Bad History, doctors, drugs, love, sex

Cleopatra and the vibrator powered by bees

One of the most far-fetched myths about ancient sexuality, repeated online but also in print, is that Cleopatra invented the vibrator. Some sites date this event to ‘circa 54 BC’ while others go for 45 BC: there’s nothing like a date to make a story look more convincing. Now, there’s obviously one little problem here:… Continue reading Cleopatra and the vibrator powered by bees

Bad History, doctors, drugs, Hippocrates, menstruation, pregnancy, sex, womb

IUD or not IUD? Did the Hippocratics invent the first intrauterine device?

"Around 400 B.C., writers from the Hippocrates school discussed a contraceptive similar to the intrauterine device (IUD) of today. This particular apparatus was a hollow tube filled with mutton-fat..." Really??

doctors, drugs, ethics, Hippocrates

Should physicians treat their enemies?

  There are a lot of mistaken ideas about the ‘Hippocratic oath’; for example, that it was written by the real Hippocrates (deeply unlikely – probably written way after his supposed lifetime); that it bans abortion (no, it bans giving an abortive pessary to someone asking for one, so other methods could be fine, and… Continue reading Should physicians treat their enemies?

drugs, food, remedies, sex

What is it about the pangolin?

British trains now commonly have posters encouraging travelers to text a small donation to a charity. This could be a charity supporting people, or one helping animals. Yesterday, however, I saw a poster for what was a new cause for me: a charity aiming at preventing pangolins from becoming extinct. It’s a long time since I’ve… Continue reading What is it about the pangolin?

doctors, drugs, food, love, remedies, sex

Poisons and love potions

Everybody knows that the ancient Greek word pharmakon means both healing drug and poison. So how could you tell the (rather important!) difference? In Latin, the equivalent term venenum was similarly used in both senses, and Roman law codes tried to tie down that ambiguity by making it clear whether a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’… Continue reading Poisons and love potions