What Was the Explanation During the Ancient Greek and Roman Times for Abnormal Behavior?

Abnormal behavior or mental illness has been a topic of discussion and study for centuries. The ancient Greeks and Romans were no exception. In fact, they had their own theories and explanations for abnormal behavior.

The Greeks believed that abnormal behavior was caused by an imbalance of the four humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. They believed that the body was made up of these four humors in varying proportions and any imbalance could result in physical or mental illness. For instance, an excess of black bile was associated with melancholy or depression.

The Roman physician Galen expanded on this theory by stating that there were three types of people – sanguine (optimistic), choleric (irritable), and melancholic (depressed). He believed that each type had a dominant humor which affected their personality traits.

Apart from the humoral theory, the Greeks also believed in supernatural explanations for abnormal behavior. They thought that mental illness was caused by demonic possession or punishment from the gods. As a result, treatment involved prayer or exorcism.

In contrast to the Greeks, the Romans focused more on physical causes of abnormal behavior. They believed that head injuries, brain diseases, and exposure to extreme temperatures could all lead to mental illness.

Despite these varying theories about the causes of abnormal behavior, both ancient Greek and Roman societies shared a common approach to treating mental illness. Instead of institutionalizing individuals with mental health issues, they often relied on family members to care for them at home. However, there were also hospitals where patients could receive medical treatment such as baths or massages.

In conclusion, while our understanding of mental health has evolved significantly since ancient times, it is fascinating to see how these early civilizations attempted to explain and treat abnormal behavior through their unique perspectives.