Semen Loss: Recent Western History
To The Seminal Truth? Table of Content.
Semen 'Cults' in Melanesia - Gilbert Herdt
  Semen: Varying Western Historical Views
Ancient Greece to Middle Ages

Ancient Greece: "The predominance of the male over the female was also demonstrated by the belief in the primary procreating function of the male sperm over the secondary female womb. In the Eumenides of Aeschylus, Appolo professes himself to be of the opinion that the mother is not the parent of that which is called the child, but only nurse the newly-implanted seed. It is the one who mounts who is the true parent. This belief found an echo in a number of myths" (Garland, 1986: 40-1).

"Galen seems to reflect the ambiguity concerning the sexual act thatwas so characteristic of the Greek tradition. The medical texts of the first and second century articulate two antithetical calues about sexual activity. While semen is identified as a precious substance of Nature that needs to be carefully preserved for the continuation of the species, the sexual union is also a fact of Nature which cannot be considered totally bad. The paradox of sexual pleasure is that though it is a vehicle for transmission of a vital fluid, the loss of that fluid can result in illness"(Raguram et al., 1994: 120)

Ancient Rome: "The primary theory of conception in Ancient Rome was the doctrine of the two seeds. According to this doctrine "both parents created semen."(Rawson 231) Democritus, an ancient physician, believed that this semen was derived from the whole body "particularly the important parts such as bones, flesh and sinews." Because both parents produce semen they both have the opportunity to contribute to the traits of their children. The parent with the dominant sperm contributed the most characteristics. Hippocrates wrote that if both parents produced strong sperm the child was male. If both produced weak sperm the result was a female. If one parent produced strong sperm and one weak the sex of the child would be determined by the stronger sperm... Ancient Romans believed that the heat of lovemaking determined the sex of the child. Hippocrates wrote that coitus creates a "pleasure and heat" throughout a woman's body. (On the Generating Seed and the Nature of the Child 4) This heat peaks with the introduction of sperm into the womb and then dies down. According to Galen (Rawson 232) this heat determines the sex of the child" (Bindom, 2000).

The Middle Ages: "The physical origin of sperm, in men and in women, was also debated. The brain, the head in general, the body as a whole and the reproductive organs more specifically all had their supporters. The medieval mind liked to work by analogy, and the whiteness of the brain was likened to the whiteness of semen, the spinal cord providing a physiological link between these two substances. Both semen and breast milk were believed to derive from blood, undergoing a series of purifications during which they lost their colour. Men, needless to say, were thought to purify their blood more completely, thanks to their hotter nature. Emission of both menstrual blood and semen were thought to remove impurities from the body. The retention of these products could poison the system, and sexual activity, including masturbation, was sometimes recommended by doctors as a cure for various ailments. Churchmen were left to debate whether in such circumstances sexual activity constituted a sin, or was necessary for the health of the body" (Bowie, 1994).

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Summa Theologica - First Part - Question 118. Whether the sensitive soul is transmitted with the semen?  Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Copyright © 1947 Benzinger Brothers Inc. (Aquinas)

Semen Loss: Recent Western History
Semen 'Cults' in Melanesia - Gilbert Herdt

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