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Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome$
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Mark Golden and Peter Toohey

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780748613199

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.001.0001

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The Hippocratic “Airs, Waters, Places” on Cross-Dressing Eunuchs: “Natural” yet also “Divine”†

The Hippocratic “Airs, Waters, Places” on Cross-Dressing Eunuchs: “Natural” yet also “Divine”†

(p.351) 20 The Hippocratic “Airs, Waters, Places” on Cross-Dressing Eunuchs: “Natural” yet also “Divine”
Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome

Elinor Lieber

Edinburgh University Press

On the northern shores of the Black Sea, the Greek colonists established a number of towns and maintained good relations with the local inhabitants, who were referred to by both Herodotus and the author of the Hippocratic account as ‘Scythians’. Scholars have found it hard to believe that ‘many’ of these ‘Scythians’ could have been squat, fat, and lethargic, as mentioned in the Hippocratic account, let alone cross-dressing eunuchs suffering from some chronic feminine disease. Even those who consult the Hippocratic source still tend to centre the debate on its references to transvestism and impotence, and ignore its clear depiction of the Anarieis as suffering from some chronic, generalised, physical disease, of which these are only two signs. Eunuchism following a combination of signs such as described in the Hippocratic account seems to point to one condition alone: some endemic form of the syndrome now known as hereditary iron overload or primary haemochromatosis.

Keywords:   Black Sea, cross-dressing, eunuchs, Scythians, feminine disease, Herodotus, transvestism, impotence, Anarieis, primary haemochromatosis

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