What Was Epilepsy Called in Ancient Times?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that has been known to mankind since ancient times. It is characterized by recurring seizures, which can be caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

In ancient times, epilepsy was referred to by different names depending on the culture and the time period. Let’s explore some of the names that epilepsy was called in ancient times.

The Greeks

In ancient Greece, epilepsy was known as “sacred disease” or “the divine disease”. The Greeks believed that epilepsy was a spiritual affliction caused by the gods. They thought that people with epilepsy had a closer connection to the gods and could receive divine messages through their seizures.

The Romans

The Romans also believed that epilepsy was a spiritual affliction. They referred to it as “falling sickness” because people with epilepsy would often fall to the ground during a seizure. The Roman physician Galen, who lived in the second century AD, believed that epilepsy was caused by an imbalance of four bodily fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.

The Egyptians

The ancient Egyptians had their own name for epilepsy: “moon madness”. They believed that seizures were caused by the phases of the moon and that people with epilepsy were possessed by evil spirits. The Egyptian physician Imhotep, who lived around 2600 BC, wrote about treating people with seizures using medicinal herbs.

The Chinese

In ancient China, epilepsy was known as “convulsion disease”. Traditional Chinese medicine viewed seizures as a result of an imbalance in the body’s energy flow or “qi”. Acupuncture and herbal remedies were used to treat seizures.


In conclusion, epilepsy has been known to humanity since ancient times and has been given various names depending on culture and period. While we have come a long way in understanding the causes and treatments of epilepsy, it is important to remember the historical significance of this disorder. By understanding how epilepsy was viewed in the past, we can better appreciate the progress that has been made in modern times.