Post-Traumatic Stress in Archaic and Classical Greece




White, Adrienne

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Since the publication of Jonathan Shay's 'Achilles in Vietnam' in 1994, classicists have increasingly searched for evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the ancient world. Yet, despite rapid developments in the field of psychology and psychiatry, assumptions about war, trauma and violence are often used to justify the argument that PTSD simply had to exist in the past, without appropriately addressing the methodological concerns underlying the application of modern psychiatric definitions to the ancient world. I seek to take a more conservative approach, by posing three simple--yet difficult to comprehensively answer--questions: 1. Did the Ancient Greeks suffer from post-traumatic stress? 2. If the Ancient Greeks did suffer from post-traumatic stress, what did it look like? 3. If the Ancient Greeks did suffer from post-traumatic stress, what was the rate of its occurrence? My thesis therefore considers the viability of various methods that attempt to situate post-traumatic stress in the past, as well as analysing the ancient sources for evidence of post-traumatic stress in Ancient Greece. The thesis seeks to rebut and, in some cases, affirm individuals on the historical record who have been cited as aligning with post-traumatic stress' diagnostic criteria, as well as literary cases that appear to indicate that the Ancient Greeks had some broad-scale understanding of post-traumatic stress. Further, I consider what the Ancient Greeks found particularly traumatising, what social factors may have operated to protect them psychologically, and new evidence that suggests that the Ancient Greeks may have had lower rates of post-traumatic stress than their modern counterparts.






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