Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 30 On the Femur

The shape of the femur along its length

As regards the remaining shape of the femur (from f to G in fig. 2, c to G in fig. 1), the entire femur is rounded and quite smooth on its anterior surface and sides, surrounded everywhere by the eighth (g in the 7th table of muscles, d, d in the 13th) 29 of the muscles [m. vastus lateralis, intermedius et medialis] moving the tibia, for whose sake the anterior surface of the femur next to the root of its neck is somewhat wide and rough [linea intertrochanterica] (f in fig. 2), the more powerfully for that muscle to originate, and from a larger area. But on its posterior side the femur is brought to something of an edge, and shows a visibly protruding, rough, irregular line [linea aspera] (d, d in fig. 1) extending from the root of the femur’s processes to somewhere beyond the midpoint of its length. Into this line is pertinaciously inserted the fifth (S, C in the 12th table of muscles) of the muscles [m. adductor magnus] moving the femur; this line only (e, e in the 13th table of muscles) in the entire width of the femur is not surrounded by the eighth of the muscles moving the tibia. Near the lower end of this line (e in fig. 1), next to the root of the femur’s lower heads [condylus medialis, condylus lateralis], the femur looks wide and flat, not round, so that the largest vein [v. poplitea] to the tibia may more safely be borne this way along with the artery [a. poplitea] and the nerve [n. tibialis]; but even if the femur were convex at this point, the vein would not slip away from the femur. In any case, the femur would need to broaden and thicken here for the production of its lower heads. 30 The course of the femur (its progress is from A through D, c, c, d, d, to I in fig. 1, or through D, f, to H in fig. 2. See L in the skeletal figs.) does not run in a straight line downward from the acetabulum of the hipbone. The neck of the femur [collum femoris] is instead carried from the head quite obliquely outward, as it were transversely, and from here as it descends to the knee with the rest of its body the femur proceeds once more obliquely to the inside. Surely, Nature did not devise this shape casually, 31 for it is most praiseworthy, and it must be carefully preserved when the bone is fractured, as Hippocrates taught in his book On Fractures. 32 Everyone whose femur is changed from its original shape and made straighter than is useful for a human, is rendered uneven and lame in the knee. How harmful this is not only for running but also for walking and a firm stance, we learn every day by observation. If the neck of each femur were not extended directly away from the hip joint as we have said, what space would remain for the inner muscles that embrace the femur? Again, what room would there be for the nerves, veins, and arteries distributed everywhere in the leg, or for the small glands [nodi lymphatici inguinales] responsible for the propagation of these vessels? 33 For it was not suitable for these to descend through the outer regions of the leg, since in such a case they would be exposed to harm from everything striking it from the outside on any trifling occasion. 34 If therefore it was fitting to prepare this region 35 for several veins, arteries, small glands, and muscles (and quite large ones at that), it was also necessary that the femur remove itself away from the acetabulum and toward the outside. If in certain cases the neck of the femoral head is less outwardly extended, 36 the inguinal areas are narrow and pressed into each other while the femur is unbecomingly abducted outwardly, together with the knee. Deservedly, therefore, the overall shape of the femur is curved and convex in its exterior [lateral] region and slightly concave in the interior [medial]. To an equal and still greater degree, the posterior part of the femur appears flat and concave and its anterior convex, because this course of the femur is well suited to seated positions and to the many tasks we undertake while sitting, when for example we put one femur upon the other. This is not to mention how elegantly the femur makes way for the muscles that occupy its posterior side.



Book One -- The things that sustain and support the entire body, and what braces and attaches them all. [the bones and the ligaments that interconnect them] | Chapter 30 On the Femur