ultrafacts:Born in 300 BC in ancient Greece, Agnodice…


Born in 300 BC in ancient Greece, Agnodice wanted to practice medicine in an era when women were legally prohibited from the healing arts. According to legend, Agnodice was a noblewoman born with a passion for medicine. The only way she could achieve her dream was to cut her hair and wear men’s clothing. Encouraged by her father, she Dressed thusly and soon become an avid student of the famous Alexandrian physician, Herophilus where she earned the highest marks.

Her story comes to us through Hyginus, a Latin author of the first century CE:

A certain maiden named Agnodice desired to learn medicine and since she desired to learn she cut her hair, donned the clothes of a man and became a student of Herophilus. After she learned medicine, she heard a woman crying out in the throes of labor so she went to her assistance. The woman, thinking she was a man, refused her help; but Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed herself to be a woman and was thus able to treat her patient. 

When the male doctors found that their service were not wanted by the women, they began to accuse Agnodice, saying that she had seduced the women and they accused the women of feigning illness [to get visits from Agnodice]. When she was brought before the law court, the men began to condemn Agnodice. Agnodice once again lifted her tunic to show that she was indeed a woman. 

The male doctors began to accuse her all the more vehemently [for breaking the law forbidding women to study medicine]. At this point the wives of the leading men arrived saying “you men are not spouses but enemies since you are condemning her who discovered health for us.” Then the Athenians emended the law so that freeborn women could study medicine. [x]

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