Antonio de Torquemada (English translation)

This is an English translation of a passage from Torquemada’s Jardin de flores curiosas, first published in 1570. For the content, and also the Spanish original, see here; for a German translation from 1626, see here.

LUIS: It is a well known fact that lots of men [human beings] are born with two natures: one of man and one of woman; although most of times one of them comes without strength and so impotent that it just serves as signal of what nature can when it wants to; but there are some who are born as potent in one nature as in the other. From the former, I knew a married woman, who was known to have also the nature of a man, but without strength/potency or possibility at all [to use it], albeit her outlook and presence were masculine. From the other ones there are also a lot; and so, from what I have heard, in Burgos a woman was requested to choose the nature she wanted to use and not to use the other one, under the penalty of death; and she chose that of woman and later it was known that [she] secretly used the manly one and made great evils under this one, and [she] was burned because of it.

ANTONIO: It is also said that in Seville another one was burned because of the same. In these lands it has to be taken as a great wonder that men had nature of women, or women that of men; but [take a] look at Pliny, following Califanes who took part in the conquer of India with the great Alexander1, who affirms that in the borders of the [territory of the] Nasamones exists a province [land] of people, called androgynous, who are all hermaphrodites, and who do not respect any order or coherence in the coitus, but ones and others using both [sexes] equally. And given the very few information that exists on them, I would not trust these authors if it were not confirmed by Aristotle who says that these androgynous have their right breast like a man and their left one like a woman, for with the latter they breed the creatures they give birth to.

1 I have deliberately written “the great Alexander” instead of “Alexander the Great” in order to remain as near as possible to the original text. The denomination “Alejandro el Magno” or “el Grande” was already in use in 16th century Spain, but there was no fixed pattern.


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