Attempts to analyze the historical course of syphilis have always encountered the difficulty of disengaging that disease from the mélange of symptoms and signs comprised by ancient and medieval medical writings. It is hard to recognize the syphilis of those days, not only because of diagnostic confusion with other diseases, but also because of the nature of syphilis itself— its protean symptomatology, its latent period between early and late stages, and its diverse epidemiology that causes it sometimes to appear as an innocent childhood disease, and at other times, under different social circumstances, as a venereal disease. Indeed, the difficulty of identifying syphilis prior to about 1500 has so discouraged some students of the subject as to persuade them that it could not have been present in the Old World before the return of Columbus from the New in 1493.
It is appropriate therefore, at this stage in our knowledge
HUDSON EH. Historical Approach to the Terminology of Syphilis. Arch Dermatol. 1961;84(4):545–562. doi:10.1001/archderm.1961.01580160009002
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