The idea that the womb moved freely about a woman's body causing spasmodic disease enjoyed great popularity among the ancient Greeks, beginning in the classical period with Plato and the Hippocratic writers and continuing on into the Roman and Byzantine periods. Armed with sophisticated analyses of the medical tradition and new texts pertaining to the magical, this essay describes how both approaches to the wandering womb develop side by side in mutual influence from the late classical period onwards. Of special interest will be the tendency in both traditions to imagine both demons and errant wombs as wild animals and to use fumigations to control both. It concludes with a discussion of the historical development of and consequences for the idea that women alone possessed an internal organ that was variously interpreted as a mechanically defective body-part, a sentient and passionate animal, and then finally a demon with malicious intent, who bites and poisons the female body. It also argues against the hypothesis or assumption that midwives or wet-nurses were the original source for the idea of the wandering womb, suggesting that the syndrome never fit comfortably into the category of gynecological illness, because the womb was not the site of disease, but rather a cause of spasmodic disease in other areas of the body.

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