n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Die helende hand : die rol van die vrou in die antieke geneeskunde

Volume 42, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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In contrast with the struggle of 19th and 20th century women all over the world to be admitted to medical schools, women in ancient Greece and Rome were apparently increasingly able to practice medicine from the 4th century BC. The evidence provided offers proof for this more tolerant attitude. The sources are few in number, but fragmentary information can be gleaned from medical writers, passing remarks in Greek and Latin authors, and funerary inscriptions. These sources show an emphasis on the professions of midwife and woman doctor. Although there is some overlapping of duties, we find that in Greece a distinction between μαία and ζατρική was made as early as the 4th century BC; in Rome the two professions were well established by the 1st century BC: the terms being used for them being and . The training, desired characteristics, qualifications, duties, status and remuneration of the two professions are considered. Funerary inscriptions of women doctors reveal that they were honoured for exceptional services on an equal footing with men; it also comes to light that books were dedicated to them as colleagues, and that they were quoted as respected authors on medical matters. Although there were never large numbers of women doctors, the classical world does not seem to have posed insurmountable barriers to women wanting to follow this profession.

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