In the Grip of Disease: Studies in the Greek Imagination

In the Grip of Disease: Studies in the Greek Imagination

In the Grip of Disease: Studies in the Greek Imagination

In the Grip of Disease: Studies in the Greek Imagination

Synopsis

This original and lively book explores Greek ideas about health and disease and their influence on Greek thought. Fundamental issues such as causation and responsibility, purification and pollution, mind-body relations and gender differences, authority and the expert and who can challengethem, reality and appearances, good government, happiness, and good and evil themselves are deeply implicated. Using the evidence not just from Greek medical theory and practice but also from epic, lyric, tragedy, historiography, philosophy, and religion, G. E. R. Lloyd offers the firstcomprehensive account of the influence of Greek thought about health and disease on the Greek imagination.

Excerpt

This study stems in the first instance from a series of lectures that I gave over the three years 1997–2000 in Cambridge to a mixed audience of classicists, historians of medicine, historians of science, and philosophers. But the ideas reflect interests that I have had, and questions that I have puzzled over, going back to my earliest forays into Greek medicine. In general my writings on ancient Greek medicine have, conventionally enough, concentrated on the extant treatises of the medical writers themselves, together with such other direct and indirect sources as we have on medical beliefs and practices at different periods. The present study differs in that I discuss also epic and lyric poetry, tragedy, the historians, and the philosophers, doing so in order to investigate how Greek thought concerning a range of important general issues, including good and evil themselves, was influenced by ideas about disease, about who was in a position to say what that was, to diagnose it in the body or the mind, to identify the causes at work, and to bring about cures or at least to try to alleviate the problems as they were perceived. Issues to do with notions of the self, of authority and control, of claims to knowledge and challenges to those claims, are deeply implicated as also are representations of the best ordering of society and its government. My strategic aim is to throw light on recurrent preoccupations of the Greek imagination.

With such an ambitious project it is clearly not practicable to attempt to be comprehensive. The authors and topics I have chosen for analysis are those that appear most important, most influential on the Greeks themselves, and most interesting from our own perspective. In the Epilogue I discuss briefly some of the modern attitudes to the problems the ancient Greeks faced and some of the more significant reper-

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