Prof. Camillo O. DI CICCO, M.D.
14th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, London, UK
Published in Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Volume 19, Supplement 2, 1-411, October 2005

In Italy the disease was manifested in epidemic shape in 1494
with sieges of Naples by the French troops on the orders of Charles VIII
who died to the age of 28 years, possibly from cerebral syphilis (G. Del Guerra).
A group of approximately 800 prostitutes was aggregated to the French
troops and not there is doubt that just the dissemination
of the prostitutes in the armies and between the
population contributed in maximum part to disseminate
the syphilis that in our peninsula was called
"mal francese" while for the French it was "mal napolitain".
In Rome, towards the end of the '400, clandestines
excluding, were available approximately 6800 prostitutes.
In Venice the prostitutes were forced to walk with a yellow handkerchief
around the neck like sign of acknowledgment.
It was the sexual abstinence that the Church adopted as a remedy in order to avoid
such disease and Pope Paul IV, around to the half of the '500,
decreed with an edict an evicting from Rome and all the Papal State of the prostitutes.
The popular rebellion forced the Church to find a
center to pratice prostitution across Tevere: today Trastevere.
In the " De preservatione a carie gallica" of 1555, Gabriele Falloppia devised one
individual protection against syphilis consisting in one patch of linen to shape of
bag "ad mensuram glandis" soaked with mercury: it was the forerunner of the
modern condom.
That nevertheless the disease continued to claim victims in all social ranks,
including clergy and nobility. Illustrious sick they were Francesco I King
of France and Pope Giulio II. The religious make appeal to the protecting of
Saint Giobbe and Saint Dionigi, the astrologers to the study of planets tryng
remedy to the negative conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn in the sign of Scorpion,
even therapeutics powers were attributed to the wood of Guaiaco of the Antilles,
called "Saint wood".
Five centuries after the epidemic of syphilis another venerel disease is spreading,
finding current medicine completely unprepared it has made the Church call again
for sexual abstinence, the sanctimonious people speak of divine punishment,
what the men of the 20th century have called AIDS.

Title: Hyacum Et Lues Venerea./ Engraving published by Philipp Galle (1537-1612).
Author: Stradanus J.
(Five persons in various stage of preparing guaiac for a syphilitic patient in bed)

Courtesy of The National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland