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The Ideal Prepuce in Ancient Greece and Rome: Male Genital Aesthetics and Their Relation to Lipodermos, Circumcision, Foreskin Restoration, and the Kynodesme

From: Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Volume 75, Number 3, Fall 2001
pp. 375-405 | 10.1353/bhm.2001.0119


This study examines the evolution of Greek and Roman medical conceptualizations of preputial aesthetics, utilizing evidence found in classical medical texts as well as clues from literature, legal sources, and art. A conclusive picture emerges that the Greeks valued the longer prepuce and pathologized the penis characterized by a deficient prepuce--especially one that had been surgically ablated--under the disease concept of lipodermos. The medical conceptualization of lipodermos is also placed in the historical context of the legal efforts to abolish ritual circumcision throughout the Seleucid and Roman empires.

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