Chapter

The Hippocratic “Airs, Waters, Places” on Cross-Dressing Eunuchs: “Natural” yet also “Divine”<sup>†</sup>

Elinor Lieber

in Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780748613199
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651016 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748613199.003.0020
The Hippocratic “Airs, Waters, Places” on Cross-Dressing Eunuchs: “Natural” yet also “Divine”†

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On the northern shores of the Black Sea, the Greek colonists established a number of towns and maintained good relations with the local inhabitants, who were referred to by both Herodotus and the author of the Hippocratic account as ‘Scythians’. Scholars have found it hard to believe that ‘many’ of these ‘Scythians’ could have been squat, fat, and lethargic, as mentioned in the Hippocratic account, let alone cross-dressing eunuchs suffering from some chronic feminine disease. Even those who consult the Hippocratic source still tend to centre the debate on its references to transvestism and impotence, and ignore its clear depiction of the Anarieis as suffering from some chronic, generalised, physical disease, of which these are only two signs. Eunuchism following a combination of signs such as described in the Hippocratic account seems to point to one condition alone: some endemic form of the syndrome now known as hereditary iron overload or primary haemochromatosis.

Keywords: Black Sea; cross-dressing; eunuchs; Scythians; feminine disease; Herodotus; transvestism; impotence; Anarieis; primary haemochromatosis

Chapter.  9437 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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