Brief description of the project
Gynecia is a project about Rodrigo de Castro, known mostly by the Latin name Rodericus a Castro Lusitanus, and about his medical treatise De universa mulierum medicina, edited for the first time in Hamburg in 1603 and reedited several times in the 17th century. Gynecia was the latinized greek title of many ancient medical texts about women’s nature, conditions, and diseases, going back to the Hippocratic Diseases of Women or Soranus’ Gynaecology and its Latin translations. Gynaikeia is a Greek plural with multiple meanings: it literally means “women’s things,” but it can also refer to the female sex organs, menstruation, diseases that are characteristic of women, and therapies or recipes for these diseases. The project aims at considering the ancient tradition about female healthcare and embryology as explored in Rodrigo de Castro’s treatise. His perspective being a composite of tradition and innovation, the project aims at exploring its place in European 17th century medicine.
Rodrigo de Castro Lusitano (c.1546-1627 / 29?) was a Portuguese physician, of Jewish origin who, c. 1590, escaped persecution of the Jews. In Hamburg, he edited De uniuersa mulierum medicina, not translated into any modern language and much negleced in the history of Portuguese and European science and medicine. The treatise remains in oblivion and needs to be translated from its original Latin in order to be studied and appreciated. Being the first treatise on gynecology written by a Portuguese author, influential in Europe many years after the death of the author, De uniuersa mulierum medicina is one of the most relevant works of the history of science in Portugal and explores comprehensively issues of physiology and anatomy, embryology, conception, sex, pregnancy, abortion, infertility, childbirth, monstrous beings, etc. It is a product of his time, when interest in ancient texts coexists with a new emphasis on experimentalism and observation, especially after the first printed editions of the Hippocratic treatises on gynecology and embryology. Evaluating the classical and Arabic traditions (Hippocrates, Aristotle, Pliny, Soranus, Galen, Averroes, Avicenna), Rodrigo de Castro establishes a multivocal dialogue between traditional ideas and new ideas, engaging in the work of important names in European medicine such as Du Laurens, Amato Lusitano, Mercado, Akakia, Paré, Rousset, Mercuriale and others. Being a treatise that addresses different areas of knowledge, such as what we would today classify as philosophy, embryology, psychology, sociology, sexology, canon law and civil law, the treatise has an undeniable scientific and cultural value, yet not properly recognized. Reversing this situation will allow a better understanding of the Portuguese contribution to the development of science and medicine in Renaissance Europe. The project aims to reach a wide and diverse audience, not necessarily instructed in Latin and interested in History of Europe or Portugal, History of Science, Medicine or Gynecology, Renaissance Studies, etc.
The team includes specialists in Classical Studies, with experience in translation and commentary of Greek and Latin texts; in History of Medicine and in Philosophy; in English Studies. Many members of the team have devoted themselves to the study of Greek, Roman and Renaissance texts on medicine and materia medica. To complete and contextualize the De uniuersa mulierum medicina study, the team proposes the publication of an anthology with the Portuguese translation of ancient medical and philosophical texts on the feminine nature and a Portuguese translation of the treatise On the formation of the fetuses of Galen. The project will make possible to establish the link between Rodrigo de Castro and the Greco-Roman medical tradition, place him in the European medical tradition and assess his importance in the trends of the science of his time.