The term “scrofula” was used for a long time to designate a chronic swelling of cervical lymph nodes. This paper outlines the prevalent ideas on the nature, pathogenesis and the treatment of this disorder, from classical Greek medicine up to the 18th century. A Hippocratic treatise regarded scrofula as produced by an accumulation of phlegm, with a consequent imbalance or dyscrasia of the body humors. It was believed that it could heal spontaneously; but it could also soften, open through the skin and have an obstinate course. The treatment consisted mainly on local applications, incision to evacuate the soft content, or extirpation of the abnormal mass. In France and England, crowds of scrofulous patients were touched by the kings who were supposed to have a hereditary miraculous power to cure the disease. A Medieval text mentioned that scrofula could also affect other parts of the body. In the 17th century, scrofula was reputed as a frequent condition and was attributed to blood acrimony which coagulated in spongy organs. It was associated to phthisis or consumption due to the lethal outcome in some patients and to a cheese-like appearance of the pulmonary and the scrofulous lesions.