Looking at Mental Illness in Antiquity

From Columbia News:

The examination of mental disorders would seem to be the almost exclusive domain of psychiatrists and psychologists, not humanities scholars. Yet William V. Harris, the William R. Shepherd Professor of History, has spent his time in recent years studying his chosen field—the history of ancient Greece and Rome—through the lens of mental illness.

Harris, director of the Columbia Center for the Ancient Mediterranean, has explored subjects in ancient times ranging from war and imperialism to literacy and economic history. More recently, he began to focus on emotional states, in books such as Restraining Rage: the Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity in 2002, and Dreams and Experience in Classical Antiquity in 2009. “I’ve always been interested in psychiatry and psychology, which I see as a quite natural interest for historian,” he said.

Then, in 2008, Harris was, “struck by lightning by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,” as he put it, which awarded him a three-year grant of $1.5 million for distinguished lifetime achievement. The selection committee said Harris transformed his field by “asking big, difficult questions and offering provocative answers that have generated significant debates beyond the confines of his discipline.”

Harris used the grant to promote research on the history of mental disorders in the classical world, and also on some other, not closely related, aspects of the classical world. “Mental illnesses are among the greatest challenges to understanding ourselves as human beings,” Harris said. Studying them, he added, improves our understanding of ancient lives and texts written thousands of years ago. All three great tragedians, Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, staged scenes of madness in their plays. In Sophocles’ Ajax, for example, the title character slaughters sheep and cattle believing them to be Greek generals who disgraced him; he later commits suicide.

Harris soon realized that covering a subject so large would require help. So in 2010 he funded two conferences on the topic at Columbia, drawing classics scholars, psychiatrists and historians from around the world. Now the findings of those conferences have been published in a volume that Harris edited titled Mental Disorders in the Classical World.

Chapter titles contributed by many of the conference participants include, “The Early Greek Medical Vocabulary of Insanity” and “Plato on Madness and the Good Life.” Harris’ own essay focuses on hallucinations, which he chose in part because “describing a hallucination is not an impossible task, it tends to be relatively brief,” he said. “Try describing 20 years of depression. That is a very challenging task.”

He offers examples of ancient hallucinators, such as Pheidippides, the Athenian courier who saw the god Pan on his famous run to Sparta, which is the inspiration for today’s long-distance running event.

Another outcome of his conferences was sorting out ancient terminology and classifications, as he and his collaborators created a sort of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of ancient times. “The names of mental disorders that the very best ancient thinkers have used don’t often correspond to anything that exists in the modern world in a neat and tidy way,” Harris said. For example, the word “phrenitis” appears in ancient texts to describe illness characterized by delirium, fever and death. Today, some scholars think it refers to encephalitis.

But using modern-day medicine to understand ancient illnesses doesn’t always work, Harris said. “There’s always a temptation among historians of ancient medicine to do retrospective diagnoses and to say, for example, that so-and-so was a paranoid schizophrenic,” he said. “People have found this almost irresistible.” But ancient descriptions of cases are seldom complete enough to allow for a retroactive diagnosis, he added.

Nor did the ancients have anything approaching a scientific community of peers. The 2nd century Roman physician and philosopher Galen had colleagues and friends, Harris explained, but nothing comparable to the peer review or statistical support that present-day doctors get.

Despite the addition of the new volume on ancient mental maladies, there are many topics still to be plumbed, such as senility, demonic possession in Christianity and Judaism, and the ancient custom of seeking cures for mental (and other) illnesses by invoking the help of the gods. “I regard this book as a useful publication, but it’s a very long way from being the last word on the subject,” he said, perusing its cover, which depicts a 16th century woodcut of Galen. “We are left more with an agenda than a whole set of answers.”

