Skip to main content

Dr. Chiara Thumiger

chiaraWellcome Trust Medical Humanities Fellow

Email: C dot Thumiger at warwick dot ac dot uk

Humanities Building,
University of Warwick,

Personal website: 

Blog: Mental life and history


Research interests

CURRENT PROJECT: Ancient Histories of Phrenitis

The goal of this research project is to give a comprehensive account of discussions and representations of an ancient disease concept, phrenitis, which is one of the most important and earliest medical syndromes associated with mental disorder from ancient medicine onwards. This research project will examine discussions of the disease in ancient medical texts, as well as representations of it in non-medical Greek and Latin sources, seeking to highlight the important place of phrenitis in the development of medical ideas of mental illness in the Western tradition. This importance resulted in the persistence of phrenitis as a disease concept until as late as the nineteenth century.

• Ancient medicine (especially Hippocrates, Galen, Caelius Aurelianus)
• Ancient views of mind, mental health and mental disorder
• History of psychiatry; history of psychology; psychiatric nosology and taxonomy
•Ancient disabilities

• Patient cases and their history
• Ancient Emotions
• Greek Tragedy
• Ancient animals
• Theories of cognitive embodiment and their application to the hermeneutics of ancient texts
• Narratology; literary theory

Selected publications



In Print

A History of the Mind and Mental Health in Classical Greek Medical Thought. Cambridge University Press (2017). 505 pp.
Hidden Paths. Notions of Self, Tragic Characterization and Euripides’ Bacchae (BICS Suppl. 99, London 2007).

In preparation

Phrenitis. Mental Pathology and Bodily Localisation, 500 BCE-1800 CE (provisional title)

(Co-) edited Books
In print
Eros in Ancient Greece (co-edited, with C. Carey, N. Lowe, and E. Sanders). Oxford University Press (2013).
Homo Patiens. Approaches to the Patient in the Ancient World (co-edited with G. Petridou). Brill, Leiden (2015). ca.
In press
Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine. From Celsus to Caelius Aurelianus (co-edited with P. Singer). Brill, Leiden (2018)

In preparation

Ancient Holisms. Contexts, Forms and Heritage. Under submission.

Articles and Book Chapters

In print

• ‘A most acute, disgusting and indecent disease’: Satyriasis in ancient medicine’. In Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine. From Celsus to Paul of Aegina (co-edited with P. Singer). Brill, Leiden.

• ‘Stomachikon, Hydrophobia and eating disorders: volition and taste in late-antique medical discussions’. In Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine. From Celsus to Paul of Aegina (co-edited with P. Singer). Brill, Leiden.

• ‘Introduction’. In Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine. From Celsus to Paul of Aegina (co-authored with P. Singer). Brill, Leiden.

‘The view of madness in the Ancient Greek and Roman tradition’. In G. Eghigian (ed.) The Routledge History of Madness (2017). London: Routledge.

• ‘Mental disability? Galen on mental health' In C. Laes (ed.) Disabilities in Antiquity. London: Routledge (2016).

• ‘The tragic prosopon and the Hippocratic facies: face and individuality in Classical Greece’. Maia. Rivista di Letterature Classiche 3.3 (2016).

•‘Fear, Hope and the definition of Hippocratic Medicine’. In W.V. Harris (ed.) Popular Medicine in the Graeco-Roman World: New Approaches. (Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 42) (Leiden: Brill, 2016).

• 'Grief and Cheerfulness in early Greek medical writings'. In Bosman, P.R. (ed.) 2016. Ancient Routes to Happiness. Acta Classica Supplement 7. Pretoria: Classical Association of South Africa, 95-116.

• (with Ph. van der Eijk and Orly Lewis), ‘Gradualism and mental health in ancient medicine’. In G. Keil, and L. Keuck and R. Hauswald (eds.) Gradualist Approaches to Mental Health and Disease. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2016).

