'Syphilis' was originally the title of a 1530 poem written in Latin by Fracastoro, concerning a hero named Syphilis who has syphilis. In the 16th century, astrologers believed that syphilis was caused by the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in Cancer, which corrupted the air. Petrus Maynardus, who taught medicine at Padua, said that only men born under the sign of Scorpio, the sign that rules the genitals, are prone to catch syphilis. He further predicted - sadly incorrectly - that syphilius would vanish after another conjunction in 1584.
Before it became generally known as syphilis, The Dutch called it the Spanish disease, the Russians called it the Polish disease, the Turks called it the Christian disease and in Tahiti it was known as the British disease.
In 2008, researchers in the US reported that a genetic analysis of syphilis had revealed that its closest relative was a South American disease that causes yaws. Their conclusions support the theory that syphilis was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus's crew.