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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Classics General

Undergraduate Course: Body and Medicine in Ancient Rome (CLGE10012)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe concept of the human body and its affections is at the core of current debates in Classical scholarship. The development of such a concept is the result of multiple social, political and ethical factors, and their evolution throughout history. The course will explore that evolution as expressed through the ancient theories of the body, positioning them within the context of ancient life, literature and thought in 1st century BCE-1st century CE Rome.
Course description Intersections between Roman history, literature and medicine have become a focal point of considerable research among Classicists: the human body and its affections have pride of place in numerous literary works from ancient Rome, the medical influence of which can hardly be denied. The course will focus on the connections between literature and history, and ancient theories of the body in 1st century BCE -1st century CE Rome, and on the ways in which the concept of the human body evolved throughout these two centuries of Roman history. With regard to literature, the main focus will be on five ancient Roman authors/poets: Lucretius, Virgil, Ovid, Seneca and Pliny the Elder, but sections from works of other authors will also be examined as part of the general discussion.

Seminars will explore the ways in which political and social factors influenced medical theories of the body, including gender systems, religious beliefs, and the political and social contexts within which medical issues were explored; the course will also, in turn, investigate how medical knowledge is propagated across various social classes and cultural contexts. Seminars will further be aimed at stimulating critical debate on broader questions about gender, identity, politics and ethics, while simultaneously challenging traditional assumptions about ancient cultural concepts.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements The course is available to all students who have progressed to Honours.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics, History or Archaeology (at least 1 of which should be in Latin Language and Literature) at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the development of the concept of human body in Roman culture, the ways it is described in different literary and historical sources, and its cultural significance.
  2. Provide a comprehensive understanding of medical theories and practices and their social and cultural contexts, as articulated in the writings of both literary authors and medical doctors.
  3. Critically assess the sources examined while simultaneously challenging traditional assumptions about ancient cultural concepts.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to research material and organise it into a coherent form within a strong argument.
  5. Deliver confident and well-argued oral presentations.
Reading List
Belfiglio V.J. and Sullivant S.I. (2019) Roman Military Medicine. Cambridge.
Betts E. (ed.) (2017) Senses of the Empire. Multisensory Approaches to Roman Culture.London and New York.
Cairns, D. and Nelis, D. (eds.) (2017) Emotions in the Classical World. Methods, Approaches, and Directions. Stuttgart.
Dickie M.W. (2001) Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World. London and New York.
Fögen T, and Lee M.M. (eds.) (2009) Bodies and Boundaries in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Berlin and New York.
Gardner H. (2019) Pestilence and the Body Politic in Latin Literature. Oxford.
Kazantzidis G. (2021) Lucretius on Disease. The Poetic of Morbidity in "De Rerum Natura". Berlin and Boston.
Laes, C., Goodey, C.F. and Lynn Rose, M. (eds.) (2013) Disabilities in the Roman Antiquity: Disparate Bodies. Leiden and Boston.
Monserrat, D. (ed.) (1998) Changing Bodies, Changing Meanings. Studies of the Body in Antiquity. London and New York.
Thumiger, C. and Singer, P. (eds) (2018) Mental Illness in Ancient Medicine from Celsus to Paul of Aegina. Leiden.
Williams, C. (1998) Roman Homosexuality. Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. Oxford.
Zimmermann Damer E. (2019) In the Flesh: Embodied Identities in Roman Elegy. Madison.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - critical skills in reading and debating ancient sources by positioning them within the context of ancient life, literature and thought;
- critical and independent thinking with regard to broader questions about identity, gender, politics and ethics;
- skills in combining historical and literary approaches to body and disease in antiquity;
- skills in challenging traditional assumptions about ancient cultural concepts.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Chiara Blanco
Tel: (0131 6)50 4620
Course secretaryMiss Sara Dennison
Tel: (0131 6)50 2501
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