Illness of Maidens

Text: 8.466-70 Littre; translation adapted from N.Demand, Birth, Death and Motherhood, Johns Hopkins, 1994 (retaining the confusion between singular and plural found in the Greek text). 
        "The beginning of medicine in my opinion is the constitution of the ever-existing.  For it is not possible to know the nature of diseases, which indeed it is [the aim] of the art to discover, if you do not know the beginning in the undivided, from which it is divided out. 
        First about the so-called sacred disease, and about those who are stricken, and about terrors, all that men fear exceedingly so as to be out of their minds and to seem to have seen certain daimons hostile to them, either in the night or in the day or at both times.  For from such a vision many already are strangled, more women than men; for the female nature is more fainthearted and lesser. But maidens, for whom it is the time of marriage, remaining unmarried, suffer this more at the time of the going down of the menses.  Earlier they do not suffer these distresses, for it is later that the blood is collected in the womb so as to flow away.  Whenever then the mouth of the exit is not opened for it, and more blood flows in because of nourishment and the growth of the body, at this time the blood, not having an outlet, bursts forth by reason of its magnitude into the kardia (heart) and phrenes (diaphragm).  Whenever these are filled, the kardia becomes sluggish; then from sluggishness comes torpor; then from torpor, madness.  It is just as when someone sits for a long time, the blood from the hips and thighs, pressed out to the lower legs and feet, causes torpor, and from the torpor the feet become powerless for walking until the blood runs back to its own place; and it runs back quickest whenever, standing in cold water, you moisten the part up to the ankles.  This torpor is not serious, for the blood quickly runs back on account of the straightness of the veins, and the part of the body is not critical. But from the kardia and the phrenes it runs back slowly, for the veins are at an angle, and the part is critical and disposed for derangement and mania.  And whenever these parts are filled, shivering with fever starts up quickly; they call these fevers wandering.  But when these things are thus, she is driven mad by the violent inflammation, and she is made murderous by the putrefaction, and she is fearful and anxious by reason of the gloom, and strangulations result from the pressure around the kardia, and the spirit, distraught and anguished by reason of the badness of the blood, is drawn towards evil.  And another thing, she addresses by name fearful things, and they order her to jump about and to fall down into wells and to be strangled, as if it were better and had every sort of advantage.  And whenever they are without visions, there is a kind of pleasure that makes her desire death as if it were some sort of good.  But when the woman  returns to reason, women dedicate both many other things and the most expensive feminine clothing to Artemis, being utterly deceived, the soothsayers ordering it.  Her deliverance [is] whenever nothing hinders the outflow of blood.  But I myself bid maidens, whenever they suffer such things, to cohabit with men as quickly as possible, for if they conceive they become healthy.  But if not, either immediately in the prime of youth, or a little later, she will be seized [by this illness], if not by some other illness.  And of married women, those who are sterile suffer this more often." 

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