• ‘Patient function and physician function in the Epidemics cases’. In G. Petridou and C. Thumiger (eds.) Homo Patiens. Approaches to the patient in the ancient world. Leiden: Brill (2015) 107-137.
• ‘Introduction.’ (with G. Petridou) In G. Petridou and C. Thumiger (eds.) Homo Patiens. Approaches to the patient in the ancient world. Leiden: Brill (2015) 1-22.
• ‘Animals in tragedy’. In G. Campbell (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2014) 84-98.
• ‘Metamorphosis: human into animal’. In G. Campbell (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2014) 384-413.
• ‘Mental insanity in the Hippocratic texts: a pragmatic perspective’. Mnemosyne (2014) 1-24.
• Thumiger, C. ‘The early Greek medical vocabulary of insanity’. In W.V. Harris, (ed.) Mental Disorders in the Classical World. Leiden: Brill (2013) 61-95.

In press

• ‘Liebe als Krankheit’. In N. Reggiani and F. Bertonazzi (ed.) Parlare la Medicina: fra lingue e culture, nello spazio e nel tempo. Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Parma, 5-7 Settembre (2016). Firenze: Le Monnier, 2018. Collana "STUSMA - Studi sul Mondo Antico".
• ‚The Hippocratic Patient‘. In P. Pormann (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Hippocrates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2017).

• ‘The professional audiences of the Hippocratic Epidemics. Patient cases, in ancient scientific communication’. In The Greek Medical Text and its Audience: Perception, Transmission, Reception, ed. by P. Bouras-Vallianatos and S. Xenophontos. Tauris (forthcoming).

•Chapter on ‘Animals’. In L. Totelin (ed.) The Berg/Bloomsbury Cultural History of Medicine. Volume on Antiquity. London: Bloomsbury (2018).

• ‘Aretaeus’ Stomachikon: a parodistic vein in a nosological description’. In Kazantzidis, G., Spatahras, D. (eds.) Morbid Laughter.

• ‘Illness and dehumanisation beyond medicine: Philoctetes and other sufferers’. In G.M. Chesi and F. Spiegel (eds.) Undoing the Human: Classical Literature and the Post-Human. Bloomsbury.

• ‘Ancient therapies of the word’. In White, R., Xenophontos, S., et al. (eds.) Other Psychotherapies. Special issue of the journal Transcultural Psychiatry.

• ‘A History of the Mind and Mental Health in Classical Greek Medical Thought. A Resume’. History of Psychiatry (forthcoming).

In preparation (invited, under contract)

• (With L. Graumann) ‘Children And The Art Of Medical Storytelling: Contemporary Practice And Hippocratic Case-Taking Compared’. In Cases and Anecdotes, ed. by M. Asper et al. (forthcoming)

Professional associations

Gastwissenschaftlerin and 'Privat Dozent' at the Department of Classical Philology at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

Conferences organised

• 11-12.09.17 'Ancient Holisms'. London, ICS (

•6-8 October 2014, ‘Mental Diseases in Ancient Medicine’ (a three-day International Workshop; Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung and Topoi Project).

• 29 June-1 July 2012, ‘Homo Patiens’, with Georgia Petridou (a three-days International Conference, Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung).
• 28-31 July 2010. ‘Animals in the Greek and Roman World’, co-organised with Sarah Hitch (a four-day panel within the Sixth Celtic Conference in Classics, Edinburgh).
• 28-31 March 2009. ‘Eros in Ancient Greece’ co-organized with Chris Carey, Nick Lowe, and Ed Sanders (a four-day International Conference, UCL/ICS).
• 23 May 2008. ‘Classical empires in contemporary culture’, co-organized with Maria Wyke (a one-day conference, UCL).
Recent and Forthcoming Invited Papers

• 9-10.06.2018, invited speaker at the conference ‘The Pathology of Love in Greek and Roman Art and Literature’, organised by E. Savva and D. Kanellakis, University of Oxford. Paper on ‘The eyes of the lover: medical elaborations on lovesickness and opthalmology’.

• 2-3 April 2018, Invited paper at the conference ‘Pain in the Roman Empire’ organised by D. King, Exeter: ‘dolor. The patients of Caelius Aurelianus’ (on Skype).

