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Galen's newly discovered Peri alupias (Avoiding Distress): ancient psychology and self-therapy in the Roman Empire

University of Warwick, 1 July 2014

venue: Ramphal Building, R. 0.12 (ground floor)

Since the discovery of Galen's Peri alupias (Avoiding distress), our understanding of ancient psychology and psychotherapy has taken a new twist: in that letter to a friend, Galen describes and analyses his losses in the great fire of 192 AD in Rome and beyond (plague, accidents), the stress of living under an autocratic regime, and how to respond calmly and adequately to such difficulties. The PA thus represents a rare testimony on ancient psychology and psychotherapy, and a unique insight into a physician’s approach to self-help in managing stress, anxiety and traumatic experiences, as well as the most suitable way to help others.

In the wake of the publication of Vivian Nutton's new English translation of Galen's Peri alupias, the speakers will consider Galen’s approach to psychotherapy, his self-portrait, his ethics, the medical books and resources which he tells us he lost in a great fire in 192 AD, and the way he plays with generic, rhetorical and linguistic constraints to explore the fundamental problem of controlling emotion and grief. Finally, our special guest and discoverer of the lost manuscript, Antoine Pietrobelli, will discuss the reception of the text in Arabic medical and philosophical literature.

Contact and organisation: Dr. Caroline Petit

This conference is sponsored by The Wellcome Trust.


9.30 Registration and welcome. Tea and coffee

10.00 Introduction: Vivian Nutton (Emeritus, UCL)

Session 1: Psychology and Self-Therapy in Galen’s Peri Alupias

Chair: John Wilkins, Exeter

10.15-10.45 Chris Gill (Exeter) Galen's PA: What Kind of Psychotherapy does it offer?

10.45-11.15 Peter Singer (Newcastle) 'Galen's own books and Galen's own distress'

11.15-11.30 Tea and coffee break

11.30-12.00 Jim Hankinson (Austin, Texas) ‘Galen, the Sceptics, and the unavoidability of distress’

12.00-12.30 Teun Tieleman (Utrecht) ‘Wisdom and Emotion: Galen’s Philosophical Position in the PA.’

12.45-1.45 Lunch

Session 2: Galen’s Peri alupias and Rome

Chair: Vivian Nutton, UCL

1.45-2.15 Matthew Nicholls (Reading) Galen and libraries: a possible library at Antium?

2.15-2.45 Caroline Petit (Warwick) Galen, pharmacology and the vicissitudes of age

2.45-3.15 Rebecca Flemming (Cambridge) Galen’s PA and the Antonine plague

3.15-3.30 Tea break

Session 3: Galen’s Peri alupias in its literary and linguistic context

Chair: Simon Swain, Warwick

3.30-4.00 Amy Coker (Manchester) 'Galen and the Language of Old Comedy: thoughts on PA 23b-28'

4.00-4.30 Nicolas Wiater (St Andrews) Galen’s PA and the intellectuals’ discourse on loss

4.30-5.00 Antoine Pietrobelli (Reims) The Fortune of Galen's PA in Arabic Literature : al-Kindi's Treatise On Avoiding Distress and Razi's Spiritual Physics

5.15-6.00 Drinks

If you wish to attend, please register using the form below:

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