‘Women are incomplete men’ and other absurd ancient beliefs | BBC Ideas


The Greeks and Romans gave us so much that it’s little wonder we
continue to sing their praises as great inventors,
artists and writers. But not everything they thought
has stood the test of time. Here are five of their most absurd
pieces of wisdom. Number one… “If a woman says no she means yes.”
– Ovid A highly damaging piece of advice from the Latin poet Ovid’s
Guide to Love. “Women act coy,” he maintained “and may even put up a fight, but secretly they want
to be overcome in battle.” Now to women today, especially in the
era of #MeToo, it’s pretty abhorrent. In fact, the poem from which
this piece of advice comes actually helped
to land Ovid in exile for being so sexually explicit. Two… Dark skinned men produce black semen.
– Herodotus Herodotus – the so called father of
history – believed this to be true, both of Ethiopians
and certain Indians. To modern eyes it may look racist. But to him it was little more
than a curiosity worthy of note. He did not provide a source
for this nugget, apparently believing it to be true
simply on logical grounds. Perhaps he thought it was one of
those “Well I never” anecdotes that would enliven his histories
of Greece’s wars against Persia. Three… Aristotle. Together with Plato, Aristotle was the most influential
philosopher from antiquity. He wrote on everything,
from drama to animals. But he did entertain some rather
peculiar ideas about biology. He saw men and women
as completely different. Men were hot and dry. Women were cold and wet. If reproduction happens properly,
he thought, then the embryo should be male,
like its father. A daughter is the result
of a man’s semen being too weak to overpower a woman’s
reproductive matter. Four… “Women who see monkeys
during intercourse, bear children who resemble
monkeys.” -Soranus. A medical marvel from Soranus –
a doctor of the Roman Empire. His thinking is that you can inherit not just the physical characteristics
of your parents, but even the thoughts they had when
they were actually conceiving you. Soranus thought it
particularly important that a woman be sober during sex just in case she conceived
a deranged child. He also advised her against picturing
monkeys or other animals in case the child
came out looking like one. Far better to picture a statue so that the child
might have long graceful limbs, but hopefully not be too rigid
and cold. Five… “Beware the fifth day of the month,
it is dreadful” – Hesiod In the 7th Century BC, a poet called Hesiod composed
a poem on the farmer’s year. He believed that some
days of the month were more suitable for some
tasks than others, and endeavoured to give land owners
the best possible advice. Fifth days struck him
as peculiarly threatening. Hesiod’s misgivings
haven’t stood the test of time. But perhaps in the future people will look back on us and laugh for us finding
Friday the 13th so unlucky. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon!

2 thoughts on “‘Women are incomplete men’ and other absurd ancient beliefs | BBC Ideas

  1. Shed light upon some of modern absurd beliefs. I'm sure you'll find many.

  2. If you like this video, you might also enjoy more from our philosophy playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aBqKC7qnls&list=PLMrFM-P68Wh6U7TpimsYYfBDfdL4C7UB1

    Oh, and why not subscribe while you’re at it 😉

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