Doughboy Prophylactic: A Full History of Condoms And Prophylactics For Men

A man poses holding a selection of unusual condoms are displayed at the Valentine's Condom pop-up shop in east London on February 9, 2016. (Getty Images)

Condoms may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to protected sex, but that hasn't always been the case. Despite the earliest birth control dating back to Ancient Egypt, it took a surprisingly long time for the condom to become the go-to method that it is today.

Ancient Condoms

There are several oblique references to condoms in the ancient days, most famously in the legend of Minos, a king of ancient Crete who was said to have tiny scorpions in his semen (yikes!) and thus had to wear some kind of animal tissue over himself so as to not release the creepy crawlies into his wife. Obviously, the validity of such claims is suspect, but it does prove that the ancients had at least a basic understanding of condoms, with things like goat bladders being sometimes referenced as a preferred material.

However, it was not until the Middle Ages that condom use became widespread. During the 1400s, France suffered a major syphilis epidemic, specifically among its military, and it spread like wildfire across Europe. Although syphilis is known for its rash, it can also lead to major complications like nerve and brain damage, sometimes resulting in death. An Italian priest and man of science, Gabriele Falloppio (most famous for his study of the fallopian tube), thought he could come up with a solution to the outbreak and so began to suggest that men sheath themselves in thin linen to protect themselves and their partners from the rash.