Roman vaginal speculum, 100 BC-400 AD.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This bronze vaginal speculum is over 20 cm long and was found in the Lebanon. It comprises a priapiscus with dovetailing valves which are opened and closed by a handle with a screw mechanism. It shows the relatively sophisticated instruments that were in use in Roman medicine. Vaginal specula were used in the diagnosis and treatment of vaginal and uterine disorders. The earliest major work on the diseases of women was written in Roman times, about 100 AD. Doctors' ideas about women's diseases at this time were largely based on Hippocrates' views. Hippocrates (c 500 BC) believed that the womb was responsible for hysteria and that the female body was an imperfect version of the male.