Galen on infertility in the Commentary on the Hippocratic Aphorisms, Book V

Giulia Ecca


The fifth book of the Hippocratic Aphorisms represents an important source for the history of ancient gynecology: fully half the book (thirty-six of its seventy-two aphorisms) is concerned with gynecological problems. Some aphorisms (especially Aph. V 59, 62 and 63) deal with obstacles to pregnancy and sterility of women and/or men. The aim of this paper is to investigate how Galen understood and explained these aphorisms, whose interpretation covers a very long section of his Commentary on the Hippocratic Aphorisms. In these pages of Galen’s Commentary, we find very interesting observations both on the medical content and on philological problems in the Hippocratic text. On the one hand, Galen explains female infertility according to his own theory of mixture (κρᾶσις) and refers to the figure of the midwife, as Plato described her in the Theaetetus, for diagnosing it. On the other hand, he has to deal with the inconsistency of Aph. V 63 on male sterility, the authenticity of which is questioned on account of some incoherencies Galen detects in the alleged Hippocratic text.

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