Sex and vegetables in the Hippocratic gynaecological treatises

The compilers of the Hippocratic gynaecological treatises often recommend sexual intercourse as part of treatments for women’s diseases. In addition, they often prescribe the use of ingredients that are obvious phallic symbols. This paper argues that the use of sexual therapy in the Hippocratic gynaecological treatises was more extended than previously considered. The Hippocratic sexual therapies involve a series of vegetable ingredients that were sexually connoted in antiquity, but have since lost their sexual connotations. In order to understand the sexual signification of products such as myrtle and barley, one must turn to other ancient texts, and most particularly to Attic comedies. These comedies serve here as a semiotic guide in decoding the Hippocratic gynaecological recipes. However, the sexual connotations attached to animal and vegetable ingredients in these two genres have deeper cultural and religious roots; both genres exploited the cultural material at their disposal
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