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d.m. Lawrence Richardson

From the News and Observer:

Lawrence Richardson, Jr.
December 2, 1920 – July 21, 2013
Durham

Lawrence Richardson, Jr., died late July 21, 2013 in the Pavilion at Croasdaile Village after a very short illness. He lived a long and wonderful life, and he was lucid and productive to the end. Born December 2, 1920 in Altoona, PA, he was educated at Yale (A.B. with philosophical orations, 1942; Ph.D. in Classical Studies, 1952). But his heart was always in Italy, the center of his prolific scholarship, and at Duke University, where he taught in the Department of Classical Studies from 1966 through his retirement in 1991. Only in 2008 did macular degeneration stop him from going to his office daily, and even through the week of his death he continued to read Latin, correspond with former students, friends, and colleagues, and pursue scholarly projects in his retirement community at Croasdaile. He was a gentle, generous person, famous among friends for his love of convivial companionship and gardening, and known to many for his genteel affability as he walked daily to Duke’s East Campus. He will be sorely missed, even though his numerous scholarly works remain to represent his erudition, wit, and life devoted to the humanities.
He spent many years in Rome and the Bay of Naples, Italy. Larry arrived first in post-war Italy as a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in 1948, a fascinating experience he recently described in The American Academy 1947-54. Reopening & Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence (published in 2013, when he was 92). He returned to the American Academy repeatedly, as a field archaeologist working at Cosa (1952-55), Classicist in Residence (1977), and Mellon Professor-in-Charge of its School of Classical Studies (1980-81), as well as during summers. He served the Academy as a Trustee, on various committees such as the Library, and in many other ways. He served on the editorial board of the Associazione Internazionale “Amici di Pompei” (“Friends of Pompeii). He has published numerous articles, reviews, and books, including A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1992), Pompeii: an Architectural History (1988), A Catalog of Identifiable Painters of Ancient Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae (2000), and Pompeii: The Casa dei Dioscuri and its Painters (1955). He is a joint author of Cosa II: The Temples of the Arx (1960), and Cosa III: The Buildings of the Forum (1993), helping to publish the material from the site at which he first excavated.
He was a recipient of Fulbright, Sterling and Guggenheim Fellowships. He was a former president of the Archaeological Institute of America (North Carolina Society), a member of the AIA, the American Philological Association, and the Academy of Literary Studies. In 2012 he received the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement in recognition of his myriad contributions to archaeology through his fieldwork, publications, and teaching.
Although Larry taught also at Yale University and at the University of North Carolina, his real home other than Italy was in Durham and at Duke, where he mentored countless students and numerous colleagues from his arrival in 1966. He served as chairman of the Department of Classical Studies in 1966-69, and again in the 1980s. He was in his office daily from mid-morning until after 6, in early years accompanied by one or two of his dear Airedales. His door was always open, and he never seemed too busy to answer a question; he offered his full attention, and then, without a hint of having been bothered, he turned seamlessly back to whatever he had been doing. His personal library was vast and generously loaned; his knowledge seemingly even greater, and just as generously shared. One of his happiest courses was Latin Prose Composition, and he was often seen patiently working with individual students over a translation of a contemporary news piece into the Latin of Cicero. Many of those undergraduates have gone on to careers in medicine, law, or other non-Classical pursuit, but each vividly recalls Latin Prose Comp with Professor Richardson.
Larry was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Dr. Emeline Richardson. He leaves to mourn him innumerable colleagues, students, and friends, whose lives he enriched. He was well cared for at Croasdaile where he continued to learn to his last days, introduced by devoted visitors to Italian soccer and other non-Classical topics. In keeping with his request, there will be no service. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Richardson Graduate Travel Fund, and sent to the Department of Classical Studies, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0103.

Classics Confidential | Michael Squire on Philostratus’ Imagines

Here’s the official description (with a link to further info):

This week’s interview features Dr Michael Squire of King’s College London, talking about his current research project on the Imagines. This text, which was written by the third-century AD Greek author Philostratus the Elder, contains accounts of 65 paintings displayed in an (imaginary?) gallery on the Bay of Naples. Mike introduces us to some of the paintings described by Philostratus, including a representation of the Cyclops Polyphemus and an image of the Trojan river Scamander. He touches on questions of authenticity and fiction, ecphrasis and imagination, and explains how the images in Philostratus’ gallery relate to one another, as well as referring out to other ancient literary texts including Homer and Sappho.

You can read more about Mike’s work on Philostratus on the Leverhulme Trust website:
http://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/news/news…

… and the interview:

d.m. Spiros Iacovides

From inews (nothing in English yet):

Σε ηλικία 90 ετών έφυγε χτες από τη ζωή ο αρχαιολόγος και ακαδημαϊκός Σπύρος Ιακωβίδης, ειδικός σε θέματα μυκηναϊκής αρχαιολογίας, ο οποίος είχε πραγματοποιήσει ανασκαφές στην περιοχή των Αθηνών, στην Ελευσίνα, την Πύλο, τη Θήρα, την Περατή, τον Γλα και τις Μυκήνες.

