and experiences a range of symptoms, including… Continue reading Gendered flesh, prolapse and sex change: the case of Phaethousa

death, medical instruments, midwives, museums and collections

The mummy returns

      Have you seen the Egyptian mummies in the British Museum? Even if you’ve never been to London, you may have caught the travelling exhibition, ‘Mummy: The Inside Story’, which focuses on the priest Nesperennub, and has so far been seen by nearly 2 million people. Mummies are endlessly fascinating. They give nightmares… Continue reading The mummy returns

death, love

The glory that was Greece?

Beneath the most-quoted lines, there can be a surprising story… When we study the ancient Greeks and Romans, we are always having to tread a fine line between familiarity and distance. If they are people just like us, then we feel that we can easily understand the nuance of a line of poetry, or appreciate… Continue reading The glory that was Greece?

death, diseases, teaching

The Chameleon in the Classroom

This is a story of illness and magic from the fourth century CE. Even though Constantine had converted the Roman Empire to Christianity, paganism didn’t just lie down and die. One of the most famous pagan intellectuals was Libanius, a distinguished orator who taught rhetoric to famous Christian figures such as Basil the Great and… Continue reading The Chameleon in the Classroom