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July 2012

Morbus Europaeus: Europeans Naming Syphilis for Their Enemies

Author Affiliations

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

Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(7):831. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2012.548

The Spanish physician Rodrigo Ruiz Diaz de Isla attributed the entry of syphilis in Europe to Christopher Columbus, who brought it from the New World (1493).1 After King Charles VIII conquered the Neapolitan kingdom, the French called syphilis maladie de Naples or mal napolitain. Interestingly, Italians Luca Ghini and Nicola Massa used the name morbus neapolitanus in the titles of their 2 works, respectively.2 After the battle of Fornovo, with a victory by the Italian League over the French army commanded by Charles VIII, syphilis was called male italiano or morbo italico.3