How Were the Mentally Ill Treated in Ancient Times?

Mental illness has been a part of human history for centuries. Ancient civilizations had various beliefs about mental illness and its causes.

The treatment of mentally ill individuals varied from culture to culture, but often involved spiritual or supernatural explanations. In this article, we will explore how the mentally ill were treated in ancient times.

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, mental illness was believed to be caused by supernatural forces such as evil spirits or the displeasure of the gods. Treatments for mental illness included magic spells and rituals performed by priests. Egyptian physicians also used medicinal plants to treat mental disorders.

The Ebers Papyrus

The Ebers Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian medical text that dates back to around 1550 BCE. It contains over 800 remedies for various ailments, including mental illnesses such as depression and dementia. The remedies include ingredients such as honey, beer, and herbs.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, mental illness was believed to be caused by an imbalance of bodily fluids known as humors. Greek physician Hippocrates believed that the brain was responsible for mental illnesses and that diet and lifestyle changes could help treat them.

Asclepius Temples

Asclepius temples were built in ancient Greece in honor of Asclepius, the god of healing. These temples were used to treat various ailments, including mental illness. Patients would sleep overnight in the temple and receive treatment through dreams or visions induced by fasting or drugs.

Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, mental illness was viewed as a form of divine punishment or demonic possession. Treatments included exorcisms performed by priests and physicians who used drugs such as opium and mandrake to induce a trance-like state.

The Valetudinarium

The Valetudinarium was a hospital in ancient Rome that treated both physical and mental illnesses. Patients received treatments such as bloodletting, herbal remedies, and baths.


In conclusion, the treatment of mentally ill individuals in ancient times varied greatly depending on the culture and beliefs of each civilization. Some treatments were spiritual or supernatural in nature, while others were based on medical knowledge.

Despite the differences in treatment methods, it is clear that mental illness has been a part of human history for centuries and continues to be an important issue today. It is important to continue researching and developing effective treatments for mental illnesses to improve the lives of those who suffer from them.