News (Ancient) Ancient Papyrus Reveals Galen's Crazy Theory About 'Hysterical Suffocation'

By Bestiola, in 'Latin Culture', Jul 26, 2018.

  1. Bestiola Speculatrix

    • Praetor
    • Praeco
    An unreadable wad of ancient papyrus remained tucked away in a Swiss university's collection for nearly 400 years. Conservators have now peeled the pages apart, deciphering the 2,000-year-old text for the first time. The message? A previously unknown text describing a bizarre theory on hysteria by the Greco-Roman physician Galen (A.D. 130 –210), whose ideas about anatomy and medicine dominated Western science until the Middle Ages.

    "We can now say that it's a medical text from late antiquity that describes the phenomenon of 'hysterical apnea,'" Sabine Huebner, a professor of ancient history at the University of Basel, explained in an announcement of the find. "We therefore assume that it is either a text from the Roman physician Galen, or an unknown commentary on his work." [10 of the Most Mysterious Ancient Manuscripts]

    The text is thought to have been part of the collection of Basilius Amerbach, a professor of jurisprudence at the University of Basel in the 16th century. Amerbach was famous for having compiled thousands of artworks and cultural objects to fill his "cabinet of curiosities"—ancient coins, woodcuts, illustrated books, manuscripts and even a miniature carving of a unicorn in "unicorn" ivory (really, a walrus tusk). His collection was ultimately bought by the city and the University of Basel in 1661, and became the core of the Kunstmuseum Basel. Amerbach's array of objects went on public display beginning in 1671, sometimes earning it the distinction of the world's oldest municipal art collection.

    This particular papyrus had eluded translation for centuries. It had writing on both sides that appeared backward, as if written in a mirror. A recent investigation by the Basel Digital Humanities Lab used ultraviolet and infrared light to look at the manuscript, showing that it was several layers of papyrus stuck together, perhaps to be reused as bookbinding. After apapyrus restorer separated the individual sheets, the Greek writing could finally be read.
    Hawkwood and Terry S. like this.
  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris

    This reminds me of a part of Apuleius's Apologia. Have you read it? Basically, Apuleius was accused of using sorcery to make a rich, older woman fall in love with him and marry him, all to get her money. The Apologia is his defence speech. One of the arguments he used was that she had never been in love with him in the first place (being in love, amare, was treated as a negative sort of state in that speech, like a sort of madness), but needed a man to remedy some health issues of hers that had been caused by a protracted lack of sex. Basically, although he didn't put it quite as bluntly, she needed to get fucked to feel better.
    Bestiola likes this.
  3. Bestiola Speculatrix

    • Praetor
    • Praeco
    I didn't read it but we mentioned it when talking about elegiac poets. It wasn't mentioned to such a detail though :D

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