Reproductive capacity only depended on semen in Ancient Greece

  • Drs. Pascual and Fernando Sánchez, founders and medical managers of Ginemed, collaborate in the writing of the book "Anthropology of Reproductive Medicine".
  • In reviewing the history of Reproductive Medicine in Greece, Rome and Byzantium, the authors highlight the role of Hippocrates, the father of current Medicine, who already spoke of poor eating habits as a factor of infertility

En la Antigua Grecia la capacidad reproductiva solo dependía del semen

The Drs. Pascual and Fernando Sánchez, founders of Ginemed, have participated in the writing of "Anthropology of Reproductive Medicine", a book that reviews the history of this specialty from Prehistory to our days. The chapter, “Incubatio, Humores and Priapus”, focuses on the period between the 5th centuries before and after Christ, 10 centuries in which Greece, Rome and Byzantium dominated the Western world.

After a stage in which the priests acted as doctors and in which magic and religion were the closest thing to what we understand today as medicine, in Ancient Greece the first three theories about human reproduction appeared, with approaches such as "The body of the future baby already existed in the man's semen."

The authors of the book highlight Hippocrates, the father of current Medicine, who generated a current that lasted until 10 centuries after his death. His is one of the reproductive theories, which considered that "semen was formed by the sum of tiny particles from all parts of the body," say Drs. Sanchez in the book.

The prestigious Greek doctor already points to the need for the union of semen with what he called "female sperm", referring to the woman's ovum, for fertilization to occur. Contrary to Hippocratic thought, Aristotle already spoke of the gestation process and the expulsion of unfertilized ovules during menstruation.

In the chapter we can also find information on the causes that were then considered to generate infertility. Doctors highlighted everything from the imperfection of the hymen to malformations and anatomical anomalies, including some bad habits food. There was a certain unanimity in giving semen the leading role in reproductive capacity, not taking into account the importance of women in fertilization.

The Drs. Sánchez continues reviewing the activity of other philosophers-doctors when Alexandria becomes the center of Hellenic thought, as is the case of Herophilus, discoverer of the prostate. With the entry of the Roman Empire, and without major developments in terms of reproduction and fertility, we find treatises on the different intrauterine positions of the fetus or remedies to cure infertility.

After the disappearance of the Western Roman Empire, Hippocratic medicine will survive in the Byzantine Empire. The authors of the book conclude the chapter by recalling that, despite all these medical advances, the majority of society continued to believe in superstitions and gods of fertility, such as Priapus, who was attributed the virtue of protecting the “fertilising virile power”.

The Drs. Pascual and Fernando Sánchez, after more than 30 years of experience as gynecologists and experts in assisted reproduction, regularly participate in educational and cultural actions to promote reproductive health care for women and disseminate clear and transparent information on fertility.

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