In Histories, written in the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus tells the story of Atossa, the queen of Persia, who was struck by an unusual illness. Atossa was the daughter of Cyrus the Great, and wife of Darius I, the legendary Achaemenid emperor who ruled over a vast stretch of land from Lydia on the Mediterranean Sea to Babylonia on the Persian Gulf. Atossa was troubled by a bleeding lump in her breast, “which broke and spread further.” Atossa was embarrassed of her ailment, and at first hid it from others. But when the swelling increased and with it the pain, she sent for Democedes of Croton, who was one of the most gifted physicians of the 6th century B.C.
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Bust of Atossa at the National Museum of Iran. Photo: DanielTheGreat/Wikimedia