International Conference Leuven 30–31 August 2016

« Where Does it Hurt?  Ancient Medicine in Questions and Answers »

Call for Papers

Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Prof. Dr. Robert Mayhew (Seton Hall University)

Asking the right questions and obtaining the right answers is vital to modern medical healthcare. It is essential for efficient doctor-patient communication, forming an important component of medical treatment. This was no different in Antiquity. Already the Hippocratic writings give us an idea of which kinds of questions physicians asked in diagnosing their patients, and which answers they received in return (see, e.g., the case histories in the Epidemics). However, one can imagine that patients or, in case of severe illness, their relatives were often incapable of providing an accurate answer to (some of) the doctor’s questions. Galen, for instance, says that certain types of pain are actually felt by patients, but cannot be described by them when asked to (Loc. Aff. 2, 9 [8, 117 Kühn]). As such, a good doctor had to be able not simply to ask the right questions, but also to look for the right answers himself, if necessary.

The use of question-and-answer (Q&A) formulas is widely attested in ancient medical literature. By employing specific interrogative turns in their discourses, medical authors not only sought to provide practical information for proper treatment of patients, but also to amass theoretical insights about the human body and its physiological and pathological processes more generally. They dealt with several types of questions, including questions that sought to locate, define and explain certain illnesses or disorders in the body (“Where does it hurt?”, “What is it that hurts?”, ”Why does it hurt?”). Questions of this kind were common in medical treatises of the Greco-Roman period (they can be found, e.g., in medical manuals, medical papyri and collections of problemata). The popularity of the Q&A format is largely due to the fact that it became well-entrenched in the ancient medical school curriculum. Through its dialogical and interrogative structure, it provided teachers and students with a useful method to question and memorize all types of medical knowledge, both practical and theoretical. Once condensed in a textual form, it was also useful in transferring this knowledge between author and reader.

This conference aims to bring together scholars from the field of medical history and related fields (history of science, [natural] philosophy, theology, literary studies, linguistics, …) with the goal of examining the role of Q&A in medical literature, from the Hippocratic writers to Late Antiquity and its reception in the Middle Ages. The conference is open to various approaches, and aims to address – but is not restricted to – questions of content (e.g., transfer and transformation of medical knowledge in Q&A style), textuality (e.g., development from orality to written text), context (e.g., socio-intellectual relations between doctor/patient, teacher/student, author/reader), and use (e.g., theoretical contemplation vs. practical application of medical knowledge).

Please send your abstract (ca. 500 words) and a short bio (ca. 10 lines) by 15 January 2016 to Erika Gielen ( and Michiel Meeusen ( Presentations should be 20 minutes in length. In your abstract, please include a clear summary of your argument and an indication of how your paper would contribute to critical reflection on the topic as a whole. Early career researchers are especially encouraged to send in an abstract. The organisers hope, but cannot promise, to be able to offer accommodation to speakers.

Appel à communications : « Bodily fluids in Greek and Roman antiquity » (Cardiff, juillet 2016)

Appel en cours :

Classical Studies are currently witnessing a sensory/sensual turn: the five senses have become central to our understanding of the Greek and Roman world. This welcome development has led scholars to pay attention to repulsion as much as to pleasant sensations, and has added a new material dimension to literary studies. This conference builds upon these sensory approaches to examine bodily fluids: blood and menstrual blood, sweat, tears, phlegm, bile, urine, sperm, and milk. How were bodily fluids, and those who exuded them, received in ancient society? How were internal bodily fluids perceived, and how did this perception alter if such fluids were externalised? Do these ancient conceptions complement or challenge our modern sensibilities about bodily fluids? How were religious practices determined by attitudes towards bodily fluids, and how did religious authorities attempt to regulate or restrict the appearance of bodily fluids?

In addition to furthering our historical knowledge of these individual bodily fluids, this conference seeks to refine the definition of the ancient body. Does the body end with the skin, or is it a more fluid entity that can leak, transpire, and trickle? How prevalent are metaphors of fluidity in descriptions of the ancient body? How are bodily fluids an indication of gender and sex? We are also interested in descriptions of conception, in which male and female bodily fluids are said to coagulate to form an embryo.

We welcome papers on any bodily fluid and/or on the fluidity of the ancient body, building upon material, literary or anthropological sources, from Homer to Late Antiquity and the early Byzantine period. We are open to various approaches, including medical history; gender, feminist and queer history; history of the body; and history of sexuality.

Please send us your abstract (300 words maximum) for a paper of twenty minutes by the 15th of October 2015 to Victoria Leonard ( or Laurence Totelin ( We are also happy to answer any queries you may have.

Prostheses in Antiquity Conference

L'une des plus anciennes prothèses connues, datant de l'Égypte antique, aujourd'hui dans le musée du Caire. Le gros orteil est sculpté dans le bois. Il était lié au pied par une gaine de cuir cousue.
L’une des plus anciennes prothèses connues, datant de l’Égypte antique, aujourd’hui dans le musée du Caire. Le gros orteil est sculpté dans le bois. Il était lié au pied par une gaine de cuir cousue.

A Wellcome Trust and Classical Association Funded Conference to be held at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Lampeter Campus on Tuesday 30th June

Conference Programme

9.30 am                 WELCOME
10.00 am        ‘Prosthetics, Aids and Disability: A Modern View’
Ellen Adams, King’s College London
10.30 am        ‘The Prosthetic Service Today’
Ian Massey, Cardiff Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre
11.00 – 11.30 am        TEA & COFFEE
11.30 am        ‘Prostheses and Anatomical Ex Votos in Antiquity’
Alyce-Rose Cannon, University of Sydney
12.00 pm        ‘Objects as Prostheses in Fifth Century Athenian Tragedy’
Anne-Sophie Noel, University of Lyon
12.30 pm        ‘Prosthetic Hair in Ancient Rome’
Jane Draycott, University of Wales Trinity Saint David
13.00 pm – 14.00 pm     LUNCH
14.00 pm        “Unconscious of his arms and his legs”: Perceptions, Prognoses,  and the Treatment of Paralysis and Loss of Function Injuries in the Ancient Mediterranean’
Katherine van Schaik, Harvard University
14.30 pm        ‘“An amputee may go out with his wooden aid on Shabbat”: Socio-cultural Dynamics and Medical Knowledge Related to Disabilities and Prostheses in Talmudic Traditions’
Lennart Lehmhaus, Freie Universität Berlin

15.00 – 15.30 pm        TEA & COFFEE

15.30 pm        ‘Evidence of a Late Antique Amputation in a Skeleton from the Hemmaberg’

Josef Eitler, Landesmuseum Kärnten & Michaela Binder, Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut
16.00 pm        ‘The Complex Aspects of Experimental Archaeology: the Design of Working Models of Two Ancient Egyptian Great Toes Prostheses’
Jacky Finch, KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, University of Manchester
16.30 – 17.30 pm        DISCUSSION
17.30 – 18.00 pm        WINE RECEPTION
18.00 pm        Keynote Address: ‘Prostheses in Antiquity: Function, Form and Fabrication’
Ralph Jackson, British Museum
19.30 pm                CONFERENCE DINNER