Syphilis had many historical names. In Germany it was The French Disease. In France it was The Italian Disease. In Holland it was The Spanish Disease. In Russia it was The Polish Disease. The Turks called it The Christian Disease.
The name “syphilis” was coined by the Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro in his pastoral noted poem, written in Latin, titled Syphilis sive morbus gallicus (Latin for “Syphilis or The French Disease”) in 1530. The protagonist of the poem is a shepherd named Syphilus (perhaps a variant spelling of Sipylus, a character in Ovid’s Metamorphoses). Syphilus is presented as the first man to contract the disease, sent by the god Apollo as punishment for the defiance that Syphilus and his followers had shown him. From this character Fracastoro derived a new name for the disease, which he also used in his medical text De Contagione et Contagiosis Morbis (1546) (“On Contagion and Contagious Diseases”).
Until that time, as Fracasto… Continue Reading