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[Translated by John Chadwick and W.N. Mann, The Medical Works of Hippocrates, Oxford, 1950. Translation amended by me.]




20 As a proof of this moistness of the constitution, I may instance the following. You will find that the majority of the Scythians, especially those who are nomads, are cauterized on the shoulders, arms, wrists, chests, hips, and loins. This is done simply for the softness and moistness of their constitutions because otherwise they could neither bend their bows nor put any weight into throwing the javelin. But when they have been cauterized the moisture is dried out of their joints and their bodies become more sinewy and stronger and their joints may then be seen. They grow up flabby and stout for two reasons. First because they are not wrapped in swaddling clothes, as in Egypt, nor are they accustomed to horse-riding as children which makes for a good figure. Secondly, they sit about too much. The male children, until they are old enough to ride, spend most of their time sitting in the wagons and they walk very little since they are so often changing their place of residence. The girls get amazingly flabby and podgy. The Scythians have ruddy complexions on account of the cold, for the sun does not burn fiercely there. But the cold causes their fair skins to be burnt and reddened.

21 People of such constitution cannot be prolific. The men lack sexual desire because they are so flabby and because of the softness and coldness of their bellies, a condition which least inclines men to intercourse. Moreover, being perpetually worn out with riding they are weak in the sexual act when they do have intercourse. These reasons suffice so far as the men are concerned. In the case of the women, fatness and flabbiness is also to blame. The womb is unable to receive the semen and they menstruate infrequently and little. The opening of the womb is sealed by fat and does not permit insemination. The women, being fat, are easily tired and their bellies are cold and soft. Under such conditions, it is impossible for the Scythians to be a prolific race. As a good proof of the sort of physical characteristics which are favourable to conception, consider the case of serving wenches. No sooner do they have intercourse with a man than they become pregnant, on account of their sturdy physique and their leanness of flesh.

22 Further, the rich Scythians become eunuchs and perform women's tasks on an equal footing with them and talk in the same way. Such men they call Andrieis. The Scythians themselves attribute this to a divine visitation and hold such men in awe and reverence, because they fear for themselves. Indeed, I myself hold that this and all other diseases are equally of divine origin and none more divine nor more earthly than another. Each disease has a natural cause and nothing happens without a natural cause. My own explanation of this disability of the Scythians is this: as a result of horse-riding they are afflicted with varicosity of the veins because their feet are always hanging down from their mounts. This is followed by lameness and, in severe cases, those affected drag their hips. They treat themselves by their own remedy which is to cut the vein which runs behind each ear. The haemorrhage which follows causes weakness and sleep and after this some, but not all, awake cured. My own opinion is that such treatment is destructive of the semen owing to the existence of the vessels behind the ears, which, if cut, cause impotence and, it seems to me that these are the vessels they divide. Consequently when they come into the presence of their wives and find themselves impotent, they do not perhaps worry about it at first, but when after the second and third and more attempts the same thing happens, they conclude that they have sinned against the divinity whom they hold responsible for these things. They then accept their unmanliness and dress as women, act as women and join women in their toil. That it is the rich Scythians, those of the noblest blood and the greatest wealth, and not their inferiors, who suffer from this disease, is due to horse-riding. The poor suffer less because they do not ride. Yet, surely, if this disease is more to be considered a divine visitation than any other, it ought to affect not only the rich but everyone equally. Rather the poor should be specially liable to it if the gods really do delight in honours and the admiration of men and bestow favours in return. It is the rich who make frequent sacrifice and dedication to the gods because they have the means. The poor, being less well provided with goods, sacrifice less and accompany their prayers with complaint. Surely it is the poor and not the rich who should be punished for such sins. Really, of course, this disease is no more of 'divine' origin than any other. All diseases have a natural origin and this particular malady of the Scythians is no exception. The same thing happens in other races. Those who ride the most suffer most from varicose veins, pain in the hips and gout and they are the less able to perform their sexual functions. This is the fate of the Scythians. They are the most eunuchoid race of all mankind for the reasons I have given; and because they always wear trousers and spend so much of their time on horseback so that they do not handle their private parts, and, through cold and exhaustion, never have even the desire for sexual intercourse. Thus they have no sexual impulses in the period before they lose their virility.