), the name of the earliest midwife mentioned among the Greeks.
She was a native of Athens, where it was forbidden by law for a woman or a slave to study medicine.
According, however, to Hyginus (Hyg. Fab. 274
), on whose authority alone the whole story rests, it would appear that Agnodice disguised herself in man's clothes, and so contrived to attend the lectures, of a physician named Hierophilus,--devoting herself chiefly to the study of midwifery and the diseases of women.
Afterwards, when she began practice, being very successful in these branches of the profession, she excited the jealousy of several of the other practitioners, by whom she was summoned before the Areiopagus, and accused of corrupting the morals of her patients. Upon her refuting this charge by making known her sex, she was immediately accused of having violated the existing law, which second danger she escaped by the wives of the chief persons in Athens, whom she had attended, coming forward in her behalf, and succeeding at last in getting the obnoxious law abolished. No date whatever is attached to this story, but several persons have, by calling the tutor of Agnodice by the name of Herophilus
instead of Hierophilus,
placed it in the third or fourth century before Christ.
But this emendation, though at first sight very easy and plausible, does not appear altogether free from objections. For, in the first place, if the story is to be believed at all upon the authority of Hyginus, it would seem to belong rather to the fifth or sixth century before Christ than the third or fourth; secondly, we have no reason for thinking that Agnodice was ever at Alexandria, or Herophilus at Athens; and thirdly, it seems hardly probable that Hyginus would have called so celebrated a physician " a certctin leropliilus." (Herophilus quidam.