In Greek literature, poets, whether syphilitic or not, referred to syphilis with a uniquely positive social perspective. In 1925, Kostas Karyotakis, a syphilitic and a dismal, satirical poet, wrote Song of Insanity, which was later renamed Ochra Spirochaete (also known as Treponema pallidum).1 When it was published in Hesperus magazine, the last stanza said: “ She was so beautiful, our bought girlfriend,/through the twilight of that remote winter/when she gave us her lips, with an enigmatic smile,/and foresaw the potential future, the upcoming abyss. ”1 These verses speak expressively about syphilis, especially with the words “bought girlfriend,” as prostitutes were considered the major cause of syphilis' transmission; “enigmatic smile,” as a smiling face hid the disease; and “abyss,” as abyss represented the dark prognosis of syphilis.2
Kousoulis AA, Karamanou M, Androutsos G. Syphilis in Greek Poetry: A Uniquely Positive Perspective. Arch Dermatol. 2011;147(1):28. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2010.388
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: