Bold Women Of Ancient Greece
- by XpatAthens
- Monday, 05 March 2018
Agnodice of Athens (4th century BC)
No woman’s life and work was considered more scandalous and shocking at the time Agnodice, who was the first female doctor in ancient Athens and whose challenge to the male-dominated profession changed the laws regarding women practicing medicine.
Women had always been allowed to perform the services of midwife and could even attend patients, until it was alleged that they were helping their female patients procure abortions. After that, women were not allowed to practice medicine, and the penalty for doing so was death. Agnodice cut her hair and disguised herself as a man in order to study medicine and even traveled to Egypt, where women were held in higher regard and could be doctors, in order to learn her craft. Still in her guise as a man, she returned to Athens and began to treat people.
She became so popular among female patients (who knew she was a woman) that she was accused by a group of men (who thought she was a man) of seducing them. She was put on trial in the Areopagus and, in defending herself against the charge, revealed she was a woman. The men then threatened to execute her for breaking the law by practicing medicine while pretending to be a man. She was saved by her female patients who shamed the court into acquitting her. It seems as though they pointed out how Agnodice had been successfully practicing medicine for some time now and that the male doctors were simply jealous. After her trial, the laws were changed so that women could practice medicine equally with men.
To read more about these fascinating women and others, please visit: The Pappas Post
Image credit: Acropolis Museum.