Female Anthropology, Physiology and Disease in Ancient Christian Writers


  • Emanuela Prinzivalli Department of Historical and Religious Studies Sapienza University of Rome, I


Ancient Christian sources, Female anthropology, Female physiology, Female pathology


Ancient Christian sources are rich in reference to the anthropology and physiology of the female. Christianity in the first centuries had multiple positions as concerns the doctrinal thoughts as well as the social practices. Christian anthropological doctrine has been developed along two exegetical lines, hinging on Genesis 1-3: the first views the human being as a whole psycophysical entity and thereby highlights the protological inferiority of the woman; the second, spiritual and Platonic, emphasizes the inner self and thus, in theory, is more equalitarian. Ancient philosophical theories regarding human generation, in particular those of Aristotle and the Stoics, are used, along with medical notions, by Christian theologians to elaborate the dogma of incarnation. However, in certain cases, as with the post partum virginity of Maria, medical theories are totally put aside. The stories recounting the miracles offer the possibility of understanding medical practices of female conditions and the emotive reactions of the women.