Aug 21, 2020 • 31M

Michael Fontaine: Mental Illness in the Ancient World

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Classical Wisdom Speaks aims to bring ancient wisdom to modern minds... via podcasts! You can watch all our podcasts on our youtube channel here: Join host Anya Leonard as she speaks with eminent professors, famed authors and controversial intellectuals about the Classics. Covering history, mythology, music, philosophy and more!
Episode details

Was there Mental Illness in the ancient world? What did people think about Suicide or Schizophrenia? How did the philosophies of Epicurus or Hippocrates help? And what can this teach us about Mental Illness today?

Michael Fontaine, Professor and Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, The Department of Classics, Cornell University, New York treats us to a new perspective on the extremes of the human condition.

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Here are some links to references mentioned on the podcast:

1. The paper Michael gave at the American Psychiatric Association about Thomas Szasz and Epicurus (on mental illness):
2. A long review essay on “Mental Disorders in the Classical World.” (It’s all about classics, and a good overview to how Michael approaches mental illness):
3. 2013. ‘On Being Sane in an Insane Place—The Rosenhan Experiment in the Laboratory of Plautus’ Epidamnus,’ Current Psychology 32, 348-365. – This paper is about Plautus’ Menaechmi (the twins separated at birth).
4. 2017. ‘Schizophrenia, then and now: The Libation Bearers of Aeschylus,’ in J.A. Schaler, H.Z. Lothane, and R.E. Vatz, eds., Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and his Ideas. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey, pp. 169-193. – This was summarized in the podcast.
5. The world's first Lobotomy:
6. You can get Michael's latest books, How to Drink: A Classical Guide to the Art of Imbibing here:
as well as The Pig War:

***Update from Michael: Also, since we did our podcast, a bombshell of a book came out that casts doubt on some of what I say about the modern experiment in article #3 down below. You can read my review of it in Psychology Today here:

***The interview initially took place in August 2019.