Ο Σπύρος Ιακωβίδης γεννήθηκε το 1923 στην Αθήνα. Πήρε δίπλωμα αρχαιολογίας
του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών το 1946 και διδακτορικό το 1962. Διετέλεσε Επιμελητής Αρχαιοτήτων (1952-1954), δίδαξε αρχαιολογία στα Πανεπιστήμια Αθηνών (1970-1974), Marburg (1976-1977), Heidelberg (1977) και University of Pennsylvania (1979-1991) και υπήρξε μέλος του Ινστιτούτου Προχωρημένων Σπουδών στο Princeton, ΗΠΑ (1977-1978).

Συνέγραψε, μεταξύ άλλων, τα βιβλία: Η Μυκηναϊκή Ακρόπολις των Αθηνών (1962), Περατή (1969-1970), Αι Μυκηναϊκαί Ακροπόλεις (1973), Vormykenische und Mykenische Wehrbauten (1977), Late Helladic Citadels on Mainland Greece (1988), Γλας Ι (1989), Γλας ΙΙ (1998), Gla and the Kopais (2001), Ανασκαφές Μυκηνών ΙΙΙ. Η νοτιοδυτική συνοικία (με συμμετοχή συνεργατών, 2013). Δημοσίευσε σαρανταοκτώ άρθρα σε επιστημονικά περιοδικά, πραγματοποίησε διαλέξεις σε 90 περίπου Πανεπιστήμια, Μουσεία και επιστημονικά σωματεία στην Ελλάδα, Γερμανία, ΗΠΑ, Αυστρία, Αγγλία, Βέλγιο, Καναδά, Κύπρο, Ιρλανδία, Ισπανία, Αυστραλία, Ελβετία.
Μετείχε σε 65 περίπου επιστημονικές συναντήσεις στην Ελλάδα και το εξωτερικό (1971-2002). Επί Κατοχής κατατάχθηκε στις Ομάδες Ελλήνων Ανταρτών υπό τον Ναπολέοντα Ζέρβα και τιμήθηκε με το Μετάλλιο Εθνικής Αντιστάσεως, και τον Μέγα Ταξιάρχη του Φοίνικος

Διετέλεσε συνεργάτης στην Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους (1970) και στην Ägäische Bronzezeit (1987). Υπήρξε μέλος της Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας, της Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, της Βρετανικής Αρχαιολογικής Σχολής Αθηνών, της Society of Antiquaries του Λονδίνου, της Société de Préhistoire Française, του Γερμανικού Αρχαιολογικού Ινστιτούτου, της Ιστορικής και Εθνολογικής Εταιρείας, εταίρος του Σεμιναρίου Αρχαιολογίας του Πανεπιστημίου της Columbia, τακτικό μέλος της Ακαδημίας Αθηνών (Έδρα Αρχαιολογίας, 1991), Γραμματεύς επί των Πρακτικών της Ακαδημίας (2000-2003), Πρόεδρος αυτής (2004) και επόπτης του Κέντρου Ερεύνης της Αρχαιότητος της Ακαδημίας Αθηνών (1993 έως τον θάνατό του). Επίσης υπήρξε Ξένος Εταίρος της Accademia Nationale dei Lincei (Ρώμη), επίτιμο μέλος της Αυστριακής Ακαδημίας Επιστημών στην Τάξη Φιλοσοφίας και Ιστορίας (Βιέννη), Επίτιμος Διδάκτωρ της Αρχαιολογίας του Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, ΗΠΑ, και του Πανεπιστημίου Κύπρου.

 

d.m. David West

From the Telegraph:

From the 1960s onwards, despite declining numbers taking Latin at school, Latin literary studies experienced something of a renaissance. Summer schools and courses in translation were making the classics newly accessible to students who had not previously studied Latin and Greek. At the same time, the rise of New Criticism in classical scholarship encouraged close readings of the texts. West’s intensely literary approach put him at the forefront of the emerging movement, concerned with bringing out the richness and variety of the language.

In him the classical Roman poets, Lucretius, Horace and Virgil, found a most accomplished interpreter and translator. His translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (Penguin Books, 1990) is remarkably true to the Latin, and has brought Virgil’s epic to life for a generation of modern English readers.

