And what is semen?
From Galen's On the Natural Faculties
But Nature does not preserve the original character of any kind of matter; if she did so, then all parts of the animal would be blood- that blood, namely, which flows to the semen from the impregnated female and which is, so to speak, like the statuary's wax, a single uniform matter, subjected to the artificer. From this blood there arises no part of the animal which is as red and moist [as blood is], for bone, artery, vein, nerve, cartilage, fat, gland, membrane, and marrow are not blood, though they arise from it.
I would then ask Erasistratus himself to inform me what the altering, coagulating, and shaping agent is. He would doubtless say, "Either Nature or the semen," meaning the same thing in both cases, but explaining it by different devices. For that which was previously semen, when it begins to procreate and to shape the animal, becomes, so to say, a special nature. For in the same way that Phidias possessed the faculties of his art even before touching his material, and then activated these in connection with this material (for every faculty remains inoperative in the absence of its proper material), so it is with the semen: its faculties it possessed from the beginning, while its activities it does not receive from its material, but it manifests them in connection therewith.
And, of course, if it were to be overwhelmed with a great quantity of blood, it would perish, while if it were to be entirely deprived of blood it would remain inoperative and would not turn into a nature. Therefore, in order that it may not perish, but may become a nature in place of semen, there must be an afflux to it of a little blood- or, rather, one should not say a little, but a quantity commensurate with that of the semen. What is it then that measures the quantity of this afflux? What prevents more from coming? What ensures against a deficiency? What is this third overseer of animal generation that we are to look for, which will furnish the semen with a due amount of blood? What would Erasistratus have said if he had been alive, and had been asked this question? Obviously, the semen itself. This, in fact, is the artificer analogous with Phidias, whilst the blood corresponds to the statuary's wax.
Now, it is not for the wax to discover for itself how much of it is required; that is the business of Phidias. Accordingly the artificer will draw to itself as much blood as it needs. Here, however, we must pay attention and take care not unwittingly to credit the semen with reason and intelligence; if we were to do this, we would be making neither semen nor a nature, but an actual living animal. And if we retain these two principles- that of proportionate attraction and that of the non-participation of intelligence- we shall ascribe to the semen a faculty for attracting blood similar to that possessed by the lodestone for iron. Here, then, again, in the case of the semen, as in so many previous instances, we have been compelled to acknowledge some kind of attractive faculty.
And what is the semen? Clearly the active principle of the animal, the material principle being the menstrual blood. Next, seeing that the active principle employs this faculty primarily, therefore, in order that any one of the things fashioned by it may come into existence, it [the principle] must necessarily be possessed of its own faculty. How, then, was Erasistratus unaware of it, if the primary function of the semen be to draw to itself a due proportion of blood? Now, this fluid would be in due proportion if it were so thin and vaporous, that, as soon as it was drawn like dew into every part of the semen, it would everywhere cease to display its own particular character; for so the semen will easily dominate and quickly assimilate it- in fact, will use it as food. It will then, I imagine, draw to itself a second and a third quantum, and thus by feeding it acquires for itself considerable bulk and quantity. In fact, the alterative faculty has now been discovered as well, although about this also has not written a word. And, thirdly the shaping faculty will become evident, by virtue of which the semen firstly surrounds itself with a thin membrane like a kind of superficial condensation; this is what was described by Hippocrates in the sixth-day birth, which, according to his statement, fell from the singing-girl and resembled the pellicle of an egg. And following this all the other stages will occur, such as are described by him in his work "On the Child's Nature."