What inscriptions we have tell us a little bit about these women’s lives. Neither marital nor slave status seems to have directly prevented a woman from practicing medicine and earning the title of physician, though under many circumstances being married or a slave would probably have made it significantly more difficult given the need to bow to the wishes of a husband or master. It’s likely that most of these women were either the daughters or wives of fellow physicians.
As before, most female physicians seem to primarily have dealt with “women’s ailments” like menstruation, childbirth (especially difficult births), etc, but some spread their practice wider. According to her epitaph, a physician named Domnina “delivered her fatherland from disease.” Another, Aspasia, seems to have practiced surgery. Female physicians are quoted alongside men by writers like Pliny the Elder, Galen, Aetius, and others. Their words are given similar weight and show the same breadth of practice.
The only medical writer whose work we have independently of mere quotations is that of Metrodora, written sometime between the 2nd and 5th centuries CE. She focused largely on illnesses and injuries of the womb and vagina, pathology more than midwifery or obstetrics, but also took an active part in contemporary debates over individual causes and symptoms.
There is no doubt that some women became physicians in the Roman period and that they were regarded as practitioners of medicine beyond midwifery. Some were pigeonholed into more “feminine” specialties, but many were not. Some performed extraordinary services and were rewarded with inscriptions in their honor. Others wrote their own medical texts, one of which survives today. There may not be very much information about them, but this much cannot be doubted.
*Often he was the one to have it put up in the first place.
Several inscriptions regarding female physicians may be found in Lefkowitz and Fant, nos. 370-372, 376
Parker, Holt N. "Women physicians in Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire." In Women Healers and Physicians: Climbing a Long Hill, edited by Lilian R. Furst, 131-150. University Press of Kentucky, 1997. [Note: can be found here on academia.edu]
Pomeroy, Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves. New York: Schocken, 1995.
Metrodora - Wikipedia