Unlike his immediate predecessors Robert Fitzgerald and CH Sisson, West believed that prose suited his task better than verse, since “I know of nobody at the end of our century who reads long narrative poems in English, and I want the Aeneid to be read.” In order not to interrupt the flow, he avoided using footnotes or a glossary . Scholarly “furniture”, he felt, would only distract the eye and diminish the vitality of the text.

This vitality extended to West’s three-volume edition of Horace’s Odes (published between 1995 and 2002), perhaps the most accessible guide to Horace’s poems now in print. In rendering such dense and lyrical Latin into English verse, West aimed to create a translation that could appeal both to non-classicists and to students. He followed each ode with a commentary describing how the Latin worked, with close attention to rhythm and sound.

David Alexander West was born in Aberdeen on November 22 1926 and educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Aberdeen University, and then, after National Service, at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he took a first in the Classical Tripos. He began doctoral work on the Greek comic poet Aristophanes. While doing research on manuscripts in Rome, during a stay at the British School, he met his future wife, whom he married in 1953.

Having held lectureships at Sheffield University and Edinburgh, David West was appointed to the Newcastle chair in 1969 . That same year he published The Imagery and Poetry of Lucretius. During his tenure at Newcastle University the Classics department was described as a “powerhouse of classical learning where they still know how to tell it like it is”, and he became a prominent voice in the classical community nationwide, most notably through his work with the British Classical Association .

Later he co-edited, with Tony Woodman, two collections of essays, Quality and Pleasure in Latin Poetry (1974) and Creative Imitation and Latin Literature (1979).

Following his retirement in 1992 he continued to teach for nearly a decade, and worked not only on his Horace commentary, but also on English poetry. His “exaugural” lecture was on George Herbert, and he then published a detailed commentary on Shakespeare’s sonnets. More recently, combining Classics, English literature and his own Scottish roots, he was working on an edition of part of Gavin Douglas’s great Scots translation of the Aeneid.

He was President of the Classical Association in 1995, and a Vice-President of the Association for Latin Teaching.

Like the Epicurean poets whose work he expounded, David West found delight in friendship, family, the countryside , wine (strong, red, Italian), music, the cultivation and enjoyment of home-grown vegetables, and perhaps above all, wide-ranging conversation, in which rationality and imagination were combined in equal measure.

He married, in 1953, Pamela Murray, who predeceased him in September 1995. He is survived by two daughters and three sons.

David West born November 22 1926, died May 13 2013

Others:

Classics Confidential | Brooke Holmes on Sympathy and the Body

This one doesn’t seem to have an official description, but Dr Holmes is working on the notion of ‘sympathy’ in the ancient sense of connections/interactions between various parts of the ancient world. It’s largely philosophical and focused on how humans saw themselves fitting into things:

 

 

Classics Confidential | Phiroze Vasunia on the Classical Tradition in India

Here’s the official description:

In the sixth interview recorded during this year’s Classical Association meeting, CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni talks to Professor Phiroze Vasunia about his recently published book The Classics and Colonial India (OUP, May 2013).

He tells us about the impact of the Graeco-Roman classics in the age of empire (1750s-1945) and about the collision of cultures in India during this period. The very concept of the ‘classical’ was problematic in a culture with its own long-standing local traditions which included Sanskrit, Persian and Arab threads. These competed with the imported Graeco-Roman classics privileged by the British educational system (which encouraged the colonisers to view themselves as ancient Romans). Neoclassical architecture, now largely destroyed, also radically transformed the landscape of the country. Indians such as the writer Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809-31) and Mahatma Gandhi, however, opened up their own dialogue with ancient Greek culture and its literature. Inspired by British Romantic Philhellenism, Derozio’s poetry forged a passionate connection with both ancient and modern Greece, while Gandi’s admiration of Socrates informed his own political thinking. This is not, therefore, a simple story of empire, but one of a dialogue of traditions.
Phiroze also tells us about his work as the general editor of the Ancients and Moderns series which is published in the UK by I.B. Tauris and in the USA by OUP. The series explores how classical antiquity continues to inform modern thinking, and examines the encounter between ancients and moderns on topics such as gender, slavery and politics. Seven books have appeared to date, and more are forthcoming.

… and the interview: