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Physiognomy exists to distinguish the masculine and feminine types. Innate human behavior and the character than one gender, or even mixed genders, essentially possess allows one to classify the stronger sex. Ideals such as these influenced the likes of Aristotle, Loxos, Polemo, and many other men, who sought to classify the sexes by their obvious tendencies.

The essential idea of Physiognomy is that there exist masculine and feminine "types" that do not necessarily correspond to the anatomical sex of the person in question. There is a possibility of mixed gender-signs, which demands a science of decipherment, using such things as cosmology.

The Hellenistic physician Loxos claims, in his discussion of mixed gender-signs, that good character actually requires both masculine courage and feminine wisdom. These possibilities hardly influenced or even intrigued Palemo, who often followed the Aristolian ideals of the character of man.

The male is physically stronger and braver, less prone to defects and more likely lo be sincere and loyal. He is more keen to win honor and he is worthier of respect. The female has the contrary properties: she has but little courage and abounds in deceptions1

Aristotle Vs Loxos Vs Palemo

Aristotle is associated with the Physiognomonica, which concentrates on the concept of human behavior and animal behavior, dividing the animal kingdom into male and female types. The types are thus deduced correspondences between human form and character.

Contrary to Loxos, Polemo, a physiognomist and rhetorician of the second century C.E., followed Aristotelian wisdom closely in his summary of gender differences in character and physique1. This essentially meant that the character of a person was judged based on pheneotypical attributes, especially when it came to facial movements. However, there were also judgments and overgeneralizations based on personality.

According to Palemo, the female has little courage and is trivially deceptive. She hides her opinions and she is bitter. She is a rebellious oppressor with a tremendous fondness for quarreling. A physiognomist, who takes the “gender temperature” like a thermometer reading, measures these opposing gender categories. If the qualities or personality traits are mixed in the individual, the physiognomist must essentially choose which prevail over the other.

Walking, for instance, is a universal and uncomplicated activity, but while one man's gait reveals his composure and the attention he gives to his conduct, another's reveals his inner disorder and lack of self-restraint. Similarly, a certain fold in the eyelids, if they are raised excessively high, invites the diagnosis of gender deviance. A man who breathes like a coward may be an androgynous as well, if you can find any other signs that point in that direction1.

  1. Maud W. Gleason, “The Semiotics of Gender: Physiognomy and Self-Fashioning in the Second Century C.E.”, in Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World, ed by David M. Halperin et al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) 394. 

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Comments (4)

Hi Lauren, This is a subject I never heard of before. I love learning new things. I voted this up, tweeted, reddit, dugg and Facebooked. I will check up with you on Facebook. Blessings Chris

This is new to me Lauren, but great! Voted up!

Interesting, educational and very well presented.Thank you.

Interesting and very informative Lauren, thank you!