It’s all in the breasts: pregnancy aphorisms in the Hippocratic Corpus

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post is contributed by Laurence Totelin who writes on breast milk and the Hippocratic aphorisms.

The first Hippocratic aphorism – “the art if long, life is short” – is perhaps the most famous passage of the entire Hippocratic Corpus, that heteroclite collection of texts written in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE and attributed to the physician of Cos. There were, however, many other aphorisms beside that most noted one. They are organized into seven books and cover numerous aspects of medical wisdom. Book five concerns us most as it contains pregnancy-related aphorisms. Today, I wish to examine pregnancy aphorisms that mention the breasts and milk, as they show us how the ancients understood the female body and its ability to carry a child to term.

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