Healing and Medicine in Ancient Greece: Myth and Science with Aristotle Koskinas

Healing and Medicine in Ancient Greece: Myth and Science with Aristotle Koskinas


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Join Aristotle Koskinas to explore the history of health and illness in ancient Greece. This seminar will present two parallel healing traditions in Ancient Greece, one based on mythology and rituals and the other based on early scientific study. We’ll also explore the impact of health (or lack thereof) in ancient Greek society.

Where does the Hippocratic Oath come from? What did ancient Greeks believe about disease? What cures did they use? Greek mythology is full of references to health and healing; in most cases, sickness was considered a punishment from the gods. It follows that if gods made people ill, they could also cure them. Gods like Zeus, Athena, and Apollo and heroes like Hercules, all had a healing aspect. However, from the beginning of the sixth century BCE, the cult of Asclepius as a healing deity overshadowed all others. More than 200 sanctuaries of his were built all over the Greek world, and people flocked there seeking cures for their maladies.

At the same time, another school of healing emerged, one that sought to find the real cause of disease and treat it. Its theories about the roots of ill health, its descriptions of medicinal plants, and its code of ethics formed the basis of modern medicine.

In this seminar, we will narrate the myths of healing gods and heroes and anecdotes about miraculous healings. We will explore the sanctuaries and learn what rituals the faithful observed. We will discuss the impact of ill health in ancient Greek society. We will talk about the lives of famous ancient healers and their methods.

Led by an expert on Ancient Greece, Aristotle Koskinas, this course will present the history and archaeology of Ancient Greek medicine. Designed to inform curiosity and future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of how sophisticated ancient Greek medicine was and how it set the basis for many modern medical ideas.

Aristotle Koskinas studied classical archaeology and specialized in the study of rooftiles. For several years he participated in various excavations conducted by the Greek Ministry of Culture. He also took part in surface survey projects conducted the University of Thessaly and others. In 2003 he graduated from the Greek School of Tourist Guides and has since been working as a guide. He lectures on Greek history and archaeology, while continuing to study and publish material from excavations of the Ministry of Culture and participates in historical reenactment events.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 17

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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