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Notable Notes
Nov 2011

Greek and Roman Myths Recognized in Naming Syphilis

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Mangone (Cosenza), Italy.

Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(11):1316. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.353

In early times, some physicians named syphilis for Greek and Roman myths as a way to explain the difficulty in overcoming the disease. Guillaume Rondelet (1507-1566) called syphilis Hydra's disease for the Greek mythological monster Hydra from Lerna, which had 9 heads, with the one in the middle being immortal. Gervais U çay (17th century) named the numerous symptoms and clinical features of syphilis Proteus ’disease after the Greek divinity, who was able to change his appearance according to circumstance.