Psychosomatic Medicine in Ancient Greece: An Overview

  • Nikos Christodoulou


This chapter offers an overview of the contribution of Ancient Greece to Psychosomatic Medicine and by extension to Liaison Psychiatry, spanning more than a millennium, from the ninth century BC to the second Century AD. This synthesis has drawn directly from original texts and from expert works, in order to distil a narrative specifically for Psychosomatic Medicine. The overview summarises chronologically some of the most notable developments in Psychosomatic Medicine. It starts with the birth of Psychiatry and psychosomatic notions in ancient Greek myths, Melampus and the practice of psychological medicine in Asclepieia. It then reviews the interplay between Philosophy and Medicine on the psyche-soma question, from the pre-Socratic philosophers of Ionia to the Hellenistic years and beyond. Major scientific theories such as humorism and atomism, and the psychosomatic ideas developed by Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle and others are revisited. The chapter then overviews the development of Clinical Psychiatry and Neuroscience and the elaboration of preceding knowledge during the Roman era by Galen and others. It concludes with the realisation that the modern ideas and practice of Medicine can benefit from the paradigm of Ancient Greek Psychosomatic Medicine, particularly in medical education.


Psychosomatic medicine Liaison psychiatry Ancient Greece Psyche Soma Medical education Philosophy History of Medicine Medically unexplained symptoms 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikos Christodoulou
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychological MedicineNottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation TrustNottinghamUK
  2. 2.University of Nottingham School of MedicineNottinghamUK

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