• 8-12 March 2018, invited paper at the workshop‘Les dimensions thérapeutiques de la parole: représentations poétiques en Grèce et à Rome’ (Atelier suivi d’une table ronde sur le pouvoir émotionnel de la poésie antique dans le monde contemporain), organised by Vasiliki Kondylaki, David Bouvier, Vincent Barras, Université de Lausanne): ‘The power of the voice: different forms of therapy of the word in ancient Greek medicine’ (on Skype).

•April 2017, invited paper as keynote speaker at the ‘Alternative psychotherapies’ conference, University of Glasgow.
• October 2016, invited paper on ‘Animality and illness in Sophocles’ Philoctetes. In ‘Departure from Humanity: homo selvaticus, Bestiality and Monstrosity’, conference organized by Francesca Spiegel and Giulia Maria Chiesi, HU Berlin.
• 5-7 September 2016, invited paper on ‘Ancient Narratives of Illness and Healing’ as keynote speaker at the Conference ‘Lingua e medicina dall'antichità a oggi’ (Universita’ di Parma).
• September 2016, invited paper as keynote speaker at the Workshop ‘Morbid Laughter’, University of Patras. • 31.05.2016. (with Ph. Van der Eijk, O. Lewis) ‘Mehr oder weniger gesund? Gradationen von Gesundheit in der antiken Medizin und Philosophie’. Ringvorlesung zur Ausstellung "Die Seele ist ein Oktopus: Antike Vorstellungen über den belebten Körper". Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité, Berlin.
•8 March 2016, invited paper on ‘The patient in History of Medicine’ within the series ‘Warwick Centre for the History of Medicine's Reading Lunches’, University of Warwick
•8-10 December 2015, paper on ‘Hope in Ancient Medicine’. Conference on hope organized by George Kazantzidis and Dimos Spatharas (Rethimno, University of Crete).

• November 16th-17th 2015, with Lutz Graumann. Paper on the Hippocratic Epidemics within a workshop on ‚patient cases and anecdotes in Greece and China‘, organised by M. Asper, Topoi and Humboldt Universität.
• June 12, 2015, keynote speaker at the Humanities Research day at the University of Roehampton. Paper on ‘Mental suffering and Hippocratic medicine. The case of the wife of Hermoptolemus’.
• December 12-13, 2014, paper within the conference ‘The Greek Medical Text and its Audience: Perception, Transmission, Reception‘, King’s College London (organized by P. Bouras-Vallianatos and S. Xenophontos).
• September 11-13, 2014, paper on ‘The Doctor-Patient Relationship’ within the Workshop organized by P. Pormann towards the preparation of the Cambridge Companion to Hippocrates. Manchester University.
• September 8, 2014, paper on ‚Der Wahnsinn beim Wort genommen – Geistige Ausnahmezustände in der Literatur‘ within the PRO SCIENTIA Sommerakademie devoted to the topic ‚WahnSinn‘, Mariazell (Österreich), 5-11 September 2014.

• May, 15 2014, ‘The Hippocratic Epidemics’. BabMed Seminar, Freie Universität.
• May, 5/6, 2014, TOPOI workshop Terminology in (Ancient) Science, ‘Medical terminology of aisthesis disruption: the problems of voluntariness, subjectivity, mode and degree’.

Recent and Forthcoming Offered Conference Papers
• March 24-27, 2015, paper on ‘Cognitive embodiment and medical ideas on mental disorder in Classical Antiquity’ within the conference ‘Psychology and the Classics’, KU Leuven (Belgium).
• 7 October 2014, paper on ‚Sex and mental disorder‘ and ‚Food and mental disorder‘ within the Workshop on ‘Mental Diseases in Ancient Medicine’, Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung and Topoi.
• July, 5/6 2014, Mainz, Tagung Alte Medizin 2014, ‘Funktion des Patienten und Funktion des Arztes’ in den Patientengeschichten der Hippokratischen Epidemien’.
• June 23, 2014, ‘Mental disorder in classical Greek medicine’. Monday Seminar, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
• January 20, 2014, ‘Patient function and physician function in the Epidemics cases’. Monday Seminar, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.


2000-2004: PhD. Department of Classics, King’s College London.
1994-1999: Laurea in Greek Literature (MA equivalent). Università Statale di Milano.