Mental Disorders in the Classical World (Columbia Studies in by William Harris

By William Harris

The historians, classicists and psychiatrists who've come jointly to supply Mental problems within the Classical World objective to give an explanation for how the Greeks and their Roman successors conceptualized, clinically determined and taken care of psychological issues. The Greeks initiated the secular figuring out of psychological sickness, and feature left us a wide physique of penetrating and thought-provoking writing at the topic, ranging in time from Homer to the 6th century advert. With the conceptual foundation of recent psychiatry once more below extreme debate, we have to research from different rational methods even if they lack smooth clinical underpinnings. in the meantime this quantity provides a wealthy bankruptcy to the cultural and scientific background of antiquity. The members contain a excessive share of the best-regarded students during this box, including papers by means of a few of its emerging stars.

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44 41 Cf. Dover 1974, 127; M. Smith 1978, 9. See Toohey this volume, p. 460 n. 18. 43 This was a very old institution, mentioned in the Twelve Tables: Dig. 13 (Gaius). 44 See Dig. 2, Julian. 10) deals with what could be done about untrustworthy tutores and curatores (but not all curatores were responsible for the mentally ill). v. harris Roman criminal law may at first glance seem to be rather kind and reasonable towards the mentally ill, but as much depended on who was considered to be furiosus as now depends on what courts decide, under the McNaughton rules or otherwise, about whether a defendant is of sound mind.

The Roman evidence is more instructive. 39 I cannot, I have to admit, agree with Toohey’s view that all the terms for mental illness that he sets out on p. 444 are indistinguishable from each other. There is no doubt a fair amount of synonymity in practice, but animi vitia (‘mental defects’) and mentis alienatio (‘insanity’), for instance, seem not to be interchangeable, as witness Dig. 40 As to who counted as mentally ill in varying degrees, the Digest offers no systematic guidance, unsurprisingly.

87), and then he tells a long tale to show that ate could afflict even Zeus. v. harris A historian who desires to know how people came to be classified as mentally ill in antiquity, and how they were really treated in consequence, can learn a good deal from the medical sources, but also, in certain periods, from what we can loosely called the legal sources. The classical Athenian sources are admittedly frustrating (I planned to include a paper on this topic, but as explained in the preface the author’s ill health prevented this).

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