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Definition of Tarantism

Tarantism: A disease once thought to result from the bite of the tarantula spider. This extraordinary affliction was associated with melancholy, stupor, madness and an uncontrollable desire to dance. In fact, dancing off the tarantula venom was considered the only cure. The dancing was violent and energetic and went for 3 or4 days.

In the 15th to 17th centuries, the city of Taranto in southern Italy was the center of tarantism which spread across most of southern Europe. The term "tarantism" (also called tarantismo or tarantolismo) comes from the town of Taranto. The large and very venomous tarantula is also named for the city of Taranto.

Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10637
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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